Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Astonishing X-Men Volume 7: Monstrous by Daniel Way / Volume 8: Meanwhile by Cristos Gage


In the next seven issues of The Astonishing X-Men, two writers (Daniel Way and Cristos Gage) contributed two story arcs and whose issues were published in alternate succession of each other. The first story arc penned by Way is entitled Monstrous and has four installments (issues #36-37, #39, and #41). Meanwhile, Gage has Meanwhile (a rather dull title for an arc that was better handled than the aforementioned former) composed of issues #38, #40, and #42. Now, the reason why I'm combining their reviews in one official post in my X-Men blogger is because there isn't much to stay about them separately. One was an entertaining yet excusably average story while the latter was nothing but a disappointing trite and a colossal waste of my time. So I decided to just unite them here in a single post, just to save myself the pain of discussing and elaborating on specific points in either story that ultimately don't warrant that much of my attention span. On the other hand, for my Goodreads review counterpart, this post will be divided accordingly between the volumes, but I will still shamelessly copypasta this introductory paragraph because fuck it. Some X-Men stories are just plain awful that reviewing it causes me actual headache. I had three or four or those already, and Daniel Way's baffling Monstrous is one of those unfortunate few.



THE ASTONISHING X-MEN VOLUME 7: MONSTROUS


Here is what you need to know about Monstrous: it's an underwhelming spectacle of C-level narrative (illustrated quite terribly too; I was not a fan of the artwork that came along with this arc) that featured some throwaway villain you never would have remembered unless you googled about him. Heck, I googled about him and I could only recall him in passing and even then I think I have mistaken him for somebody else. The villain's name is called Mentallo who is a telepath and a mercenary, flip-flopping his way through villainy by being a backstabbing bitch, serving for S.H.I.E.L.D one moment, and then HYDRA the next. There are other organizations he belonged in but I don't really give a racoon's feces fuck about his credentials because for Way's story, he was absolutely flavorless. Even a week-old bowl of soggy noodles in the darkest corner of my fridge has more flavor than Mentallo. He even stated it himself--in a brilliant moment of self-awareness and self-deprecation--that everyone thinks he's a fucking joke. SPOILER ALERT: HE TRULY IS. In the most pitifully boring way possible, he's a joke.

He hijacked an oil-drilling operation headed by a man named Roxxon just so he can demand ransom money. The island where this operation was being conducted in is the infamous Kaibutsu Jima or Monster Island. One of the monsters was sent to Japan to wreak havoc but I'm not really sure. The X-Men composed of Emma, Cyclops, Wolverine and Armor (the lovely Hisako who really should have gotten a better character arc for this story) responded to the emergency. They were in Japan in the first place because Hisako's mother and brother were killed in an accident. She has to attend a very awkward funeral ceremony where her father was a total lukewarm bastard who was grieving the fact that he lost the son and got stuck with the daughter instead. This allowed Hisako some room for character development when she took on the monster by herself. With the death of her close relatives, her power surged and allowed her to become a bigger armored mutant equipped to go head to head with a Godzilla-like monster. Good for Hisako, but her character arc was unjustly overshadowed by the stupid main plot concerning Mentallo and his evil plans to get money while mind-controlling monsters to do his bidding. Seriously, HE IS SOOOOO LAME.

The four installments were mediocre, presented with visually unappealing art (the characters look so weird and facially elongated in the most unflattering ways possible), saved only by those tiny moments with Hisako and her father in the second part and the last. But those faint touches of humanity don't make this story arc any less disappointing or silly in the most upsetting manner possible. Hisako whose loss and grief should have felt more meaningful and resonant in the pages, was also inconsistently characterized. Way's attempt at humor by making her say such cliché things that a teenage girl would say does a disservice to her obvious emotional maturity after experiencing so much, starting from the death of her close friend Wing back in Whedon's run. I would much rather have Hisako confronting her father about his biased treatment of her, or her sparring words with Wolverine during fights, rather than read her whine about her weight (that brief exchange about her taking offense when she misconstrued Scott's harmless comment about her heaviness as proportional to him calling her 'fat' was not only deeply sexist but a pointless drivel that served nothing regarding her character). Another grating characteristic is the exaggerated way of speaking pertaining to Logan's Canadian roots. Rogue's Southern way of speech has proven to be endearing at times but Logan's way of talking here in Monstrous was too much and often distracting as I try to understand what he's saying during conflict.

Overall, after finishing, I felt like I should have spent what precious time I had to do more important things than read this.


NOT RECOMMENDED: 5/10



THE ASTONISHING X-MEN VOLUME 8: MEANWHILE


Cristos Gage's story arc only had three installments but it was infinitely more interesting than Way's piece-of-shit story. I thought it was unfairly presumptuous to name this Meanwhile as if this was merely a bonus story squeezed in while there is a far more superior main attraction. I suppose that was the intention when this was released alongside Way's Monstrous, but let me assure everyone that such a concept proved otherwise in reality. Meanwhile was fun and refreshing in a few ways that Monstrous has not been. In face-value, there are some common threads between the two arcs. First, there is a presence of monster figures in both stories. For Meanwhile, it's the Brood, parasitic alien creatures that the X-Men have had the displeasure of fighting over the course of canon history. What elevated this arc for me had to be the welcome addition of Kitty Pryde. It was shocking for me because I have never stopped complaining about the fact that Whedon entrapped her inside a giant bullet, unable to phase out. I never found out how she managed to get out of that torture chamber. It may have been featured in another title. I'm not that eager to find out how; all that mattered to me was that she's back, and so is Colossus. We also have Storm again which is always nice. Kitty's best friend/alien pet Lockheed assisted them in their mission as well after a very touching and humorous conversation with Kitty where they eventually patched things up. Meanwhile was a nice break between issues for Monstrous because its main plot actually had more meat and bones than the latter.

While Emma, Scott, Logan and Hisako are busy having the most boring confrontation with the lamest villain ever in Monstrous, the other X-Men are rocking it in space. Hank McCoy, who recently left the team due to some more complicated arguments with Scott regarding important decisions, sought their help when his girlfriend S.W.O.R.D Agent Abigail Brand was captured by the Brood. He explained that there is a division in one of the agency's research facility for alien lifeforms called Pandora's Box. Essentially, it's a place of discovering hope amidst the horrors of unknown universes. According to Hank, S.W.O.R.D had just found a way to separate Brood larvae from its host without killing the host which is great progress, but somehow the Brood hive was able to hijack Pandora's Box while Brand and a couple more scientists were still inside. The X-Men immediately agreed to help Hank as a favor, and they went to the Box only to discover that Agent Brand and the others may be alive, but they also now serve as hosts for the Brood. To make matters worse and more disgusting, the Brood has found a way to infect their hosts multiple times with their larvae; meaning that Brand and the others can keep getting impregnated by ugly Brood progenies for as many times as possible. Yes, it's so gross that it brought to mind that infamous alien chestburster scene from Aliens

Later on, as Brand's infection got worse and she is slowly but surely mutating into a Brood creature, she was adamant that the X-Men will not kill the Brood race and so they had a serious discussion regarding genocide which should not be casually practiced in any way even against the gross monstrosity that is the Brood. Brand justified that the Brood are predators to even worse species and completely eradicating them will affect the interstellar ecosystem dramatically and they may have more serious alien problems in their hands if that ever came to pass. Reluctantly, the X-Men tried to reach a compromise but they were timely attacked by the Brood hive. Colossus, Storm and Beast were captured and were infected as well and only Kitty and Lockheed were able to escape. Brand had explained to them early on that there is a Brood creature who was unlike his kind; said Broodling has compassion and he may be the only key in preserving the lineage, as long as said Broodling could possibly reproduce a new kind of Brood race that is less savage and more humane. A novel idea, and one that Kitty and Lockheed rush to see into fruition. In the end, the Broodling was secured and his kind was not completely terminated. The surviving larvae were kept under supervision by S.W.O.R.D but Storm was not pleased about it. She argued that these larvae need not suffer under cruel experimentations in the name of scientific discovery and urged the Broodling to care for them and teach them to fight against their biological wiring of destructive and parasitic ways. She also promises that there is a place for him in the Xavier School if he ever wants to visit Earth and have an actual life. The Broodling considers this thoughtfully and this may not be the last time we see him again.

In a nutshell, the deceptively named Meanwhile was a decent story that had a heart underneath the gritty parts, and was composed with enough conflict and character developments in along the way that it was able to sustain my interest and investment. It was engaging and definitely a bright spot in contrast of the gratingly subpar writing present in Monstrous.



RECOMMENDED: 7/10

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Astonishing X-Men by Warren Ellis, Volume 6: Exogenetic


You would think that the insanity would have calm down just a bit after the clusterfuckity that was Joss Whedon's first run for The Astonishing X-Men. But you're reading an X-Men title so your plucky optimism will only be surely crushed if you ever expected any different. Sure, Warren Ellis' two story arcs so far within ten issues haven't been as crazy and experimental compared to all of Whedon's four arcs, but it doesn't mean things have improved. In fact, the last time we left our heroes, certain events still remain to conspire against them, and this time their survival as a species is at stake, all thanks to Scarlet Witch's irreversible decimation where the mutant X gene had been wiped out, causing a tectonic shift in power. Now with only two hundred or less mutants globally, the X-Men are in a tight place. After recently discovering a mutant baby born in the aftermath of M-day and sending her somewhere dimensions far away under the care of Cable, Scott Summers' estranged son, the X-Men have been occupying themselves in making sure no more mutants will die, but that has to be the most difficult thing to do given the never-ending amount of enemies showing up left and right, trying to take advantage of the whittled down number of surviving mutants.

In the last arc Ghost Box, self-proclaimed mutant engineer Forge tried to create his own mutants by placing a modified X-gene in a different chromosome strand akin to those mutants who belong in alternate worlds. Mentally unstable, he justified this radical move on his part as a necessary evil but the X-Men fortunately was able to put a stop to all of it by allowing S.W.O.R.D leader Agent Abigail Brand (Beast's current squeeze) to step up and obliterate said alternate worlds via explosion through a ghost box which connects dimensions together. It was an enjoyable story especially with the pleasant addition of Ororo Munroe who was recently married and now queen of the rising African nation Wakanda. Because of M-day, she felt that her old friends needed her to fight by their side once more, and her timing couldn't have been more right. However, there seems to be a tension between her and Scott concerning how to run the team and his methods in containing situations during battles. Their difference in philosophies was pronounced by the previous arc and I got the feeling that Ellis might explore this some more in their other upcoming missions. Scott Summers has been changing--evolving into someone who more often than not has to cross certain lines his old self back in the more idyllic days of his team-leading never would have taken. As we will later witness in other titles and during the course of other decimation stories, this change in his leadership will only continue to grow and in turn will create a chasm between him and his colleagues/friends. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's discuss Elli's second arc, Exogenetic covered by issues #31-35.

Much like Ghost Box some asshole is taking advantage of M-day and specifically targeting the X-Men. His nefarious plan is much more twisted than Forge's was, however. Apparently, he's been reanimating dead mutants and combining their DNA with certain machines which is as disgusting as it sounds. This unholy union of genetics and confounding vendetta has produced really nightmarish killing machines such as a flesh-made Sentinel, and a horde of rabid Broods. But the most appalling thing about it was how this unseen enemy was able to get access to such a horrid necromancy idea in the first place; and that is no other than the helpful information provided by Hank McCoy's research. As a scientist, he had been working on different scenarios to ensure the safety of their mutantkind and that meant thinking outside the figurative box of conventional methods so, yes, he had written down the possibility of harvesting recently deceased mutants in hopes of possibly activating the X-gene...or some shit. Frankly, I was definitely as horrified by the fact that he considered much like everyone else. But not like Scott though because Scott is more than horrified; he is absolutely livid and is getting ready to kick his old friend's ass. 

They have a lovely verbal sparring where all their issues towards one another are finally discussed out in the open and in the presence of other parties. It's a really great way to clear the air. I loved the conversation because it was brutally honest and considering how Scott and Hank are now for the MARVEL NOW! continuity, it's great to see them speak up their minds and not worry about offending each other. There remains trust and friendship between these two and it's a remarkable relationship that was unfortunately snuffed out after the Avengers vs. X-Men debacle (you know, where Scott was possessed by the Phoenix force and ended up murdering Professor X).



Hank raised valid points concerning Scott, psychoanalyzing him in a way that Emma had before during the TORN arc. Meanwhile, Abigail Brand has been developing as a rather likable character for me even if Scott disagrees because they never seem to ever get along (for now). I think that the only reason why they don't get along is the simple fact that they actually have the same methods of operating and leading their teams--and are therefore very judgmental of one another because they see their flaws reflected back at them through each other. I wonder if they were even aware of this paradox concerning their interactions but perhaps Ellis will touch upon in the next arc. So Agent Brand has known about this asshole targeting the X-Men for quite some time and was trying to contain the situation all by her lonesome before the X-Men get mixed up on it because, well, I think she is beginning to deeply care about the mutants. As brash, mercurial and stubborn as the woman is, Brand always upholds her duty and takes her job seriously but now that she's in love with Hank and is always hanging around the X-Men, her emotional investment is growing. She's now experiencing sentiment which Hank has pointed out back in Whedon's run is something that she lacked. It's pleasantly surprising to see that this has changed and now she's putting herself at risk to defend the X-Men from any unseen forces trying to tear them down. Scott will continue not to like her and distrust her, however, which I think Brand would rather have because they both keep each other honest and this actually works well for their strained and begrudging alliance. 

Anyway, the unseen enemy here is a man named Kaga who was a villain I did not expect to feel so much sympathy for when his motivation for attacking the X-Men was finally revealed. It turns out that his mother was a survivor of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki US bombings and her mother's exposure to radiation has malformed in during pregnancy. He is the original "child of the atom" and this has made him physically disfigured, shunned and unloved by the majority. He has no superpowers whatsoever and his intelligence came from his dedication and hard work to rise above his afflictions. Finding out that there is a group of mutants who fight for equality rights such as the X-Men has gotten him so excited because he thought he will finally have a place to belong to and a new family to accept him. But seeing what the X-Men are and what they can do made him feel betrayed and cheated on because he argued a valid observation concerning the privilege that mutants have even if they are considered outcasts by humans. Kaga claimed that they at least have their powers and are aesthetically attractive as a unit, and that they will never know how real alienation, savagery and deprivation truly feel like, not like he has. That's why he felt the need to punish them. He was merely lashing out because he has been hurt all his life and it's time to hurt back even if most of his torment and the target of his vengeance are only imagined slights. Still, I can't help but feel very sorry for him:



Kaga's story is a great cautionary tale against revenge and also an introspective story about self-loathing and self-acceptance. It's great for writer Warren Ellis to raise these issues in his arc and for creating a supposed villain who is only acting out due to the anguish, jealousy and grief over the unfairness of his life, humanizing him as someone who doesn't know how to be compassionate and kind because he has not known anything remotely close to those qualities. The X-Men also realized that even though they represent a marginalized sector of society, their outsider status can still be considered a privilege next to someone like Kaga. Unfortunately, Ellis didn't commit to the message and the story awkwardly ends with an out-of-place humorous exchange about Wolverine after he knocked out Kaga because he mistakenly thought Kaga was still going to attack them when it was obvious he was finally surrendering. I was upset that Ellis pulled back the punches and instead left me cold and disappointed. He could have had something emotionally powerful and meaningful here by making the X-Men consider other people outside their mutant community who look up to them and what their fight for equality symbolized. 

But instead, he chickened out in the last minute and just turn a redeemable villain like Kaga into a prisoner, some burden that Scott was only going to take care of not because he felt pity towards the guy but because he wanted to spite him. What a douche move, slim. Ororo should have said something because she seemed to be the only one who sympathized, given her facial expression in that one panel. Emma was expectedly cold-hearted; Hisako was too young to comprehend the poignancy and moral quandary she is witnessing; and Wolverine was UNCHARACTERISTICALLY BRUTISH. When he punched Kaga, that really shocked me. Sure, Logan can be a bit macho but we all know that underneath that is a man who had fought enough wars and experienced enough bloodshed to understand that Kaga is someone to heal, not someone to assault like that! I'm just very disappointed by how everyone acted here. It's times like this that we need Kitty Pryde more than ever; someone who is humane and empathic. But Kitty is gone, so who will step up to that plate and fill her role?

For such an insensitive conclusion, I'm deducting one star and making this arc a seven our of ten.



RECOMMENDED: 7/10

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Astonishing X-Men by Warren Ellis, Volume 5: Ghost Box

From this point forward in my The Astonishing X-Men reviews, I'll be doing a collective analysis of a story arc instead, much like this one which is comprised of issues #25-30 and penned by Warren Ellis who is generally an awesome comic book writer. This is due to some time constraints in RL stuff at my workplace. I simply can't find enough time to write individual reviews anymore, at least for the time being. As a compromise, I'll finish The Astonishing X-Men with the consistent format of collective reviews because since Whedon's run, I honestly just ran out of steam for this title. It's not because it left a bad aftertaste in my mouth (well, there is that fucking goddamn shitty Giant-Size issue about the conclusion of Unstoppable concerning Kitty Pryde's fate). After all, I was irreconcilably in love with the entire twenty-four-issued run (that I actively try to forget that Giant-Size even happened). It's mostly because of my RL obligations taking most of my time so I was forced to read more than pause to construct reviews for the blog. However, I also think it's because I don't know if anyone can top whatever clusterfuck awesomeness Whedon has accomplished in the first run. Mind you, Ellis has done a fine enough job in his story arc Ghost Box (which I will discuss in detail below), but I simply can't find enough strength in me to devote individual reviews for each issue so I think it was a really wise choice in my part to post one official review for each volume. We're now at the fifth. Let's get on with it.



THE ASTONISHING X-MEN ISSUES #25-30, "GHOST BOX"


This segment of the AXM is composed by a new writer and artist, and picks up in the aftermath of the Decimation which is the historical event prompted by cuckoo Scarlet Witch when she re-wrote Marvelverse and expunged the mutant gene for good to punish her daddy Magneto for being a world-class jerk. Also known as M-Day, this crossover big event can be read in its glorious coverage in Brian Michael Bendis' House of M. For its second season, The Astonishing X-Men is back with the heroes that Whedon established in the first run: Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine and Beast (minus two other members) and with the addition of the recruit Hisako and the visitation of now Queen Ororo Munroe who got married to the former superhero Black Panther so she's both a wife and fellow ruler of Wakanda in Africa.

Before we head on to the story, let's first talk about Simone Bianchi's illustrations first. I don't think I ever once commented on the visual style of X-Men comics until John Cassaday's in the first run of AXM. I may have complimented Stuart Immonen once or twice for his art in Bendis' All-New X-Men, but generally I don't pay attention to the visuals which is weird because I often indulge in describing the artwork for the current run of Batman titles in DC specifically when it came to the work of artists Greg Capullo and Patrick Gleason. Still, I was heavily critical of Age of Apocalypse because it's visual style was too period-particular for my taste and honestly, the most of nineties comics back then for me were ugly to look at so I'm biased on that front. For Ellis' run, I think Bianchi's illustrations didn't exactly fit the narrative until the third installment. The entirety of the art is just too pretty with a lesser pronounced depth to convey motion, even when it came to more action-oriented scenes. Still, when it's expository, Bianchi managed to draw some intriguing panel choices that can even be comparable to Capullo's rendition for Snyder's Batman. I think that most of the time Bianchi's art can be distracting when I'm focusing on the action part. But when it's all just characters conversing and sitting around contemplating and planning among themselves, her illustrations bring dimensions to these interactions, enhancing the more subtle psychological messages implied in the dialogue. And for that, I can commend Bianchi. I think his artwork for action scenes did improve, however, when we got to the last two installments, particularly on #30 which was loaded with lots of creative fight sequences and landscape panels depicting explosions and the like. It was beautiful composition which was splendidly colored as well. Overall, Bianchi's work for Ellis' arc Ghost Box is a mixed bag but when it does shine on the most special places, it blinds.


Here are some sample pages that I liked in issue #30

Now let's talk about the content itself. After M-Day, there are only less than two hundred mutants that are active globally and the X-Men are determined to defend and protect those precious few in any way they can. After the birth of the the so-called mutant messiah in Messiah Complex, said baby carrying the X-gene post-M-Day was then  whisked away by Scott's son Cable (Nate Summers) who traveled across dimensions to keep the baby safe from harm. Now the X-Men are just waiting for any sort of sign from Cable and this unique specimen he is safekeeping, so they decided to keep working cases in the meantime. Hisako is a former student of the Xavier School recruited back in Whedon's Unstoppable last arc and she was still in her adjustment period, mostly keeping close with Wolverine who is now her go-to mentor, and cracking up jokes in his expense to lighten the mood in their group every so often. I find her readily endearing especially when she makes it easy to forget sometimes that Kitty Pryde is gone, and so is Colossus. The reason why these two lovebirds aren't even here anymore (when they took up a good 70% of what is going on in Whedon's run) is because GIANT-SIZE ASTONISHING X-MEN IS CRAP. Kitty is left inside the hollow center of the giant bullet that would have murdered Earth if she didn't phase it. So now she can never be removed there because she's intrinsically part of the weapon, physically-speaking. But it begs the question: If M-Day happened and the mutants were de-powered, was Kitty the lucky few who retained her powers much like most of the veteran X-Men? I mean, that should be the case. Otherwise, the bullet would have stopped phasing and broke earth's core already. Ah, fuck it. Let's not talk about this anymore. I'm just getting angry again.

All you need to know is Colossus is gone because how the fuck does anyone expect him to keep on fighting after losing his soulmate in such a horrid, depressing way? So yeah, we got Hisako as a new member and the pleasant return of Ororo Munroe whom Bianchi, to his credit, drew so ethereally and appealingly that you never forget that she is supposedly a self-made goddess. It shows in the way she hovers in the panels, all silver-haired beauty and deadly strength. My favorite moments in issue #28 have to be when she and Emma were trapped together with a mutant whose sole power is to inhibit other mutants' powers. So Storm had to do it the old-fashioned way and freaking knife-attacked the bastard to near death like the pro she is. I will always enjoy that scene because she got to work with Emma and both ladies do not back down especially when they are pushed against a corner by some enemy. I'm already rambling on about characters when I haven't even discussed what Ghost Box is all about. Well, the X-Men are investigating the murder of a mutant, but further scientific findings revealed that this mutant's genes were tampered on, meaning that his X-gene sits on the wrong chromosome. They follow a set of clues which led them to the spaceship graveyard called Chaparanga where people are literally taking apart spaceships for metal scraps they can sell to parties and places interested in acquiring them. The setting has a very haunting look to it the moment it was shown and this is where they found another modified mutant who killed himself rather than to reveal his group's plans to the X-Men.

This dead mutant had been trying to get a machine called a Ghost Box to operate but Storm messed up the electrical currents and so he was unsuccessful. The team brought the Ghost Box with them and it got the attention of Special Agent Brand who is now Hank's "lab partner" o the side (and by lab partner, we mean they are sexing each other; or, as Scott likes to call it, the two are committing "crimes against nature"). Brand's first name is Abigail, and Scott is not happy with her and even said a bad word in her presence which amused everyone because no one has pissed of Scott enough to make him say the F-word. Through Abby Brand, they discovered that a Ghost Box is a portal between parallel dimensions. Later on, they went to Tian which was apparently the headquarters of Chinese X-Men who were left for dead the moment M-Day hit the shores. That was when they encountered three more modified mutants (dubbed by Beast as Triploids). So, this Triploids have Ghost Boxes and they came from several dimensions that have their own mutants but with X-genes resting in a different chromosome. Somehow, they figured out that M-Day doomed the mutant species in our world, and now are interested in conquering ours because...well, why not? Unfortunately, former X-Men Forge disagrees. And when Forge disagrees with something...bad things follow.


Goddammit, Forge. Must we always meet this way?
Before we get to that, I'd like to post this great exchange between Scott and Ororo in issue #26 which spoke volumes of how much they differ in handling their leadership roles, and the fact that Scott was kind of a hardass on Ororo and I actually liked that because he was more committed in his making the difficult choices he has now more than ever. Ellis has done a phenomenal job keeping the established characterizations from Whedon's previous run intact, making readers feel at ease because these people are the ones they can recognize and still relate to as if the writer hasn't changed at all for this title. So here's Scott being straightforward with Ororo regarding deaths:



Now let's go back to Forge. Apparently, the asshole has once again lost it, most especially after M-Day occurred. I mean, the guy is already hanging by the thin line and now it has gotten so worse. How worse? Well, he operated on mutants and transformed them into his own version of Triploids. And now he planned on using a Ghost Box to travel to those other dimensions and attack them. Because in Forge's demented, decaying mind, that solves everything. And, of course, since this is an alien invasion, it's the territory of S.W.O.R.D., much to Scott's chagrin. Agent Brand stepped in in the nick of time and fired a concentration of lasers to destroy the parallel dimensions on the other side as soon as the Ghost Box went online, so to speak. But before that, we get this harrowing conversation between Forge and Ororo who already have a complicated history God, let's not bring up The X-Tinction Agenda. It's sad and I feel a little bit bad for Forge here:


The five-issued arc Ghost Box was nice. Nothing that special or memorable but it made up for its superb character interactions and small moments of humor and poignancy. The appearance of Storm is a welcome treat. The last two series that I read where she was a central figure was X-Men Forever and the goddamn X-Tinction Agenda. I hope she stays around for the next arc. STORM IS MY THIRD FAVORITE FEMALE CHARACTER from the X-Men and I love reading more of her. I expect Ellis to deliver some Storm-centered scenes my way in his next arcs, hopefully. A girl can dream. Overall, Ghost Box was not a bad start. I'm still very much invested with its character roster.


RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Monday, October 19, 2015

Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon


"Everything is so fragile. There's so much conflict, so much pain. You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize, this is it: the dust is your life going on. If happy comes along, that weird, unbearable delight that's actual happy--I think you have to grab it while you can. You take what you get 'cause it's here and then GONE."

WHAT. THE. FUCK. I'm sorry, let me be clearer: I actually meant: WHATTTTT??? THE FUCCCCCKKKK??!!

The Breakworld story arc Unstoppable was my least favorite of all of Joss Whedon's arcs for The Astonishing X-Men and his run officially ends with this Giant-Size issue which mercifully concluded the mixed bag that Unstoppable anyway. I have enjoyed the significant character moments among the pairs of Kitty and Peter, Emma and Scott, Agent Brand and Hank, and Logan and Hisako. Meanwhile, some story about an alien planet is happening in the background of these great character moments, and when all is said and done, I still couldn't give a crap. But now I do, but only because I was upset about all the revelations and THAT GODDAMN RESOLUTION that poignantly closes Whedon's run but doesn't change the fact that it was WILDLY UNFAIR and VICIOUSLY HURTFUL and every other combination of adjectives-used-as-adverb plus adjective which is usually my linguistic style when it comes to describing things when I write reviews.

First of all: AGHANE IS THE BAD GUY AFTER ALL AND ORD IS THE UNSUNG HERO. What? I spent so much time thinking Aghane was going to put things right because she interpreted the prophecy in terms of a spiritual and physical destruction of their home planet in order to make way for a more compassionate and community-based kind of civilization as oppose to the barbaric and pathethically patriarchal kind that the Breakworlders has lived under for so long. Well, no more. We have Colossus now to rip out the planet's power core and change things for the best. Except that Aghane became the villain just pages before she was killed by Ord. Ord the fucking Dumb-Dumb whom I wanted to die since his first appearance. Apparently, Ord was doing the right thing and killin Aghane has made him a hero. Wait, what? Was I not paying that much attention to the way this story was going since the beginning? I thought I got it all figured out and it turns out I'm an idiot because I've been rooting for the bad guy all along (and her sudden shift to villainy doesn't make sense to me!) and the bad guy whom I wanted to die turned out to be good and Colossus even held him in his arms as he took his last breath. HUH? Wasn't Colossus just pounding on this guy several issues ago? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? Also, Brand is a half-alien progeny and has a thing for Hank? SINCE WHEN? Will the next writer even explore this throwaway development in the next run?

The worst thing that could ever happen to a character happened to Kitty and here is how I reacted

But all these things are forgivably minuscule compared to what happened to Kitty Pryde. Last issue (#24), we see Kitty phasing inside the missile that the Breakworld has aimed at our Earth in case Colossus goes through the plan to rip out the power core. She can't phase out because it's no missile. Hell fucking no. It's a GODDAMN BIG-ASS BULLET. And it's hurling for Earth. So Marvel's Mightiest Heroes gather to try and solve this problem but the bullet has some hypnotic ability and they were all under a trance as it gets closer and closer to the world. Emma was the last person Kitty ever talks to as she summons all her strength, fortitude, courage and badass awesomeness to phase, turning the giant bullet in phase mode as well so as soon as it hit a major city, the physical property of it just went through the buildings, becoming transparent and shit. So Kitty is forever entombed there, unable to phase out because doing so would trigger the bullet and it would explode and kill everyone. Nobody knows how to fix it, not even the combined geniuses of Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Hank McCoy, etc. And the worst part of it all is that Peter never got to say goodbye. Emma was the only one who talked to Kitty. I mean, Emma can fucking link everyone's minds together, right? Why didn't she do that? At least Peter would have talked to Kitty one last time, and it wouldn't have been so unfair for everyone especially to Kitty WHO IS JUST TRAPPED INSIDE A BULLET FOR GOOD! Where the fuck is Magneto? That bastard is still alive somewhere. He should help disarm the bullet and set Kitty free, dammit! I hate this! And I don't understand why no one is angry! Logan wasn't even that affected. He was just all sad. I mean, it's the FUCKING WOLVERINE! He loved Kitty like a sister and HE WOULD HAVE CLAWED SOMEONE BY NOW! Why is Peter so accepting of this? Has he lost it? Maybe he has gone insane to the point that he can't react properly anymore or even grieve Kitty. He looked so lost in his last panel. Poor guy.

BUT GODDAMMIT I AM SEETHING WITH FURY RIGHT NOW. I wish I have never read this issue. Sure, it was all poignant and melancholic how Kitty sacrificed herself for everyone. She went the extra mile to save countless of lives even if it meant forfeiting her own.

BUT FUCK THAT! SHE DESERVED BETTER, WHEDON!

Then again, I shouldn't expect less from Joss Whedon who has a habit of KILLING OFF FAN-FAVORITE CHARACTERS in his works. Goddamn you, Whedon! At least you killed the other fan-faves but you doomed Kitty to a fate worse than death! She's still alive and has to keep phasing that bullet FOR AN INDETERMINABLE LENGTH OF TIME, I assume. ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS ABOUT THIS SHITE?!!

Please take note, Mr. Whedon!

I still consider the rest of the twenty-four issues gold but this one? KITTY DESERVED BETTER!

NOT THAT RECOMMENDED: 1/10

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Astonishing X-Men Omnibus Edition by Joss Whedon

With a total of twenty-four issues, the 2005 debut of The Astonishing X-Men feels like you're viewing one season of an American television show which is perfectly understandable, seeing as its writer Joss Whedon is also the one that brought us TV gems like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dollhouse and Angel. This gorgeous omnibus edition collects all issues of Whedon's legendary run, comprised of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Wolverine, Beast and Colossus. Truly engaging, endlessly creative and shockingly sublime in the right places, The Astonishing X-Men has to be the BEST X-MEN SERIES I've read this year (with Jeff Parker's X-Men: First Class being the close second). I would consider this as a rather a fine example of a writing that works phenomenally when it comes to telling a really engaging superhero story with a balance between plot and character developments. 

Like I said, it feels like the first season of a favorite show, filled with stellar moments in the plot construction and the character arcs that make it float and stay on course. Both riveting in execution of story and delivering some of the most emotionally meaningful moments about characters (especially two female superheroes), Joss Whedon's The Astonishing X-Men is something I will recommended readily to a fan of the X-Men films but has yet to read them in comics. This is a great starting piece to ease newbies in while at the same time pleasing the long-time crowd of fans.


The twenty-four issues are divided into four story arcs which are composed of six installments each. We have Gifted where a scientist develops a cure for the mutant gene, and the new team of the X-Men band together to prove that they can be just as loved by the public and the media as the other superhero teams such as the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. In Danger, the X-Men faces the threat of their most formidable foe yet; a sentient being who has lived in the Xavier School and watched them fight during combat simulation and is therefore more than informed regarding their weaknesses. For Torn, Emma Frost (a reformed villainness) commits the unthinkable, fracturing her teammates and certain important relationships within their group. The last arc, Unbreakable, ties together all three previous plot stories with its own primary focus on the alien planet Breakworld which, according to some prophecy, is destined to be destroyed by an X-Man. The conclusion of that arc continues to the Giant-Size edition whose ending was the most unexpected and stomach-churning pay-off I have ever been subjected to. Just thinking about it again makes me very sad and very mad. That being said, Whedon performed consistently in his writing for each issue, holding back no punches and making sure that each blow hurts enough to give you a lingering ache. 


But like most of Whedon's work, he knows how to take characters to places and then he breaks and molds them into something better and enthralling, even if it's fragmented with the kind of holes you can never mend.

The two stars of his series are Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost. Whedon's first issue began with seeing Kitty Pryde 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 resourc
eful 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. 

Meanwhile, 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.

That's not to say that the male characters are slacking. Cyclops was allowed to truly shine as he rediscovers his purpose as the leader of the team while Colossus takes on fate itself and tries to bend it to his own will. Meanwhile, we have Beast, who gets to contemplate about his mutation and whether or not he wants to go through another painful physical transformation as Wolverine finds yet another young girl to become a promising protégé to train. The variety of villains for this series has served their respective purposes, short-lived as they may be whole a few were certainly impactful, and they only enriched the tapestry that Whedon has painstakingly and with great love care weaved for us readers. There was even a motion comics series because everyone apparently came to an agreement that this is meant to be shown visually in another medium because it's just that damn riveting. I recommend for you to check out said motions comics yourself which has copies online. As I finish this review, I literally can't think of a single disappointing thing about this series. Well, except for the Giant-Size's ending concerning Kitty Pryde but even that wasn't enough to lessen my adoration for the entirety of the series. I am still so duly impressed by the quality that Whedon has produced here. This remains as a strong contribution to the X-Men universe nonetheless!

Overall, Joss Whedon's The Astonishing X-Men has accomplished what it set out to do when it started: to astonish the world. A perfect mixture of sustainable action, relentless twist and turns and resonant character insights and relationships, this is a series that you will be a fool not to start reading at once. The majority agrees that this is just bloody brilliant and a worthy addition to any fan's X-Men collection.


RECOMMENDED: 10/10

Friday, October 16, 2015

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


THE ASTONISHING X-MEN ISSUES #23-24 "UNSTOPPABLE" parts 5 & 6

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.



~* PRESENTING THE ASTONISHING X-MEN *~

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

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon #21-22

Elation. Trepidation. Nausea. Liberation. Damnation. All wrapped up in a tight bun that is me after I finished reading the third and fourth installments of Unstoppable. Stephen Colbert himself captures all of these feelings in this singular gesture demonstrated below:


I hardly remember my comic-book reading life before The Astonishing X-Men. My September pick was Brian Michael Bendis' forty-one issues of All-New X-Men and I remember falling in love with that once but the truth is all I could recall more clearly is how I fell out of love with that series. I never expected things to get better since then because I was sorely let down. And then this happens to me. Whedon and his AXM happens to me. And now Bendis' ANXM is nothing but a fading memory next to what Joss Whedon has accomplished here in The Astonishing X-Men. I don't ever remember feeling this intellectually stimulated and emotionally rewarded before. And I feel sick. I feel like ugly-crying.

Tobey Maguire would have been proud

Don't worry. I promise to keep it together until the end of this review. It'll be tough for me but I'll get through it. 

THE ASTONISHING X-MEN ISSUES #21-22 "UNSTOPPABLE" parts 3 & 4


I've been combining reviews for two issues in one post and it's been a great way to discuss certain plot points and character developments back-to-back especially when they are intrinsically inseparable from each other. Instead of wasting time summarizing every scene that happened for both installments, I'll simply talk about the highlights and touch briefly upon the main plot which I still do not care about because the truth for the matter is that PLENTY OF OTHER INTERESTING THINGS are happening around it. And here they are:

KITTY AND PETER

Where do I even start and end with these two kids? The constant push-and-pull between these two lovers is akin to Gossip Girl's Chuck and Blair. One issue they're reunited poignantly; the next they're awkward around each other; then lovey-dovey and sexy times commence; then sad realizations occur that puts them in the verge of a break-up; and then they get stuck somewhere and have to deal with each other; then sexy times happen again; then more sad realizations. You know what, just look at their notable interactions in these two issues and judge for yourself how agonizingly sweet and sad everything about their unstable relationship has been:


A couple of scenes later...




EMMA AND SCOTT

While Kitty and Peter are angst-ing away together, Emma is angst-ing by herself, far too selfish to carry the load of her previously believed unrequited feelings for Scott. The two were also stranded together in Breakworld, fighting their way through the shit and scum thrown their way. Here they are with their backs on each other, trying to have a normal, adult conversation about their feelings and whatnot. Emma refuses to apologize and Scott is livid. And yet, for some reason, he admits that he has truly fallen for her. I mean, what the hell?! She broke you down and repressed your mutant powers. She made you face your cowardice and insecurities about being a mutant, an X-Man and a leader. She tore you right at the soul and core of your inadequacies and limitations...and YOU FALL THE FUCK IN LOVE WITH HER, SLIM? It's...it's....BLOODY BRILLIANT, that's what it is! I will always adore the childhood-sweethearts that were Scott and Jean together (especially their OCF counterparts in X-Men: First Class and the All-New X-Men comic books), but Emma and Scott together is proving to be volatile, wickedly sexy and breathtakingly raw and vulnerable together!! Just look at this shit:


And how does Emma react to this confession? She asked for Danger TO KILL HER ON THE SPOT.


WOULD YOU LET YOURSELF BE LOVED, EMMA FROST, FOR FUCK'S SAKE?! Take a look at your Once Upon A Time counterpart who is also named Emma and is just as guarded as you. She certainly stopped bullshitting around her love interest and finally owned up to how she felt about him. Instead of standing there as Scott almost lay dead, asking for some AI to murder you, you should have just grabbed Scott and kissed him out of his damn mind. Like this, you stupid bitch:

FUCKING KISS THE BOY ALREADY LIKE THIS EMMA HAS DONE!



THE RADICAL BREAKWORLDER LADY 

I still don't care about what happens to Breakworld but then this lady shows up and has a different way of looking at the prophecy. I instantly warmed up to her, especially when you compare her to the masculine assholes who all have such raging hard-ons for intergalactic nuclear war that they are mere savages whose extinction will not even make me blink once it happens. That being said, I want her and the rest of her followers to survive when this story ends. The rest of the patriarchal, chauvinistic, war-mongering population of this planet can go ahead and suck it. There is a villain in this story whose name I don't even care enough to learn and properly spell here in my review. It's Kruunun-something-fucker. I don't know, fuck him. Let's read the passages of this benevolent, wise lady instead:




DANGER'S RUDE AWAKENING

So, Danger. How you been, old girl? Still spiteful and bitter. Nope, not really buying it. I knew you weren't so bad. She sided with Kruunnunnn-something-fucker in the earlier pages of issue #21, promising to deliver him the X-Men since she knows how to defeat them. But when faced with the prospect of killing Emma, she couldn't do it. And Emma's reasoning for it was...pretty moving. 



AGENT BRAND'S MERCURIAL MOMENTS

I already said in my previous post than I'm okay with Special Agent Brand now although she does have to work on her manners.

Beast shames her with that remark

That being said, she has a good point in the next panels concerning Lockheed's involvement and how we should treat alien species with dignity and respect. The bitch may be as cold as Emma at times, but she's not heartless. She's just really dedicated with her job that she comes off dismissive and a hardass. In any case, I know there's a softie underneath that gruff. Hopefully, Whedon will show us that in the later installments. For now, I'm cool with Brand. She just needs to act like a human being and less of a severe fix-it control freak.



The rest of the story is about the Breakworld preparing their nuclear forces to annihilate Earth/capture Colossus/overthrow Kruunuun-fucker/whatever the hell it takes to keep this story going so it can provide me with more emotionally meaningful moments among characters. I'm looking forward to Wolverine/Hisako scenes next. That's mostly what happened here in the third and fourth parts of Unstoppable. Whew! I managed to keep it together after all. Did I miss anything...? Oh wait...




...how does issue #22 ends, pray tell? Oh, that's right. I rememeber now:  SCOTT DIES.


I'm not going to start jumping into conclusions again (like that time when I thought Emma stabbed him with the mutant cure, remember that, folks? I was deadly wrong with that). However, I AM GOING TO OVERREACT AS IF IT'S REALLY THE END OF HIS LIFE AND I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE I'MA START UGLY-CRYING AS SOON AS THIS SENTENCE IS OVER!!!

JESUS LOKI TAKE THE WHEEL!!

RECOMMENDED: 9/10