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Astonishing X-Men #1
writer: Joss Whedon
artist: John Cassaday

Like an episode of a good television show, Astonishing X-Men #1 opens with one heck of a teaser. We see a child's nightmare, but it may take a whole season before we understand its implications for our heroes. The television season comparison is appropriate not just because of the serial nature of comics, but because with the brilliant but often slow John Cassaday on art, it could be a while before this (allegedly) 12-issue run gets completed.

For Joss Whedon fans, that's not necessarily surprising after his work on Fray, and they'll wait for it. But should the average comics reader?


This is the book that plays heir to Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men. The style may be different, but in just a few pages Whedon makes it clear that he gets what was going on in that book, acknowledges it and moves on. Here, the fight over Jean Grey's memory makes a lot more sense than the muddled out-of-character thing that Chuck Austen wrote. In one line of dialogue, Whedon sums up the soap opera without denying how Morrison had wrapped it up.

To fulfill his own interests, he also brings Kitty Pryde back front and center to the X-Men. Her presence brings up the always sticky issue of how much time has actually passed in the existence of these heroes. As she walks through the front hall of the Academy, she remembers her early days with the team, a gawky girl who grew into a young woman through several trials by fire. Not unlike, of course, a certain vampire slayer.

But Kitty is not Buffy, and Whedon has found a very logical reason for her to be part of his take on the mutant superheroes. (Aside from she should never have left.) While Emma Frost wants to continue the dream of mutant/human peace through education and non-violence, a new more assured Scott Summers has a better point. For too long they've focused on being mutants and all their differences. It's time to get back to what they once were: superheroes.

Of course, they're still mutants, and that definition of their powers isn't going to go away. But Scott sees their colorfully-clad personas as goodwill ambassadors, one reason why Kitty's presence will prove so integral to the team. She has the face of normalcy, a face that a disdainful Emma Frost could never achieve. But at least under the new era of Whedon and Cassaday, The White Queen's clothes no longer defy the laws of physics.

Everybody gets at least one good character moment, not that you'd expect anything less from Whedon. But some of those moments belong to the astounding Cassaday, who makes all of these characters seem real in their body language and expressions.

Even when the team suits up back in the new/old spandex ("all the black leather is making people nervous"), Cassaday makes it a very real moment. He's one of the rare artists that allows you to picture what somebody might actually look like in that stuff. With Cassaday, it's not as silly-looking as you might think. Though Wolverine probably begs to differ.

If there's a problem with the book, it's that Whedon is taking his sweet time getting things rolling. Not his fault, really, it's just one reader's eagerness to see where it's all headed. In a couple of places, he gives into word play just a little too easily - Cyclops actually says, "we have to be astonishing."

That's a hard adjective to live up to. Jump aboard and see if Whedon and Cassaday can do it.


Derek McCaw

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