Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Grant Morrison’s New X-Men 114 (Part Two of Two)

[This post is part of series of posts looking at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run issue by issue; click on the "New X-Men" label at the bottom of this post to read all the entries.]

Morrison wastes no time making the book his own. The Beast is redesigned – for good or ill it lets you know right of the bat nothing is sacred and everything can change, an exhilarating feeling to get from an X-Men comic book mired in years of unchanging continuity. Plus we get real banter: “Soda?” “Diet please.” “Diet? You weigh six hundred pounds.” “So? Do I want to get fat? I do a lot of leaping around.” We get Morrison at his unhinged best, when the Beast says “I feel like a Hindu sex god, Jean.”

Cerebra is clearly explained and elegantly designed, as is the X-Jet, with a sensibility not unlike the WE3 armor.

The design for Ugly John, as I mentioned in my book, is taken from an Australian Skiing magazine; Quitely uses hip sources even when going for ugly.

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With the Tommy Hilfigure uniforms the whole concept is re-imagined from the ground up: Morrison goes so far as to boldly assert that the X-Men never were superheroes, and thus should dress accordingly.
Morrison makes the whole concept dangerous again, and to mark the occasion gives Xavier a gun. Those who objected this being out of character missed the point: for Morrison the gun less of a steel weapon and more of a metaphor for violent change, which is why the final cover of the Invisibles is a hand with a gun.

The very first page of Morrison's run shows Wolverine ripping up a sentinel and Cyclops dryly remarking “You can probably stop doing that” – it is an indictment of decades of repetitive, redundant X-Men continuity. Just as the book opens with a metaphor for time past it closes with a metaphor for time future: Cassandra Nova says “imagine self made sentinels, using spare parts to evolve themselves into more effective forms.” The X-Men have always been about survival and Morrison wants to make them survive by using the past -- often piecemeal -- to evolve the book into a more effective form. This first issue is an incredibly strong start.


Kyle said...

and this is why this was the best run bar none

Ping33 said...

Wow, you said a lot of good things in the two posts about this book without hitting much on my favourite element which was also fairly controversial (though overshadowed by the Beast) namely the transformation of the Sentinels from giant controllable robots to semi-autonomous organic machines of whom the most dangerous are the nanoscopic ones.
Reading stuff like Marvels (again for last month's CGS BOTM) I'm reminded what a great image it is to see a Soviet Propaganda inspired sky full of Sentinels with their chest lights on, but that's it. That's what they do. They show up en masse and still get their robotic asses handed to them. I like Geoff's theme of evolution and would add that what this evolution reintegrates into the mix is a overall feeling of danger. It's really neat to see that purple splotched sky but we know what's going to happen at the end of that story. This one we're not so sure about.

Geoff Klock said...

Kyle: I just want to warn you that I think the run, on the whole has massive problems. They just don't show up in the first three issues.

Ping: very true. The nano-sentinels are fantastic. I wish we could have seen more of the bush sentinels, though.

Marc Caputo said...

Really good stuff, Geoff - you've got to go for the long haul here. I'm inspired to take a similar stab at Loeb's Superman/Batman run.

You mention Morrison's characters rationalizing the rejection of costumes; this is another example (like the ones I'd mentioned in the posts for Satacracy, ep. 5) of a narrative solution for a production dilemma. Here, the problem was that the X-costumes would have looked stupid onscreen (they even make a joke of that in the first film!) so there had to be a synonomous change in the books for those wading in from the movies to comics.

I remember feeling betrayed by Whedon's feeble resoning for putting the uniforms back on - it's the only piece of his run that smells of editorial interference. Granted, he delivers it with his trademark style ("Frankly, the leather was starting to make people nervous.") but, still.

Once again, great stuff.

neilshyminsky said...

marc - Two small things.

First, the first movie came out during Claremont's return run (i said it was a small thing, right?).

Second, i think that there's a certain ironic undercutting of Cyclops' speech in AXM 1 in AXM 7, which i'd argue is the finest issue of the series. Recall how Cyclops comes to realize that the X-Men will never be accepted as superheroes like the Fantastic Four? Whether Whedon was forced to bring the costumes back or not, he does it on his own terms and makes it clear that their return is either a symptom of Cyclops' denial over the public's refusal to accept the X-Men or, conversely, he is aware of this problem and the costumes are a performative gesture. Given that he has reverted to the NXM look, I'd wager that it was the former.

Geoff Klock said...

Marc and Neil: yeah, it is interesting that Whedon's return to costumes was feeble and now they are mostly gone, replaced by loose versions of Quitely's uniforms or just street clothes.

Marc Caputo said...

Neil: Yes, you are correct. I read Morrison's run retroactively - I jumped on between the 6th and 7th arc (Planet X and Here Comes Tomorrow), so I never read Claremont's return run.

But if I'm not mistaken, the costumes were dumped by Morrison. In the back if the first HC, Morrison states his "manifesto"; one of his points is to "...get rid of the costumes...the first movie had it almost right..." And so, it was up to Morrison to create a narrative reason for a production concern.

I'm not arguing; I'm just clarifying my point. Also, on the topic of Morrison - over at (where I write for a column called "Indie Focus" - shameless plug!) a guy named Timothy Callhan has a Morrison column, which he's turning into a book. It will be available at the NYCC in late February.

toothpick said...

don't have much to say, Geoff, other than keep it up. i want to see you reach the finish line with this one.

Geoff Klock said...

Marc: thanks for the link.

Toothpick: thanks.

Matt Brady said...

I remember reading that the return of costumes at the beginning of Whedon's run was because of an editorial decree, which is probably why it was sort of a small thing that Whedon made a joke of, and also why it has been dropped once Whedon got moving on his run.

Christian said...

(I haven't gotten a copy of your book yet, but I've been backtrack your blog the last couple of days due to your excellent podcast dialog with Matt Fraction.)

Ugly John, aside from being based off something from an Australian Skiing Magazine is also a part of the major theme of change. He has three faces like the Roman God, Janus, who is the God of doors, gateways and beginning and ends ie. change. And like Morrison implies throughout the series, sometimes evolution and change is ugly.