Astonishing X-Men #13–18 by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday
For all of Whedon’s return to the Claremont/Byrne days, he did follow on and keep the continuity of Grant Morrison’s run on the X-Men. Which is why we get Cassandra Nova, the architect of danger from within, a traditional superhero yarn.
The Hellfire Club is back – another instance of Claremont/Byrne fanboyism – and Peter and Kitty finally have sex (which leads to some great jokes: Kitty phasing through the floor into the room below when she orgasms; Logan’s ‘Bout time’ response on seeing them the morning after).
Whedon has a go of getting under Scott’s skin – he seems to have a good handle on him – and gets Cassaday to draw some panels from old X-Men comics (such as the cover from #201, where Scott lost leadership of the team to Ororo). This is Whedon’s strength, understanding the characters he is writing about and infusing them with depth and feeling. And the funny lines: Kitty’s ‘ Oh my God, I just said “Some Goth punk”. I’m really old.’
There is a lot of fun in this book along with the story of the enemy within. There is a recreation of the classic panel with Logan from the original Hellfire Club storyline, where Logan rises from the sewers, but this time with Kitty: Now it’s my turn. Logan is telepathically turned into a wimp (a fabulous cover for issue #17); he is bitten on the leg by a telepathically enraged Beast, which causes him to pop his claws – ‘WWAAAAAHHHH!’ Logan is reverted from his brainwashing by beer – two great panels by Cassaday of focussing on the beer can and then on Logan’s eyes, acting like the camera in a film.
It’s not perfect – I’m not sure about the whole ‘Peter will destroy Breakworld’ concept, and SWORD is a very silly idea, and the story just ends without resolution because it is still ongoing – but it’s extremely entertaining. The threat is real and the X-Men are taken down believably and the return is suitably defiant and heroic, the twist of the plot is equally rewarding (Scott explaining it all, doing it well). This is a cracking homage to the old stories told in a thoroughly modern fashion. I look forward to the conclusion in the final trade paperback.