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Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whedon and Cassaday continue to Astonish, November 30, 2005
This review is from: Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 2: Dangerous (Paperback)
Professor X is kind of a bastard.

No, seriously, think about it for a minute. He regularly allows the children in his care to believe he's dead, has at times usurped battlefield command of the X-Men from far more competent combat leaders, has put the lives of his students at risk in the name of his "dream," has routinely disbanded the group whenever it suited him (whether or not his students wanted or need to continue on, which they almost always did). He's alienated former students and lovers, mind-wiped Magneto, and let's not forget the whole Onslaught thing. In his own way, he's just as fanatical as Magnus is, willing to do almost anything in the name of his "dream."

Oh, and he harbored sexual thoughts about the teenage Jean Grey for years. Seriously.

Granted, Professor Xavier still usually enjoys a good reputation and the loyalty of his students. Even Jean. But, given the evidence building up throughout the pages of the various X-titles for over 40 years, it's not that difficult, in hindsight, to see how writer Joss Whedon came to the above stated conclusion.

The story in "Dangerous" is a sequel to the previous Astonishing X-Men arc, "Gifted" (also available in trade paperback). It's not necessary to have read the previous story, but it helps a whole lot. And, let's face it, if you're an X-fan, chances are you already have. If not, do it. Go, right now. I'm serious, go read it. You finished? Good. Wasn't that awesome? Now you're ready for "Dangerous."

The following conatins some major SPOILERS:

The students at Xavier's Institute (currently headed by Cyclops and Emma Frost) are still reeling from the events of "Gifted," particularly the young mutant named Wing, who was infected with the "Cure" drug and lost his powers of flight. The boy commits suicide in the Danger Room, which is actually worse than it sounds. See, it turns out that the Shi'ar technology that years ago was used to rebuild the Danger Room from a gym with some robot arms to an almost-lethal holodeck has a basic level of sentience. For years, it's been studying the X-Men as they've trained there, and it's longed to kill them (that's it's programming, after all, to threaten them), but a separate program that Xavier installed has always prevented it from doing so. Now that Wing has been able to override that protocol, the room's free to do as it pleases. And what is pleases is to kill the X-Men (and what have we learned kids? Always incorporate your "no killing" software directly into your "try to kill `em" software, not as a separate, overridable file). After fatally injuring every member of the group, it heads to Genosha to kill its creator and captor, Professor X himself. He manages to stop it, but then it hops bodies into one of the meglo-Sentinels that was responsible for the slaughter of Genosha a few years back, and imbues that Sentinel with a form of consciousness as well. Oops. So, the X-Men have to kill the thing that's a bigger, badder version of the thing that just killed them. Can they? No, but Kitty manages to convince the newly birthed "sentient Sentinel" that Danger is hiding something. That something happens to be the memory of what the Sentinel did to Genosha, and once it remembers, it is stricken with grief and heads off for parts unknown. Preofessor X, it turns out, knew that "Danger" was self aware all along, but chose to ignore that because he needed to train his students. He just did "what had to be done." Isn't that always the excuse? Meanwhile, we find out who Emma's mysterious council (heard, but not seen, in the final pages of "Gifted") are: her old pals at the Hellfire Club. And all the while, the mystery of Ord and SWORD deepens.

END SPOILERS

Joss Whedon, having nothing left to prove after his first 6-issue run, is more than comfortable shuffling the X-Men players around the chessboard. Characterization is handled remarkably well without resorting to Claremont-esque thought bubbles that spell out each and every thought and feeling of each character. Colossus is still dealing with his recent resurrection, and not necessarily handling it well (preferring to ride on top of the X-Jet rather than in it). Cyclop's relationship with Emma gets a bit touchy, and explodes by story's end. Kitty is still dealing with Peter's return, and trying to provide council to the student body, but isn't doing too good a job of either. And Logan, well, he likes beer. The characters are all brilliantly utilized, and the dialogue crackles with Whedon's trademark wit.

Whedon again demonstrates why he's a godsend to the X-Men universe. He manages to continue setting the X-world straight, by pushing Peter and Kitty back together, Scott and Emma away from each other, and revealing that, no, Emma is not to be trusted. Some have accused him of being too retro, to which I say... well, I can't print what I say on Amazon. He's brought the X-Men back from being "Grant Morrison's black-leather-brigade" to being the X-Men again. No, he doesn't move things into some far-out realm or completely reorder the world. He just tells damn good stories with damn good dialogue. And sometimes that's enough. You don't need to constantly reinvent the wheel; sometimes, you just need to make a damn good wheel. And Whedon's wheel is as good as they come.

I couldn't finish without paying respect to the art of John Cassaday. He's clearly gotten more comfortable drawing the X-Men, as he's able to tweak the models without loosing anything (letting Kitty's hair down, for example). His style continues to be very realistic, which only works in the books favor. His pencils make to believe that live-action Sentinels could work (a message the makers of the X-Men movies might want to get in on). He looses a bit of that when dealing with Danger and the meglo-Sentinel, but is still able to hold things together through the most fantastical story elements. And through the most human elements as well. When Peter and Kitty have a heart-to-heart chat, the dialogue is almost unnecessary (and to make Joss Whedon's dialogue seem unnecessary is quite a feat).

In short, this is one of the best X-Men books in years, a worthy follow-up to "Gifted." Whedon and Cassaday have already achieved the legendary X-creator status of such teams and Lee/Kirby and Claremont/Byrne, and deservedly so.

Now, if only someone would get started on a book about how much of an ass Cyclops really is (cheating on his girlfriends, cheating on his wives, leaving his wife and sick child...)
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