Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1: Gifted by Joss Whedon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I haven't picked up an X-Men comic in a long time, unless you count the WOLVERINE ORIGINS: DEADPOOL graphic novel I reviewed recently; example, I had no idea that Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Emma Frost (the White Queen), were a couple. When did that happen? Nevertheless, in ASTONISHING X-MEN, it works. I love the interplay between Scott and Emma, with her love for Scott sullied by her bitterness of what he once shared with Jean Grey. I also like Kitty Pryde's overt mistrust of the White Queen owing to prior bad blood.
As a fan of both Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, I've been excited to read ASTONISHING X-MEN for quite a while. So far, through the first six issues in the "Gifted" trade paperback, I haven't been disappointed. Whedon's storyline is tight, his plot moves along at a great clip, and the dialogue has just the right amount of pith and wit (say "pith and wit" five times fast -- sorta fun, huh?).
Cassaday's art is a real pleasure to soak in, too—he perfectly combines heroics, drama, emotion, and realism with his masterful artistic abilities. On that last bit, realism, I'm just not into every bulging vein and corded sinew popping through a hero's costume. Cassaday has a knack for making his heroes look both cool and real at the same time, and I love it. He's been one of my favorite comic artists going all the way back to DESPERADOES for this very reason.
The "Gifted" storyline centers around a mutant cure called Hope, and there’s also the threat of a secret alien invasion by a revenge-seeking extraterrestrial named Ord. The covert organizations of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Nick Fury!) and S.W.O.R.D. end up getting involved, and one of the more compelling parts of the story is Dr. Hank McCoy's (Beast, image right) personal struggle, for of all the mutants in the current team—Scott, Emma, Kitty, Logan (Wolverine), and let’s not forget Lockheed the Dragon (the alien, Ord, certainly won’t… you’ll see) – Hank is the one whose mutations are the most evident and unattractive, making this miracle cure a very ambiguous lure. I think this is enough of a teaser, so I won't spoil any more of this excellent series. If you haven't picked up an X-Men title lately, I recommend the ASTONISHING X-MEN. You can waltz right in, quickly get up to speed, and enjoy a quality comic series with "marvelous" art (pun intended!).
My rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
Also check out these titles featuring John Cassaday's work:
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