Since there’s no new TV for me to watch for at least
three months, I’m hoping to start getting through the
backlog of comic and movie reviews. I’m trying to
get at least one day off of work a week (Sunday), so
I’m hoping I can use that day to play catch-up on
these things.

General Information

Title: Astonishing X-Men #1

Author: Joss Whedon

Illustrator(s): John Cassady

Original Publication Date: May 26, 2004

Cover Price: $2.99 US, $4.25 Can

Premise

Cyclops builds a new team of X-Men with the plan to
get out into the
world and prove that they really are super heroes,
recreating Xavier’s
dream. The team includes himself, Emma Frost,
Wolverine, Beast, and
Shadowcat, in one of the smallest X-rosters we’ve
seen in a while.

As part of this month’s X-Men: Reload
promotion, this is a
new title that is trying to strike out in its own
direction. For the
record, here’s a quick recap of the changes due
Reload:

Astonishing X-Men (written by Whedon) picks up where
New X-Men left
off (written by Grant Morrison)

Uncanny X-Men picks up where X-Treme X-Men left off,
both written by
Chris Claremont

X-Men drops the “New” as Chuck Austen takes over,
continuing what he
was doing to Uncanny X-Men

Exiles gets a creative team change

New Mutants becomes New X-Men: Academy X, and then
simply New
X-Men

District X launches as a new title, probably in
response to DC’s
well-received Gotham Central. It’s about Bishop’s
work with regular
law enforcement.

Excalibur launches anew with Claremont at the helm,
beginning with the
reconstruction of Genosha.

Mystique gets a new creative team.

Alpha Flight seems to have been included in the
promotion to increase
awareness of the newly relaunched title. Sure, the
team first
appeared in an issue of Uncanny X-Men, but the book
has little
interaction with the X-universe.

If I missed anything, let us know.

High Point

“I was busy remembering to put on all my clothes.”

Low Point

The last panel. The “fade to black and bring up
credits” is a great
way to end an episode of a TV show, but it’s not well
suited to the
comic book medium. All it says to me is that Whedon
hasn’t quite
figured out all the ways comic and television writing
need to differ.

The Scores

So far, I haven’t seen a lot of originality
in the title.
It’s setting up a return to the classic types of
X-Men stories, but so
far, there’s nothing we haven’t seen before. I give
it 3 out of 6.

The artwork is excellent on the characters
you are meant to
pay attention to. In some cases, the secondary
characters that aren’t
meant to be the focus suffer a little. (Take a good
look at the
ladies when Cyclops says “So think about it.”)
Still, the highs are
extremely high, and the lows aren’t particularly low.
I give it 5 out
of 6.

The story is all set-up, but it’s a good
set-up. The villain
looks to be perfect for this story. Just as the team
gets ready to
prove itself to the world with actions, a villain
steps up who can
likely only be faced down with words. Excellent
choice. I give it 5
out of 6.



The characterization is generally good.
We’ve got tension
within the team that’s easy to understand, as well as
some comical
interactions. I don’t remember Beast being this
goofy, though. I
give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response was primarily a
peaked interest with a
few chuckles. As I said, this issue is all set-up.
We have to wait
at least a month to see how this team and this
villain are going to
start interacting, and that will be when the story
gets going. In the
meantime, I’m more than willing to stick with the
title and see where
it goes. I give it 4 out of 6.

The flow is well done, with the transitions
from one scene to
the next working well. It’s still very sequential,
with a huge number
of vertical panel arrangements, and only a few pages
that use the
“rows and columns” arrangement that is more common to
this medium. I
suspect Whedon’s scripts dictate the panel
arrangements, and he’s
picturing it in his mind as a TV show and then
adapting it a little
too directly. It doesn’t quite give that comic book
feel, which holds
back the flow a bit. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a good comic, despite the
feeling that it was
envisioned as a TV show. The core of any comic
should be the story,
in my opinion, and this is shaping up to tell a good
one. I give it 5
out of 6, and recommend it to anyone who already
collects any of the
X-titles.

In total, Astonishing X-Men #1 receives 30
out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

I’m hoping to get through my backlog of reviews soon.
The current
backlog includes Ultimate Six, Ultimate
Spider-Man:
Hollywood
, Ultimate X-Men: New Mutants,
the first two
volumes of Alias, issues 38-45 of
Exiles, JLA:
Heaven’s Ladder
, issues 509-513 of Fantastic
Four
,
Calvin and Hobbes, all four Get
Fuzzy
collections,
and four Essentials (two Captain America, and the
latest X-Men and
Tomb of Dracula volumes.) If you have any preference
about which you
want to see first, speak up now.