[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run issue by issue. For more posts like it hit the New X-Men link at the bottom of this post.]
Kordey on art here is just like he was last issue -- he was rushed and his art looks like enlarged thumbnails and sketches. I am sure this was fixed in the trade, but in the original issue Kordey drew a complex two page spread with six panels and great dialogue (Cyclops: "Hey, its those pesky X-Men") -- the image was ruined by Starburst advertisement that split the two page spread on to two left hand pages. To see the image properly you have to take the staples out and put the pages side by side, as intended. To make it worse, it takes a moment to realize it IS a two page spread, and not just a confusing pair of distinct pages. One more artistic offence for our record: the explosion of the Shi'ar battleship is a tiny panel at the bottom of page eight -- such a big moment should never appear so small.
Nova has been to mutants what mutants are to humans, then Xavier's evil genetic twin, then bodiless unique emotional energy that formed a body from Xavier's DNA. In this issue she is described by the Shi'ar as "Mummudra, the anti-self, Xavier's terrible opposite," a myth their civilization did not believe in. The next step in evolution, Xavier's sister, and a unique creature are all better ideas than a generic kind of mythical monster (of which there are many) who takes this as its credo: "Underneath the laws and rules of every civilization a snarling beast prowls, straining at its chains. I only set the beast free." It's Freud's return of the repressed, which is the basis of almost all horror movies, as well as, in the X-Men, Onslaught. This is territory we have been over before. That may be Morrison's point -- the X-Men are in a rut -- but he should break out of the rut as he was doing, rather than further exemplify it. If I want to see the rut, I can read whoever was writing the book before he got a hold of it.
Nova telling Lilandra she was hopeless in bed, and taunting Scott with sexual repression and inadequacy is a lot of fun, but the theme -- attacking self esteem -- is part of the old, stuck-in-a-rut X-Men, and not so interesting outside of these two examples.
Xorn says he can hear the ship's electromagnetic alarms -- a clue that he is Magneto. I have to wonder why Nova, however, never pays Xorn any attention -- as a super-psychic who tears away people's illusions, you would think she would do SOMETHING with him. I guess he is part of her plan -- she knows what is coming and she wants him to be around to screw with Xavier. But she seems surprised to be beaten -- she does not, it seems, expect to lose. It is hard to imagine this creature thinking "well, if I don't make it, Magneto can get them." Doesn't really seem her style. If the helmet is keeping her locked out surely she would want to control someone else to kill this wildcard. I don't get it.
Another odd detail: Emma's head is trapped in a gold metal blob, and her body language suggests only boredom. That might be funny, that might be bizarre, that might be stupid. Could go any direction.
Another: Nova's nano-sentinel's are in a liquid solution that drives the U-Men technology. OK. I guess. The connection was mentioned before, but it is hard to see how we should respond. Enabling the transplant of mutant organs into humans that don't like the X-Men seems like an odd way for bodiless emotional energy to behave. That made more sense, maybe, when she was the biologist she claimed to be in the first issue.
Another: The Beast, looking very like a cartoon and standing under fireworks declares he is gay. I just don't know what to do with that. Morrison is fighting with himself and getting desperate. On the one hand he has come to shake things up: the outfits, the new design for the Beast, outing Xavier, Nova as the next step in evolution, sex and sexuality. On the other hand he seems to be commenting on the rut the X-Men are stuck in by showing the rut: the theme of low self-esteem, angs-y teenage freaks, Sublime's self-help bad guy, Nova as Xavier's repressed. Theoretically it could be an interesting combination, but the story just feels like a mess, pulling in too many directions, somehow radical and boring at the same time.
The book ends with the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, standing strong, ready to fight Nova. This is ridiculous -- as we saw last issue these guys were a joke. When Nova beats on them in the final page it is hardly the terrifying moment it should be -- she could probably beat them without powers. People admitted that last issue was a low point, but the problems there follow us here. Bad issues are not isolated problems, they effect the rest of the run.