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Astonishing X-Men (Vol. I) by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday

Two simple words for Astonishing X-Men:

Fucking great.

But since it is so fucking great--that I tried to restrain myself from saying something corny but will now fail for saying "it fucking astonished me"--we will not limit ourselves to two simple words, and try our best to find other synonymous words for "fucking great." And at the same time, refrain from further expletives.

Ajuiorthljsjasofujwkklsjdnflsjlf.f aj wjew,fnw hroweiklacoiweuroqjfal!!!!!!KAJlkjLjalqtoqjqieruPQPOWrjkklew kldhoznzvkjksjkjxflpp[oewruoiwtu.cx;spa[paf!!!!!

Ah, incoherent-ness. Such is the curse of a drooling fangirl.

But first, as usual, disclaimers: As the few imaginary people who have read my previous reviews before already know, I am not a comic book person (which the pretentious ones call graphic novels). I do not claim to scavenge second-hand bookstores for the latest Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore wonders as a kid, nor do I know the difference between characters from Marvel and DC. Of course, I am not completely ignorant of it, for hello, we have Hollywood-versions-that-aim-to-bleed-both-old-and-young-geeks'-pockets-dry. Moreover, my little knowledge of comics came from trying to impress two different girls, one back in high school, and the other back in my early years in college. Needless to say, it was more than unsuccessful--it was downright embarrassing.

Hence, this disclaimer. The only comics I gobbled up as a kid were the local and foreign funnies. One can also count in the Gospy comics at the end of that I-forget-and-never-ever-will-I-want-to-read-that-again magazine they distribute in the homes and schools of good Catholics.

The X-Men I learned from the good old nineties. From the weekly television series and from unrenovated arcades in Cubao that needed only a five-peso coin and a cocky competitor to work. (Nowadays, I think aside from doubled-up prices, the demographic of cocky competitors has grown a bit older. But then again, maybe that's just me. Maybe the younger kids don't have money. Or their parents are the ones playing.)

Point being, I don't have a goddamn clue if the television series, or even the video games, were faithful to the comics. All I know is that I found western Superheroes that I actually liked. I was always leaning towards Japan--Sentais, Sailor Moon, and the hotness of Masked Rider Black. Power Rangers were meh (after a dozen Bioman, Maskman, Jetman, Fiveman, etc. another colorful bunch wasn't really a big deal), Superman was boring, Batman was out-colored by Robin, and Wonder Woman paled nothing to Darna inside my kiddie brain. Oh, Spiderman's okay because my mom likes him (she'll always choose Spiderman when we used to play Marvel vs. DC). X-Men came as a surprise to me. They were weird enough, they were always trash-talking as much as the supervillains, and they also wore colorful costumes.

Also, the government seemed to hate them. The people they were rescuing seemed to hate them. And yet they keep rescuing them.

That struck the self-righteous kid in me.

I would learn to love the X-Men as I grew older but the television networks would give me a hard time trying to watch each episode in order. They kept airing reruns of the same episodes! Even when I was in high school and tried to watch it right in a cable channel, I would still get to watch episodes I've caught when I was younger. They were always about Rogue and Wolverine's angst! Eventually, I got tired, and then hated them both (I also hated Wolverine because everyone loved him and I thought he was just an attention-grabber).

But this is not a review about The Uncanny X-Men (but we'll get to that, I'm finishing the few episodes left. Yay for technology!).

What I was trying to say is that generally, I had fun (even if I ended up hating Rogue and Wolverine). Like what you would hear from every X-Men fan, the characters seemed to have helped its young awkward audience in the murky world of "growing up." Unlike the other mainstream superheroes, these guys, after doing something nice, were either ignored or thrown stones at. And worse! Nobody said thank you!

And yet they keep being nice. Even if fellow mutants hate them as well. They keep being freaking nice. If that's not a very tactical way of instilling "moral lessons" in impressionable kids, then Professor Xavier is a jerk.

Which is exactly what Shadowcat says in the first pages of Astonishing X-Men. And which is exactly what we'll find out as the story progresses. (So much for my lousy attempt at paragraph transitions, right?)

"Professor Xavier is a jerk!" That's exactly how it begins and that's exactly how you know Joss Whedon is hellbent on leaving his fantastic mark: FUNNY. Underline that word. All caps, bold, and italicized. If Joss Whedon is in it and it's not funny, then some popular nitwit company is canceling his shows and has Whedon's loved ones as hostages in chains. That has to be the only explanation.

Joss Whedon never fails to crack a good joke. Each character can execute a sharp wisecrack without losing their separate identities and character tones. Furthermore, he seems to really know his comic book medium and uses every available form or structure (paneling, etc.) to give out a good laugh even without the need of a character to exercise verbal wit. Jokes are everywhere, even in dramatic moments, even in poignant moments. And this comic book undeniably has that too.

Not only because The X-Men already has the perfect formula to bring out these poignant moments, but because the story worked well with the drawings, the colors, and just about everything that should not be forgotten in the form of a comic book. But I have no knowledge of the necessary jargon to articulate everything.

I just know that the artist cracks jokes as much as Whedon does (look out for Wolverine looking funny-pathetic, as everyone's fighting in we're-so-cool-mode while he gets thrown back by this big monster), and the colors complement every mood the story is telling, guiding me quite carefully and accurately into which scene I was diving into. And the storytelling takes out boredom by swiftly jumping from one issue to another.

One has to be fucking capable of handling too many issues at once. There's the authentic mutant "cure", creating confusion, hope, and chaos. There's character conflicts and the ever-eternal unresolved issues in relationships. These would only be a few of the many complications: Former Villain Ms. Frost vs. Shadowcat. Ms. Frost battling the ghost of Jean Grey for Cyclops' love. Beast battling himself. Wolverine providing the cool factor. And Professor X battling a certain ghost of Christmas past.

And an awesome ghost at that. It brings up issues of oppressors oppressing one another. You get a sense of what writers are capable of when they make such fantastic villains.

But let's leave it that, for I've already given away too many spoilers. And my two simple words have already mutated into a thousand. I am forever in debt to the person who lent me this comic book. A comic book that did not need a black leather costume to be edgy and to be taken seriously. And a comic book that resurrected my childhood entertainment of Boom! and Bam! matched with the insights some only associate now with the term "graphic novels", or those supposedly deep, disturbing drawings of surreal horror stories. Astonishing X-Men takes pop to the level that forces its audience to look at the tragedy of society, at the shadows of themselves. A guilty pleasure, I admit, for I am currently trying to figure out how to get a copy of the second volume.



1. You were trying to impress two girls? Lesbian!

2. Your mom plays video games? Cool mom.

Anonymous said...

1. used to be bi. now i think i'm getting the curse of heterosexuality. hahahaha.

2. di hardcore. pag trip lang. :P

3. at nagkamali ako. i just went to the arcade awhile ago. it's marvel vs. capcom. hahahaha.

- claire

Jeremy said...

Make sure you get Astonishing X-men Vol.2, its the second half the Whedon/Cassaday X-men stories.

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