Comics Review: Astonishing X-Men

A Fitting Followup to Morrison’s Run
Astonishing X-Men Omnibus # 1 – Astonishing X-Men Omnibus
I came into this right on the heels of Morrison’s run in the Ultimate 3 Volume collection. I know there’s an Uncanny Volume that takes place between the two, but it doesn’t look like it contained anything that kept me from understanding what was going on in this story. (Plus this Omnibus version has an intro to the X-Men that explains where Professor X is)

When the story picks up, it’s nice to see Kitty Pryde back. I love the catty moment with Emma over her clothes and the Harry Potter reference. It really sets the tone for their relationship throughout the book. Wolverine spots Scott and Emma in bed and they fight. On the one hand – are those two ever going to give it up? Jean didn’t choose Logan and he needs to let Scott do whatever he wants now that she’s dead. However, I think he’s also in the right because Scott kinda ends up looking a bit like a jerk. How could he go so soon into Emma’s arms? I know during Morrison’s run they started an affair and sometimes people fall in love from that. And there was also that mystical thing with Jean preventing the dire future where she may have done something in his mind to make it feel OK to be with Emma.

The writing and humor is definitely Whedon’s. I come to that relization when they’re in the danger room in Hawaii. And Kitty has displaying a bit of Buffy-speak. But that’s ok. She’s about the right age. If Prof X or anyone else starts doing it, I’ll be annoyed. Loved the lampshading on Jean’s resurrections “Jean’s dead.” “Yeah, that’ll last” Later on, Nick Fury is involved and Whedon loves Fury. Kept making Xander refer to it. I love when other Marvel characters show up in X-Men books. On that note, I love the Fantastic Four cameo and how Ben feels the X-men are on their turf with Scott’s new “be in the public face” initiative.

Speaking of that initiative, I like what Whedon does with that to make the X-Men his own. In a lot of ways, his portrayal of Cyclops on the Astonishing X-Men (plus probably other stuff that happened in House of M, Civil War, and the other main stories) coming right after his character growth in New X-Men is why Cyclops is now leading the X-Men rather than Professor X. And Cyclops has his own ideas about what to do to get in humanity’s good graces. Morrison was about back to basics and that included having them fail at getting humans to like them. Whedon is about realizing that approach hasn’t worked and trying to think of something new. Cyclops decides they need to act like super heroes (which, if you’ve been reading since Onslaught, you know mutants aren’t supers) so the public can respect them as such. So you see them going after threats that aren’t their normal ken. You know Cyclops is undeniably the leader when he utters, “To Me, My X-Men” in a crowning moment of awesome.

This being a Whedon book, things go highly sci-fi. In a lot of ways, it’s a continuation of Morrison’s manifesto, but it is more fully realized in Whedon’s arcs. So there’s an alien from the Breakworld causing problems for the X-Men. And that’s only one of the bad guys. The very interesting thing about what Whedon does is to take two famous X-Men stories and redo them as well as combine it with a story about hypocrisy. And he takes them and intertwines them tighter than I’ve ever seen.

Let’s look at the hypocrisy story first. The X-Men have always been about minority rights. And, as has happened with minorities in the real world, they’ve been experimented on – Wolverine, for example. And that was happening to Colossus as part of the way they explain his return from the dead. Yet, after Xavier upgrades the Danger Room with Shi’ar tech (some time back in the old canon), he comes to realize that the Danger Room has gained sentience. And so the Prof falls a little further. Ever since Onslaught no more Marty Stu for him. The X-Men leave him disgusted and disappointed. The machine ends up taking a body and ends up in all of the other story arcs. Does it do good or bad? Does it live? I don’t want to spoil everything!

Another arc Whedon repeats is the bringing back Charles’ twin sister and having her wreak mental havok. This story was the weakest because I felt I’d just seen it. Now, it was different because Xavier wasn’t there and for reasons that the story makes clear. However, for a long time I was pissed because she was supposed to be secreted away in a safe place. Also, Emma, her avator this time around, it just acting annoying and it’s really hard to tell what’s going on. Apparently, she’s the one who gave Emma her diamond secondary mutation, though. Speaking of which, Whedon appears to have changed the established canon that she can’t use her powers when in diamond form. Overall, the weakest arc, but thankfully it’s the shortest one.

The other story that Whedon revisits is the idea of a prophecy predicting one of the X-Men will be a killer. Of course this was made famous with Bishop and Gambit. And it turned out that Gambit was not the killer (and gets an apology in Onslaught issues). This time it’s an alien civilization – The Breakworld – that believes an X-Man will destroy their planet. This is used as an explanation for the Legacy Virus storyline as well as an early Mutant Gene cure storyline. Unfortunately, the Mutant Gene cure storyline appears to be abandoned. Of course, it makes sense because this book is even more of a rock-and-roll movie-like experience than New X-Men and perhaps even just a day or two passes once things get going. I’d be curious to see if it was picked up and resolved in Uncanny or just dropped completely.

While Whedon did not retcon anything from Morrison’s run (other than the aforementioned Emma thing) he did do some things differently: he brought back variants on the older costumes (although there was an in-story reason for it) and don’t focus at all on previous students. Which is too bad. I would have liked to have seen how Angel and Beak weathered getting back to normal. But maybe they remained key players for a while in Uncanny.

That’s not to say that Whedon ignored the students. Emma’s Stepford Cuckoos made a return. The trio of girls was hilarious. (As they often are) He also introduced a new student, Hisako. I don’t know if she’s the first Japanese X-Man (I know they’ve had other asians before), but it does lead to a funny exchange between her and Wolvie who spent a lot of time in Japan and therefore is able to understand her. It’s presented in Japanese in the book, but according to the internet, it goes:

Hisako: It’s shameful that a killer gorilla passes as a teacher here.
Wolverine: Aren’t you shaming your ancestors with your constant complaining?

She ends up part of the X-men and has a chance to prove herself during the alien storyline. She choses the name Armor and I’ve seen her in Astonishing issues after Whedon’s run. So that’s pretty awesome. I’m not sure if she’s still around in the Uncanny book after all they’ve been through in the past 7 real life years since Whedon’s run began.

I loved the Spider-Man cameo in his last issue. They got his characterization perfect. Whedon’s time on the book ends well. The ending is bittersweet but it’s as it should be. Overall, Whedon gives the book his touch without overwhelming the characters with his voice. (I hope that makes sense) and if you are reading through the past X-Men books this should definitely be on your reading list. Also, if you want to get caught up on the Astonishing storyline – they fell out of sync from the rest of the X-Men universe because of Whedon’s production delays – after reading this Omnibus, you only have 2 TPs and five individual issues to be completely caught up.