Thursday, August 09, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 10

[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run issue by issue; for more of the same click the Astonishing X-Men label at the bottom of this post.]

I am just going to say that the cover to this issue is bad; I can see what they were going for but a black and white blurry zoom on Professor X's weird cranium on a white background is not really working for me.

In this issue Danger beats the crap out of the X-Men, and then Professor X shows up, ready to put her down.

The frame story with Danger and Xavier is perfect. Professor X is one of my favorite comic book characters, and I love it when he gets to be a bad-ass. Cassaday keeps the tension high by showing a series of even sized close-ups until the final page; Whedon keeps the exchanges almost Western in simplicity, and ends with Xavier's wonderfully confident "I am incalculable ... You've fought the X-men a thousand times, a million in your mind. But you've never fought me." Maybe one of the great Charles Xavier moments. The shot of him in efficient black combat gear, in a giant stone wheelchair, is awesome.

The main part of the issue itself has some problems, however. I am not in love with Danger's "The thing I have in common with every dimestore villain these X-Men ever faced: I want to be understood." That is maybe too on the nose, or something, too clear a justification of the villain speech, I think. Eventually, in his old age, Whedon will just have stories where all the characters sit at desks, scripting their own lives complete with stage directions they can say out loud.

And oh dear, you have to be very careful about allusions, intentional or otherwise. Danger is a robot with big boobs and a shapeshifting hand. Where have I seen that before? Oh. Yeah. Terminator 3. When invoking other works a good rule of thumb is to stick to the ones that do not suck outright. Especially if your bad guy already has design problems.

We get a shot of how Danger is thinking, how she processes the fight. This is admittedly not an easy thing to do -- comics, like film, are not great at showing internal states (as novels are). So I have no idea how this could have been improved. But I have no patience for things like text superimposed over Cyclops that reads "92% probability of early frontal attack." Cause computers think like this. No, that is just annoying, and reminds be of Ziggy on Quantum Leap, in a bad way. Danger is a combination of the Fem-Bot from T3 and Ziggy Quantum Leap. Scheesh.

And Danger throws a spike through Kitty and Colossus. The way Cassaday draws this -- and people can say I am wrong about this -- but it seems to me it would be instantly fatal, just because of the size of the spike. And yet you know Whedon is not going to kill off these characters, so the moment just feels like a mistake, a cheap attempt at making me think you are doing something only to take it away next issue. And no I do not care that a healer has already been established in the mansion -- instantly fatal. He would have to be Jesus Christ Man or something to bring back the dead.

But back to the good: There is a great moment when Brand makes fun of a psychic alien, who "senses destruction" when the mansion is clearly blowing up; Whedon reminds us of Brand, Brand's mole, Emma's secret, and of Ord -- this is all going to come together soon, where a lesser writer would have left Ord behind for five years until a dramatic return. There is also a pitch perfect joke in which Cyclops throws Emma at Danger just to do something Danger would not expect.

Cassaday repeat/background watch:Danger gets a double take, then another. Emma gets a triple take; there are maybe 25 panels here with just no background, but there are a lot with background; it is only a little annoying in spots.


neilshyminsky said...

I agree, re: the spike thrown through Kitty and Colossus. I think that there was some communication lacking between Whedon and Cassaday on this one. And not only are their deaths overdone, but I'm at a loss as to how we're to understand that Danger has incapacitated Wolverine. I'm not a continuity-buff and I hardly demand that superpowers be absolutely consistent, but I don't see anything in this battle that would knock him out, much less put him near-death. The battle is a lot of fun in parts (like when Peter throws Emma), but just confusing in many other regards.

And yes, that last page is awesome.

Matt Brady said...

Yeah, I think this issue is where the storyline really starts to drag. With the last issue and the next two, that makes four in a row with the team fighting the same villain, with little of interest going on. We get some good moments, but they don't make up for the tedium of the fight, which is unforgivable in a story that should be so exciting.

By the way, I had forgotten about the "Danger-vision" sequence, but I gotta say that the "92% probability of frontal attack" is dumb. I know it's standard robot stuff, but I think I've gotten tired of that cliche where robots think in weirdly specific probabilities. Where does that information come from, and what the hell is it supposed to mean anyway? With all the other variables in play, that's just too specific, and now that I've thought about this it's going to bug me every time I see it. Crap.

neilshyminsky said...

matt: I think we're supposed to understand that Danger has derived these probabilities from actual danger room scenario statistics - that is, Cyclops chose a frontal attack 92% of the time when faced with a comparable enemy. Or at least that's how I understood it. Which doesn't make it any less lame, though.

Anonymous said...

Geoff-- I thought that the spike through Kitty and Colossus was almost a joke about Wash's death in the movie Serenity. I think that Whedon imagined readers screaming, "Not again Joss! Our favorite character fatally impaled again!? This can't be a hoax because of what happened in Serenity! NO!"