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May 22, 2014 / Jett

Astonishing X-Men Ultimate Collection Book 2 Review

Though the Astonishing X-Men series ran from 2004 to 2013, Marvel has only given Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s run on the series the Ultimate Collection treatment. I found Book 1 to be great overall, with the Gifted storyline being one of the best X-Men tales ever. Book 2 may not hit the highs of its predecessor, but it still delivers one of the better X-Men reads out there.

In this second and final Ultimate Collection, Emma Frost’s treacherous behaviour comes full circle and the team head off to outer space to stop the Breakworld from destroying Earth. Both of these stories build off of events that took place in the first book with varying success. Torn, the first one featured here, is not only the weakest in the book, but the weakest of their series. There are a few great and shocking moments here, though they don’t string together very well and the thread is abruptly ended and unresolved. I think Whedon tried to get too clever in spots with the mind games, which makes watching the gang fall apart here a bit of a mess.

Thankfully, he redeems himself with Unstoppable, which is an epic battle between the X-Men and the aliens on Breakworld. At times, the story trips on itself due to all the events it has to account for that lead to this point, but there are no shortage of high points in this one. In particular, Scott proves why he’s the leader of the X-Men even after he’s lost his power and someone on the team delivers makes a gigantic play in the end that took me aback when I saw it. Whedon has a knack for making these characters shine their brightest, which is on full display here.

John Cassaday’s clean art is consistently great throughout. My favourite part of visuals though is the colour work. All of the panels pop in a way that brings life and tone to the scene with the right colour choices. It’s neat how the colours can bring out the foreignness of this alien world in some scenes or add to the mood in more intimate moments between lovers.

Part of what made the first Astonishing X-Men Ultimate Collection so good was that it had the benefit of starting with a relatively clean slate and told stories that weren’t bogged down by past lore. In Book 2, some of the past lore from the first book does hurt it a bit as they try – and sometimes fail – at resolving everything in play. Having said that, the final act of this book is a worthy payoff for sticking with the series from the beginning. It’s a shame that Whedon and Cassaday didn’t carry on longer, or that they never quite reached the stellar quality of Gifted with their remaining story arcs, but both books together make for a few great hours of X-Men reading.

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