Comic History 101: Astonishing X-Men: Gifted

Last week I talked about how Brian Michael Bendis revolutionised the Avengers but at roughly the same time something else was happening over on the X-Men side of the Marvel Universe. Joss Whedon, of Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, was transforming everyone’s favourite mutant super heroes. 2005 saw the launch of both the New Avengers and Astonishing X-Men however, while the New Avengers run was more commercially successful; the X-Men series became a massive critical success, winning the Eisner Award for ‘Best Continuing series’.

New Beginnings

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Picture Source: http://geek-news.mtv.com/wp-content/uploads/geek/2012/07/astonishing_x-men.jpg [Accessed: 09/02/2016]

In 2004 Grant Morrison finished up his insane New X-Men series which had seen massive success between both fans and the comic book community at large. To attempt to follow such a huge series was a huge task that Marvel laid at the feet of Joss Whedon, who had previously expressed a desire to work on X-Men in several interviews.  Whedon’s approach to the series was a stark contrast to the work of Morrison. The team was roughly the same, with the notable addition of Colossus who had been out of the comics since his death a few years prior, but Whedon took on a less serious approach with more streamline plotting and excursion. The first arc, ‘Gifted’ , kept a tight focus on the core team, as opposed to Morrison’s previous focus on the wider world of the X-Men, as the X-Men dealt with a ‘cure’ that could sap the a mutant of their powers . This story arc later went on to influence X-Men: The Last Stand due to its popularity amongst X-Men fans.

Critical Depth

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Picture Source: https://thebearsleuth.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/b0c14-astonishingx-mencyclops.jpg [Accessed: 09/02/2016]

‘Gifted’ is fairly simple in its approach to the medium and plotting but it is outstanding when it comes to dialogue. The interactions between characters seem to draw upon the entire history of the X-Men whilst adding in something new and thought provoking. Large chunks of the arc are dedicated to members of the team debating over how to react to cure and whether they should simply allow it to exist. It created a deeply philosophical edge to the series, which was lacking in Marvel comics of the time as it seemed to be more of the territory of Vertigo over at DC.

The book suffers with the same problems that much of Whedon’s work is cursed with. Many characters seem to take a point of view at random when they could easily be on the other side of the debate and the villain, Ord, seriously lacks development compared with the main characters. It’s also worth mentioning the artwork across the entirety of Whedon’s run by John Cassaday which, while fairly standard in style for the time, never failed to make the team look beyond bad ass.

Reception And Impact

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Picture Source: http://www.justusnerds.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Astonishing-X-Men-6.jpg [Accessed: 09/02/2016]

When completed, the arc was revered as one of the greatest series at the time however it wasn’t without its problems as there were long gaps between issues in the series and some fans felt the series was a step back from Morrison’s work previously. As the series continued Whedon decided to shy away from incorporating the series into any events, even though the X-Men were key players in several events at the time, which split fans again. The personality of the team impacted greatly on the future of the X-Men as future writers for the team cited Whedon’s approach as a big influence. Overall the series was a success and, along with the success of the New Avengers series, it lead to the commission of one of the most mind-blowing events in the history  of Marvel Comics, House Of M…which we’ll be taking a look at next week.

…that was this week’s Comic Book History 101!!! Check back on Friday for a guest article from comic book expert David Sayers!!!

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