Astonishing X-Men 2: Dangerous by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday: B

From the back cover:
A tragic death at the Xavier Institute reveals a powerful enemy living among the X-Men that they could never have suspected—and no, it’s not Magneto.

Things heat up in a way none of the X-Men ever dreamed, but will teamwork save the day when they can’t even depend on themselves?

You know those episodes of Buffy where the supernatural threat is pretty dumb, and yet the episode is worth watching because of the amusing dialogue and the good character work going on? Well, the second arc of Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run is just like that.

In a nutshell, at some point in time, the Danger Room, used to train the X-Men by putting them through all manner of dangerous situations, became sentient, thanks to a contradiction in its programming that ordered it to kill the X-Men and yet stop short of killing them. Professor Xavier was aware of this development but ignored it, essentially keeping the sentient room trapped there to do his bidding. Now it’s gained enough control that it’s able to wreak some havoc, and eventually fashions itself a body to facilitate its revenge.

While I definitely appreciate the morally grey implications of Xavier’s actions (or inaction) and Peter’s response to same—Peter, aka Colossus, who has just been rescued from years spent as a prisoner/experiment himself—I just couldn’t get very interested in this scenario. Perhaps I wasn’t meant to, though: Joss is beginning to spin out a few plot threads that are obviously meant to continue for some time and possibly just needed to give his characters something to do in order to get those ideas across. Of chief importance is the question of where Emma Frost’s loyalties truly lie, since it’s heavily implied here that she’s feeding information to someone else. There’s also the issue of Agent Brand, who believes that the death of the X-Men is necessary to protect the planet from vengeful aliens, and who has an unknown mole on the inside at Xavier Academy.

On a more personal front, there’s also the awkwardness between Kitty and Peter to deal with, since she’s concerned that she has scared him off with her emotional response to his rescue. I love how Whedon shows Peter in battle against a monster while his thoughts distract him (“I am riding a monster’s nostrils. I really should concentrate.”), followed by Kitty in battle while her thoughts distract her (“Came on too strong…”), followed by Wolverine in battle, absolutely free of mental interference (“I really like beer.”).

Kitty continues to be a likeable character: she’s smart, capable, and determined to fight, even though her particular brand of abilities brands her as a noncombatant. John Cassaday’s character design for her is terrific, too, and must be commended for its consistency in a medium where lack of same seems the norm. She’s definitely pretty, but it’s a very normal sort of pretty. I do continue to hear a lot of Buffy in her dialogue, as in this exchange…

Emma Frost: (in response to Cyclops getting all commandy) I positively throb when he gets that tone.

Kitty: Your not saying that would be nifty.

…but it made me giggle, so I can’t really complain too much.

In the end, this arc has a relatively humdrum plot that nonetheless has an impact on character relationships and sows some seeds of distrust amongst the team. As Angel proved (most notably in season four), this will likely not end well.

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