Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon #19-20

I find myself in a really weird place right now with this new story arc entitled Unstoppable. A huge part of me doesn't care about the Breakworld and whatever is going to happen to it because I have no emotional investment in this alien planet whatsover. On the other hand, I should care because the mutant who was prophesied to destroy Breakworld is an X-Man and no other than fan-favorite Colossus who had just been resurrected after his noble sacrifice of life during the Legacy Virus storyline. He sacrificed himself so mutants can live virus-free and now he's supposed to destroy an alien race. That in itself is a compelling contrast that I can applaud Whedon for trying to explore right now. Still, after the amazing previous arc concerning Emma Frost being afflicted by a Cassandra Nova brain worm, this one doesn't feel like a worthy follow-up as of yet. But since we're only in two installments in, I want to reserve my judgments once it's completed. So far, I'm fine with how the story is progressing. The pacing is acceptable and nothing gets unexplained for a long time because it's all very straightforward, actually. 

The X-Men were captured by Special Agent Brand and the rest of S.W.O.R.D and are forced/tasked to help them inflitrate Breakworld and hopefully stop the prohecy from happening. If they can't and the Breakworlders prove to be hostile because they have a plan in place to attack Earth, then Colossus should destroy Breakworld. I mean, WHAT? This kind of logic is so frustratingly simple but for some reason is complicated to execute. I don't understand why we're bothering to make peace with the Breakworlders anyway when there's a Plan B where we just let Colossus fulfill his prophecy. I suppose Brand is hoping to appease the Breakworlders and if diplomacy doesn't work and they still want to blow up Earth then Colossus should totally just kill them and their planet. Typing this all out now has made me realized how laughably stupid Brand's plan had been. Whatever. The .GIF below summarizes how I feel about this story arc as a whole so far:


Here are the noteworthy parts of the two issues:


Lockheed is the mole for S.W.O.R.D.

There was a time that I was annoyed that Emma Frost is the obvious candidate for mole tasked by the S.W.O.R.D to spy on the X-Men because she seemed to be the only person who may turncoat. When she did turncoat, that left no doubt in mind that she's the mole--but it was revealed that she's in cahoots with Nova and the imaginary new Hellfire Club. That meant she wasn't the mole for S.W.O.R.D because it was pretty clear she wasn't a double agent or anything. So I forgot about the mole situation until this issue reminded me about it by casually revealing that it was Kitty's adorable dragon pet Lockheed. I would have expected anyone to be the mole--not a creature like Lockheed. Agent Brand did say that Lockheed is fiercely loyal and bonded to Kitty so if he is spying for the S.W.O.R.D, it's because it has determined that it's in the best interest of Kitty and the X-Men that said dragon pet has to work with the shady embassy. It was worth saying, though, that Lockheed may have been avoiding Kitty, probably a little ashamed for what it had been doing, even if it's for the right intentions.

The Breakworlders and their fixation on the prophecy

I don't give a shit but I'm putting this in anyway because it's important to the story, being the primary focus. The Breakworlders have been preparing for the day their home planet is laid to waste and the precautions and steps they took to achieve a level of defense against the threat of Colossus are bewildering and very disturbing. I don't really understand some of it so I'm not going to explain it here yet. I have a feeling that we will get a more nuanced look at how they operate by the next installments. I can only trust in Whedon's exceptional skills as a writer to keep me interested in this direction of the plot because by now I'm barely awake while reading parts about the Breakworlders.

Danger and a few SWORDees were captured

In issue #19, the Breakworlders proceed to shoot at the S.W.O.R.D embassy space shuttle and to divert their attention, Agent Brand sent a cockpit called the splinter so the Breakworlders will focus their time on apprehending that vehicle instead. It was a successful ruse, but one of the passengers is the previously sentient AI Danger whom we all know hates X-Men with her every synthetic fiber, and she is about to meet up with a few Breakworlder leaders, possibly to reveal strategic weaknesses that will make it more difficult for the heroes to fight against the Breakworlders. I'm interested to read more of Danger again, and how she's going to contribute to the story. She's a fascinating creation and I wonder if she will ever side with the X-Men or become one of their most formidable foes in the future.


Special Agent Brand is not so bad

I called her an unrepentant asshole before in Gifted because her questionable role in the mutant cure and the Ord's revenge scheme has been so gratingly evasive. I simply did not trust her at first sight. She seemed cold, distant and a little too professional even when dealing with personal interactions. However, by the time issue #20 rolls around, I can actually see things in her perspective now. She's becoming more of a real person with real values and motivations than some unknowable secondary character who doesn't share her goals with the people she's interacting with. What I know about Agent Brand so far is she has a strong sense of duty and will not apologize for it. The latter part of that could be a personal flaw; that's the characteristic I have seen in her first few appearances in this series. But her sense of duty is something to be commended because it helps her make decisions under the most stressful situations. Mostly her choices are unpopular and that makes her unlikable for outsiders like myself and the X-Men. But now that I have spent an ample amount time to understand what drives her to do the things she had, I can appreciate her backbone. She cares about our planet and its safety from alien predators. It's the reason she's the leader of S.W.O.R.D. She is well-versed with the cultural differences and political tensions between human beings and the alien, and acts accordingly to what is the least damaging of the situations at hand. Right now she's maintaining peaceful accord with the Breakworlders but she also acknowledges that said alien race is ready to nuke Earth if the need arises. If that is the case, she has no problem unleashing the prophetic destruction on them. I know I said it was a laughably stupid plan, but it's only because I don't understand why they even bother. 

I'm know that I'm totally being a racist towards the Breakworlders, sure, I get that. So I'll just shut my racist mouth and let this story unfold by itself. Maybe I might start liking the Breakworlders later on...who knows?

Kitty and Peter Drama

I love this pairing since its conception, but I also admit that collective writers have not made it easy for them to be in a relationship that's healthy and long-lasting. Their mutant powers have an interesting duality and parallelism with each other as well. The basic foundation of their budding relationship this time around in The Astonishing X-Men is the fact that Colossus should have been dead but was resurrected and is suffering PTSD from all the science experiments Ord had put him through. Meanwhile, Kitty lost her father in the Genosha genocide. Both are healing from their respective wounds, and they found solace in each other's presence. Things are getting crazier by the minute for the X-Men so Kitty and Peter decided to stop delaying things between them just because it's inconvenient. Good for them. And then the thing with Cassandra Nova happened where a brain worm Nova inflicted Emma with had compelled said White Queen to put Kitty in the most horrific kind of mind trick where she was led to believe she and Peter were married, had a kid in their three years together, and said kid's life was in danger and she's the only one to save him. That may have all been imaginary but the basis was taken from what Emma knew regarding Kitty and Peter's defining qualities as individuals that may and will always make it impossible for them to stay together. Kitty will always choose the most rebellious options if it's for the good of someone she loves; Peter is driven to choose the most practical option for the good of everyone else. That's how different they are in approaching things, and often this costs them each other in the long run. 

Kitty is learning to deal with those fundamental contrasts and she had to be honest with Peter about it:

I know that they will have to rehash more of their problems while on the mission, considering the two of them got separated from the rest of the X-Men and now have to depend on each other and trust one another if they hope to survive the Breakworld and their stupid prophesy about Colossus destroying their home planet. And I think this is the most character arc I look forward to because I've always cared about Kitty and her problems, and I do adore Colossus and his vulnerable side which I hope to see more of particularly now that he's dealing with a setback concerning his romantic relationship with Kitty. I like these two characters for what they offer in the story so far and the dynamic allure of their relationship with each other. Will they stay together or keep things platonic for good? It's a fair game at this point.


Speaking of more pairings for this story arc, we also have Wolverine and Hisako. Logan has always been a big brother to a lot of young ladies who are aspiring X-Men and he's developing the same kind of bond with Hisako that he did with Jubilee in the nineties. I like the idea of him apprenticing someone who is so inexperienced and frightened since this is her first mission. Brash, violent and cynical as Logan may be, he can be shockingly warm and patient with his students (although he'd rather drive his claws through metal than admit that to himself, especially). We also have Scott and Emma who have yet to discuss the status of their relationship and if there is a chance they can repair and restore what has been broken and severed to the point of no return. Of course, I'm rooting a hundred percent for this couple to make it. As strange as the circumstances their romantic affair started in, Emma and Scott actually jive fantastically together (as far as I've read in other titles). Emma shows in TORN that she understands Scott right down to his insecure, tragic core, and she loves him for it anyway. Scott may also be the only to thaw the ice in Emma's predator heart and help her open up just a little. Both people also like to be in control and around each other, they learn to let go of that control in order to be together, and I think that's the most encouraging quality of their relationship.

In a nutshell, the first two installments of Unstoppable have been acceptable. I like a lot of parts in both issues especially the characterizations but the main plot has yet to grow on me. I have no strong feelings of either love or hate. Let's see what else in store next.


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