Writer: Joss Whedon
Artists: John Cassady and Laura Martin
Collects Astonishing X-Men vol.3 13-18
Publisher: Marvel
Publication date: 2007

Whedon switches on the big gear! The Hellfire’s Club attacks and Emma’s situation is revealed.

The story starts more quietly with Wolverine training the youngsters in the former Danger room, and Kitty and Peter getting closer. Emma and the Club are meeting and discussing thing in the mansion (which is a clue that all is not as it seems). Only Shaw and Frost are left from the original club; the others are new. Cassandra Nova is back and pushing Emma to action. Then Emma and the Club attack the X-Men in their mansion.

The first victim is poor, tortured Scott. Emma twists his mind until he’s just a drooling catatonic and then pretends that she doesn’t know what happened. She also cuts Scott’s connection to his power. Then Nova makes Henry a beast by suppressing his human side, Shaw takes out Peter, the Negasonic Teenage Warhead sends Kitty to Earth’s core, and Emma reverts Logan to his young self before he was a superhero or even knew that he was a mutant. Then Kitty comes back to take on the whole club.

Meanwhile, Agent Brand and the S.W.O.R.D. finally finds out which of the X-Men is going to destroy Breakworld. Danger allies herself with Ord and they escape to kill the X-Men. (Again.)

Cassandra Nova is back! She’s creepy as hell and is used well in the story. I freely admit that the new Club members were confusing, however, considering who they were, that’s was entirely understandable. The new characters wouldn’t have introduced themselves and their powers because (spoiler!). I also find “Perfection” fascinating? Is Emma having a schizophrenic breakdown?

I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve even been sympathetic to Emma. Here she carries around a lot of guilt and remorse for the things she’s done and also for everything she’s survived in the past. In a true X-Men fashion she’s just buried the feelings deep instead of handling them.

OTOH, I really loathed the way that she manipulated Scott, using the images of Jean and Logan. I also find it a bit hard to believe that after everything Scott has done and seen, he’s still insecure about his abilities and even about his place as a leader. A younger Scott, maybe, but this is the man who has successfully lead the X-Men against so many threats, and not just on Earth, that surely he knows his capabilities by now. I’m fascinated by his lack of power now; hopefully that will show to him that he can be a leader even without his powers. However, I can believe that he’s very frustrated about his lack of control over his power, and that he’s lived his whole live in fear and controlling his optic blasts. Poor Scott.

Kitty and Peter get together, but knowing Whedon that didn’t last long. The start of issue 17 was heartbreaking when Emma/Cassandra created a false future for Kitty where she and Peter were married, and had a son. Emma used that to force Kitty to free Cassandra. So, once again Emma abused Kitty.

Hisako Ichiki is a student who has a larger role in this trade and most likely in the next one, too. We’re getting strong hints that she might be the next X-Men. However, Blindfold, who can apparently see into the future, said that not everyone would return to the space adventure in the next trade. Since all the other characters who were beamed off are established ones, I think that poor Hisako is going to die.

The trade ends in a cliffhanger when the X-Men, Hisako, Ord, and Danger are teleported away.

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