Thursday, November 16, 2006

Astonishing X-Men #18

Joss Whedon & John Cassaday


What a fantastic end for the "Torn" story arc! Let's break it down, shall we?

Scott has recovered from Emma's attack and shoots the White Queen he finds in the basement with Kitty and Peter. He then proceeds to shoot the rest of the Hellfire Club, explaining "I'm an X-Man. I don't shoot people. I'm just trying to make a point." What point exactly? That the Hellfire Club isn't really there.

Meanwhile, Hank confronts Blindfold, who's protecting them from Cassandra Nova's mental attacks. The blind girl pulls a box out from behind her back and says she has something that Hank and Scott talked about in case he should degress in this manner, "Something you two talked about. What you might want, might have to do, just in case. He said." This is of course, a psyche out. You're meant to recall the conversation between Scott and Hank from the first storyarc and suspect the mutant cure of being within the box, when in reality, it's a ball of yarn. A complicated little ball of yarn that will stimulate the human side of Hank's brain, but a ball of yarn nonetheless.

Hisako battles Ord and Danger, who have infiltrated the mansion at this convenient time, with the aid of Wolverine. Danger realizes that Hisako's armor can not be pierced by much of anything, but manages to get Wolverine's claws through the battle gear (without much damage to the girl), just as Hank reappears to save the day with a giant magnet that immobilizes the two foes.

Now scott explains what's been going on. There was never a Hellfire Club. As Emma imprisoned Nova years earlier, she planted a suggestion into Emma's mind: "One tiny suggestion. Too small to notice, but clamped on to Emma's greatest weakness, feeding, growing...Creating an entire reality for Emma. And that weakness? Guilt." Guilt for surviving the atrocities she's faced: becoming the White Queen (one of the manifestations that "attacked" them), failing her students in Genosha, etc. That voice in her head has been telling her she's evil, that everything bad has been her fault, when it was really random events that led to her surviviing where others have fallen. Cassandra used Emma to get Kitty in the basement to retrieve her mind, whereupon Cassandra could then infiltrate Kitty's body, where no one could touch her. Her weak point, her physical body, would no longer be able to betray her and she would be all but indestructible. Kitty proved to be too strong however, and as Scott is explaining the situation, Nova attempts to force Emma to change strategies and place Nova's mind into Hisako, whose armor, it seems, can be pierced by none but adamantum. The next best thing to being a ghost (and very reminiscent of the dozen-armed armor Cassandra manifested around herself during Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men).

Kitty puts a gun to Emma's head at this point and it's here that we realize why Emma wanted Kitty at the mansion in the first place. Yes, Cassandra wanted her there to take over her body, but Emma subconsciously also wanted her there to watch her and do, as Scott observes, exactly what she was doing, trying to stop her. Kitty puts the gun down and she is seen pushing Peter away in the background. Like with Whedon's couples in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, it seems that once the couple has found true happiness in each other, it is doomed, and after Kitty's three-year experience in a fantasy world, her and Peter's relationship seems to also be irreparable.

It's at this time that Cassandra tells Emma to put her into Hisako's body NOW, at the same moment as Scott tells her "You can send Cassandra back. You have a choice." Emma says "Go to hell"...but to whom? It's left in the air as Ord and Danger finally reenter the battle and all are whicked away by S.W.O.R.D. on another adventure that brings them to the Breakworld. Blindfold eerily speaks with a young boy as S.W.O.R.D.'s ship carries the X-Men away. The boy says they'll be back, whereupon Blindfold replies "Not all of them."

This issue read a lot like Grant Morrison's New X-Men. And really, the whole series picks things up from where Morrison ended his run, it just hasn't been apparent until this issue. Joss Whedon has said that he loved Morrison's run and that not enough has been said about it, and thus is building upon it here, where he is also introducing several really cool elements to the mythos. He's respected the proceeding run and has taken advantage of elements that Morrison has left in his wake, just as Whedon has been creating things that whoever follows him on this series can pick up on and take advantage of to tell really cool stories, hopefully building upon the pieces instead of sweeping them over and going in a completely different direction as we always see in the secondary X-titles. It's also cool that Whedon hasn't let Emma off the hook. It isn't as simple as she's bad and has been bad all along, or she's good and she's tricking the Hellfire Club. Either scenario would have been a let-down and Whedon created something far more interesting in the end. This is really the best stuff that superhero comics have to offer presently. A

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave
Nice review, the best Whedon arc so far on AXM!