This is my favorite page in all of comics. This is page 95 in Astonishing X-Men: Gifted. Four panels. No words. Everything said.
Even if you know nothing about the X-Men I think we can at least agree the art here is gorgeous. John Cassaday is one of my favorite artist working today. I think these four panels demonstrate why. The lighting is consistent, his characters extremely realistic and yet some how maintaining a distinct "comic book feel", and there is action.
Obviously, that's not the only reason why this is my favorite page ever. Art alone wouldn't elevate a single page to a level where I felt compelled to blog about it. It's also Joss Whedon's writing. (Yes, I know there are no words on this page.) The writing and the art come together in this insane magical way that happens every now and then in a comic book. Cassaday draws this scene so perfectly that it tells Whedon's story without the need for words.
But there's another factor here. There is the back story which rewards the readers "in the know", yet doesn't alienate the new.
If you do know about the X-Men you'll recognize these two as Kitty Pryde and Piotr Rasputin (better known as Colossus). Kitty can turn herself intangible. She can walk through walls, or as we're seeing here, allow bullets and people to move through her. Piotr, who without his power is an intimidating force. A tall, hulking, strong-jawed Russian that can turn himself into steel.
Kitty and Piotr dated. They fell in love. It was one of the sweeter and better of the comic book romances. Then Piotr died. I won't go into how or why or all that here. I hope you'll trust me when I say his death was very comic book-y (not that that's a bad thing). But for all intents and purposes—to the readers and to Kitty he died.
In the story Gifted that this page is taken from the X-Men invade a base. I don't want to get into the story because that's not why we're here. All you need to know is that they invade a base. Kitty gets separated and gets into real danger. Clearly there are men with guns shooting at her. But right as they get to her she also discovers the prison that's been holding the love of her life whom she thought was dead.
What we see on Piotr's face here is worry and concern. His love is under attack. Kitty's face is full of shock and confusion. She thought this man was dead. And without a single word spoken Piotr chargers forward through her. And that is the thing that makes this so special to me. There is no dialogue spoken. There is no plan of attack. There is no Claremont style expose on what happened, is happening, and will happen. There is only two faces and bullets flying at them. And without a single word spoken there is an understanding. An understanding that only two people who've been deeply in love know. He charges directly at the enemies knowing she will simply let him phase through her. He charges off to defend the woman he loves who is under attack. The irony here is she doesn't need defending at all. She can stand there all day and let the bullets or anything for that matter pass through her. Piotr could stand there and get shot or punched by these guards and they wouldn't do anything. He charges at them to defend her because how dare someone shoot at the woman he loves. How dare someone think they have the right to attempt to harm the love of his life. And as he runs off to save her Kitty stands there with this blank expression of shock on her face and does one single motion.
She covers her heart.