Astonishing X-Men is always an entertaining read. Whedon has done a great job making this title a must read each and every issue. This current story arc is an absolute blast and I always have fun reading this title. I’m sure that Astonishing X-Men #18 is going to be another enjoyable read. Let’s hit this review.
Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Scott crouching over White Queen’s body. Cassandra Nova creeps up behind Scott telling him that his efforts are pointless. Scott whips around and blows Cassandra’s head off with his gun.
We shift to Blindfold face to face with a feral Beast. Blindfold says that Cyclops told her that if she couldn’t reach Beast’s mind then she should give the Beast an unknown item in a box. Blindfold then takes out of her jacket a small box with a label that says “Property of Hank McCoy. DO NOT TOUCH.” In the box is a ball of yarn.
We cut to Scott using his gun to shoot the various members of the Hellfire Club. Colossus regains consciousness and asks Scott what in the world he is doing.
We shift to Ord and Danger inside of the X-Mansion. Hisako suddenly attack Ord. Hisako starts pounding away at Ord looking to avenge Wing’s death. Wolverine then enters the brawl and starts smacking around Danger and Ord.
We cut to Kitty regaining consciousness. Scott tells Kitty that Cassandra Nova tricked Kitty into releasing Stuff. Scott says that if the X-Men have any hope to win that Kitty has to go and save Emma.
We shift back to Hisako and Wolverine brawling with Ord and Danger. Suddenly, Danger and Ord become stuck to the ceiling. Hank McCoy enters the room. Beast tells Wolverine that he activated a super magnet that he had installed in the X-Mansion as a defense measure. Beast apologizes to Wolverine for how he acted while he was in his feral state. Beast said that the ball of yarn was all sorts of smart drugs designed to trigger his intelligence should he ever go feral.
We then cut to Kitty rescuing Emma from the underground cave that she trapped Emma in a couple of issues ago. Emma tells Kitty to leave her. That Emma deserves to be left down below.
We shift to all the X-Men gathered around Emma. Scott mentions that there is no Hellfire Club. That Scott saw Colossus battling Sebastian Shaw and there was no one there. That each Hellfire Club member have been nothing more than illusions. That Cassandra Nova has been psychically attacking each member of the X-Men. That it was Emma who stuck Cassandra Nova’s consciousness into Stuff in the first place. That Cassandra Nova did a “hail Mary” into Emma’s brain at the last minute to plant a suggestion in Emma’s brain. That suggestion took advantage of Emma’s survivor’s guilt. Emma’s guilt about being part of the Hellfire Club, for failing her students in Genosha and for surviving. That there is a voice in Emma’s head telling her that she is evil. That voice is Cassandra Nova.
Kitty grabs Scott’s gun and points it to Emma’s head. Kitty refuses to believe Scott. Kitty says it is all Emma’s doing. Scott tells Kitty that it was Cassandra Nova that used Kitty to free Stuff. And that it is Emma now trying to get Kitty to do what she is doing right now. Kitty walks away. We see Cassandra Nova in Emma’s head telling Emma to do it know. To free her now. Scott tells Emma that she has a choice. That she can send Cassandra Nova back.
Emma then says “Go to Hell.” We see Cassandra Nova’s face. Then we see Scott’s face. Suddenly, Ord and Danger break into the room and attack the X-Men. Then a S.W.O.R.D. ship appears above the X-Mansion and teleports everyone aboard the ship. The S.W.O.R.D. ship then blasts off for the Breakworld. We see Blindfold watching the ship leave. Blindfold comments that not all of the X-Men will return. End of issue.
The Good: Astonishing X-Men #18 was another fun read. Whedon does a good job taking a slow issue by comparison to the previous issues and make it seem faster paced that it really is. Not much happens in this issue. We get a short tag team brawl of Wolverine and Hisako versus Ord and Danger. We get Cyclops explaining what is going on with Cassandra Nova and Emma. That’s it. However, Whedon deftly uses very short scenes with numerous shifting back and forth between the various scenes to create a feeling that this issue is faster paced than it truly is. I wish more writers could pull this technique off to make slower issues more interesting.
Whedon continues to deliver excellent dialogue. Once again, Whedon displays his excellent understanding for the personality of each character. This enables Whedon to give each X-Man their own fully developed voice. Plus, Whedon is a master at humor. I loved the use of a ball of yarn to trigger the Beast’s intelligence. Then seeing the Beast and Wolverine comparing and contrasting what triggered the return of their personalities was funny. Ball of yarn for Beast and a can of beer for Wolverine. Whedon’s playful sense of humor keeps the otherwise dark storyline from overwhelming the reader and makes this title a fun read.
I dig Whedon’s new and improved Cyclops. For the first time ever, I actually am interested by Scott’s character. I have always found Scott to be either generic at worst and boring at best. Whedon is managing to give Scott an intriguing personality. Scott has a new found edge to his personality without him going down the “tough guy” route. Instead it is more of a no-nonsense attitude with a commanding and assertive personality. Whedon used Emma as a tool to deconstruct Scott’s personality. Watching Whedon reconstruct Cyclops is rather fascinating. I’m excited to read more of Whedon’s re-invented Cyclops in the upcoming issues.
Whedon drops a wild ending on the reader. All of the plotlines come violently clashing together in the final two pages. Ord and the Breakworld, Danger and Cassandra Nova all get wrapped up together as S.W.O.R.D. teleports all of the various players aboard their ship and takes off for the Breakworld. This ending hooks the reader and gets him eager for the next issue. I curious to see how Whedon handles all of these various players and plotlines now that they have been combined into one story arc.
Cassaday’s artwork is as fantastic as always. I love Cassaday’s style and his excellent artwork is a great match to Whedon’s story.
The Bad: It is rare that I have anything negative to say about Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. However, for the first time during Whedon’s run on this title, I was less than impressed with the story he delivered. I don’t dig how Whedon handled the Hellfire Club/Emma Frost plotline. I was actually psyched by the fact that Emma was truly evil and purposely betrayed the X-Men in order to benefit the Hellfire Club. Unfortunately, Whedon pulled the rug out from under the reader with this plotline.
We learn that the Hellfire Club members didn’t really exist. That they were all just illusions generated by Cassandra Nova. That was lame. I dig the Hellfire Club and was disappointed that we weren’t getting treated with a new and improved Hellfire Club. Having just Cassandra Nova behind everything makes this plotline less interesting. Of course, I will admit that a large part of that is due to my personal bias. I just have never found Cassandra Nova’s character to be even remotely interesting.
I also thought it was extremely lame that Whedon revealed that Emma isn’t really a traitorous bitch. That she is just being controlled by Cassandra Nova who was getting Emma to do her bidding. I really loved the idea of Emma turning heel, betraying the X-Men and then becoming a monster villain. That would have been a juicy and dramatic storyline. I thought it was impressively bold of Whedon to make Emma a traitor and have her return to her villainous roots. Instead, we get the copout move pulled on us by Whedon, by revealing that it was all Cassandra Nova controlling Emma and that Emma really isn’t an evil traitor. Boring.
Overall: Astonishing X-Men #18 was another enjoyable read. Whedon continues to impress me with his excellent dialogue and great sense of humor. Combine Whedon’s entertaining and wild story with Cassaday’s wonderful art, and you get a comic book that is well worth your hard earned money.