This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"So no more running. I aim to misbehave."
11945 members | you are not logged in | 25 October 2014




Tweet







August 24 2006

(SPOILER) "Because no one makes fun of Wolverine like Whedon". Well that's how Brian K. Vaughan described Astonishing X-Men #16, so what you think of the issue? Post your thoughts in this Whedonesque review thread. ETA - See also the Wizard Thursday Morning Quarterback review of AXM16.

This is the (only) major Joss Whedon project of 2006 and by god, he's on fire with this. This is some of his best work to date. So many twists and turns. And "Yeahbuhwhat?" was my reaction too.

So far I've only really considered getting into the "Ultimates" line of superhero books to give Marvel another shot (aside from catching up on Runaways at the moment and loving Alias [not related to the Jennifer Garner TV series] when it was still going). Will I be lost if I pick up the Astonishing X-Men trades? My experiences with the X-titles consisted of pretty much the entirety of the `90s Fox cartoon and about three or so years of reading some of the comics (starting just before Age Of Apocalypse and quitting after the Onslaught mess), most of those spent reading Wolverine, the main two X-books at the time, and X-Factor on and off. Plus a bunch of backissues that I found for cheap of X-Factor back when that book was more about the main X-Men cast and they had a flying building as a ship. I didn't see a lot of Colossus and Kitty and it sounds like they both figure into Joss' X-book pretty heavily, so I'm not sure whether I'd be invested enough in their characters to care.

Would reading a bit of backstory on a website somewhere for all or at least some of the history I've missed be recommended before I dive into Astonishing?
Kris: I'd recommend reading the Dark Pheonix Saga, which will give you a feel for the backstory of Kitty, Colossus, Emma Frost, and The Hellfire Club. There are also some more recent events that are mentioned in AXM, and there is a Marvel Must Reads comic that covers a big chunk of them, but I forget what issues it covers at the moment.
There's a little bit of backstory you might want to know but Astonishing X-Men is one of those few titles that doesn't require you knowing the previous 20 years of X-Men history. In fact Joss is to be commended on that. It's very accessible. But I'm sure someone here can point you in the right direction in terms of a helpful website.
I'm not ordinarily a fan of American comics at all, and Astonishing is the only series I've ever gotten. I was pretty much only familiar with the movieverse, and I've still been adoring the book. I've got several friends reading it who only know the movies and the 90's cartoon, so I think it's all that hard to jump right in. Joss' writing is strong enough to make it appealing on its own. And I wasn't familiar with Kitty or Colossus at all, and thought the writing of their scene together in the first paperback was impressive enough to be what really hooked me.
I would definitely recommend Astonishing. I would suggest picking up the trade paperbacks to get caught up on the recent storylines Joss has been working with, because they are all really coming into play with the current storyline. Joss not only gets to the core of well-known characters like Wolverine and Beast, but he makes characters like Kitty, someone you may not have noticed as much before, a full character that you immediately love and identify with. And of course, each book has a trademark Joss line or two. If you have any love for the X-men, and love Joss, you cannot miss these books. I honestly never read comics until Astonishing, and I was able to pretty much follow what was going on - my husband filled me in on the things I seemed to be missing.

As for this latest issue - Joss and John at their best if you ask me. The moments with Wolverine were sublime. It is rare that a comic literally makes me laugh out loud, and that I did reapeatedly with #16.
Kris, unfortunately the period of X-Men you cited having read (Age of Apocalypse through Onslaught) is among the most convoluted, scattered, shaky quality periods in X-history. Sadly the characters and stories have (imho) fallen apart somewhat from the high watermark of the classic Claremont/Byrne and Claremont/Smith eras.

Joss has done a remarkable job making his title accessible to those with only the barest passing familiarity with the back stories. I'd say you're not "required" to read any of the older stuff to enjoy AXM... but it certainly wouldn't hurt. Joss' other strong suit (besides characterization) is "pop culture"-like references to continuity. So you can read his work without knowing what's come before, but there are always little "easter eggs" planted that make it even more fun for those of us who read it way back when.

Long-winded way of saying you'd enjoy AXM no matter what.

There are three old-school stories I'd strongly recommend though, just because they are absolutely great examples of what the X-Men have been capable of.

Dark Phoenix Saga - Probably THE classic X-story. Elements of this story play (very loosely) into the second and third X-films.

Days of Future Past - One of the most influential X-stories, this had an impact not only on pretty much every single storyline in the X-titles ever after, but also influenced and inspired stories in countless other titles, Marvel AND DC alike.

God Loves, Man Kills - A gorgeous and emotional graphic novel. This was one of the biggest inspirations for the story featured in the second X-film.
Astonishing #16 was brillant. I wish Wolvie would stay like that. Maybe he can host a tea party for the rest of the X-Men.

Astonishing is probably the easiest X-book to start reading. It sort of exists in it's own little 'verse despite being in the same continuity as the other books, which is mostly due to Joss being unable to keep the book on schedule, so they can't keep the book lined-up with what's happening in the other books.

Joss really seems to be only using continuity from the classic Claremont issues in the early 80s and the Morrison New X-Men era. Anything else (like Kitty's character development in Excalibur and X-Treme have been tossed out the window).

http://www.uncannyxmen.net is a great source of info for anyone new to X-Men. Their Movie vs Comics page has a great run-down of the comics.

Joss has made Astonishing more accessible to newer/returning readers, but in a way, it's really detracted from the story in the long run. (For instance, Peter nearly killed Kitty's former boyfriend Pete Wisdom out of jealousy, yet Kitty's fine with getting back together with Peter).

And certain things in Astonishing really don't make much sense in relation to the other X-books. While it makes it easier for newer/returing reader not to have to read all of the other X-books, but it doesn't make much sense. Why is the mansion so empty in Astonishing? About 20 other X-Men live there. For instance, Kitty has two roommates in the other X-books, yet they never appear in Astonishing and her room is completely different. And Kitty had been back to the mansion, helped rebuild it (Uncanny 444, X-Treme 46), so the beginning of Astonishing #1 made absolutely no sense.

In a way, it's like if they did Buffy Season 8 just hitting a re-set button and ignoring Seasons 2-7 and starting over.

Astonishing are fun stories, but there are serious continuity issues that take away a lot of that fun.

[ edited by FaithFan on 2006-08-24 20:37 ]
Well, if Astonishing exists on its own, then it really isn't fair to slam it for continuity compared to other books, is it?
Offically, Astonishing *doesn't* exist in it's own continuity. It's in the Marvel 616. However, fans just excuse it as it's own semi-continuity since it's impossible to figure out where it does fit in.

The current events in Astonishing happen after everything that's currently happening in the other X-books, and might even happen after Civil War. Since Joss was so behind, they took the other books and had those teams leave the mansion so they could try to explain away Astonishing.

[ edited by FaithFan on 2006-08-24 20:41 ]
Astonishing are fun stories, but there are serious continuity issues that take away a lot of that fun.

Well that's part of the nature of the beast. I personally don't like the habit publishers have of taking popular characters or titles and spinning off a dozen others merely to capitalize and make more money. Solo characters like Batman and Spider-Man are the worst, but even the team books sacrifice believability a bit when you've got six different books ostensibly featuring the same set of characters in the same place at what is presumably the same time. It's just impossible to coordinate all those various stories perfectly.

From what I understand, Marvel is doing a fairly decent job of coordinating everything in their Universe with the whole Civil War storyline. But since I've basically given up reading Marvel books (with a few notable exceptions), I'm personally glad that Astonishing exists sort of on its own. I have no intention of picking up the hundreds of other books that could potentially cross over with Joss' book, so it's good that Joss just ignores all of it for me.

[ edited by Haunt on 2006-08-24 20:55 ]
See, and that's one of the reasons why I stopped buying comics when I was younger. It's just too much work to keep track of all the different titles under the "Spider-Man" banner or the "X-Men" banner, and which stories cross and blah bitty blah.

Good on Joss for creating a self-contained story, and leaving all the other books out of it. And not just for the newbie angle, but for the sake of story focus and overall sanity, too.

ETA: Thumbs up, Haunt.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2006-08-24 20:46 ]
The X-book editors are horrible with continity. Fans wonder if they have ever even read most X-books and can't keep any of the books in order. As for Civil War, Rachel Summers appeared in the first issue, but she had already left for Shi'ar space in Uncanny 475, which happened before Civil War #1.

It's not Joss' responsiblity to figure out what's going on in the other books. But the editors seem to have just wanted to make their jobs easier and not have to coordinate Astonishing. Why couldn't Kitty's room in Astonishing look like her room in Uncanny and Adjectiveless?

The problem I have is with the current X-book editors and Marvel Editor in Chief trying to basically "dumb down" the current X-books. They think X-book readership is down because new readers are too scared of X-book and want to make them more easy to read and more assessible. That means characters with complicated pasts are dumbed-down (For instance Rachel has been de-aged and retconned into a blubby teenager, which is about the same as Faith returning to Buffy Season 8 as a 15 year old Valley girl)

Current Marvel editorial policy also prohibits the use of footnotes. So, writers can't put an asterisk and say this reference a certain back issue. I don't understand this, but the editors think those are off-putting to new readers.

Astonishing has been great since it's returned X-Men to what people have always liked - the characters. Instead of superstar artists, it's about the writing and the characters, and not big events and big battle scenes. So, it's been worth it if continuity has taken a hit, but I wish the editors could have found better ways to 1) keep Whedon and Cassaday on schedule and 2) worked harder to integrate Astonishing into the other X-books.

New readers start reading Astonishing, but none of the other characters or events are even addressed. It could be a good gateway X-book. But major events like M-Day, Decimation and the 198 are barely mentioned. Why can't there be a few guest X-Men in Astonishing to get new readers familar with other X-characters? It's just been a missed opportunity.

[ edited by FaithFan on 2006-08-24 21:05 ]
FYI, it was just announced the X-Books senior editor Mike Marts is leaving Marvel for DC! YES! Hopefully they get a decent editor to replace him.

The article at Newsarama about Marts leaving also has some quotes from Morts about Joss:
http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=81747
"The current events in Astonishing happen after everything that's currently happening in the other X-books, and might even happen after Civil War. Since Joss was so behind, they took the other books and had those teams leave the mansion so they could try to explain away Astonishing."

I think you have it reversed. I'm pretty sure that Astonishing takes place in continuity but BEFORE all the current story lines, and even before M-Day and all that.
I'm pretty sure Astonishing takes place after M-Day...I believe there was a veiled reference to it in an earlier issue.

But, really, I'm not caring overmuch, since it's certainly the best superhero comic on the racks right now, and may even be the best, period. I love Joss.
Nope. If Torn happened before, it spoils everything, since Emma would still be on the team and couldn't possibly be evil. Warsong may happen after Torn, but it hasn't been determined where it fits in.

This arc of Astonishing happens AFTER the Uncanny and Adjectiveless teams leave the mansion, and the 198 have left the mansion. (so after Civil War). That way they don't have to deal why none of the other X-Men aren't around to stop Emma (or see Wolvie acting like a child).
Thanks for the info, folks. Reassuring to hear that I don't have to pick up twelve different X-titles or various other Marvel books just to get the full story. From people's comments about Astonishing since it started, I didn't get the impression that it was crossing over with anything (was mostly just concerned about pre-Astonishing backstory), but I wanted to be sure. Multi-title crossovers were what drove me away from superhero comics (and now in the Previews catalogue I'm seeing that Runaways is involved in Civil War with the Young Avengers or something--it happens outside of the main book's arc though, right?).

Lady Brick said:
"I'd recommend reading the Dark Pheonix Saga, which will give you a feel for the backstory of Kitty, Colossus, Emma Frost, and The Hellfire Club."

All of which was pretty much left out of the cartoon, right? I remember there being a bit of the Hellfire Club, but it was only in one episode I think and probably didn't cover them the way the comic did.
No, I remember the cartoon doing the Dark Phoenix Saga....I know it did....didn't it?
okay, I got to know the American comic-universe with the Astonishing X-Men (up until then: not nerd enough; just Fray), and by first sight I didn't have any idea about what was going on: why did the fun guy attack the wacky guy with the glasses; and what was the sentence of the blonde chick meaning, the one that she rates below a corpse; and what's a sentinel, and this thing with the blond and the brown-haired chick: why were they so pissed of at one another? (the brown girl was kitty, joss talked about her in fray, that I got)

and cyclops is scott, and the beast is who? and what is the blue-haired bibbeling about a mouth and lips, and wtf is the fun guy with the eye patch???

if you have no idea of the marvel-universe, you're lost; but it just needs a little wikipedia-research to get a few hints on jean grey (okay she's dead, but the two guys had a thing for her), colossus (he killed himself saving the world) and the others.

next complicated issue: who the fuck is cassandra nova, and the other and the other. no idea; totally lost.

and the most disturbing thing, I have no idea which backissues to get, to make sense of the story (okay, that's not true: enter the phoenix, dark phoenix saga, end of phoenix, e is for extinction, dream's end, from the ashes; these should bethe ones which will be necessary, I think...)

and if anyone comes down on joss and cassidy, to tell that kitty's room isn't exactly as it is in the other of the other 12 x-title, which he prefers to read I get pissed of. because I don't live in a privileged city where you can find a local comic book store, or get your issue shipped to (and I don't even like all of the other x-titles - or what I've seen so far - too bad written or pencilled, or inked imo) I'm good with reading a few ultimate (beginning really rating low) and the astonishing, catch up on daredevil, and ultimate spidey, and have a look on civil war. that's the world I'm living in, and I don't need much more (okay, runaways and watchmen isn't too bad, and the league of extraordinary..., and alias...)
"Nope. If Torn happened before, it spoils everything, since Emma would still be on the team and couldn't possibly be evil. Warsong may happen after Torn, but it hasn't been determined where it fits in."

It does happen before and it does spoil everything; we pretty much know that Emma isn't actually evil cause she's good in every current X-book. Enjoy it for the story telling, writing and art but essentially it will end with the charecters exactly as they are at the beginning of House of M #1.
KINDA SPOILERS BELOW:


Not to mention the cover of Astonishing #19 pretty much spoils the fact that Emma isn't gonna end up evil.

[ edited by ajay42 on 2006-08-24 23:36 ]
On your cavalcade of trades . . .

My startlingly informed local comics dealer recommended I read the TPB "e is for extinction" by Grant Morrison to understand the current arc. Cassandra Nova is the Big Bad. The story also features (BITS OF SPOLIAGE) .
Days of Future Past - One of the most influential X-stories, this had an impact not only on pretty much every single storyline in the X-titles ever after, but also influenced and inspired stories in countless other titles, Marvel AND DC alike.

Not to mention it inspired James Cameron and the first Terminator film!
ajay42, that's why Astonishing's Torn arc happens AFTER all of the current X-books. We don't know what's going on with Emma. Is she evil? Is she being controlled? Is she having some sort of mental breakdown? And then add to it what's going on with Perfection. The events of Torn and Unstoppable will have a huge impact on the other X-books starting probably next spring/summer. It sounds like there will be a big event and then probably another reload.

The cover of Astonishing #19 doesn't give that much away, since covers are frequently misleading. #14 looks like Emma and Wolvie are going to hook-up, but they didn't. Many issues of Uncanny have Wolvie on the cover and he never actually appears in the issue. The bigger spoiler on the cover of 19 involves visorless Scott and that certainly hasn't been resolved in any other X-book.

The problem is that Joss got so behind and the stories weren't well coordinated by the X-book editor.
I'm seeing that Runaways is involved in Civil War with the Young Avengers or something--it happens outside of the main book's arc though, right?


Kris, the YA/Runaways Civil War crossover happens after the current arc "Dead means dead".
Really liked AXM #16. Logan is hilarious and I can't wait to see Wolverine respond to how he's currently being made to act. Kitty's 'Yeahbuhwhat?' at the big reveal was priceless.

I do like the sense of history from comics continuities but there comes a point where enough is enough and too much baggage becomes stifling and overcomplicates the storytelling process. I'm perfectly happy to view AXM as a separate entity no matter what the official line (assuming Joss isn't doing something especially clever a la Planetary's Crossing Worlds stories) and just enjoy the well rendered characters, great stories and fantastic art.

(in a similar mode it's a real treat to see for instance Batman - apparently at least - drop some of the baggage he's accrued over the last 15-20 years and get back to the core ideas that make the character great especially if it can be done as a natural progression from where he's been)
I started reading X-Men during the Dark Phoenix Saga, and Astonishing has finally given me the same joy and excitement I felt as a child with the wonderful arc.

The characters are sharp and in focus. The stories are well told. And the dialog is flawless.

They don't take the easy way out, indeed several times I've been bothered by the plot turns every bit as much as I've loved them.

And for the continuity freaks- decades have resulted in such an inconsistent, illogical, and irrelevant chronology that ignoring the weaker elements of the past and holding to the stronger is the only way to move forward. Instead of wasting a page figuring out how to justify something like Kitty not being mad about an ex-boyfriend's treatment, ignoring it and getting on with the story is a much better way to go.

I basically look at this as All-Star X-Men and happily so.

And Cassaday's art has now become inextricably linked to Whedon's X-Men in my head. That's just the actors saying lines...

Thank you mistas Whedon and Cassasay.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.



joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home