What’s So Great About the X-Men? (Astonishing X-Men Review)

My first exposure to the X-Men was on a Saturday. I was watching the movies, directed by Bryan Singer, both X-Men and X2 in a mini-marathon. Sometime in the middle of the first film, I remember leaping from my seat in a fit of upset over the way our heroes were being treated. Now, reading the Astonishing X-Men comics reminds me of all those same feelings.

When Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on TV, I resisted watching it, over my friends’ recommendations. I just couldn’t get over the name. I mean, Buffy? How gay is that? I’m not going to watch some show called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” no matter how good people say it is. I was younger then. Or at least more immature.

(This was all before I started watching Gilmore Girls, by the way.)

My first exposure to Joss Whedon’s work was with Firefly on DVD, then the movie Serenity. Now I know I need to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, no matter how silly that title sounds.

Recently, I got the first two volumes in the Astonishing X-Men series of graphic novels, Volume 1: Gifted and Volume 2: Dangerous. That these stories were authored by Joss Whedon was a big selling point for me.

Each volume includes 6 issues of the Astonishing X-Men comic book series. So, Volume 1 includes issues 1-6, and Volume 2 includes issues 7-12. Presumably, more volumes will be forthcoming as the series progresses. (Individual issues can be bought from Marvel Comics.)

I should add that John Cassaday’s artwork is a fine match to Joss Whedon’s storytelling. Very cool.

The reason I love the X-Men—and this is personal taste, I know—is that they are outlaw superheroes, like the Serenity crew. The X-Men are suspected and distrusted. And they sometimes make mistakes, but that’s not why they’re suspected and distrusted. People distrust the X-Men, because they’re mutants. But what really resonates with me is that no one controls the X-Men. They answer to a higher authority than any Earthly one. They answer to a higher morality. They fight for the right, no matter what anyone else says, and they have a developed sense of justice, which cannot be controlled by the mob mentality of popular opinion. Ironically, this is possible because they are outcasts, and it makes them even further outcast.

(I know I’m going all literary-analysis on you. Please forgive me.)

The X-Men cater to my sense of justice and my sense of civilization. For example, in Dangerous, after working with the Fantastic 4 to save the world from a terrible monster, they get a mere 30 seconds coverage on the local news.

Logan says, “I got a C-note says our epic battle doesn’t even make the nationals.”

Scott replies, “The news isn’t there to tell you what happened. It’s there to tell you what it wants you to hear, or what it thinks you want to hear. They already have their stories worked out. They just wait for events to fill in the blanks. When they don’t fit, they get sidelined or twisted till they do. ‘The mutant menace’ is the story. Always has been.”

You may call me cynical, but remember, a cynic is what an idealist calls a realist.

Later in the same story, Xavier himself uses the classic excuse, that yes, he himself oppressed another life, but he had no choice. He needed to perpetrate it, for the greater good of mutant-kind.

Scott skewers him. “What does it hurt? The oppression of a new life form… You figure we’ve taken enough from the sapiens, why not dish it out?”

“You know it’s not that simple,” Xavier replies.

“You’re the man that taught me that it was.”


Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1: Gifted
Paperback: 152 pages
Publisher: Marvel Comics (December 29, 2004)
ISBN: 0785115315

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 2: Dangerous
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Marvel Comics (November 9, 2005)
ISBN: 078511677X


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