Monday, February 05, 2007

Grant Morrison’s New X-Men 119

[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.


Coligo said...

Kordey's art is unfortunately a major dissappointment throughout, but I felt that Morrisons writing and plot were strong enough for me to look past it. Like X-men 3, Batman Forever and Terminator 3, I guess its one of those sad moments when the absolutely wrong man is picked for the job and we're left wondering what could have been if the original creative team had been left to it.

Sublime was never a great villain for me, but I do think he benefits a lot when viewed in hindsight. Knowing where the run will go instils these earlier scenes with a sense of foreboding. But first time round, yeah, he was a bit silly. The U-Men themselves were, I felt, a brilliant idea and well executed for the most part. A creepy human cult that unfortunately probably would exist in the real world if mutants did.

As far as your point about Jean calling the police goes, isn't it possible that now that they've been outed she wants to do things by the book. Or even try and get a little sympathy from humans by drawing attention to the persecution they suffer.

I collected Morrisons run in trades as they came out, I never read the individual issues. I wonder how that affected my reading of moments like the climax of this issue. Jean's feeling sick, none of the other x-men are about and the U-Men have yet to really prove themselves in combat. You're right, its a bind but we've seen far worse in these very pages already.

Ping33 said...

I'll have more to say later when I'm at home and have the issue in front of me... but I did reread it when I reread the last one to comment here and the Cafe Owner's story raises one huge question with me... a Baby with mutant spikes? I thought the Mutant Gene was tied to puberty.

Ping33 said...

Thinking about the Cover:Interior schism... perhaps the dychotomy is the point.
That there are 3 ways to see mutants seems to be a theme.

First there is the Uber-cool/Supermodel(and supermodern) view that is held mostly by the readers.

Second there is the view of the citizens of the 616 that Mutants are Sub-human perversions .

Finally there is the mutants view of themselves which varies widely. Which is all based in the reality of being a mutant.

For me this is the main thing which sets apart Morrison's run from all which proceeded it. If Claremont and Byrne had introduced Angel she would have more quickly become the cover image. In Morrison's run, she never really does. Because the reality of the situation is more present.
Under all the other X-men runs each mutant is "special" and all X-men are noble (aside from soap-opera betrayal.) In Morrison's NeW-X-MeN Mutants are legion (like the hordes on the cover behind Angel) This single idea, and the way he plays through WHAT THAT MEANS is the sum joy of this series for me.

Geoff Klock said...

Coligo: forgive me for repeating myself, but I don’t want to have to look past the art. I am a little unclear – when people point out to me that they look past the art, is the idea that when I am judging a comic book with bad art I should not talk about it? I don’t mean for this question to sound loaded; I am really asking.

Coligo: I don’t think he does benefit much from hindsight – even if the ultimate form of Sublime is one of Morrison’s best ideas (and it is) that does not save this character and the stupid things he does (and I will have more to say about that). The U-Men just are not scary enough for me, though they have a heck of a lot of potential, and are a great idea.

You are right: it is POSSIBLE that that is why Jean calls the police. But possible is not good enough: Morrison has a story to tell and he needs to make the elements clear for it to work. It’s like my undergraduates and proofreading: I can figure out what they mean through all their spelling and grammar problems, but I should not have to – they need to express themselves clearly.

Ping: yeah, I think it is mostly puberty related, but I am not sure that is exclusive, so it didn’t surprise me. You could be right though.

I also think there is a difference between the Claremont Byrne cool and the hipster cool invoked by Morrison and Quitely, but I see your point. I just don’t see that he plays through “WHAT THIS MEANS” with any consistency, so I don’t love it as much as you do. But keep trying to convince me. I really enjoy this discussion. These New X-Men post comments have been really fun.

mitch said...

As usual, great commentary. These Kordey issues are all extremely forgetable. I don't have room in my memory for anything this ugly.
To complete my artwork remarks in regards to VanSciver:

Even the worst art in the Invisibles is better than Igor Kordey.

And I agree Geoff, his art has it's place. Just not here.

James said...

Re: the puberty stuff, I think they often make allowances for physical manifestations appearing at birth, Nightcrawler for instance.

Re: Morrison and bad art, how essential is Morrison's JLA run? I'm very interested, but nothing I've seen of the art (Howard Porter?) really does it for me. Or am I wrong and the art is awesome anyway?

Geoff Klock said...

Mitch: "I don't have room in my memory for anything this ugly."

Everybody who looks past the artwork in comics look at Mitch: Mitch gets it. Mitch understands. :)

I love everyone who reads the blog today. You guys keep me in a good mood.

Geoff Klock said...

James: I have heard people complain about Porter and Dell but I always liked them and think Morrison's JLA run is a must have. If you have not read it get JLA: Earth 2 because that is a picture perfect Morrison Quitely team up.

Marc Caputo said...

I just finished JLA:Earth 2 and absolutely loved it. Everything was great - I especially liked the part where Luthor says he decided to call the JLA's earth "Earth 2". This is a reference to some people's quibble that Earth-1 (pre-Crisis) should have been called Earth-2 as it was presented later in time. But both cases show how "we-centric" they are.

2 cents on the Kordey thing: no, it's not the best art, nor is it ever the best art for the story (like, you wouldn't want to read George Perez doing the X-Men because he's too "perfect" for them , but you can't say Perez isn't good.), but it's not god-awful like John Paul Leon's issue or two down the road.

Mitch said...

At the risk of losing all of my cool points for the Kordey thing, I need to say that I actually really like John Paul Leon's art. Earth X was the first big, sweeping thing I read as a young adult and it might have unfairly imprinted my taste. That said: I love his Xorn issue, which played to his strengths and is a perfect match artwise and I absolutely hated his later Beak issue, which played to all his weaknesses.

brad said...

Kordey must be the appropriate artist for SOMETHING. Does anyone have any recommendations? As an old fan of Textiera's Ghost Rider, I think I could like Kordey in the right context.

Geoff Klock said...

Brad: Cable was good, as I remember.

brad said...

Not to change the subjetc, but I can't wait for Free Form Thurs. New Grindhouse trailer is up:

Matt Brady said...

Kordey did decent art on Smoke, written by Alex DeCampi. Part of the problem with his New X-Men art is that he was working on a really tight schedule and doing several books at once, so his art was especially hurried. Of course, the other part of the problem is that his art doesn't fit the book very well, especially after following Quitely.

As for the "look past the art" issue, I think I am able to enjoy the story despite the art, but I don't want to ignore the art (so go ahead and talk about it, Geoff!). This is comics, and art is at least half of the equation. I can enjoy the story but still say that I wish it had been drawn by someone else.

I like Ping's description of Morrison's views of mutants, and that's an interesting way to see the dichotomy between the cover and the interior. Don't know if I agree with it though.

And Morrison't JLA is really good. I haven't read it in a while, but I didn't mind Porter's art the last time I looked at it. It may not be great, but it's definitely not bad either. And the stories are awesome, especially Prometheus and World War III. I remember Rock of Ages being confusing, but I'll have to reread it again and see if I can follow it better now.

Geoff Klock said...

Rock of Ages is the best. One of my favorite Morrison stories.

tony. said...

I read ROCK OF AGES on a plane when I was 17. I distinctly remember it "rocking" my world so hard that I let out a gasp midway through and sighed when I finished. Was it me or did Morrison really take Kyle Rayner to the next level?