My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I got this book because I really wanted to read some stories that featured Beast. I asked my comic book store what they had, and they said there wasn't really anything currently on the shelves with Beast, but that I should take a look at what Joss Whedon and John Cassaday did in "Astonishing X-Men" and sold me a copy.
I love the serial nature of comic book reading, where issues often end in cliffhangers and you have to wait a month for the story continuation. But when the writing and art are as superb as contained in this run of "Astonishing X-Men," the waiting would become agonizing. That's why I love having twelve issues collected in one volume, comprising two main story arcs.
The main story thrust revolves around the creation of a "cure" for mutants. Understandably, this kicks off a huge ethical debate. If this is a "cure," are mutants "diseased"? Will the cure be optional or mandated? The conflict is framed universally, but explored on individual levels. Since I was specifically looking for a Beast story, this did not disappoint, as Hank struggled with whether or not he would take the cure if it proved to be viable. The X-Men titles, more so than other books, always seem to touch on weighty ethical issues as well as story lines revolving around acceptance and being different. As such, it's always a title that resonates with teens, going through the awkward stage of life. This collection of "Astonishing X-Men" delivers on that front as well.
The secondary story revolves around a new danger the X-Men are facing. Without delving into spoiler territory, I can mention that it flows directly from the "cure" story line and revolves around a situation that starts in the Danger Room. I enjoyed the "cure" story line more, but liked how the "danger" story line starts to set things up for further conflict. After getting to the end, I was anxious to read the next issue, so I will be hitting my comic book store up for Book 2 when I run by to pick up Wednesday's haul.
Oh, yeah, this collection also sees the reappearance of an X-Man believed to be dead. I didn't really see it coming, and loved how it played out.
A wonderful touch in this collection are the "extras" in the end of the book. The character design sketches that are common in these kinds of collections are here, and are nice to look at. What I particularly enjoyed were the pieces with creators Joss Whedon and John Cassady. For Joss, they included a series of email correspondence between Joss and the Marvel editorial team, giving a wink and a nod to some interesting insight into the creative process. For Cassady, they included an interview, where I was extra-thrilled to see they spent some time discussing the character design for Beast.
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