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As much as I’d love to say that I’m still into comics as much I was in the mid to late 90s, I know that’d be a flat out lie. It used to be that I’d stop by my local comic shop on a monthly basis and pick up all the new issues of Spawn or The X-Men. Now, I’ll be lucky if I pick up a graphic novel of Moon Knight at Midtown Comics once a year. My consumption of comics has definitely diminished, and the recent movies in theaters can only go so far. With their modern outfits and clingy relationship to the real world, they don’t fully capture the spirit of the comics. In truth, for me they feel like big Hollywood productions for the general public rather than the true fans, which is a bummer for those who are true fans.
Luckily for me and all the other comic nerds of yore, Marvel and DC have been putting out animated DVDS that go deeper into the mythology of the characters. I’ve especially enjoyed many of the Marvel Knights DVDS, like Black Panther and Thor. Surprisingly, though, I hadn’t picked up any of the Astonishing X-Men movies, so this fourth one in the series, Unstoppable, is my first, which kind of sucks because it’s actually the last in the series. The story is pieced together in a very good, episodic manner, so I don’t really feel like I’m missing much. It’s kind of like reading the tail end of a comic saga, which is apropos, since that’s what it’s meant to feel like. Way to go, Marvel.
What really lured me to review the set, though, is the fact that it’s written by Joss Whedon--which is always a treat. Like all of his work, from Buffy on down to The Avengers, the real pleasure here is not in how much action there is, but how well the characters talk to each other. And that’s never been truer than it is here, as some of the fan favorite characters (including Wolverine and Beast) talk with more snap and pop than fans would be prone to hearing them speak regularly. It really gives the characters a great deal of added depth. My personal favorite line comes from Emma Frost, who has the ability to transform herself into diamond. After a critical loss to the team (well, kind of), she tells Kitty Pryde, the X-Men member who’s trying to console her, “I’m a diamond, Ms. Pryde. I am, by definition, my own best friend.” I mean, seriously, Joss Whedon is a genius in the dialogue department. He has no equal.
Unfortunately, story-wise, though, this disc isn’t that great, and I don’t think it’s just because I’m catching it at the end of the saga. This particular disc focuses on the X-Men on a distant planet, with Colossus being the central catalyst to all the major events that follow. He’s seen as a messiah in this tale, and his role is integral to the events that follow. His role may be why I’m not too fond of the story, since I’ve never been a big fan of the metal man. That said, each of these episodes, which run about 10 minutes in length each, leave off with great cliffhangers. However, the story built around them is a bit shabby, as it tries to fit in too many characters rather than focusing more on the plot.
In that way, I kind of miss the plot heavy, characters-come-second episodes from the 90s X-Men cartoons that used to air on Fox (“Covered with scorpions,” and all that jazz). On that show, you got a lot of X-Men, but also more story for your buck, and that’s what I feel is missing here. The story seems to come second to the witty dialogue. It could be much tighter. So, while I do love seeing Spider-man and Dr. Strange pop in for a visit, I kind of feel like there’s more fan service here than actual story-telling. It’s a little lopsided.
I’m also not a big fan of the artwork or how the characters move in Astonishing X-Men. Drawn by John Cassaday, the action isn’t as fluid as it was in Black Panther. The X-Men move like the characters in the old MTV cartoon, The Maxx (which was based off of my favorite comic, by the way). The animation worked for that series, but it doesn’t really work here. From the panels to my mind, the X-Men always moved with a sort of electric quickness to them, which is kind of stifled by this sort of animation style. It deflates the episodes for me. It’s a cool effort, but I would have wanted something more, fluid.
There are also no special features whatsoever on this disc. You get the episodes and that’s it. It’s kind of a drag. When push comes to shove, I really want Marvel to keep making these episodic DVDs. This may not be one of my favorites, but I’m still glad I watched it. If you want to get that tingly feeling from reading the X-Men again but don’t have time to head to a comic store, go ahead and pick up the series. Its likeness to the comics is uncanny.
Starring:Wolverine, Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Colossus
Directed by:Joss Whedon
Created by: Joss Whedon