Thursday, February 15, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 122

Quitely's cover is again fantastic, and strange: I am not quite sure what to make out of Lilandra's pose here, but I like it; it is very artificial, in a good way. I would love to know if it is based off of another image, but right now I have no guesses.

The Shi'ar are all fantastic characters, right up Morrison and Quitely's alley -- all crazy and alien, and weird. The Steersman losing control of the ship is a fantastic image to open with, and even minor details like a character activating "penta-vision" ("I can see around corners, through walls, into minds") or going into "4-Space" are great fun; Morrison always knows how to put an odd prefix in front of a normal word so that it makes sense, but becomes uncanny. Quitely does great, tall panels in this scene, and Nova saying "Become Insane for Me" to destroy someone is devastating. I want to read a whole Morrison-Quitely book with these guys.

Morrison has us enter the scene after Nova has already done most of her damage. On the one hand this is disappointing: I wanted to see the fight. On the other hand it shows a lot of balls: Morrison has established well that Nova is tough, and we will believe she simply ruined them; we don't have to see the fight. It is a daring choice and it works pretty well, I think.

Back with the X-Men, Emma announces that "the traditional human education system ... is to be scrapped" in favor of something more mutant. It is unclear what this will look like -- the only suggestion as to what will be different is feedback from students will be important, which is hardly a new idea. Later in the issue Scott and Jean have a fight; Jean is welcoming the new post-human changes at the school, but Scott fears they should not be acting like a master race. Jean is inspired by Charles's notes for the school but we don't get any idea what they are. Then we are told the world media is being invited to the school to see the unveiling of Charles new ideas, his last will and testament. If Nova is going to kill him he wants to make it work for him, and speak to the world. That is a beautiful moment, but we will never really hear these ideas except it small bits that do not seem interesting at all, like the glimpses of the show within a show on Studio 60. Morrison is a storyteller who is only playing at being a philosopher, at least so far. In the best line in this issue, Emma says "The whole world is watching us now. We must be nothing less than fabulous." (Thank god this was not a Kordey fill in, or unintentional irony would have ruined the scene). Morrison is fabulous, but it is all style over substance. More post-human ideas might be better, but the lack of them is forgivable, I think, at least in this issue. It will become more of a problem as we continue -- Morrison keeps suggesting he has these great post-human ideas; that he does not is OK, but he should stop claiming to to often, as it gets distracting.

We learn that Nova has carefully organized her attack and that it is STILL going according to plan -- she booby trapped her body so that when Charles was trapped in it he would have Alzheimer's, a motor neuron disease and "a new form of degenerative Creutzfeld Jacob disease." This is Morrison at his best; only he would see the body as a trap in this way. Nova will want to watch Charles die; since he has a week to live this gives us the time-line for her return (with a Shi'ar battleship), which is a nice touch.

Not so nice is the further confusion over what Nova actually is: she was born without a body of her own. Her mother's fall last issue, caused by her fighting back against Charles in the womb, must have killed Nova's body. So she is "living emotional energy, formless, immense and unique" that "improvised" a body using Charles's cells. This is a major and confusing shift in this character, much less interesting than the evolution idea when she first appeared that she was to mutants what mutants are to humans; also much more confusing than just being an evil twin. It also seems that without the body she created she will not have access to a "full range" of various mutant abilities; now she will just be an evil emotional psychic, which is a lot less interesting. Also confusing is when Hank alludes to her connection to the U-Men. What that connection was, I missed. She was a great character, and now she is quite muddy.

Finally we pick up Xorn, and our watch for Xorn-Magneto connections. I have only two. 1. If Xorn is Magneto, then Magneto learned Chinese. Fine. I suppose there are lots of ways he could have learned Chinese, but little things like this mess up a twist I think, which needs to be sudden and smooth. 2. If Xorn is Magneto in this scene then Magneto brings a dead bird back to life. The monk swears it was dead. Maybe the monk is lying or was tricked about this; maybe Magneto fed the bird little metal shavings for weeks so that when it died he could make it look like he brought it back to life at just the moment Scott walks in. Maybe there is some way to use magnets to make light like he does around the bird as he does whatever it is he does. I have a hard time imagining Magneto doing these things, but fine, I will admit they are possible. They are just little details that I do not find persuasive. They get on my nerves, in retrospect.

Finally we have the great two page spread where one of the Shi'ar, destroyed from his trip, tries to warn someone that Nova is coming and the only creatures around are cows. On of my favorite ending beats of all time, in any story.


Kaelin said...

Great review and I love this project--I'm definitely keeping an eye on it and watching for updates.

I think Magneto healing the bird works in the same way that he later heals the X-Men and, much later, re-cripples Charles--he uses the nanosentinels. As for the shining, you've got me, but I suppose it makes no less sense than the silly ripple-effect concentric circles which have traditionally signified his powers.

As for the post-human ideas, it is left fairly vague, but I always assumed it was some sort of post-humanism or, if you'd like, post-post-humanism. Basically a weird genetic mash-up of crip theory, queer theory, and other postmodern hullabaloo thrown in for good measure. Now, it's no coincidence that I've read that into Morrison, since those are my areas of interest, but at the same time, all of Morrison's run seems pretty hell-bent on undermining the sort of identity politics some of his characters (his Magneto, most explicitly, perhaps Kid Omega) expound in favor of something more progressive and fluid in terms of the body. Ironically, the sort of ideology this suggests is eventually championed by Morrison's big enemies--The U-Men, Evil Beast--and maybe that's another point to consider. Even more ironically, a lot of the Morrison retcons ask similar questions. House of M, while being terribly ill-advised in my mind, fundamentally asks, "What is a mutant? Is it the powers? Is it an ideological stance? Is it something else?" What Morrison really means with his vague references is beyond me, but the constant linkage between Xavier and Michel Foucault (look especially at the magazine cover when Xavier is on the plane--"Mutant Philosophique!"), and Morrison's more general preoccupations with postmodernism suggest that post-humanism is indeed what he's looking towards, if not directly enough for it to really be effective.

Keep up the great work!

Geoff Klock said...

The problem with Magneto using nano-sentinels is the nano-sentinels were introduced by Nova to the X-Men -- it was just (apparently) lucky that the X-Men were filled with tiny metal machines when he showed up. I don't see how they would have gotten into a bird halfway around the world.

That Foucault connection is interesting. Thanks.

Gary said...

Smasher and the cows: I doubt it, because Morrison on this run couldn't give one rat's about continuity, but only cows around to warn would be a cool callback to the beginning of the Kree-Skrull war, where our chracters get into the story when the Vision bursts into Avengers Mansion stating, "Cows... shot me... down..."