An Astonishing idea

With the release of Astonishing X-Men #13 last week, I decided to re-read the original 12-issue “season” of Joss Whedon’s take on mutantdom. I’d remembered enjoying it greatly at the time, but much had passed in the world of comics between issues 12 and 13. Most notable, as far as Marvel is concerned, was House of M, of course, which re-jiggered the world, losing most of its mutants.

When I flipped through those first issues of Astonishing, it was just as good as I remembered. Whedon easily found the feel of the glory days of X-Men. He paced the issues well. He held back surprises, then played them perfectly. My jaw has never dropped so low as when Kitty ran smack into the long-dead Colossus (my favorite X-Man).

Beyond all that, Whedon introduced an incredible, nay, astonishing idea: that mutants suffered a disease, one that could be cured. That concept threatened to make the world of mutants interesting once again, after it had become muddled in the creation of thousands and millions of mutants (which made the X-Men all the less special). Now, here was something that would almost certainly cut down the mutants vastly. How many would sign themselves up to be cured? How many bad mutants would be forced to take the cure by governments or “good” mutants? These were mutant stories I wanted to read.

Then, the storyline suddenly changed in the arc’s second half to follow a rather simple good guy versus bad guy tale, one that was still enjoyable but nowhere near as interesting as what had come before. And issue #13 picked up not with the mutant cure, but with the re-creation of the Hellfire Club and the implication that Emma Frost is still one wicked witch.

This is purely conjecture, but is it really a coincidence that Whedon’s mutant cure faded away just as House of M was about to heat up? So, instead of the complicated yet interesting tales that would’ve come with mutants battling with the cure to themselves, we had the Scarlet Witch, with one sentence, wiping almost every mutation off the planet. Simple, easy, directive accomplished.

Now, wouldn’t you think that “blink” and all the mutants disappear, not long after a cure for mutants is announced, would raise some eyebrows? But, of course, there’s been no mention of a mutant cure since House of M. Maybe the
Scarlet Witch dreamed that out of existence as well.