Friday, February 08, 2008

Astonishing X-Men #5 When: November 2004
Why: Joss Whedon How: John Cassaday

The Story so far...
The mutants are once again confronted with question of their existance when an biological process is announced that claims to be able to reverse human mutations. While the X-Men grapple with the implications of weaponization of the so-called "cure", and the immoral means by which it's devised, another menace lurks in the background.

Coming from across the stars, an allien warrior called Ord has a mission to prevented the foretold destruction of his planet, the Breakworld, at the hands of a human mutant. Ord's machinations are soon revealed to be far deeper, tying him to the sacrificial death of an X-Man, Colossus, and the creation of the cure, an ultimate tool of genocide.

While the X-Men attempt to infiltrate the company making the cure, Benetech; Kitty Pryde goes deeper into the company compound where she makes a shocking discovery -- her former lover Peter Rasputin, aka; Colossus, is alive...

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Brandon PetersonARTWORK: John CassadayStrength: Colossus 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Ord 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Ord 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Ord 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Draw 1 (None)

- A humble farmer growing up in his native Russia, Piotr Rasputin harbored a powerful secret deep within his adolescent body. When an out of control tractor threatened the life of his little sister Illyana, Piotr transforms from loving brother, to steely mutant capable of crushing the machine in it's wake.

Recruited by Professor Charles Xavier, Rasputin travels to America, where he becomes part of a new collective of International recruits into the secretive paramilitants, the X-Men. His mutant ability to transform himself into a powerful being of organic steel grants him super human strength and durability.

When Beast discovered a cure for the deadly Legacy Virus, Colossus voluntarily sacrificed himself to enable the airborne dispersal of the antigen. Motivated by the prior death of his sister, Colossus' ashes were taken to his native Russia to be strewn per his request before his heroic sacrifice. The cremated body would soon be revealed to be a duplicate placed by the villain, Ord.

A well made observation by the Infinite Wars is the tendency for characters to be drawn using the LEFT wing more often when fighting. Presumably this is a graphical tendency typical to right handed pencillers, but Cassaday makes a point of depicting the logical RIGHT hand (of COLOSSUS) on the cover.- Ord is a warrior from an alien race hailing from a planet called the Breakworld, where advanced technologies have conquered death and fate. He travels to Earth when the people of the Breakworld discover their future will come to an end by the hand of a human mutant, possibly a member of the X-Men.

Ord confronts the X-Men head-on, utilizing superior strength, speed, durability, senses, and an advanced healing ability. Combined with these natural talents are weapons and armor made of impossibly strong alien materials, and extensive training in combat, including the use of a razor-edged disc weapon.

Ord is also able to subversively utilize human science to influence the development of a mutant cure, based on the genetics of select mutants themselves. The volunteer and weaponization prospects of the cure are presumably part of Ord's agenda to engineer the self-destruction of the mutant species.

The Math: Ord Ranking: Colossus (#217)

What Went Down...
Confronting human Benetech scientist, Dr. Kavita Rao, the X-Men suddenly find themselves under siege from the alien powerhouse, and architect of their turmoil; Ord. The warrior challenges Wolverine, Beast, and Emma Frost, drawing a circular blade he warns is capable of cutting through even Frost's diamond form.

An unlikely ally presents behind the threatening Breakworlder, as Kitty Pryde struggles to phase Colossus, who has just been freed from years of imprisonment, from the lower depths of the Benetech facility. Unawares; Ord doesn't see his retribution coming for his involvement in Colossus' resurrection...

Colossus is reenergized as he vengefully drives his steel fist into the spine of the alien, Ord. The Breakworld warrior retaliates, swinging around with a backhanded swat that Colossus blocks with a spray of sparks.

Metal meets metal once more, again spraying sparks as the gauntleted fist of the alien attacked clashes with Colossus' metallic face. The blow comes with taunting insults, which serves only to provoke, as Colossus punctuates his attacks.

He begins by snatching Ord in a wrist lock, which gives him leverage to swing the alien invader around like a ragdoll, first into the floor, and then the facility wall. Then, with one final exclamation, Colossus drives his fists into Ord's defeated body...


ARTWORK: Brandon PetersonThe Hammer...
Alive and made of rage, your winner, Colossus!

If you thought you heard an echo just now, it might be the sound of knock-out blows being struck around the entire comics blogosphere!
Each Friday while we continue to bring you the best and worst of comics canonical clashes, Bahlactus unites the blogosphere in cosmic war as per the power meme, Friday Night Fights! Get a taste of the Infinite Wars, and then head over to the big-B for more prize-fights!

You might be intrigued and delighted by our decision to dive into the Eisner-Award undermining series, Astonishing X-Men. I've got to be honest, the first of our weekly Cover to Cover features [Endangered Species Round 1] was facetious about the status of Marvel's merry mutants, but my contempt for Astonishing might be a little more on the genuine side. Pause for gasps.

Here's the perfect thing about the Astonishing X-Men audience: the newbies are getting in on a reasonably safe jump-on point. It's not what I would recommend, but even I would have to admit that as far as transitioning from the movie theatre to the comic shop, Astonishing makes for decent training wheels.

Then you've got the two pre-existing fanbases flocking to the title. For the Whedon fans, it's more of Whedon's vaguely characteristic writing, complete with cutesy exchanges and self-aware exchanges of the meaningless. Likewise, for the X-Fans, it's a rote exercise in repetition as Whedon regurgitates a highlight reel of character exchanges, plot point, and conflicts from X-Men stories passed.
Needless to say, I find neither fandom terribly admirable.

For me, the first six issues were an unfortunate blip on a very big Christmas of comics. I was otherwise quite happy swimming in issues of JSA, Hawkman, Detective Comics, and Daredevil. It was a very good time for comics, a great time to be assimilating into the DC universe, and particularly, a good time for Batman [a topic for another time]. Astonishing X-Men was an interest in testing the water that was unfortunately extended by over zealous giftors to the monetary waste of four extra issues. Bummer.

I'm reluctant to refer to myself as an X-Fan, because I honestly believe there's very likely a group of folks googling "X-Fan" for the sole purpose of accosting anyone claiming the title. There's no chance I'm going to lock horns with an avid X-Fan, for reasons both of a knowledge and hygene based nature. [Cheap!]

That said
, I have a passing knowledge of the garbled X-history, and a passing interest in those characters. Like a good many; the intertwining devolution of crossover stories starring dull peripheral characters led to my distance, at least until the blessing of Grant Morrison's stellar run [New X-Men #124, #150].

Morrison's take on the X-Men features, what I believe, was the logical succession of the X-Men legacy. Stories featured the moving foward of human-mutant relations to feature more diversity in opinionated factions, the beginning of acceptance of mutants, and a variety of other stories that managed to move the franchise forward in ways not really seen since the 1970's.
Merging design conecpts from the feature films, and the comics, the series arguably presented a happy medium between both, and I know of examples where that enabled very happy introductions to the comics version of the characters.

A sticking point for me is death and the X-Men.
Despite having the ring of a European arc of X-stentialism, I'm one of those guys that grows increasingly despondent and dissatisfied by the use of death as a device in modern comics.

I'm not jaded enough to throw my hands in the air in an act of dismissal, but it's undoubtedly one of the lasting undermining qualities of children's fiction.

Obviously companies place great weight in the use of franchise characters, and are unlikely to properly service those that aren't existant within the central canon of the shared universe, but then, that's my point. As much as I have always been a big fan of Colossus as a character, the severity of death outweighs my regret for the decision to kill him.

Thus, if I wasn't already pre-destined to bare a grudge against the content of Whedon's work, the resurrection of Colossus was sure to seal the deal. Honestly, part of me still holds out a hope that the Skrull invasion will reveal this Colossus to be part of the infestation [of the mutant community]. That seems unlikely.

Top 25 Mutants
#1 Wolverine
#2 Sub-Mariner
#3 Beast
#4 Storm
#5 Kitty Pryde
#6 Rogue
#7 Jean Grey
#8 Angel
#9 Ice Man
#10 Cable
#11 Cyclops
#12 Gambit
#13 Tabitha Stevens
#14 Gorgon
#15 Cannonball
#16 Forge
#17 Sunspot
#18 Banshee
#19 Franklin Richards
#20 Jubilee
#21 Unus
#22 Professor X
#23 Scarlet Witch
#24 Colossus
#25 Rachel Summers
At the risk of going through this entire diatribe without justifying my distain for this incarnation of Astonishing; it's worth diving into our two years worth of cumulative stats to measure the top twenty-five mutants. We did this in October [Power Man & Iron Fist #90], and if you're inclined to compare lists, you'll note that not much has changed.

Messiah Complex has been a multi-title crossover that's stirred the interests of many lost X-fans not already convinced by creative shifts in the core X-Men titles [such as Brubaker].

I can't say I've been likewise inclined, but consider this entry a little bit of Infinite Wars housekeeping. We've had the opportunity to make a very diverse start to the year, and a current lull in major events gives us a chance to play catch-up on properties not acknowledged through late 2007.

This issue has actually been on the request list since the beginning, too. When I first started seriously floating the concept of a site like this [2004], Ord battles were among the most recommended contemporary examples. So, I guess this is not only an attempt to represent zeitgeist, but also fullfil a shred of the design of the fanbase.

If I really had to crack down and observe the content, I couldn't say I hate these issues. I like them enough to slot them neatly behind the rest of the X-Men comics I've owned over the years, and there's a chance that; as the X-titles dig themselves into a new hole with boring characters, dodgy crossovers, and various other typical mistakes; I might come to like these issues. Although, like Skrull-Colossus, that seems unlikely.

I admit to being slightly reactionary to the insanely dedicated and fawning audience that follows Whedon from cutesy niche project, to cutesy niche project. I've never been terribly interested in the reference heavy fast talking of his characters, nor the genre influenced antics of his TV projects like Buffy and Firefly. Much of that disinterest carries through to the comics, but that base familiarity with the X-Men inspires venom at the sight of issues I could only describe at the time as irrelevant and/or twenty-years redundant.

Reprints of back issues should probably be stealing from this top ten title, but it isn't. Given the critical acclaim, (including several years of increasingly dubious success at the Eisner Awards), I know this won't be a popular opinion.
I suppose that's just another issue for which the title becomes a posterboy; referring, of course, to the sheep herding that has become the modern comics fanbase, typified by X-Fans. I've got to be honest, too. Cassaday just doesn't impress me like some. Not on this, at least.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong.
For certain, I am tired, and I'm going to have to cut the discussion here. If you're one of those vocal X-Fans, head down to the comments and lodge your own opinions! It won't be anything I haven't heard before, but go for it, guys!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 3.5

Want to spite me by voting with your dollar? Like what you've seen and want to investigate further? You can play catch-up by heading over to Amazon and picking up the trade! I might not like it, but lord knows I'm not above selling it to you! By using the provided Amazon links you help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars. The story's called Gifted, so, y'know, maybe you could even buy it as a gift! Although, to avoid my situation, maybe check with the recipient before they use it as fodder to bitch on the internet about.


Krod said...

Skrull or not, resurrections are so bad for the integrity of stories. I don't know why writers try to undo past stories. Do they want to bring their favorite characters back that they never had a chance to write?

I say 'too bad.' The integrity of the story and series comes first.

Mike Haseloff said...

Yeah. It's a blanket statement, and there's always going to be strong exceptions, but it seems to be one of the lasting weaknesses of less admirable times in comics writing.

Given the on-going versimilitude of the superhero genre, it's almost surprising a change hasn't been made inadvertently as writing becomes more intelligent.

As much as resurrections are unattractive, I think it's important to put a lot of the weight on the initial decisions.
Writers shouldn't expect to axe mainstream icons without a very strong story and considered outlook.

As mentioned in the article, as much as Colossus' resurrection is regrettable, the death was probably far worse for it's frivolity.

Then again, the strength of respecting death gives small press guys like me a chance to differentiate, even if we're doing superhero stories.

Krod said...

It's not just comics. I stopped watching the TV show HEROES pretty early on (I thought it had bad writing), but my brother kept watching it until recently. In the story, there were a few 'fake deaths' recently. He said he's done because 'nothing means anything anymore.' With comics, resurrections are one of the minor problems, and that's telling. I think it's a shame that we'll never get so many readers back because of bad story telling back in, say, 1993. But at this time, when storytelling has become so sophisticated in comics, I think it's a shame that content can still be so casually bad.

Jeez, I sound so negative here sometimes. I really love comics! Quick, post more Hellboy so I don't come off as a complainer.

Mike Haseloff said...

Haha, well, I like to think constructive criticism gets a free pass, even though there are a lot of reverse-trolls online who like to talk about being pleasantly silent about comics.

Heroes probably played with life and death a little too frivilously in a short space of time, but I think it's important to also keep context in sight.
Sometimes a "death" is going to be well justified by a story or circumstance, and I certainly think Heroes had those examples. By the end of the last series it probably got a bit out of hand, but you have to wonder how the writer's strike might have affected that, too.

I like Heroes. I like comics.
Sometimes things get a bit negative around here, but I hope the legitimacy and supporting discussion keeps us both afloat on the sea of negativity. :-p

Krod said...

Even if it was justified by the story, I think this kind of thing is seen by the common man, non-comics reader, as a turn off.