Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 1: Gifted Paperback – May 10, 2006
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I recommend reading this book and the other Astonishing X-Men books by Joss Whedon if you want to start getting into reading X-Men!
I'm no X-Men expert, but I'd rate the Whedon/Cassady run up there with the Morrison/Quietly run (and now some of you out there hate me.) The story takes place some time after the Morrison run. Jean Grey is dead again and Xavier is absent. Kitty Pryde is invited to return to Xavier's school to teach. Cyclops and Emma Frost (and who is in charge, exactly?) decide to put together a new team of X-Men that will actually do super-heroic stuff, consisting of themselves, Kitty, Wolverine, and the Beast.
The Run: Kitty Pryde is apparently Whedon's favorite X-Man, and it shows. Rumor is, the character Buffy was inspired by her, although Kitty in this story is now possibly in her early 20's. Most of the focus is on her, Scott, and Emma. Wolverine is there mostly for violence and comic relief. There are two main plotlines, intertwined: a scientist has developed a "cure" for being a mutant (and it seems to work), and an alien race wants to invade the earth in order to defeat a prophecy that we'll destroy their planet. As the series progresses, we'll find out that a previously thought dead X-Man isn't (no, not Jean this time), we'll meet a new X-Man (Armor), meet S.W.O.R.D (the extra-terrestrial counter-part to S.H.I.E.L.D.) and meet various villains, new and old.
This Volume: The "cure" plot is introduced, and the scientist behind it truly seems to be benevolent. Mostly. Naturally, Hank (the Beast) is tempted to use it. (I understand Whedon came up with this cure concept before it was used in the movie X-3). An alien shows up and seems to be involved with the cure as well. The X-Men invade the lab in which the cure is being developed. They discover...somebody there. Then, they're interrupted by...somebody else. Hey, I don't want to tell you too much of the plot, now. Oh yeah. Kitty has a pet dragon, if you didn't already know that.
If you've read Planetary, you might want to give this a chance just to see some more awesome Cassady art. And did I mention Joss Whedon?
First, I'll admit that I very much disliked Grant Morrison's run on New X-men. The whole, let's make the X-men more "realistic" was interesting, but I think that Morrison took it too far in points. And what also bugged me is that for all the talk of taking the team in new directions and what-not, he plodded out the same stuff that people have been using in X-men for forever. "I'm so new and different that I'll reintroduce the Phoenix Force, kill Jean Grey, reintroduce and kill Magneto" *sigh*
What I really like about this particular series is that Whedon doesn't muck about with it. He's taking the X-men back to what he thinks is their best and he let's you know that he's doing that in the first couple of pages. If you didn't get that, or didn't want to see the X-men of the "Glory Days" basically retold in what I for one think a splendid fashion, then the book is wrong for you.
I personally think that Whedon does it admirably. I don't know what to tell the people who don't like his wit, because frankly, I think that it's brilliant, and well-placed throughout. The pacing is great, and for all the grumbling about it being obviously paced for a TPB...um, you're reading a TPB. What's the big deal?
Oh, and while the basic ideas for the story aren't brand new, I think that Whedon does a good job of putting a cool spin on it all. Sure, alien invasion isn't exactly the newest thing ever. But WHY this particular alien is invading is a very interesting twist. True, the general hatred of mutantkind by humankind is certainly not new, but this whole thing of casting it as a disease that can be cured and what that does to the mutants themselves as a community is new and interesting. Indeed, an evil AI bent on the X-men's destruction is pretty stale stuff. But the particular AI that is evil in this and WHY it's evil is a pretty cool development. Especially since it calls into question the motives and trustworthiness of a VERY IMPORTANT X-man (without resorting to the cheap trick of making it some deep, dark recess of the mind that's responsible -- and all about 5 mins after you were just cheering for this person). How does one not see the freshness in all this?
All while staying true to the core ideas of the X-men. It's good stuff.
Whedon also has a knack for humanizing characters and making them sympathetic and believable. Beast, to me, is the best example of that talent in this collection. It really is interesting to see the Beast's true feelings about his current state portrayed so well. And not just him bucking up and taking his newest mutations in stride in "true X-man fashion". It makes him an interesting character. Kitty was also given a great treatment as well, obviously, and the Kitty-Colossus thing just doesn't get old. And even somewhat minor characters like "Wing" get a GREAT treatment by Whedon.
Cassady's art is very impressive. VERY. I've seen someone compare it to Frank Quitely. While I might see where they get the comparison from (with both of them going at a somewhat more realistic style), I think that Quitely is a terrible artist -- he's consistent, I'll give him that, but all of his characters in the New X-Men, for lack of a better word, looked very ugly to me, and all about 20 years older than they should have -- whereas Cassady actually has some real talent. Actually, I take back part of what I said about Quitely. His Beast looked very good. I remember liking him a lot, but that's about it.
Anyway, I think that this is a very entertaining book that, in a sort of backswing from Morrison's run, succeeds marvelously at taking the X-men back to their roots as a real superteam. It shouldn't be passed up. YMMV, as this, like every other review, is my personal opinion, but I really think that the two TPBs that make up the Whedon-Cassady run of Astonishing X-Men (Gifted and Dangerous) are definitely worth a read. And I mean a read, not a skim.
Top international reviews
As the title suggests, I'm biased towards this book for two reasons: I'm a massive X-men fan and in my opinion it is the best comic out there. The second is that it's written by Joss Whedon who, if you don't know, created Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly/Serenity and Dollhouse. I did, however, approach this book with caution, having already Grant Morrison's excellent New X-Men run, which changed the status quo quite a bit, and upon seeing on the cover that the team are back wearing costumes (Morrison having got rid of them), I thought that it would never top what came before. But almost does.
Whedon's writing is beautifully complemented by John Cassaday's art raising Gifted to truly awesome levels. The story revolves around Cyclops, now joint head of the Xavier Academy with his lover Emma Frost, reforming the team as a superhero group with, at Wolverine's dismay, costumes and everything. The new team is made up of Cyclops, Frost, Wolverine, Beast and, best of all, the returning Kitty Pryde. Having served as inspiration to Whedon's own Buffy from the aforementioned TV show, it would be impossible to keep her out of a Whedon written storyline. The Astonishing team head out Combat a new threat, named Ord (no marks for the name), who has taken a building full of rich people hostage. As if things weren't bad enough, a cure for the Mutant gene is unveiled.
Whedon gets almost everything right, from the story, the dialogue and even explaining away the black leather Morrison had them wear during his run. If you love the X-Men, or Joss Whedon's work for that matter (who doesen't?), you won't be disapointed.
However, I have to say that despite the Marvel standards committee Wheedon has done a pretty good job and Cassadays artwork is kinetic, smooth and detailed and the flow from cel to cel is natural. It really does have something of a retro feel, and is IMO none the worse for it.
This first is a hail hail the gangs all here introduction and has the obligatory Marvel character resurrection because, as we know, in the Marvel universe no-one ever really dies.
The next installment is something of a disappointment story wise (for the most part) and has one of those deus ex machina moments that really should be illegal. The artwork is beyond reproach.
The third installment (as far as I've got) is much better all round, with story threads heading off in all directions and some nice twists which have an air of plausibility given the overall story.
I don't know how much Marvel are prepared to give Wheedon his head, but perhaps we might be in for something of a treat.
This book is very character driven, meaning it focuses on character development very heavily. In this book, the Xavier Institute seems like a living breathing place and one of my favourite parts of this book was the relationships between the different characters and seeing how they interact with each other (especially between Kitty Pride and Emma Frost).
This was a really good book and I understand the hype that surrounds it. I recommend this to X-Men fans, although I recommend you read Grant Morrison's New X-Men run first as it is really good and it leads on to this.
Astonishing X-Men is masterfully written by Whedon. The outstanding text is complimented by Cassaday's fine artwork.
Even if, like me, you are new to American comic books, I strongly encourage you to buy the Astonishing X-Men trade paper backs, starting with the first volume, Gifted.
This is not only a story that force-you-to-sit-til-you-finish-it but also artwork is a delight-to-eyes.
Action, moral dilemma, emotion, come backs and The Cure that can heal.. a what? Disease? or Mutant-kind?
I feel really sorry for Mutants. I have never seen S.H.I.E.L.D. or Avengers standing with them on any occasion (or maybe I haven't read any of that kind). But they really suffer so hard and always considered as outsiders but still never lose their grips on their sense of morality. That's what makes them Superheros.
Whedon-Cassaday both have done superb job and it's a good point to start reading X Men. But a little back knowledge won't hurt if you are totally unaware of their continuity.
I easily can give 5 outta 5 for story and for art I can cross the barrier and reach 10 outta 5 but the only problem was you can finish it very soon. I read the whole in less than one and a half hour. But that's not a valid reason to cut points so here I go for overall... 5 OUTTA 5.
I would give it 4.5 stars if I could (90%).
'Gifted' hat zwar sowohl Aliens als auch die Wiedergeburt eines wichtigen Mutanten, aber im Gegensatz zum Gros des Genres hat diese Story Hand und Fuß- der "Augenroll-Effekt" ist auf ein sehr erträgliches Minimum reduziert. Außerdem ist es auch für X-Anfänger ganz gut geeignet, weil es nicht mitten in einer bereits laufenden Story einsetzt. Wer mehr darüber wissen will, woher die Charaktere kommen und was sie bis jetzt erlebt haben, der kann sich auf zahlreichen Seiten im Internet kundig machen, aber notwendig ist es nicht (im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen Graphic Novels)
Das 'Astonishing' Team besteht aus Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine, Shadowcat und Emma Frost. Das Team muß trotz seiner Konflikte eine Wissenschaftlerin stoppen, die ein Serum zur 'Heilung' der Mutantengene in Umlauf bringen will.
Beim Artwork hat man sich wirklich Mühe gegeben, es ist wunderschön gezeichnet; Joss Whedon hat eine stimmige Geschichte geschrieben; das Team mit all seinen Gegensätzen ist interessant... ich warte sehnlichst auf die Fortsetzung!
Empfehlung für alle X-Fans und solche, die es einfach mal nur ausprobieren wollen.
Every X-Fan should read this. The expectations - no matter how high- will not dissapointed. The art is great, the story supreme.
It seems to be the story that inspired the extremely weak X-Men 3- Movie. Oh, how I wish, Wheedon would have written the screenplay for X3. My expectations in him as a writer, after watching Firefly and now reading this comic, are still growing.
Keep on writing, Joss, doesn't matter if comic, TV, movie or whatever - just keep on writing