Review by Frank Plowright
So, several years previously a precognitive among an alien race from a place called Breakworld identified a coming catastrophe on a galactic scale that would be somehow caused by a mutant from Earth. To them that was a minor problem, the solution being to wipe out all mutants on Earth. We saw how that went in Gifted. The questions posed early in Unstoppable are “Who in the world could destroy such a mighty and merciless race, and who in the world could save us?” In the first instance it doesn’t appear as if it’s going to be the X-Men.
This is Joss Whedon’s space opera; the desperate few against a hostile, aggressive and merciless planet. Their are two simultaneous missions, one to locate and disable a missile that could destroy Earth and the other is to figure out the truth of the augur’s prophecy, and how it might come about. When Whedon was in similar territory with the Firefly TV show it was very accomplished, but Unstoppable drifts in places without maintaining the tension and the epic, desperate feel dissipates.
There is quite a bit of cleverness: the way a scene is later recontextualised, and immediately after a moment that was inevitable, but well planted; there’s some elegant deceit in the final chapter, and a suitable sacrificial ending from which the passage of time has drawn the sting.
John Cassaday’s depiction of an alien world is every bit as impressive as his Earth scenarios, particularly the stone artwork that’s the punchline to some of Whedon’s jokey dialogue and the subsequent arrival of Wolverine. In Torn he drew a homage to an iconic Wolverine image, and here he creates his own with a glorious shot of Wolverine on a hovering space cycle. That’s all the more impressive when considering how many artists have drawn the character over the years. Beyond that, his battle scenes are spectacular, with no stinting on numbers.
The four volumes of Joss Whedon’s X-Men blow hot and cold. It’s not sustained greatness, but there have been plenty worse, and when he’s good, he’s excellent. Come in with expectations set below the initial hype and you’re likely to be satisfied with a largely solid run and some great art.
Whedon and Cassaday’s run is also available in two hardbacks with unwieldy titles. The oversize hardback Astonishing X-Men by Josh Whedon & John Cassaday Omnibus gathers their entire run, and this is collected along with the previous Torn in Astonishing X-Men By Joss Whedon & John Cassaday Ultimate Collection Book 2.