Review by Frank Plowright
After the comparative disappointment of Dangerous, Joss Whedon reapplies his full attention to the X-Men with Torn, starting off by displaying exactly what it is one of the world’s most powerful telepaths brings to the team and to a relationship. Emma Frost has always been presented as morally ambivalent, and we have an indication of her real character as the X-Men are again challenged by her first allies, the Hellfire Club.
This, though, is a reconstituted Hellfire Club, deliberately distanced from the fetishists of old and returned to their original agenda. Sebastian Shaw is the only original member, although other familiar faces play a part.
John Cassaday continues his visually impressive run. Much of the story requires him to illustrate unusual facets of the core X-Men team, and he manages this without skipping a beat. We have the savage Beast, the skimpering, timorous Wolverine, and the vengeful Kitty Pryde, even throwing in a homage to a classic scene from the Chris Claremont and John Byrne X-Men.
While all the Hellfire Club to-do is taking place, Whedon has a second plot running in the background. Interestingly, Ord, the dim but belligerent alien from Gifted had a greater purpose, but appears to have unwittingly unleashed the predicted mutant-related galactic holocaust he intended to nip in the bud by wiping out all mutants. This doesn’t come to fruition until Unstoppable.
So, back to the Hellfire Club, who have a couple of surprising members, and there are occasions here when events take a head-scratching turn, but keep in mind we’re dealing with several people well capable of mental manipulation. It’s no big secret to reveal the X-Men recover from their temporary states, but the manner in which Whedon arranges for this is simply joyful.
This is a bravura performance all round, and the highlight of Whedon’s X-Men run. There’s quite the shock ending as well, which moves us into Unstoppable.
Whedon and Cassaday’s entire run is also available in the oversize hardback Astonishing X-Men by Josh Whedon. Alternatively, Torn and Unstopplable are united as Astonishing X-Men By Joss Whedon & John Cassaday Ultimate Collection Book 2.