Thursday, February 08, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 120

[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.]

This issue begins just like the last one -- the cover is a fantastic Quitely image of a sexy Jean Grey, the first page is Kordey's dumpy Wolverine, covered with Angel's strawberry milkshake. That could be funny, but I think it is disappointing. The giant title card on the next page spread is a design disaster, especially compared to Quitely's elegant and reversible New X-Men logo.

We have a scene of a U-Man who does not want to cut Cyclops's head off; seeing these guys as nervous foot soldiers brings the story down a notch, lessening the High Drama, but it is interesting to see these guys as regular people, I suppose (though very little is done with it in the end). We have some language in this scene we will see again: "Our rules are post-human rules ... a whole new humanity." These lines are much less interesting in the mouths of the bad guys, but Xavier will take them up soon.

I am confused as to how the U-Men can know about Cerebra but not anticipate how powerful Jean Grey is going to be -- they can "switch [their] minds to 'off'" (not Morrison's best line), but they seem unprepared to deal with simple telekinesis. Morrison gives the impression that these guys are just a bunch of jerks, which is less exciting than giving the X-Men threats they deserve, threats like Casandra Nova in the third issue. The U-Men even say that mutants don't feel pain, which is a crummy racist cliche, realistic and lame. I want to say that a villain such Magneto is better because his ideology is more seductive and interesting, but Morrison's Magneto (so often intelligent and subtle) will turn this around, and claim ordinary humans don't feel any pain. These guys don't have an ideology at all -- if someone can explain to me the connection between a germ free life sealed off from the fallen world, and transplanting organs from mutants they consider cattle into their own bodies, I would like to hear it. Morrison's X-Men have still not found their post-sexy ideology either -- Scott says "We're X-Men, not vigilantes," which is confusing, since they bombed that facility in China. How is that not taking the law into your own hands? Morrison has lost his center, and is now writing an unfocused mess.

A pop-sexy X-Men should have grand villains they can look great fighting; Morrison is up to something else -- he wants to bring these characters down to earth, so characters such as a nervous girl with eight sets of lips on her neck confront a bunch of nervous racist jerks. When Jean Grey gets involved her telekinesis -- which is powered by the cosmic strength of the Phoenix and later in the book we will learn can manipulate mater on the molecular level -- is used to make the U-Men throw up in their helmets, and shit their pants. I see how that is funny, in the abstract, but, like Preacher, it is not the kind of funny I am looking for -- it seems juvenile behavior from the people Morrison wants us to see as the future of humanity on earth here and now. Bad art makes this worse -- and Kordey is especially rushed here, reusing his own art whenever he can, and drawing very ugly faces on Jean Grey when she should look like an alien goddess.

When Mr. Sublime falls of the building it is a weak end to a bad villain. I don't know if it is Kordey or Morrison's decision to bring the whole thing down to an even lower level by having his toupee fall off just before he falls, but it is cartoonish, cliched, lame, and better suited to the tone of a movie like One Crazy Summer.


Ping33 said...

The Mutant Vs Man war is an anachronism of the past. The true struggle is Mutant Vs Mutant.

The U-Men are a 3rd rate bunch of Racist AIM Wannabes confined to a 3 issue arc of Grant Morrison's famed (and infamous) run on X-Men remembered best for its lack-luster hastily-drawn fill-in Art.

Mitch said...

I've always wished to see what Quietly would have done with the pants pooping and Phoenix exploding scene.

Geoff Klock said...

Ping: I do not know what to make of your comment. Are you agreeing with me? Or are you saying that I should not get hung up on the U-Men because they are such a small part of the run as a whole, and that since the issues have bad art everyone should forget about them? This is the second time today you have told me I am not seeing the big picture (I also missed the big picture on 52). Do you think I should not talk about the U-Men in these issues? or not review these issues at all? Or review them more quickly and cut them some slack ("NXM 120 is forgetable, a mere three issues, and it will get good soon")?

Only on the internet do I have to say this but I am really asking and not trying to start a fight.

Ping33 said...

No, I am agreeing with you.
But also trying to put these issues into context. I think they are the lowpoint of the whole run... though they have some interesting thematic ideas, they flounder in execution.
Time to put them into the dustbin and move on to the issue which brings back NeW-X-MeN as a creative force

Fo said...

the elegant reversible NEW X-MEN logo was designed by Morrison himself a year before he took the writing job... fyi.

Matt Brady said...

Interesting analysis, Geoff, as usual. You noted that in later issues Xavier uses the same language as the U-Men about being post-human. I wonder if this is what ultimately led to the current depiction of Xavier (in Astonishing X-Men and X-Men: Deadly Genesis) as an amoral manipulator?

I remember thinking this was better than you make it sound the last time I read it. It does seem pretty cliche, especially the stuff about the racist U-Men saying mutants feel no pain. Maybe if they had been developed better, we could see how this might be a rationalization of their actions, along the lines of what some Germans must have done during the Holocaust. But here it comes off as an easy way to make the bad guys more eeevil.

One thing you didn't mention is Jean's manifestation of the Phoenix powers during the big standoff. That seemed like a pretty big deal at the time, and does kick off later Morrison storylines. I thought (going by memory again here) Kordey pulled it off as effectively as he could. I also liked Wolverine's line, something along the lines of "Jeannie, the last time you lit up like that, the whole universe caught on fire."

So, yeah, not an especially good arc, which is unfortunate considering it is still early in the run. Is the next one the silent issue in which Jean and Emma go into Xavier's mind?

Matt Brady said...

One more note: you mention the cover image of Jean Grey stopping the projectiles telekinetically; does it bother anyone else that this is the cover used for the collection of the "Riot at Xavier's" storyline? That storyline doesn't start until six or seven issues later, I think. Why not use one of the covers from that arc?

Matt Brady said...

I was thinking about the "mutants feel no pain" thing, and I don't think it fits the U-Men very well at all. Don't they want to become mutants? Again, maybe it's meant to be a rationalization, but it still makes little sense.

Geoff Klock said...

Fo: thanks, I did not know that.

Matt: I don't have much to say about Jean as Phoenix -- that's just what she does every once and a while. I think it would have been a better scene if there had been a better bad guy and a better artist. Kordey did the best he could, I suppose, but that is not much of a nice thing to say, given how rushed he was.

I didn't even notice that was the cover (I have the issues). Weird.