Astonishing X-Men volume 1: Gifted
Starting this week, I’ll be reviewing a paperback every two weeks. Why this one? It was written by Joss Whedon (wrote and directed The Avengers movie). This is also the start of his Astonishing X-Men run (issues 1-6), which is often regarded as the strongest X-Men run of all time. While not a recent release, it’s frequently re-printed and never hard to find.
Astonishing X-Men: Gifted is the story about the mutant cure – which will permanently “cure” mutants of their powers. It’s being developed by Dr. Rao, a then newcomer who thought of mutants as diseased people who wanted to be cured. This story arc also introduced Ord, an alien warlord, S.W.O.R.D, a division of SHEILD that deals with extraterrestrial threats, and it brought back Colossus, who died to cure the legacy virus in 2001.
The story itself is nearly perfect. Every character’s motivations are explained clearly and expressed as you’d imagine they would. Beast seriously considers the cure so that he can look human again. The other X-Men are against the cure because they believe they are gifted. Rao wants to cure mutants mostly because of a young mutant whose first power manifestation killed her parents during a nightmare. Ord is helping create the cure because a prophecy states that one of the X-Men will destroy his planet. There are no true villains here; there are only characters who are trying to save others – even Ord doesn’t want to kill the X-Men.
This storyline is riddled with great action scenes, plenty of hilarious moments and near perfect character interactions. The art by John Cassaday is excellent all-round. Characters look like real people, the fights are easy to follow and there isn’t a single incomplete background in the whole graphic novel. This graphic novel almost perfect (I refuse to say something is absolutely perfect).
This story has been re-told several times. It was adapted into a motion comic (you can watch the first “issue” here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O490WDOoiuM ), and it was re-told very poorly in X-Men 3: The Last Stand (I’ll get to that eventually). Like I said, this paperback shouldn’t be hard to find, but if you don’t want to read it, there’s always the motion comic. The animation is a little weird in the motion comic, and some of the voice acting feels a bit … off. The motion comic’s story and dialogue is still exactly the same though. Anyone who’s interested in the X-Men or is already reading them should read or watch this story if they haven’t already. There really is no excuse not to.
Avengers vs. X-Men 7
Marvel’s major event of the year is nearly done its second act. The X-Men are hunting the Avengers after last issue’s “No more Avengers” line. Cyclops wants the Avengers either completely split off or arrested. The Avengers are on the run; they simply don’t have the power to take on the phoenix five, except maybe the Scarlet Witch. Is the comic any good though?
Yes actually. The second act continues to impress despite the first four issues simply being mediocre and relying too much on tie-ins. This issue doesn’t feel the least bit reliant on tie-ins. It simply tells us what’s going on, what the Avengers are trying to do and it moves the story forward.
The action is a little confusing like they usually are with Matt Fraction writing large casts, but they focus more on the story than anything else – that helps. The dialogue is better than Fraction’s usually is with a large cast as well. It’s straight to the point and tells us everything we need to know. The interactions between Black Panther and Iron Man are particularly good. The last page cliffhanger is easily the best of the event so far. There isn’t much else to say without spoiling the issue.
The art isn’t great, but it’s passable. It’s easy to figure out who is who despite this issue’s very large cast. Fire looks like fire and the other special effects are good too. The art’s not great, but there’s nothing specific to complain about.
If I have any complaints about this issue, they’re minor. The Scarlet Witch seems to be the only threat to the phoenix force. I know she’s been powerful in the past, but what’s with Marvel and her varying power levels? Also, she shares a panel with her half-sister Polaris. They could have had a very interesting conversation since the Scarlet Witch was responsible for depowering Polaris on M-Day in the first place. While this issue wouldn’t have had room for them to talk, it still feels like a missed opportunity. This issue also shows that the timeline with the current tie-ins is a bit skewed. For example, this issue seems to take place before the last issue of Wolverine and the X-Men, while it takes place after the current Avengers Academy story arc. That’s not the fault of this issue, but the overall event will be easier to follow once it’s all finished.
If you’ve been paying attention to this event so far, this issue is an easy recommendation. It continues the story well, there are several well-written conversations and the last page is simply epic. It’s not perfect; the second half drags a bit and the art is mediocre at best, but the good far outweighs the bad. Everything you need to know is either on the recap page or in the issue itself, although the last issue was great as well. I’m excited for the remainder of this event now.