[I know I should be writing about Astonishing X-Men 18 today, but I wanted something less taxing, and this is sort of on topic. I am using a label to attach this post to my issue by issue look at Whedon's Astonishing X-Men because it is an X-Men story of his that came out during that run.]
Marvel put out Giant Size X-Men three in 2005. I do not remember where Whedon was in his Astonishing run at that point, but he was in the middle I think. The book has an eight page comics story called "Teamwork" written by Whedon and drawn by Neil Adams. The rest of the book just reprints stuff: Fantastic Four 28 (X-Men meet the Fantastic Four), X-Men 9 (X-Men meet the Avengers), 27 (a page where the X-men meet Spider-Man), and 35 (a full on X-Men/Spider-Man meeting). I do not understand why the theme is heroes meeting each other -- is it because the original X-Men met the new team in the original Giant Size X-Men? That seems like a weak connection. The only reason for this thing to exist is because 30 years have gone by since Giant Size X-Men. I do not really understand how this is much of a tribute to that milestone.
The cover is a parody of the cover to Giant Size X-Men: instead of the old team above looking down in shock at the new team ripping out of the paper cover below, Whedon's Astonishing team (drawn on the cover by Cassaday) looks down in shock at the team from Giant Size drawn by Dave Cockrum. Its a little weird that three of the members below are also above. (Though Cyclops was above and below in the original).
Whedon's contribution takes place during Giant Size X-Men. This is, I guess, an untold tale from that day, or an expansion of the training page from the original Giant Size X-Men. Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Sunfire, Colossus, Storm and Thunderbird meet in the danger room to train on everyone's first day. As in the original issue they are amazed to be able to speak English to each other. Sunfire does a Whedon-style double take at the fact that he is in costume for the training while many others are not. The joke falls so flat I am not even sure it is supposed to be a joke.
Wolverine says they need to be a team, which they are not right now because they have not been working together for years. He says "We're one too many. Prof knows at least one of us won't make it as an X-Man." Wolverine thinks they can weed out the weak member by fighting. They all get to show what they can do in a battle. Wolverine thinks this battle, not authorized by Professor X, will tell them who they can trust. Wolverine says "Personally, my money's on T-Bird to outlast the rest of you. I ain't been hit that solid since I scrapped with the green guy. So. Anybody wanna get a beer?" The end.
I recently read Giant Size X-Men #1 and have been reading the Claremont issues, including the issue where Thunderbird dies. I have NO. IDEA. what Whedon was thinking when he wrote this. It is rare to read something by an established guy like Whedon and not find one nice thing to say, somewhere. I see Whedon is aiming for irony with Wolverine's end pronouncement that Thunderbird will outlive the rest of them, when the audience knows he will be the first one to die and, generally, stay dead while the rest of them, basically, live. (You have to talk like this writing about comics). But so what? Whedon is often great with irony, but this one just sits on the page, doing nothing. I can sort of see this as a kind of homage to the old X-Men comics in which everyone's strengths and weakness would be revealed in a battle in the danger room -- Sunfire is proud and shoots fire, Colossus turns to metal and protects women, Storm shoots lightning and is afraid of confined spaces and so on. But again -- so what? Whedon is smart enough to know that the best homage is not reproduction, but going above and beyond -- as he does with Morrison in his Astonishing run by having Nova come back, or Cyclops be cooler than he ever was in Morrison's hands. Is Whedon hamstrung because, since this story has to fit in a crack in the original, no characters are really capable of change?
I do not have any Neil Adams comics that are not in storage, but I remember that he is kind of great. I could be misremembering that. He is beyond awful here. This is as sloppy, rushed, and ugly as the worst Igor Korday New X-Men issues, and, like Cassaday in many spots on Astonishing X-Men, Adams has decided that he does not need to draw a background for most of the issue. Also Wolverine has a hot pink shirt. Was that a continuity thing from the original issue? Or is it just a random super-lazy version of Whedon's habit of not knowing what to do with tough-guy characters -- is he making Wolverine more feminine, as he does in "Torn"? It boggles the mind.
When Whedon does a short comics story as a tribute to Stan Lee and Spider-Man, he writes a charming, if throwaway, little thing. So it is not the work-for-hire tribute thing that is wrecking him here. It is bizarre to see a great writer just totally implode for no reason that I can see. Any thoughts on what happened here? Is there some part of this I am not understanding? When I first read this I assumed it was my lack of appreciation for the era, but now I HAVE been appreciating that era, and I am just lost. I think it is just a really bad story.