Friday, September 22, 2006

Double Take 4

Welcome to another installment of the now semi-regular Double Take, where Patrick and I weigh in on a comic in classic Ebert & Roeper fashion.

Astonishing X-Men #17
Joss Whedon & John Cassaday

Contains spoilers!

Dave says: Another great, if strange, issue of Astonishing X-Men. I love that cover and John Cassaday brilliantly illustrates some of the most disturbing images from the very first page to the last. From the get-go, Kitty is under the illusion (courtesy of the…er, second Miss Frost) that she’s had a baby with Peter and that someone has taken it. This is The Hellfire Club’s way to get Pryde to phase into the stubborn box in the basement to retrieve an important item. A lot of emphasis is put on the fact that the people in Kitty’s life leave her, let her down, or die. The only real constant companion she’s ever had is Lockheed. Her first love Peter died. Her best friend Illyana died. Her other close friend Doug Ramsey died. Her father died in the Genosha massacre. And there was a time when she thought all of the X-Men were dead but a handful that founded Excalibur. Of course, some of that has been rectified, at the beginning of this series with Peter, and not too far into her time with Excalibur, but the fact has always remained that her world is constantly in flux. Obviously, she didn’t want that sort of thing to happen again since she goes all crazed in her pursuit of her imaginary child, particularly in an awesome scene where she holds a phased axe threateningly through Peter’s head. A pretty damn freaky image. Another freaky image: Kitty holding “her baby” the maggot-looking thing. But anyways, in this issue, Lockheed is revealed as the mole (will the betrayal ever stop?), Cassandra Nova herself is revealed to be what was in the box, and both Scott and Logan regain their wits and are looking for some serious revenge. Of course, Danger and Ord are in the mix now, and what the hell is going on with the Emma Frost doppelganger? Weird issue, but good.

Patrick says: Yeah, this was a pretty solid issue. I think this series tends to be either over or under praised. I think it’s overpraised when considered as good as or better than Grant Morrison’s extraordinary run on New X-Men, but some have dismissed Whedon’s take as being too conservative and retro. It is a fairly conservative approach, especially when compared to Morrison’s work, but there’s a lot to be said for the execution. Whedon’s and Cassidays’ storytelling skills are just about pitch perfect. This issue in particular had a nice build of tension throughout, creating a perfectly paced thriller. Cassiday’s visuals were just the right amount of creepy when they needed to be, and he does a great job with the character’s facial expressions, especially important given Whedon’s sparse approach to dialogue.

This all adds up to little more than an above average superhero adventure story, but I don’t really ask much more of the X-Men, you know? If you’re a fan of the genre, I can’t think of many better exemplars of it currently being published. If there’s only room in your life for one superhero comic book…..well, you should track down Morrison’s New X-Men books or his and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman. If there’s room in your life for more than one superhero comic book, you might want to give this one a shot.

Dave says: I’ll grant you that Morrison and Quitely are innovative artists, and even that New X-Men was a better run than Whedon’s and Cassadays’. I still, however, prefer Astonishing X-Men to All-Star Superman. It may just be that what I look for in a story doesn’t have as much to do with plot and out-there ideas, but with characterization and great dialogue (the latter of which is ever-present in Morrison‘s works as well, but never as sharp as Whedon‘s). I like my stories more character-driven, which is why I’m so nutty over Whedon, and Cassaday is perfectly suited for such an approach. New X-Men introduced dozens of concepts that Marvel writers will be working with for decades. It was damn near brilliant. And he brought Emma Frost into play as a major force. But Morrison focused a lot on the themes and what he was trying to say about the X-Men in general, wherea Whedon is using the tools provided and using them exceptionally well to flush these characters out. In the end, I just want a great story, and both runs have provided that much, exceeding all expectations.

Double Take 3: Death Note (Volume 7)
Double Take 2: Ghost of Hoppers
Double Take: The Drifting Classroom

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