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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Comic Book Review: Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1 - "Gifted"


I remember when I was about 10 years old, me and my brothers watched "The X-Men" tv series every week and imitated our favorite characters. Mine was Cyclops. I would act like I got those cool shades and fire blasts of energy from my eyes, then one of my brothers would come at me like Wolverine with three sticks between his fists, slashing his way and beating the hell out of me. Good times.

So the X-Men had a profound impact on my childhood. They were my first superhero team, and Cyclops was my first favorite comic book character long before I loved Superman. 

Enter The Astonishing X-Men. A 2004 ongoing series written by Joss Whedon and illustrated by John Cassaday that focused on a new roster featuring Wolverine, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Beast, Colossus, with Emma Frost and Cyclops in the lead of the team. This was the first X-Men comic book that I have read in 20 freaking years.

This comic book was a continuation of the previous X-Men storylines years prior to 2004, but I didn't really care much about trying to get to know what happened in the past, mainly because past stories gets too confusing. On to the review.

First story arc is titled "Gifted" and it basically introduces the main team players that we're going to see through out the book. Here's one of the early panels showcasing Cassaday's exceptional art:
The X-Men (from left to right): Beast (Hank McCoy), Emma Frost, Wolverine (Logan), Shadowcat (Kitty Pride) and Cyclops (Scott Summers)

As the story goes, Kitty Pryde comes back to the X-Men as they re-opened the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning and recruited a lot of mutant students. They teach them ethics, how to to use their powers and most importantly, how to control them.

But running things aren't easy as they seem: the team still deals with the fact that most of the human population is still afraid of mutants who sees them as threats, and when a genetic biologist goes on national television claiming that they have already discovered the "cure" for the mutant strain - things get more complicated.Add to that a familiar alien foe who seeks to destroy the rebuilding X-Men, then we get a huge sloberknocker in which our heroes would try to set aside their differences to act as a team in order to save the world... again. Can they do it?

Visuals and storytelling are always the standard in which comic books are measured, and Astonishing X-Men is nothing but mouth-watering and entertaining. Emma Frost is always uber-sexy, Kitty Pryde is  back and angry, Wolverine still loves beer, Cyclops is still the stud that he is and gets laid with Emma, (maybe that's why he's my favorite in the first place. Jean and then Emma. Can't top that) and Beast is... uhm... well... a beast. Literally.

Also, a dead X-Man gets revived here after being out since 2001, which didn't surprise me at all because there is only one guy, and I mean one guy in comics who's  dead, never resurrected and will never be seen again. So much for comic book deaths. 

Since there is no Jean Grey here folks, we get the Emma-Scott tandem often. They're the new lovers and as usual, Cyclops gets his fair share of flesh and scores while Wolverine is still grumpy and bitching about who Scott is sleeping with. Bitter basterd Logan. Here's the panel with Emma sleeping in a see-through sexy dress showing her derriere:

Not bad Scott. Emma Frost after Jean Grey? I would consider that an upgrade.
Some things just don't change, do they?

Wheadon and Cassaday manages to pull off great dynamics out of their characters too. Everybody gets their own spotlight and nobody is left behind. You get to see tensions build-up slowly between the characters as they go on in the story, we see their emotions reveal themselves one by one, all of that while getting a little bit of great humor and quick witted one-liners every now and then.

I loved this solid first volume and I'm sure to read more of the next story arcs. Hopefully, I get to see more comic books from Wheadon and Cassaday in the near future because they just  astonished me with this graphic novel and brought me new found interest for X-Men storylines.

And don't forget, this is still the X-Men show, so we do get to see them in action and open up a can of whoop-ass. New costumes, same old bad-ass mutants.

They're back baby! And badder than ever.

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