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December 31 2007

The X-Axis Review of 2007: Astonishing X-Men. Comic reviewer Paul O'Brien does a 'year in review' of sorts, and starts with Joss' Astonishing X-Men.

"A long, long time ago, further back than many people can remember, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday started telling a story. It was going to be twenty-four issues long, and it would take two years to tell...That was in May 2004. This two year storyline - which, as I say, would have been stretched a bit thin even on the original schedule - has now been grinding away for over three and a half years. It still isn't finished. If anything, it's getting slower. There were seven issues in 2006. This year, there were only four."

Wow. Those are some sour grapes. If Astonishing X-Men would have come out in two years instead of nearly four, this guy would have liked the comic better?!

Try Zen, buddy.

If timeliness of a publication affects how much you enjoy it.. please, please do NOT read Love & Rockets. L&R, of course, is one of the finest comic titles ever produced but this guy would HATE it due to Los Bros Hernandez being on their own inspired schedule.

As for storywise, as a life-long X-Men reader, I'd mention Astonishing X-Men in the same breath as the Uncanny X-Men Claremont/Byrne run of the '80s and that was the X-Men's finest stretch no doubt.
There's no padding in Astonishing. It's a concise epic. This last arc does draw attention to the pacing -- to the way the X-Men are being put in place for an apocalyptic battle -- but I think that was done deliberately, to serve a story that IMHO is all about how the X-Men are being set up for an apocalyptic battle. The reviewer should pay attention to his inner rebellion against the way things appear to be moving inexorably toward an inevitable showdown. "Unstoppable" may be getting ready to show us how exorable, evitable and stoppable the showdown is.
LOL at Astonishing being called "vapourware" in a later review.

I think part of the problem with why fans are so down on Astonishing is it has been wreaking havoc on the other books. Brubaker said he couldn't have Cyclops react to his father's death due since he couldn't use Cyclops since Joss was using him. Kitty's death has been spoiled.

Now it's leading to a lot of sour grapes with fans that Unstoppable isn't over, especially since it's been dragging on so long.

The other challenge Astonishing faces nowadays is that the other X-books are doing so well. Mike Carey has achieved X-Writing God status. Chris Yost & Craig Kyle are kicking butt on New X-Men. PAD is as good as ever on X-Factor. First Class is the best X-book people aren't reading.

Messiah Complex is being very well received and is completely and totally changing the X-books forever. So in comparison, Astonishing is kind of old and out of date.

It's too bad since Joss' run on Astonishing is going to be remembered more for the delays than how good it was.
Oh, glory be.

Compared to Civil War, Spider-Man, and Mighty Avengers, Astonishing X-men looks like a model of perfect timing. At least it's not closely tied in to continuity. And, Faithfan, if that really was a spoiler, I wish you hadn't posted it here, because I wasn't spoiled on that. It certainly hasn't been mentioned within canon, and if you're speculating based on Marvel statements that may or may not be true, that's not the same as a spoiler.

I wish the comic was more timely, too, but in a few years people will be able to pick up the trade and read the story all at once and the delays will be a little bit of trivia.
So far as I know, there's nothing solid on Kitty being dead, but a lot of people are assuming since she isn't in Messiah Complex. They believe she'll die at the end of Astonishing, which would fit canonically before MC. However, Cyclops can use his powers without his visor in Astonishing, but he's been using his visor in MC. So unless he has to use the visor again in the next two issues of Astonishing, placing Astonishing before MC wouldn't make sense.
I am reminded of the words of Anton Ego, voiced by the incomparable Peter O'Toole in Ratatouille (which I loved). These words were penned by Brad Bird:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

(Add grain of salt to Mr. O'Brien: here.)
Several of the writers have stated that Torn and Unstoppable take place between Blinded by the Light and Messiah Complex.

If Unstoppable wasnít until after Messiah Complex, why would Ed Brubaker have to worry about using Cyclops? He could have had Cyclops reacting to Corsairís death and not had fans raging at him.

Astonishing canít take place after Messiah Complex, since in the conclusion to Messiah Complex:
I don't know why Brubaker said that, but Cyclops (and Wolverine, and Peter Parker, and Tony Stark, and a million other characters) are used simultaneously in various titles. There might have been a particular thing with the timing of that particular issue.

Ed Brubaker has also said that [spoiler that happened at the end of the most recent Captain America] was not going to happen, so, while I am a huge Brubaker fan who basically buys everything the man writes, I don't necessarily take all statements attributed to him at face value.

Also, not reading spoilers, but I do agree that the timing of AXM b/t Blinded by the Light and Messiah Complex makes good sense.

The only point I mean to make here is that we don't know for sure what's become of Kitty, and that the timing problems aren't unique to AXM (and I also think Joss and John deserve a bit of extra credit because the original run was not supposed to be 24 issues; considering that they doubled the size of the original story, I'm happy with the way it's turning out).
Speaking as if Joss and John failed by taking twice as long, when they extended their run to twice the length, seems a bit crazy to me. There are still delays though, and I agree that it becomes very frustrating.

As for whether the arc will be remembered as a classic: well, I think it's very well done but I agree that aspects of it are fairly generic. What bothers me the most right now, though, is how the mutant cure was dropped so completely; "Dangerous" and "Torn" still have resonating implications.
How well does Astonishing X-Men do in sales terms compared to Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men?
If this is a year in review, may I hijack the thread to wish those over in Europe a very Happy New Year?
Um, this seems more like a rant against missing deadlines than the content of the product. I'd rather have a quality product that missed its deadline than crap that ships on time.
I'm not the biggest X-Men fan, but I'd always assumed that every separate title wasn't supposed to fit in perfect continuity with one another? I thought that the writer would just choose which characters they wanted to work with without worrying too much about how they fit into the larger continuity? Of course I'm probably wrong but it seems impossible that there won't be contradictions in a series that has seen so many titles and so many different writers, so I found it easier to look at each one as a potential outcome so it doesn't matter if they contradict each other.

I have only read the first two story arcs of Joss' run on Astonishing X-Men and I prefer to wait for the hardback collections, although I should probably check to see if the third is available yet. I can understand the reviewer's impatience regarding the uneven releases of the comics, and to be fair we know that in the comic medium Joss isn't always the most prompt writer. However when he delivers the level of quality he does it can be excused.

After all on a TV schedule, you can't just stop and take a break, every week you need another episode, and sometimes that might account for a lapse in quality. One of the advantages of the medium of comics is that there isn't quite the same pressure.

I definitely prefer a regulated reading or viewing schedule, though. I'm not the type of person who usually buys a DVD boxset and watches it all over two days, I tend to watch one episode a week. As I prefer the hardback collections to having to buy separate issues of a comic, I wait for those. And even then it's weird finally getting the first one, reading one or two issues a week, and then after six issues or whatever, having to wait months and months for the next collection to come out.

I don't think the critic is being unfair though. He admits that, "Yes, it's pretty. Yes, it's got some very clever moments." He just doesn't find it all that interesting. To each his own.
The third Astonishing arc, "Torn," is available in trade paperback, Razor, and is powerful good.

[ edited by Pointy on 2008-01-01 15:23 ]
Happy New Year to all!

I'm actually amazed that someone who doesn't really come across as liking comic books just took up so much of my life.

Those are minutes I'll never get back and I wish I'd used them on something better than reading an article from someone who can't decide between hating excess baggage that decades of comic continuity brings on or if mega crossovers should be fully realized.

Must be me.
How well does Astonishing X-Men do in sales terms compared to Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men?

Simon, the sales of Astonishing are about the same as Morrison's New X-Men (which started out at about 150,000 and then declined back to the low 100,000s where Adjectiveless had been before Morrison.) The Astonishing 23 sold 112,920 to the direct market, which is about the same as Uncanny and Adjectiveless if you add in the 2nd printings. (You can view the Diamond Sales Figures here:
Razor, Astonishing is in continuity with the other books. They're all telling small parts of a much larger story. (The most frequently asked newbie question on Marvel's message board is confusion about how Astonishing fits in with the other X-books). Joss has designed Astonishing to happen in a very short period of time that can be fitted into the other books.

The other X-writers work very hard to work around Astonishing, and even took their books away from the mansion for over a year to accommodate Astonishing's Torn and Unstoppable arcs (which ended up to be pointless). Obviously, if a character dies or doesn't return in Unstoppable, they can't appear in the other X-books. Other major events (for example, the cure became irrelevant following M-Day and mutants going on the brink of extinction) also impact Astonishing.

Currently Messiah Complex, the biggest X-event in a decade, is underway and fundamentally changing everything. Barely anything that forms the foundation of Astonishing will be around after Messiah Complex.

The other X-books have essentially gone on without Astonishing. Letting Astonishing lead then getting delayed was making the other X-book stagnate.

A few years ago Claremont was setting up a major Hellfire storyline in Uncanny that started out very well. Then Joss wanted to use the Hellfire Club in Torn, so Claremont was force to put his Hellfire storyline on hold (which resulted in some of the worst comics Claremont has ever written).

What the delays have ruined is any impact Unstoppable will have. Everything in the other X-books and Warren Ellis' Astonishing arc will be driven by the upheaval Messiah Complex causes. Anything that happened in Unstoppable will be acknowledged, but it won't have any sort of noticeable impact. Had Unstoppable ended last summer, it would have given the other books an arc to react to Unstoppable before Messiah Complex.

[ edited by FaithFan on 2008-01-01 22:06 ]
Has it really been four years? I've left a job, gone back to university, graduated, been unemployed for six months and worked six months in two jobs during that length of time.

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