Astonishing X-Men #23 Review

The Revolution has been impressed with the quality read that Whedon has delivered during his run on Astonishing X-Men. This has by far and away been the best written and most entertaining X-Men title in a very long time. However, the terrible shipping schedule has gutted Whedon’s story and robbed the reader of much of the suspense of this current story arc. At any rate, I’m sure that Whedon will offer up another well done read in Astonishing X-Men #23. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Aghanne telling her assistant that one of the X-Men has just died. We cut to the X-Men dividing into teams. Wolverine and Armor go off together. Kitty and Peter go off together. Agent Brand and Beast pair off together. That leaves Emma by herself. Kitty attempts to reach out to Emma believing that Emma must be in pain over Scott’s death. Emma coldly rebuffs Kitty’s gesture and snaps that she doesn’t need to talk to anyone. That Emma is a diamond and by definition is her own best friend.

We cut to Cyclops being brought back to life by Kruun’s machine that Kruun used to resurrect Colossus. Kruun interrogated Cyclops by demanding to know what “Leviathan” is. Scott refuses to answer so Kruun proceeds to give Scott electrical shocks.

We slide over to Armor and Wolverine brawling with some of Kruun’s soldiers who were about to kill some innocent people. Both Wolverine and Armor getting take out during the fight.

We cut to Agent Brand and Beast decoding the words carved around the carving of Colossus destroying the Breakworld. Agent Brand says that the writing sets out exactly how the Breakworld gets destroyed.

We hop back to Kruun continuing to torture Cyclops. Scott refuses to tell Kruun what “Leviathan” means. Scott utters if only he had his powers. Kruun scoffs that Scott’s puny powers wouldn’t be of any help anyway.

Kruun says since Cyclops is not afraid of pain then Kruun will change his tactics. Kruun shows Scott video screens with Wolverine and Armor held captive. Kruun says he will tear Armor apart until Cyclops tells him where Aghanne is, where Colossus is and what Leviathan is.

We see Kitty and Colossus arriving back at Aghanne’s palace. Colossus tells Aghanne that the end is coming and asks if Aghanne is ready to do her part. We cut to Agent Brand and Beast with Emma, Danger and Lockheed on the ship. Beast says that the prophecy says that the end is to come through “the temple of power.” That Kruun’s throne house sits on a reactor and powers everything by pulling energy from the planet’s core. That someone of metal could get inside of it and destabilize it. Beast says that this is not a prophecy. That it is a plan. It is an instruction manual on how to destroy the Breakworld.

Danger then tells Emma that they should be arriving at the prison in thirty seconds. Emma says that she can feel Scott. Emma says that she is feeding all the prison schematics to Scott right now.

We cut to Scott looking at Kruun and asking him if he wants Scott to start answering his questions now. Scott says that Colossus and Aghanne should be on their way. Kruun comments that Scott ordered them to stay away from Aghanne. Scott sarcastically mocks Kruun by stating how oh my god, was the ship they stole under some kind of surveillance device?

Kruun realizes that Scott knew he was watching. We flashback to the scene last issue, right before Scott leaves the X-Men and dies in space. Scott makes contact with Emma telepathically. During his verbal orders to the X-Men, Scott communicates with all of them telepathically and informs them of their true orders. That Scott will mention a fake secret weapon named Leviathan. That Wolverine and Hisako will get themselves captured. That Emma will get the schematics of the prison. That Brand and Beast will work on the prophecy. And that Kitty and Peter will go bring Aghanne to the prison.

Kruun is pissed off. Kruun gets right in Scott’s face and asks what other lies Scott has told him. Scott gets an evil smirk. Suddenly, Scott lets loose with a monster optic blast. The beam blasts Kruun’s head off, blows a huge hole in the side of the prison and shoots up into the sky.

All the X-Men are stunned as they see the massive red optic beam burning through the sky. Scott telepathically calls out “To me, my X-Men. Let’s finish this.” End of issue.

The Good: Wow. That was one balls-to-the-wall ending! Astonishing X-Men #23 was another kick-ass read. Whedon continues to employ a moderate pace with this story. This entire issue was designed to slide everyone in place for the climax and to set the stage for one sick ending. The first three-quarters of this issue was certainly the quiet before the storm.

As always, Whedon supplies the reader with some wonderfully crafted dialogue. Since the very beginning, Whedon has impressed me with his incredible feel and understanding for the personalities of each X-Men. Whedon has evoked shades of Chris Claremont with his handling of the various X-Men during his story arc. While I do think that Brubaker is finally starting to work his magic over on Uncanny X-Men, I still firmly believe that Whedon has done the best job with these characters of any writer since Claremont left Uncanny X-Men in 1991.

What has really been so enjoyable is how well developed the characters are in this story. Whedon has especially impressed me with his work with Emma and Scott. Beyond the obvious cheesecake factor with Emma, I have never been a big fan of her character. Whedon has actually gotten me to enjoy her character for something other than the obvious. Many times a writer will take a character like Emma and flesh them out by showing the reader another side to that character so we see that they really aren’t such a cold and mean person as they appear.

Whedon decides to do just the opposite. Whedon takes the persona of Emma as a cold, egotistical bitch and really plays it up. Yet, at the same time, Whedon shows the reader why Emma acts the way she does. Her method of operation may not make her many friends on the team, but it is highly effective and gets the job done. And in the long run, all Emma cares about is how the team operates as a collective whole rather than how any individual member may like her as a person. The scene between Kitty and Emma is an excellent example of this.

The character that Whedon has done the most work on has been Cyclops. It is amazing how intriguing Whedon has made Scott’s character. I honestly never thought I would ever use the word “intriguing” with reference to Cyclops. Scott has always been such a relatively one-dimensional, vanilla and colorless character.

Whedon takes the time and effort to give Scott his own distinct personality. Whedon takes Scott’s position within the X-Men as the field leader and takes it to the next level. Whedon’s Cyclops is the heart and soul of the X-Men. Scott is the X-Men’s Captain America. And no scene more symbolizes that than the final panel of this issue with Scott breaking free and then saying “To me, my X-Men.” Scott has grown into the true center of the X-Men that has always been reserved only for Professor X.

And Whedon’s Cyclops is no longer a nerdy weenie who gets constantly shown up by Wolverine. Whedon gives Scott just enough edge to his character without going too far and making him just another Wolverine. Scott is the ultimate leader and commands the immediate respect and attention of his teammates.

Yet, Scott isn’t shy about getting his hands dirty. Scott comes across as a bad-assed leader who will do anything and risk anything in order to win. And that is shown in the wonderfully sneaky plan that Scott devised in order to take advantage of Kruun and to get the X-Men close enough to Kruun’s headquarters in order to attack him. This plan only served to make Scott look like even an even more impressive leader.
The ending was sweet. I was practically jumping out of my seat when Cyclops let loose with his monstrous optic blast! This ending went a long way in seriously increasing Cyclops’ “stud” factor. And the reactions of Scott’s teammates to his massive optic blast were perfect. This fantastic finish sets up perfectly what should be an exciting climax to this story arc.

As always John Cassaday supplies plenty of his usual excellent artwork. I enjoy his detailed style and he does a fine job brining Whedon’s story to life.

The Bad: Unfortunately, the terrible shipping schedule robs this story of almost all of its impact. With the Messiah Complex teasers, the reader knew that Scott wasn’t really dead. We also know that Colossus doesn’t die, either. And we all knew that Scott gained his powers back. It is unfortunate. If Astonishing X-Men had kept its proper monthly shipping schedule, then this story would have been even more of a riveting read.

Overall: when all is said and done, despite the shipping issues dampening the impact of this story, the fact remains that Astonishing X-Men is a technically well put together comic book. Whedon crafts an enjoyable story with a good balance of adventure and character development. And Cassaday serves the story up in a pretty package. Astonishing X-Men continues to be the most entertaining of all the X-Men titles.

5 thoughts on “Astonishing X-Men #23 Review

  1. Like you say, a strong issue, dragged down by lateness (especially notable with the one scene that’s just a scene from last issue with thought bubbles super-imposed, the content of which I’d basically forgotten about in the intervening, what, three or four months? We were presumably all supposed to be equally curious as Kruun as to what “Leviathan” is, but I didn’t remember the original reference).

    When AXM launched, it was pitched as the flagship X-Men title, succeeding Morrison’s NXM. However, it very rapidly just became it’s own little world, relevant to the other titles only in that they had to tip-toe around AXM’s plot points. The only notable contribution is the resurrection of Colossus.

    Also, while we know Colossus and Cyclops don’t die because of MC, I’m increasingly worried by the lack of Shadowcat in two straight issues (she was in the preceding X-Men arc, but that’s it).

  2. I don’t know, “favourites” on Whedon shows tend to wrack up a pretty high body count; Buffy (twice, and, had the series ended as it was originally supposed to, the second time would have been for reals) Tara on Buffy, Fred and Wesley on Angel, Wash and Book in the Firefly movie, etc.

  3. You’ve never watched an episode of Buffy or Angel? Wow. I’d recommend them, if you enjoy his X-Men work (Shadowcat was his main inspiration for Buffy).

    Yeah, Whedon’s TV shows evince a certain “anyone can die” atmosphere (on two occasions he added, or wanted to add, recurring characters to the main credits in the episode that they were killed off for good in). Another ironclad rule is that relationships will always, always end badly, usually with one party either dying, going evil, or otherwise suffering horribly; Buffy and Angel (Angel went evil + death), Buffy and Riley (angst), Buffy and Spike (Spike’s death), Willow and Tara (Tara’s death), Xander and Cordelia (angst), Xander and Anya (angst, Anya’s death), Angel and Cordelia (Cordelia’s death), Gunn and Fred (angst, other man), Wesley and Fred (both dead, although at different points), Zoe and Wash (Wash died). Also, fathers are at best a source of ambivalence/trauma from neglect, but that doesn’t really apply here (apart from pseudo-dad Professor X and Kitty’s dad in that one disturbing flashback…hmm).

    So, actually, the more that I think about it, things aren’t looking good for one half of the Shadowcat/Colossus relationship.

  4. Loved this issue.
    Seeing Cyclops cut loose definitely made me jump off my seat.
    The whole telepathic plan was also a nice touch.
    Thank god Whedon is writing my favourite charater in comics Cyclops as an actual person.
    (Start rant)
    So often other writers have just written him as the generic stuck in the mud ass, or the tool to make Wolverine seem more badass!

    It was quite annoying, kinda like the way Tony Stark is getting written in the Marvel Universe at the moment. So many writers write the character a certain way that it starts a snowball effect with other writers turning the character into the offical goto dickhead character.

    Writer- “I need someone to butt heads with my character”
    Thinks a second
    “oh yeah, so and so has been a right gimp lately, I’ll use him!”
    (End ranty part)

    The art was great as well.

    Oh and I read somewhere that “to me my X-Men” is what Xavier said at the very end of the first issue of X-Men all those years ago.
    So this further cements Cyclops role as the core of the team.

    Good review.

  5. Hell yeah! Cyclops finally gets the spotlight this time!

    For years, Cyclops — both in the comics and the movie trilogy — has been sidelined by Wolverine. It’s a good change if you ask me. I don’t have anything against Wolvie, but heck, he is on so many teams and appears in several comics (X-titles, a cameo on New Warriors 2 or 3 I think, New Avengers, Wolverine, Wolverine: Origins, and I’m pretty sure there are others).

    And btw, the X movies, should have been titled “Wolverine”, since everything revolves around him.

    Cyclops is getting the respect that is long overdue. The impressive plan that he used to get Krunn was great! And the last page was really awesome! Not the best looking Cyclops, but it does say a lot about what he has become as the leader of the X-Men.

    I just hope that Messiah CompleX storyline really highlights Cyclops this time. “Cyclops will also unify the X-Men in a way they haven’t been for years.”

    They tried to highlight Beast in the Endangered Species storyline but, I dunno, it feels really, really, really lacking. Oh well…

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