[This post is part of a series of posts looking issue by issue at Joss Whedon's Astonishing x-Men run. For more posts in this series, go to the tool bar on the right.]
Whedon starts out with a clever gag where we think the team is on a fancy escape pod, but it turns out they are actually left on the burning ship -- the pod was sent out to distract the attackers. There is, maybe, an unintentionally funny moment when Brand, without remorse, speaks of the few minutes time the probably doomed soldiers on the escape pod bought the team and says "Let's not waste them." Then in the next panel it appears they used that precious, precious time to change their clothes.
Whedon then creates an exciting sequence, filled with various tensions, of the team, split into two groups rocketing toward the planet in little junk ships, trying to get there safely. Kitty and Peter get split up from Wolverine and Armor. In the next issue Brand and the Beast, who have a rivalry going, will also be separated. Plus the soldiers on the ground. Plus Ord and Danger have been captured. All of this serves to forward Whedon's character moments. Peter feels doomed. Kitty balances his doom with optimism. Wolverine is damaged and tough. Armor is new and nervous, but he gives her a pep talk. These scenes are well written certainly -- there are some great lines and moments -- but it is also crystal clear what Whedon is really interested in here. He is paring characters up because it is the most efficient way to allow him to write scenes where they can distinguish themselves, before he puts them back together for the conclusion. I like this issue, but I also find myself with not that much to say about it. I can imagine someone objecting that what it really is is a fancy package for "short scenes for actors (in pairs)." It occurs to me that Claremont, because he was writing some absurd number of X-Men issues could afford to have an issue where everyone plays baseball, and gets to know each other (and us, them). Whedon, on a contemporary prestige run, does not really have that luxury -- he has to build space for quiet character moments in the midst of battle. Because this is his gift he expands out what someone else might put into a panel or two into a couple of pages.
The issue ends with what initially appears to be a great ending beat -- the giant image of Colossus carved into the rock destroying the Breakworld as we hear Kitty's voice superimposed telling him nothing is carved in stone. People, myself included, complained that this does not make much sense if you think about it, but a few issues down the line, it seems like it is not supposed to -- because this is a modern carving faked to look ancient.
Blogging is always an experiment. I feel like I have less to say here. Is that because I am burning out here and missing stuff? or because it is good but also basically simple? Or because these issues have too many similarities and we get the basic point? Or is it that I am a little stuck because as of last time, I am doing an issue by issue post on an arc that is not yet over?
It is a cheat but I am going to do it anyway: links to two posts by Neil Shyminsky.
Neil on Astonishing X-Men 20
Neil on Astonishing X-Men generally
Neil on Whedon repeating himself in Astonishing X-Men
Neil's complaints have substance, but I find Whedon's charms overwhelming. I am still thinking about it though. I am not quite sure if Whedon is doing something new, doing old things better, repeating past achievements, or some combination where he repeats, improves, and then builds toward the creation of something new at the end. That last one is my hunch.
I am finding this hard to discuss since the run is not over yet, and I think I am going to wait to finish this series after the last issue of Whedon's run hits the stands.