[This post is part of a series of posts looking issue by issue at Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run. For more in this series click the Astonishing X-Men links in the right toolbar.]
In the first issue of “Unstoppable” (and I think I have accidentally referred to this as “Unbreakable” in the past) the team gets briefed on the situation as they fly toward the Breakworld, before being attacked by a Breakworld armada.
As I keep pointing out Whedon is a genius with opening and closing beats. In his cold open a stately speech on the Breakworld about a child being hope turns out to be, not a birth, but an alien funeral. This hits us both because we completely misunderstood what was going on, and because we might not have expected the Breakworld to be a place of compassion.
Whedon continues to focus on Kitty, giving her a “tough guy” moment with Agent Brand. Because her colors match the colors of Cyclops’s New X-Men jacket, and because she is holding a gun, I cannot help but think of Cyclops last issue. I do not know what to make of this, except to say that while Whedon appears to be fascinated with Kitty as the prototype of Buffy and many of his other female characters, his real focus will turn out to be Cyclops – the Kitty thing is just smoke and mirrors for what he is really up to on this book, the rehabilitation of Cyclops.
Whedon has a lot of exposition to establish, and the “discussion en route” template is pretty stale. (It was one of the most egregious parts of the film version of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). He has to establish that Nova is not in Emma any more, he has to do something to curb Danger, he has to explain why they are not killing Colossus, and he has to establish what the basic threat for the arc is. It is not the worst exposition I have ever seen, but I have seen Whedon do better.
But we do get a nice moment of Kitty detoxing from Nova’s manipulation of her mind, and there is a great joke where, after Agent Brand explains that the Breakworld psychics say Colossus will destroy the world, she says to him “I’m assuming you’re as mystified as the rest of us, Rasputin.” Colossus says “No. I’m not. I have been planning to destroy the Breakworld since I was a child.” This is tremendously effective because it is exactly the kind of wrinkle Whedon would introduce into this plot – but of course it is ALSO the perfect set up for Whedon’s deflated drama humor. There is a beat and Colossus says sheepishly “This is why I don’t make so many jokes. I never know when is good.” I thought the exchange was really funny, especially after how serious Kitty and Peter were being in the earlier scene. A lot of internet people were angered by the way Whedon make Peter’s English broken. I think if Wolverine’s healing power can be inconsistent over the years, I don’t mind Colossus’s English varying a little, but I can see the force of the objection, especially if there is evidence in Whedon’s run that he speaks perfect English.
Overloard Kruun is introduced as we cut to the Breakworld. His barbarity in the scene is pretty standard for introducing a character of this type, but I like that he complains of Ord “The stink of his incompetence will outlast his body’s decay.” The phrase sound like something you would come across in the war poetry of ancient Rome, and it lets you see the violence in the context of the civilization. They are not barbarians. It is a culture of violence, with its own kind of bloody poetry.
And the ending beat is as good as the opening one. Brand says “Plan A is we land before they find us, find this missile, and disable it.” The Armada arrives sooner than she expected and begins to fire, hitting the ship and causing what appears to be serious damage.
Cyclops: What’s Plan B?
Kitty: We all die now.
Cyclops: What’s Plan C?
A shot of the attacking ships and the issue is done. Whedon always does the same thing – deflates dramatic moments – but I always fall for it.
I do not have much to say about Cassaday here, except to note that his style – fairly realistic but not overly so – is well suited to a story on an alien world – he really helps sell the other world. He makes it believable.