[this post is part of a series of posts looking at Grant Morrison's New X-Men; to read the rest of the posts, just click the New X-Men label at the end of this post.]
In the comments to my post about New X-Men 118, Ping made a very sound objection: I have been complaining that Morrison abandoned his call – visible in the first three issues and the manifesto – for pop-sexy X-Men; a work should be judged on its own merits, and since Morrison has left pop-sexy behind, I should too. Otherwise I will be like the person that complains that the Sopranos is a poor role model for children, as if the show is attempting to be a good role model for children and failing miserably.
But I can’t drop the pop-sexy X-Men idea because Morrison has not yet properly abandoned it. It still hovers around spoiling whatever direction he wants to replace it with (possibly the virtues of freaky, ugly, useless mutant children). Morrison has not changed directions – he has adopted a new direction in addition to the old one, and the two are pulling each other apart. The evidence is the juxtaposition of the cover for 119 and its interior.
The cover is Quitely at his fashion cool best: Angel looks like a hip-hop star – her name is on her helmet in graffiti, she has at least eight rings on, and a fantastic pair of shoes to go with the outfit. She is confident, powerful, and hovers over a mass of normal and freaky people she has either left behind, or who stand with her in solidarity.
In the issue Kordey – whose vastly inappropriate ugly art style I have already blogged about – will draw her vomiting on her food in a diner while she bitches like the worst kind of high school girl and crashes into stuff. At the time I thought the cover was a vision of what she would become in the course of Morrison’s story, but in retrospect we know she will never wear that outfit or stand that cool. My objection is not just that the art in the issue makes everyone look horrible and crummy – it is that the cover looks so cool, and the issue – like the run – breaks under the stress of violently conflicting artistic temperaments.
Mr. Sublime is still a silly villain -- giving Emma a signed copy of his book as an insult is just dumb -- but Morrision does give him two brilliant lines in the same scene: he says to Emma “maybe we could split you into living shards and turn you into some kind of kinky chandelier” and “liquid diamond lipstick: heck of a good name for a band.” Sublime setting off Cyclops’s visor causing it to shoots the crotch of a statue of David, is juvenile and lame, but the scene where Jean feels the presence of something “crawling around the edges of our lives” is haunting, simple, and powerful. Morrison writes a beautiful and sad story for the guy who owns the diner – whose wife was killed in childbirth delivering a baby with mutant spikes – but also writes a very strange moment where Jean calls the police when the U-Men attack. Really? The one woman army calls the cops? Who will defend the school with, what, guns (tear gas won’t work since the guys are in self contained suits)? And, in a repeat of the end of last issue, we end on a bizarre anti-climax, the U-Men attacking the school led by Jean Grey (who Sublime dismisses as “one uppity redhead”): we have not established the U-Men as nearly scary or powerful enough to justify our worrying about Jean Grey for the next 30 days, and Sublime’s pointless overconfidence here does not help. The art pulls in two directions (one awful), and Morrison’s writing runs hot and cold.