Friday, October 16, 2015

The Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon #23-24


We have reached the official end of Joss Whedon's run for The Astonishing X-Men. The last story arc of this run is called Unstoppable and much like the last two great ones entitled Danger and Torn--I'm sorry, I meant TORN--this one lives up to its name in essentially a lot of ways during certain pivotal scenes in its six-issued-installment. The fifth and sixth parts of Unstoppable have been...interesting, as far as my apathy can stretch because as enjoyable as the characters have been on this arc, the main plot alienated me.

You see, I still maintain that I don't care about Breakworld even if Whedon did spend an ample amount of time fleshing out its villain and secondary characters in relation to Breakworld. The lady rebel Aghane was sympathetic because she had gone against everything that the Breakworlders stand for which is about warmongering, brutality, patriarchy and a narrow-minded desire to value strength and cruelty as the formidable traits of their so-called enlightened society. The ones who rule are a barbaric, undeserving lot and I don't care if this opinion is heavily contextualized by the fact that I'm human and I don't have anything else to base on but my own cultural experiences--I still think the Breakworld leaders are thugs and tyrants who rely so much on their power and conquest that they don't see anything past their overblown self-importance and egos. I just can't care if their planet gets destroyed if Aghane is right when she interprets the prophecy as a way to rebuild a stronger, more loving world. We should give that bright tomorrow a chance. We should let Colossus tear down the very core of this fucking planet and allow other Breakworlders like Aghane to thrive and create something more community-oriented than whatever shit-piss excuse of a government system that is still in place when it should have been obsolete. So, yes, I was a hundred percent in agreement with PLAN B: LET BREAKWORLD BE DESTROYED SO IT CAN BE REBUILT AGAIN. Every destruction follows creation. That's the way the universe works.

Good fucking riddance, Breakworld and best of luck, Aghane and co.

I'm not going to bother to talk about every painstaking detail and scene that happened in these last two installments because I'm quite frankly tired of all the nonsense concerning Breakworld. Just thinking about what to type and actually typing more about their bullshit are already draining endeavors so I'm not going to torture myself with that. After all, this alien race for me feel like they're merely a device to make the main characters shine and that's how Unstoppable became such a entertaining read for me regardless of how absurd and bland I find the storyline concerning Breakworlders and their prophecy. The X-Men both as a unit and as respective individuals were all uncannily well-written, sympathetic, and incredibly riveting heroes whose growth and development in the last twenty-four issues were crucial to my appreciation for the overall direction and climactic moments that Whedon--bless his big, fat geek heart--has graced us with. And that's how I want to spend my last review for a Whedon-AXM issue in this post--by discussing its strengths in characterizations that keep readers fully invested enough to see the fates of our heroes with the choices they made and did not make. By this weekend, I'm going to compose my official review for the collected omnibus of Whedon's run and I'm going to have to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for it. I may copypasta some highlights from my reviews of issues 1-24 just to recap the overall awesomeness, badassery and lovable quirkiness that Whedon has provided me during my three-week journey to its fantastic roster. Now, let's talk about our heroes and their contributions to the series.


There are three X-Men who really took the center stage consistently for the twenty-four issues, and the most who has done so is no other than Kitty Pryde. Whedon's first issue began with seeing her again as she walks back into the Xavier School for the Gifted, bags in hand but looking as if she has never left the place at all. What I enjoyed about Kitty in her appearances here in the series is the fact that she's a darling. Really, she is. Inquisitive, selfless but clever, and brave to a goddamn fault, Kitty always becomes the star of a story when a writer really knows how to commit her stellar characterization on paper. I thought she had an impressive run so far, taking on the responsibility of becoming an X-Man head-on even if she maintained that "being an X-Man does not always suit me". In spite of whatever insecurities she had about her skills and role in the team, she never lets it get to her and performs under pressure quite creatively and adamantly. This isn't really the first time Kitty caught my attention. In Claremont's X-Men: Forever, she accidentally phased through Wolverine while a mutant got them stuck and when she separated from him, he got a piece of his adamantium claw on her knuckle. The way she dealt with that physical transformation was so riveting to watch because at her core, Kitty remains the resourceful and compassionate kid she is through all of it. In her first appearance after the Dark Phoenix Saga, thirteen-year old Kitty is inexperienced in so many ways but was eager to learn and prove herself. This is around the time Days of Future Past hit, and her older self and younger self merged to save the day. It's such a shame that the movies don't put her front and center (alongside Wolverine if they must insist, considering Logan and Kitty have a good brother-sister thing going on anyway), especially when they cast a talented actress like Ellen Page for the role. In any case, at least in Whedon's Astonishing X-Men, she truly got to shine. Rogue may be my first love growing up with the cartoons, but Kitty is undoubtedly my MOST FAVORITE FEMALE CHARACTER as of the moment for X-Men, more so than Jean Grey in Brian Michael Bendis' version for All-New X-Men. I don't want to talk about the cliffhanger scene in issue #24, however, because I still can't wrap my head around what's going to happen to her, but I trust Kitty's survivor mode. Gods please let her be okay!

Oh, Emma Frost. The White Queen has always fascinated me since her very first appearance in the Dark Phoenix storyline as one of the formidable henchwomen of the Hellfire Club. It's worth noting that she and Kitty were introduced together especially here in Whedon's tale where the two are obviously at odds with each other. Kitty has made it no secret that she has no love for Emma and does not and will probably never trust her. And Emma knows this. She understands people way more than we give this cold-hearted woman credit for. The reason why she brought Kitty into the fold in the first place (as revealed in issue #18), is because Emma is losing her mind because parasitic Cassandra Nova hijacked her telepathically, and she knew Kitty would be the only one who won't hesitate to kill her. That's a powerful thing to entrust someone with, and it didn't help her already temperamental relationship with Kitty either. But Emma had revealed to Kitty that she is capable of murder if she's motivated for the right reasons, and such a startling revelation, I know, has shook Kitty, but she's not able to deal with that for now. Still, I think, in a twisted sort of way, Kitty began respecting Emma and what she can do after that incident. With little empathy and people skills, Emma can be so easy to dislike and cast aside as a woman forever trapped in the villain role, but Whedon had composed her here in such a validating perspective where she's finally vulnerable and in love with a man she feels she doesn't deserve. That broke my heart as much as Scott Summers has thawed the frost in her heart. She's so entralling in the story arc TORN that I can hardly keep up with her! I really like Emma, more than I ever thought I would. Her relationship with Scott is also worth shipping. They're an intriguing pair.

The third center stager of Whedon's epic had to be Scott Summers. I've always been in a neutral space when it comes to Cyclops as a character. I admire his good qualities but also get turned off by his shortcomings. That being said, I can honestly testify that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE HIM here, thanks to Whedon's writing for him in TORN where I got to read all the inadequacies he had as it was laid bare by Emma during a telepathic hostile takeover of his mind. I think we often take for granted what a complex and tortured character this go-to golden boy scout had always been especially because he gets unfairly compared to baddass Wolverine. Whedon proves once and for all that Scott's baggage is a shade darker than we have thought collectively; this is a man who is afraid of his immense power, knows the kind of pain he can inflict, and is therefore more empathic about the people he leads, and he is a leader to the boot, make no mistake about that. We can question his ethics now in the current comics line with MARVEL NOW! We can argue that he has become an anti-hero that's dangerously walking the villain line every so often these days. But the Scott Summers I remember and I sympathize greatly with is exactly what Whedon has delivered for this series. Witnessing Scott take more control over his life while also giving up a little control when necessary is an uplifting testament to his self-awareness and dignity of person. After Emma strips him away off his mutant powers temporarily, he is able to access the strength he never knew he had; to channel all his fear of losing control into something meaningfully courageous and this had been show during the Unstoppable story arc. When Scott declared, "To me my X-Men," his five teammates definitely came running because as flawed, seemingly stoic and dull as Cyclops comes off from an outsider's point of view, his X-Men knows he is a leader worth following and fighting side by side with. I think one of the things I can applaud Whedon's AXM is that its Cyclops is a hero worth rooting for to the end!

During the first story arc Gifted, Hank McCoy faces the biggest temptation of his life yet--there is a mutant cure that was recently invented by his former colleague and friend Dr. Kavita Rao, and it's supposed to remove the X-gene forever since she believed that mutation is merely a genetic defect. Faced by the stern disapproval of his friends and teammates, Hank was still tempted to take the cure for himself since it was proven genuine (at the cost of a teenage mutant's life who was forced to take it). Hank's mutation as Beast had been a rather challenging struggle. His physical evolution, though he much prefer deeming it as 'devolving', has been integral to his character development in the X-universe. He goes through various stages of physical change and he fears that there may come a time he will lose his higher functions, not just his intelligence and wit but also his humanity. Whedon examines Hank's worst fear come to life briefly when he was telepathically hijacked by Cassandra Nova via Emma Frost in TORN (this arc is the gift that keeps on giving, I tell you!). We see him truly acting like a beast there, preying on people and acting like a mere savage creature. Since the focus shifted on other characters, this part of his personal story has been set aside for now but hopefully the new writer replacing Joss Whedon who is no other than Warren Ellis will pick this up too because I'm very much interested to see if Beast will take the cure or not, and if taking it might really be the chance at normality that he seeks. However, taking the cure is an affront to who he is an X-Man; it will jeopardize his status as the role model for other mutants everywhere. I'm excited to see how his next character-focused story will deal with this dilemma, and I hope it'd be compellingly done.

Now this is how I like my Wolverine: just an uncomplicated dude who likes beer and clawing bad guys, performing in the background as an effective killing machine but then also gets to be surprisingly sweet with young students who are in need of a big-brother figure (in this series, it's the newly recruited member Hisako a.k.a Armor). Logan is always rough around the edges, picking up fights when the moment calls for it, but is always going to be reliable so you want him on your team. He is free of drama in this series (which is not even a thing you can say about his Hugh Jackman version in the films) and is often an unintended comic relief every now and then when the stressful situations are getting to everyone else but this functional alcoholic whose healing abilities has probably made his liver cirrhosis-proof. I really thought he and Scott will continue to keep butting heads but luckily he is compliant enough, doing whatever he can and whatever is asked of him like a good soldier. Though a terror anarchist in the surface, Logan clearly cares about the welfare of everyone particularly the ones who can't protect themselves yet. He doesn't protect or coddle them, however. He throws them in a baptism of fire without hesitation but is always there to put out the fire if things do get out of hand. I'm interested to see him bonding more with Hisako because Logan is teacher material as we have seen in the current MARVEL NOW! with his own series Wolverine and the X-Men (my December upcoming pick!). I think Logan truly showcases his grit and softer side when around young teens and children because the most admirable trait Logan has is he is a sort of a knight in shining armor for the weak and helpless but rather than rescuing them, he teaches them how to fight even if it's the hard, hellish way. I can see him doing the same thing for Hisako and it's hilarious and sweet all at once! So I hope Ellis brings that out some more in his own run.

By all accounts, Peter Rasputin a. k. a Colossus should have stayed dead. He sacrificed himself for the Legacy Virus, saving countless mutants in the process. By being the science experiment to procure the mutant cure that will remove the X-gene, and then turning him into a planet-destroyer with that goddamn absurd alien prophecy, I really thought Whedon has a grudge on this character and is set out in undoing all the good and noble things Peter has done in the previous storylines. If it wasn't for the fact that he and Kitty are getting it on (in the most confusing way possible; this couple angst-ed their way through the issue like no other, save Scott and Jean during Claremont era), I really would have concluded Whedon doesn't like this character. Personally, Colossus is an appealing X-Man because he is an upright figure since the beginning. Raised in Soviet Russia, Peter is hardworking and is ready to offer everything for his homeland. When Charles Xavier recruited him, the professor made a promise that Peter can help more people globally by becoming an X-Man. And all that Peter ever wanted to do since he had discovered his mutant powers is to do good, to help people in any capacity he could. For Whedon's writing of this character, we can see that he is not portrayed as that at all but rather as a prophesied figure of destruction. By the end of Unstoppable, we see that the prophecy has a more uplifting interpretation but it doesn't change the fact that Colossus will be responsible for the death of millions if he did end up doing what he must by the end of issue #24 (it was another cliffhanger for him, much like with Kitty's situation). I think he's my least favorite character in the X-Men for now because I just don't like the way he's being portrayed. Whedon hit the right notes with the rest but his Colossus was problematic for me because I preferred the old Colossus. Hopefully his characterization will even out by Ellis' run, and he will continue to be lovey-dovey with Kitty because these two babies are gorgeous together--as long as they get one fucking day without the commotion of their danger-filled vocation of being X-Men. Which never happens, of course because being an X-Man fucks you up one way or another.

AND THERE WE HAVE IT! THE END OF JOSS WHEDON'S RUN! What a miracle worker, this man! Now I have more things to tackle in my official review of the omnibus of his collected issues #1-24 by the weekend. This is just a taste of some of my most important opinions of what his series has accomplished so far. Consider me very, very happy about The Astonishing X-Men.

Like, this amount of happy


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