Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

27 February 2007

Astonishing X-Men, v. 3: Torn

Collects: Astonishing X-Men #13-8 (2006)

Released: January 2007 (Marvel)

Format: 152 pages / color / $14.99 / ISBN: 0785117598

Torn is the third volume of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men series, and by this point, I just wish they’d get on with things.

The events in Torn spin out of the dull second volume, Danger, in which Emma Frost appears to be on the path to betraying the X-Men with elements of the former Hellfire Club. Torn is six issues of that group trying to mentally and physically destroy the X-Men. Unfortunately, that seems like two or three issues too many, as much of the plot seems to be marking time so that the storyline can reach a total of six issues. There is, I think, only one or two fights leading into the final issue of the TPB. There’s some conflict, yes, but it goes nowhere.

Astonishing X-Men, v. 3: Torn cover Whedon is drawing heavily on two previous X-Men stories: the Grant Morrison New X-Men plot that had Cassandra Nova turning the X-Men inside out and the classic Dark Phoenix saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Cassandra Nova is not a concept that I particularly felt needed revisiting, especially since she and her Morrison overtones clash horribly with the classic Hellfire Club / Phoenix era aesthetic Whedon is trying to draw on here. But Whedon’s the main plot requires the use mind control on the main characters, and if you’re going to use a psychic villain, Cassandra Nova’s going to be near the top of the list.

There’s no doubt Whedon’s having a lot of fun using mind control on certain characters; Wolverine as a Victorian nancy boy is funny, for instance, and Scott’s insecurities are interesting. Whedon certainly knows how to write dialogue — if more comic book writers could do that, we’d all be happier. But it serves to pad out the book. I can’t help thinking Whedon would be served better by a more assertive and discriminating editor, but who knows? Maybe editor Mike Marts is the man best suited for the job.

In Torn, Whedon lets his love for Kitty Pryde shine through. The Mohs scale does not go high enough to measure the hardon Whedon has for Kitty Pryde. Kitty Pryde is happy! Kitty Pryde is having sex! (Really good, intangibility inducing sex! Even if it is with Colossus!) Kitty Pryde gets to graduate to the Wolverine role in the original Hellfire Club storyline (and in a way fulfill the Phoenix role too).

Cassaday does his usual excellent job on the art, with his somewhat retro designs of some of the characters going quite well with the Dark Phoenix undertones. Cassaday knows what he’s doing; it’s easy to phone in some aspects of mind control stories, but when one of the characters’ mind is mucked about with, Cassaday changes his look as well. Other than Scott and Peter looking a little too similar (and not particularly caring for the design of Danger, the previous arc’s villain), I’m very happy with Cassaday.

The less said of the subplots left over from previous volumes of Astonishing X-Men, the better. Whedon seems to have little facility at creating characters, as none of the villains or heroes he’s created have evinced the slightest interest from me.

Whedon and Cassaday’s tenure on this title — and perhaps the title itself — will probably end after the next volume. Although I feel little reason for optimism, I’ll probably stick it out and read that one as well, both to wrap up my investment in the story and to see Whedon and Cassaday’s strengths again.

Rating: Half X-Men symbol (2.5 of 5)

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