Friday, March 30, 2007

Free Form Comments

Random thoughts, questions, suggestions, ideas, criticism, self-promotion, requests to be added to the blog roll.

Quick question from me: are the New X-Men posts changing anyone's mind on the status of Morrison's run as a whole? Am I preaching to the choir (which is not always a bad thing)? Or is this one of those "I see your points but I still love New X-Men."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 134

I think the only reason this issue is a prologue to the four part Riot at Xavier's and not part one of a FIVE part Riot at Xavier's is that Quitely could only do four and not five issues in a row, and Marvel had been promising that they were saving him for a whole arc.

Jumbo Carnation, a mutant fashion designer, is dead, found outside a club called The X-Factory, which is a great name for a mutant club -- Morrison is great at naming stuff. I don't know anything about this guy, and I don't really care that he is dead, but OK, fine. People in the issue claim this is important, and I have no choice but to believe them. Morrison is telling, not showing, which is not the best option. He should have had this character be in the news from issue one.

Quentin Quire, a elitist genius with a "see through mind", hangs out with an idiot, who makes crude jokes about whether a sexy mutant can get Sophie to drop her pants -- Quentin has a crush on one of the cookoo girls. That he hangs out with this guy makes a certain amount of sense, I guess -- he is looking for people he can control and he hates people who pretend to be what they are not. He has a newspaper clipping about the "Mutant Menace" that came out the day he was born -- apparently just about the time mutants first started appearing. He calls it a pop art masterpiece, and calls some random girl "Retarda". His immaturity is being established in these pages, and when he finds out he was adopted he will begin his teenage rebellion.

Meanwhile the Beast and Cyclops are investigating the death of Jumbo. A human cop assigned to a mutant crime division is very excited to meet Beast -- he calls him Henry, and tells a story about how the Beast saved him and his pregnant wife during a mutant terrorist attack, drove them to the hospital in a tank (this may be an incident from an actual old X-Men issue, I don't know). All the Beast has to say to the guy is the caustic "all humans look alike." The cartoon friendly art does not help here. This guy is being perfectly nice, even congratulating him on coming out of the closet, and Hank is just being petty and mean for no reason -- or as part of some idiot "performance art" prank, which might be worse. A professor at the school is just as juvenile as the students.

In a conversation with Scott it turns out the Hank being gay thing spawned out as "a cruel, calculated strike at Trish Tilby's fickle heart," but, as a reporter, she leaked it to the media, so he embraced it. I do not see how his being gay was supposed to hurt her feelings, but maybe I do not get it. The Beast makes a lame argument that he might as well be gay because he has been taunted his whole life for his individualistic looks and style of dress. Lame. The mutant-homosexual thing was always a great metaphor -- don't make it literal. Then we get a conversation about the old days at the school, references to 60s X-Men issues. It seems like this should have to do with the upcoming Riot, the old versus the new, but it does not work that well. We , however, get a nice bit of foreshadowing when Scott tells Hank he is on the road to apocalyptic mind loss -- in Morrison's final story the Beast will become a version of the X-Men villain Apocalypse.

This prologue contains the seeds of what will become, in the next four issues, the only Morrison-Quitely team-up that is less than perfect, that is actually lame: The story should be old versus new, an interesting theme in a book that launched as THE NEW, the posthuman, the edgy superhero book. Like most teenagers, Quentin wants to wipe away the hypocrisy and illusions others have -- he shows the true, ugly form of a mutant who looks sexy, a moment that would have been better if Morrison had stuck with the pop-sexy X-Men idea from the manifesto: Quentin could have torn them apart on this level. But Hank is being acting like a petty teenager, and that is just an emblem of the fact that Morrison failed to make this book as edgy and "post-human" as he intended. Quentin is a petty teenager having a stereotypical rebellion -- he starts doing drugs and gets a crazy haircut. When these two groups face off instead of being the ideological battle royale it should be, it becomes hard to tell who to sympathize with the least.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Comics Out March 28, 2007

Jodi Picoult and Drew Johnson's Wonder Woman #6. I picked this up because I was reading the (now aborted) Heinberg-Dodson Wonder Woman, and, after Metzler was such a surprise hit for me on JLA, I was curious about a female novelist taking over the book. I read the first few pages and got hit so hard on the head with the exposition stick I blacked out. Check this out for dialogue: Wonder Woman is in disguise as Agent Diana Prince, and her partner says

"I can't believe this is my job! I can't believe we have to baby sit some loser who won a reality TV show to become the new Maxi-Man! I can't believe you are my partner! I can't believe cotton candy costs four dollars now!"

Actual unedited dialogue. Only people in comics trying to get new readers talk like this, summarizing everything about their day to people who already know what their day is like. Maxi-Man, I can only assume, is some kind of feminine product superhero tie in. I did not read the rest of the issue to find out.

Action Comics came out today, but for some reason I cannot understand it does not follow where the last issue, written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, left off -- it features an unrelated story by a new writing team. I don't care enough to figure out what is going on.

Grant Morrison's new Batman issue is also out today but my comic book store experienced a problem with their shipment and are missing a bunch of books including this one, so I will have to get it later. I will get it this week, but after last issue I am not in any kind of hurry.

Quentin Tarantino will be at Jim Hanley's Universe in New York City for an hour on Saturday, but I am not going to wait in the crowd for that, even though I am practically counting the days down till Grindhouse.

Review, recommend, and discuss this weeks comics and comics news.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

From Sharon Old's Sex Without Love (Commonplace Book)

I love to teach this poem; it always makes for a fun classroom. Here is the end -- she is describing the people who have sex without love:

These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health -- just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 133

[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 this one, just click the link at the bottom of this post that says "New X-Men".]

Morrison killed off 16 million mutants in Genosha right around the time of the World Trade Center attacks. In issue 132 he tries to do a heartfelt tribute to that real world tragedy with mixed results. It ends with a silent page of the team crying for what has been lost, a heartfelt attempt, if a failed one. The very next issue opens up with Wolverine slaughtering Arabs in Afghanistan -- he gives one guy a chance to put down his gun (which cannot harm Wolverine, so they guy poses no threat), and when he does not, Wolverine cuts his hand off. So much for the sensitive treatment -- you will remember how I pointed out how this book cannot find any kind of coherent tone. Van Sciver adds a further ironic dimension to Morrison playing with real world events -- one guy has a "Van-Sci-Ver" gun. Wow that is not clever at all.

And that is not the end of Morrison using the X-Men in this issue to do the kind of ham-fisted "real world relevance / wet dream revenge fantasies" found in Cassaday's Captain America in the days following 9-11. Only pages later, Xavier and Jean are on a flight to India that is hijacked and they mind control the terrorists to put down their guns and talk like bad L.A. pop psychology self-help books, just as they did with "Animal" a few issue back. It is a pacifist version of Wolverine's violent revenge, but it is still a fantasy about brainwashing the 9-11 terrorists and turning them into idiots. Ironically, Xavier says they "talked" to these guys, but clearly he and Jean rewrote their minds with a force they could not resist. I expect a guy as smart as Morrison to be more interesting or subversive or SOMETHING with his fictional take on real world events. With all this stuff about mind control and punishment I do not know what to make of the fact that, when the terrorists attack, Xavier is reading an airport or in-flight magazine about HIMSELF with the words "mutant philosopher" in French and an image of him looking like the French theorist of discipline and power, Foucault. (This magazine was pointed out a while back -- whoever did it should take credit for the grab in the comments below).

Are we done with terrorism yet? No we are not, as, when Xavier lands, someone tries to take him out with a head-shot from a long distance rifle with a scope. It turns out to be Lilandra, still crazy from Nova, but still -- why does the only way she can think to kill him have to look like the assassination of an American president? I do not even know what to do with all these images, except be surprised that Morrison seems to be drawing on them in a fairly uncritical way. He is channeling the voice of the culture or something, and it is very depressing. I certainly do not know what to make of Xavier telling Lilandra that everything will be ok, and how maybe she should look on the bright side of Nova breaking her mind -- maybe Lilandra is not broken, but dissolved, changed to new form. It is ironic that Morrison's response to real world violence is to go back to standard revenge fantasies, and not new forms.

A fascinating female Arab mutant is introduced dressed in the traditional black covering of Muslim Women -- talk about a commentary on the sexy-leather uniforms Morrison introduced. (Jean, when she meets her, is wearing a Tee-shirt version of her Phoenix outfit, which is great -- Van Sciver draws her with a tremendous natural beauty in this issue, something he was not doing in issue 117). This new mutant can become dust and clean the flesh off men's bones with a storm, but all she ever says is "Dust." With all the idiot terrorist revenge stuff, this comes across like a breath of fresh air, an interesting new character who could go in so many directions. This is a character and an idea with a huge amount of promise -- a new character in the tradition of the around-the-world-team of Giant Size X-Men. Unfortunately, Morrison virtually never uses her again, which is just a stupid fucking waste.

My main point about Morrison's run as a whole is that it is uneven in the worst way, brilliant one moment, awful the next. So it is no surprise that this issue features on of my favorite bits in the run, A GREAT detail: We see a few more X-Factor and X-Whatever mutants working at X-Core India in the kind of superhero outfits common in the 90s -- because of Bollywood, they say, people love all the tassels and colors. What a FANTASTIC way to imaginatively salvage a bad moment in superhero costume history by finding a proper context -- there is the Morrison I know and love.

The issue ends with nonsense about the Phoenix hatching and how the planet has toxic levels of aggression and nature is dealing with the mutant threat through violence. Apparently the "toxic levels of aggression" in the culture were getting to Morrison as well in this issue, because he was channeling a host of them like a bad Death Wish movie. At least we got the great line about Bollywood, even if it buried in this mess.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

TV Week in Review

LOST: only 11 episodes left in this series -- we are now heading toward the inexorable season finale. This was a strong episode that alludes to and revises a key moment in J. J. Abrams earlier project, Alias. (I will have a note on this with spoilers in the comments). The story is strong, we learn how John Locke lost his legs, and it ends with one of the great insane twists that would be just stupid on any other show: Lost has built a mysterious context where the audience has to simply accept whatever left turn the show decides to take. That is all the fun.

We also see in this episode another great example of what makes this show work: the illusion of change. Most often, in order for serial narratives to survive, they cannot change too much because the audience will reject the show -- they want the same thing week after week. This is what keeps Law and Order on the air. But the ostensible purpose of narrative is to see what happens next, what is going to change in the lives of the characters we care about. One of the best ways of dealing with these conflicting demands is to cater to both -- make it look like you are changing things but keep everything the same, or keep returning to the beginning. The best example of this is on Alias -- at the end of season two Sidney is knocked out, and when she wakes up it is two years later. That seems like a big change -- the lives of everyone she knows has changed. But it works to keep things the same. Over the first two seasons she got closer and closer to Vaughn but if they get married it is going to take all the dynamic out of their relationship. With the two year gap they are back to square one -- he has married someone else and now they begin the long journey back to each other from the beginning. On this week's episode of Lost the submarine is the equivalent of the two year gap -- it looks like a big exciting change, but it smartly works to keep thing the same. Lost is genius.

That is the only television show I am going to talk about this week, but this is the place to talk about this week's television.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Free Form Comments

Say what you like in the comments to this post: random thoughts, ideas, suggestions, questions, self-promotion, requests to be added to the blog-roll, whatever.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Grant Morrison's New-X-Men 132

[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run issue by issue. For more of the same, click the New X-Men link at the bottom of this post.]

One of the things that makes Morrison's New X-Men such as mess it that it never establishes any kind of consistent tone, a fact made worse by the ever changing roster of artists, none of whom cam be seen as primary. We saw the book shift from pop-sexy to monster-freak-outsider, and now we shift again. It is very strange that last issue featured a mocking funeral for Darkstar, an obscure X-Force member not remembered by Emma Frost or many of Morrison's readers, and here we have a September 11th tribute issue. In two issues we go from mocking one dead soldier, to immortalizing a host of dead men and women whose voices will -- literally in Morrison's sci-fi -- never be forgotten.

Xavier and Jean show up to Genosha -- Quicksilver says "try to look busy", which I love. They learn about Electromagnetic ghosts -- both shapes and voices -- that have been showing up and scaring people, and discover a few of Magneto's followers building a monument in the ruins to him out of Cassandra Nova's giant wild sentinel. Casandra Nova is never mentioned in the issue, so that we can see how this is like 9-11 more clearly.

Sabra shows up. She is a Jewish superhero, in white and blue, Israel's answer to Captain America. "Sabra", in Hebrew, means a person born in Israel. I think the only reason she is here is to add to Morrison's vision of an international mutant community -- Xavier and Jean stop in Genosha on their way from France to India. Also, she is here to remind us that while September 11th felt like a anomaly in America, in Israel it is everyday life. She has trouble remembering everyone's names, perhaps a joke on the fact that she is little known to readers who, like me, had to look her up.

The "ghosts" of Genosha are centered around Polaris. She is overloaded from information -- Magneto, as he was dying, recorded the voices of the population of Genosha in a black box recorder, and they are spilling out into the ruins trying to broadcast through Polaris into space. As the random recorded voices project into space we hear Magneto among them:

"This is the voice. This is the voice of Magneto. This is the voice of the Genoshan Nation. It is a strange thing, to die in darkness. It's a strange thing to die. I was Magneto, master of magnetic forces. Now I will be a voice in the darkness, echoing forever. Once, I was a mortal man. Now I am becoming memory, immortal. They must have thought they could silence us forever. Instead we have become Magnetic. Unstoppable. Our voices will be broadcast around the world, into space. At the speed of light. At the speed of radio. Our voices travelling without end through the depths of space and time. Beyond this life and far beyond this death."

I find that pathos has once again descended into bathos, but that is me. Morrison's attempt at sincere emotion is undercut here in a number of ways. (A sidenote: Is the speed of light the speed of radio?) Unus the Untouchable Man is there, freaking out because ghosts penetrated his forcefield. This is a little known character introduced in Uncanny X-Men 6, in 1964: I think his only point in the issue is as an emblem of America's sense of security (the force field man), breached on 9-11 (we are left freaking out because we thought nothing could touch us). What Morrison is up to makes sense, but it feels odd because Unus is so obscure. When making a memorial, do not send people to the Marvel encyclopedia. Certainly don't do it twice (three times if you don't know who Polaris is).

Also distracting: We are told the area is radioactive from the attacks. Jean and the Beast had no full body suits to protect them in issue 116: in this issue characters wear the suits outside, then don't, then do again, then don't -- at the end they have just vanished. A tad confusing, but I don't want to be THAT GUY at the comic book convention complaining about the little things. I suppose Jimenez ditched the suits for the last image so they would not look weird -- but they do anyway -- seriously messing with all the tribute stuff -- and here is why.

Polaris's costume is ripping apart from all the electromagnetic force or something. Pretty soon she is totally nude, and in almost every panel has her legs spread or her breasts out (shadow and her long green hair keep the book from showing anything that would upset the kiddies). Then she has a very evil smile, like a villain, for no reason I can see. Then is whisked away by Storm and is drawn by Jimenez to look suddenly fat. This is all distracting because she is supposed to be the emotional center of this issue -- there is a wonderful shot of her crying and reaching for the reader, clearly in a lot of emotional pain, channeling all the dead souls.

Finally, as Magneto's voice ends, the issue ends with a full page, wordless image of the X-Men in silent respect. A heartfelt image until you notice a small but crucial detail -- Polaris has been given a jacket -- from where, from whom? -- to cover her nakedness, and another character is in the foreground obscuring it, but POLARIS HAS NO OTHER CLOTHES ON. You can do a sincere September 11th tribute in a superhero comic book but don't have your final image of the team in mourning involve a green haired woman who has been posing sexy naked in the prior pages crying in nothing but a short waist length jacket that appears out of nowhere. It just emphasises that she has no pants or underwear on. That is just weird if you are going for pathos. If you want clothes to appear out of nowhere, give her a long coat, or a blanket at least.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Comics Out March 21, 2007

I got X-Men 197, by Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo. I think I am the only one around here getting this book and I am getting it only for the art. I WORSHIP Bachalo, to the point that -- after too many episodes of Miami Ink on the Learning Chanel -- am seriously thinking of getting a tattoo of his work on my arm. Because I only read for the art, when someone else does the art I don't get the book. So I am following Carey's run only sporadically. The gist of it is that we have an X-Team that does not get along with Xavier and consists of Rogue (the leader), Cable, Mystique, Sabertooth, Cannonball, and Iceman, Lady Mastermind, and some kind of fancy cute-girl Sentinel. The team, with the exception of the last two characters I mentioned, is actually odd enough to be almost interesting. Most are characters I know from various X-Books that I read in the 90s, so it is good for some nostalgia: the banner under the issue number even sports those old floating heads of the leads, which I love.

This week's issue involved Lady Mastermind trying to root out some kind of psychic entity hiding in her mind. The thing jumps from her to Mystique, and then tells Cable (after taking apart his gun with telekinesis), that it flew in from Shi'ar space (a trip that took centuries), and now wants, not a fight, but protection from the "Hecatomb" that is coming to eat the world (Earth, I guess) -- it came to the X-Men because it is attracted to psychics.

The kicker is the bit where the creature introduces itself: it speaks in black word balloons with white letters, begins in a alien language and states "I am Ev Teel Urizen. I am the Proscribed, the Anathema, the Womb-Weld. I am Mummudrai."

Mummudrai is what Casandra Nova was called in at least two issues of Grant Morrison's New X-Men -- a Shi'ar legend, about how everyone has an evil twin (hence "Womb-Weld"). Two things to note about it's appearance here: 1) it is named Urizen, which is William Blake's name for evil Ice Cold reductive, unimaginative rationality in his poetry. 2) If it is someone's evil twin, it seems fairly nice and divorced from any particular host (it is not Lady Mastermind's Mummudrai, for instance). I am not sure what to say about this other than it struck me as very odd.

I picked up Douglass Rushkoff and Liam Sharp's Testament #16, and Livewire, which was recommended to me around here, but have not yet gotten around to reading them yet.

Review, recommend, and discuss this week's comics and comics news.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

From Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled (Commonplace Book)

The way poetry was taught in school reminded W.H. Auden of a Punch cartoon composed, legend has it, by the poet A.E. Housman. Two English teachers are walking in the woods in springtime. The first, on hearing birdsong, is moved to quote William Wordsworth:

Teacher 1:
Oh, cuckoo, shall I call thee bird
Or but a wandering voice

Teacher 2:
State the alternative preferred
With reasons for you choice.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 131

[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run issue by issue. For more of the same click the New X-Men label at the bottom of this post].

"So who the hell was 'Darkstar' anyway" is a great opening line -- some member of X-Force died in the Weapon 12 attack, and I don't really know who she was either. Scott is flying the X-Jet and replies "Emma! Please... I have to concentrate or the next funeral is mine": talking has not prevented him from fancy flying in the past; it may be possible Emma is distracting him psychically with something more than the line, or it may just be a lame attempt at opening page excitement and exposition (so we know Darkstar is dead).

Meanwhile, Xavier allows everyone to read the memories of the dead woman, which is a nice touch for a mutant funeral.

Meanwhile, Archangel is teaching flying lessons. Angel and Beak stay behind to complain, harass each other, bond, and then make out.

Meanwhile -- notice the pattern here, this is a very disconnected narrative -- we learn from Emma that the Beast is not really gay -- it is all a stunt to "challenge preconceived notions about language, gender and species" in his words. I wonder if this is Morrison backing off of an idea, or his plan all along. This all seems weak, especially as he backs it up with Emma saying the Beast has always been a practical joker: is this all really a practical joke? It all seems sort of lame, especially from a grown man which at least one doctorate. The language he uses to justify himself seems more like the kind of thing you hear from over-eager college students interesting in French theory and performance art. The Beast tells Emma not to mess with Scott and Jean's marriage.

Back in the jet, Wolverine is harassing Scott about how he and Jean don't talk, and Emma is flirting with him (she scoffs at Wolverine's "man's got to mow his own lawn"). She pulls Scott into a psychic landscape where they are jumping out of a plane and she is giving him marriage advice, including a symbolic bit where he loses his 60s outfit, his 90s outfit and Jean's old green Marvel Girl outfit. They land in a candle-lit library and begin talking but Leon does not seem like drawing it for more than a page, so we get more than two full pages of talking heads and a pale pink backdrop. Turns out Jean and Scott are perfect on the outside but powerful, dark and scared of each other on the inside. (We knew this about Jean -- the Dark Phoenix -- but Emma describes Scott in the same way). Emma dresses in the Phoenix costume and says that there is only one way to figure out what went wrong with his marriage -- "You be Scott. And I'll be Jean," she beams in a wonderful image.

Beak and Angel make it to the Shi'ar ship for the class: Beak is in love and Angel collects they money from people who bet her she would not kiss Beak.

The issue ends with Emma, in the Phoenix outfit, on the bed talking about playing with fire and Scott approaching her talking off his jacket and saying "Why not."

The issue is built around love and falling: Angel and Beak in flying class fall in love (he falls for her) and she picks him up when he falls, the Beast is revealed to be playing games with love (pretending to be gay as a stunt), and Scott and Emma begin a psychic affair, a fall from grace emphasized by a fall from an airplane. The connections between scenes are only thematic, which is a bit weak to hold together a story, but perfectly normal for a soap opera, which is what this is. The art is hot and cold: intentionally rough in places (the planes, the funeral), unintentionally rough in others (the Beast and Emma talking, the Shi'ar ship), occasionally bad (a rainbow and hearts over Beak and Angel's kiss? Really?) and occasionally perfect: Emma looks beautiful talking to Scott, and stunning in the Phoenix outfit. The Emma Scott affair is an amazing idea for the X-Men: unlike the Beast being gay, this is really shaking things up.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Television Week in Review

Lost: A very strong episode, I thought -- the third season may turn out to be the strongest of the three (but I may only feel that way because we are not done yet). Last week I complained that Locke's actions seemed only generated by what the writers need, rather than what his character would do, but in this episode we understand the last one better -- he is on a dark mission that will culminate next week, and nothing is going to get in his way. He will kill people and blow things up because he can. Next week we get the Locke flashback we have been waiting since the beginning for, and I for one, expect it to be amazing. This week's episode also featured a pretty good secret in the flashback and a fantastically strong ending beat a moment before the credits. I am sorry for being vague, but I don't want to spoil anything.

In other Lost stuff, Sara noticed a bit of last week's episode that was horribly thought through -- I will put it in the comments, because, as much as I love the show, this made me laugh because she is dead right.

I also saw the new Saul of the Molemen, the new Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job, and the new episode of Mr. Meaty. If you have not seen the last go find it on youtube. It is a fantastic puppet show on Nickelodeon about two guys that work in a fast food joint at the mall. The puppets are wonderfully grotesque -- the mouths crease in a horrible way; most grotesque of all is the shop owner, an insane Texan in a wheelchair who has a desiccated skull (with no nose) for a head, a wheelchair tricked out with horns, and a foppish assistant with a chip in his head. Great stuff that combines the edge of Adult Swim with something that is also fun for kids.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Free Form Comments

You know what Free Form Comments are -- self-promote, ask to be added to the blog-roll, random questions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions, anonymous personal attacks, whatever you want, say it here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 130

Again in this issue the art is looking rushed -- the rushed job makes the scenes of X-Force, trapped in a tunnel with Weapon 12 who has an electric mushroom brain and can corrupt you into a zombie under his control with just a touch, look extra terrifying. In these pages Kordey intends for you not to be able to tell what is going on and it works to great effect. Not so good elsewhere in the issue, as for example in the panel in which Xavier says "Now, Jean".

E.V.A, Fantomex's living flying saucer -- complete with electric lights -- that is both his partner and his mutation is a marvel of absurdity. One of the things that elevates Fantomex from a mere parody of a "bad-ass" character is that a character like, say, Hawkeye in the Ultimates, should be relatively simple, relatively economical. He shoots stuff at people, mostly arrows, and he is deadly. That's his thing. Fantomex is a bit like that -- as I said Monday he looks like a G.I. Joe figure and shoots people like a "lunatic ninja Matrix freak" as a member of X-Force calls him in this issue. But then there is that flying saucer that just needlessly -- and playfully -- complicates him. This guy is almost literally too much. Also he shoots white bullets with little ghost heads on them, a detail never explained. Remember that his power is probably just misdirection, as Morrison keeps hinting -- none of these things are probably any more real that his little old blind mother who sits in his mansion and still thinks it is their old house. To absurd to be true -- you bet, that is the point. He is just too much fun. When he takes Xavier and Jean -- the two most powerful X-Men by a long-shot -- with him into the tunnel and then playfully calls them with "To me, my X-Men," the old school X-Men call to arms Morrison alluded to at the end of his first story arc, you have to love this guy. Best comic book character of all time. I cannot say enough about him. My only complaint is that, as someone pointed out, Quitely never drew him.

In the end Jean is so sexually attracted to him she lets him go. There is a joke here I think about how if Wolverine is Weapon X (Ten) and Fantomex is Weapon XIII, his evolutionary superior, Jean must be EVEN MORE DRAWN TO HIM. The detail that Fantomex can effectively read minds by reading body language -- he can tell Jean finds him sexy because of the direction of her pelvis (!?) -- is hilarious, and also a send up of Wolverine's heightened senses. We have gone way past sniffing people.

Mark Millar's Ultimate X-Men established, for me, the definitive portrayal of Xavier -- dark, manipulative, possibly (like the Authority) a bad guy who only thinks he is a good guy, or, even worse, just a bad guy with very good PR. (I wrote extensively about this in my essay for Reconstrction that I linked to in my last New X-Men post). Whedon picks this up and tries to do a dark Xavier in "Danger" (Astonishing X-Men), but it is too little to late. Morrison does a dark Xavier here in just a line that I like -- Xavier tells a human he has no time for Chimpanzee politics, not a nice thing to say to a race he publicly considers equals. Millar owns this territory, and Morrison cannot do much to add to it, but he is running on the same lines. If post-humans are free from human rules, judged by us the reader (merely human ourselves) they might very well look like the bad guys.

Comics Out 14 March 2007

I picked up two books today:

Joss Whedon and Georges Jeanty's Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #1. I was very excited about the new Buffy comic book -- Whedon himself writing what would have been season eight in comic book form (I had no idea they were going to actually have the phrase "Season Eight" on the issue itself). But now that I have it I have to admit that, in spite of the fact that it is all perfectly solid, I am not so sure I need to follow these characters anymore. Seven seasons was a long time. When, on the final page, an old character assumed dead or gone suddenly appears, I was not excited, because I do feel a little done with these characters, and this new permutation fails to revive my past interest. But I love Whedon and will stick with it for a long time because he has earned my trust with many, many good episodes and seasons of television.

Matt Fraction and Ariel Olivetti's Punisher War Journal #5. Fraction has spent two issues with stories surrounding the Punisher (rather than stories about the Punisher), which seems like a pretty good direction to go with a character like this. The Punisher is still a character I have a hard time caring about, but Olivetti's art is growing on me -- at times it seems horribly absurd at times brilliant, at times both. I am now coming around to the idea that he is a great fit with this absurd character.

Newsarama has been covering all the press surrounding the "Death of Captain America" but I have nothing to say about it, other than the fact that it is very annoying and did people not forget what a stupid stunt the Death of Superman was?

The next part of Brad Winderbaum's Satacracy 88 is up at (these are now coming in smaller chunks so you can get it more often, once a week). He has also launched a forum to discuss the show, so follow the link there and say something.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

From William Butler Yeats's Vacillation (Commonplace Book)

These lines capture a feeling I get occasionally, and I am sure everyone gets. Next time you are in this mood you can remember these lines; I like particularly the way he is in a good mood for no reason, just sitting down somewhere, and he specifies the short time the mood lasts for (the word "blessed" should be pronounced with two syllables):

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table top.

While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 129

[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run issue by issue -- to read most posts on the subject, hit the New X-Men links button below.]

We learn that Jean is such a powerful telepath that she can simply tell blood to clot, and think her way into machines, which is quite cool. Also cool: Morrison's idea that humans can create liquid time and then immerse subjects in it and evolve them artificially -- the point is not emphasized here, but this is Morrison's new sentinel, his twist on the idea of "futuristic" killer robots. In a brilliant moment Fantomex, speaking to Jean, compares his mask, which keeps his thoughts hidden, with Jean's Wonder-Bra -- a great moment that links sex with control (something that will be explored more in the Scott-Emma relationship). Just having characters joke about Jean wearing a Wonder-Bra is refreshing, in a superhero world where women are just imagined to naturally look like that.

The character Animal seems like a bad sitcom joke -- a guy who is so stupid the military, as their primary plan, bets he might be immune to telepathy. He is reduced by Jean Grey or Professor X to spouting self-help style "breakthroughs" about the real reason he acts like such a brute (he resented his dad, but the shell he built to be strong and take his father's place isolated him from normal relationships -- "maybe I'd be better working with handicapped kids" he says). I guess this is supposed to be very funny, but it is so broad it does not work here, in a book so subtle elsewhere.

Fantomex is a hard character to pin down. While that is the point of him -- his mutant power is misdirection -- it can be difficult to follow what is going on in the story. He casually takes Xavier and Jean to his mothers home during a lethal attack on X-Force and tries to sell Xavier information. Xavier says suddenly "If you intend to travel to the wreck we'd like to travel with you" which is odd because I cannot see what makes them think that is what Fantomex wants to do. Even stranger is when Fantomex agrees, and suddenly switches from a thief with no morals to a guy who wants to make a "statement against mutant vivisection" -- at which point he leads the attack on Weapon XII as if he was intending to do that all along. He just seems to be messing with the X-Men because he can.

(Also he pours orange juice on his head for some reason -- can anyone explain that to me? Is it a coloring mistake? That seems likely, but it still seems like a weird thing to do with his head covered in a mask.)

I wrote an online essay a few years ago for Reconstruction on the X-Men and section six focused on Fantomex and Assault on Weapon Plus. Let me reprint here what I said about Fantomex there (I have tossed in some small additions), in order to underline what a great character Fantomex is:

"Fantomex is one of Morrison's perfect creations -- and one of comic books' perfect creations -- because (like the Silver Surfer, for example) he rides a fine line between the hyper-cool and the completely ridiculous: looking like a G. I. Joe figure, Fantomex -- whose name and look are derived from the Mexican incarnation of the French pulp-novel character Phantomas -- is a Matrix-style acrobatic, wise-cracking, double-gun-toting French super-ninja genius with multiple brains for independent processing, whose mutant power is that his nervous system is located outside his body in the form of a sentient, living flying saucer that grew from something he literally coughed up one day. Morrison occasionally hints that Fantomex only appears to have the powers he displays, suggesting at several points that his only powers are illusion and misdirection -- the ability to convince others he is what he says he is."

Fantomex is pure empty charisma, and nothing more, and he functions perfectly as both a very cool character and an absurd parody of characters who think they are very cool. (The fact that his name riffs on "Phantom X" is smart, but also suggests someone thinking very hard if there are any words with the "ex" phoneme not already co-opted by an earlier X-Men writer). It is in this context that we must judge the final major talking point of this issue -- one of Morrison's most audacious revisions: Weapon X -- Wolverine -- is not Weapon X but Weapon Ten: Weapon XII just showed up and Weapon XIII will be revealed in the next issue to be Fantomex. One the one hand, wow, what a huge idea. On the other hand it is all just smoke and mirrors. Fantomex's empty but amazing flair is also Morrison's here. They are both having a lot of fun messing with the X-Men for no other reason other than that they can.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Week In Review: TV

Now that I am teaching nights three times a week Ugly Betty, 30 Rock and House are out until I get a tivo. With Studio 60 gone, the only thing I watched this week -- and the only thing I will watch in future weeks I imagine -- was LOST, but of course you should talk about whatever TV you like.

Spoiler-free notes on Lost that I will expand in the comments: This was a good but not a great episode, because it made one very common screenwriting mistake twice. You have a great idea of where you want your characters to be or get to, but then you have trouble because you don't know how to get them there or you don't want what you invented to cause future problems. I know people who thought the whole thing was stupid but I disagree -- it had some great moments and images, and was a pretty good story overall.

Saul of the Molemen. This was a show that I did not like very much at first -- I enjoy, but am also getting a bit tired of, the way cartoon network takes every single show the audience enjoyed in its childhood and spoofs it by making it grim or insane. Robot Chicken, a very weak show, is the big offender but the pattern was already there: Space Ghost is an idiot, Sealab is insane -- on Robot Chicken this becomes Fincher's Seven in Smurf Village, the Peanuts Gang grown up as heroin addicts, Skeletor needs to go to the dentist, and so on. When they ran out of cartoons they hit claymation (Morel Orel) and with Saul, Land of the Lost. But Brad argues that the show is great because it works on more than one level -- the story is fictional of course (there are no such thing as Molemen) but so is the actor playing Saul (he is not a bad actor in purpose, he is playing a bad actor playing Saul). I am still thinking about this, but will admit that the show can be pretty funny. Perhaps Brad will show up and say more. Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job has just lost me -- I don't hate it but I don't get it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Free Form Comments

Random comments, questions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions as well as self-promotion and anonymous personal attacks -- put them here. Also, I have been very busy and have not updated the blogroll in a while -- if I said I would add you and did not, this would be a great time to remind me.

For those of you keeping track of my progress at Oxford, today I submitted the two required copies of the thesis and all required forms to the Examination Schools there. Probably in the middle of the summer I will fly to England to defend the thing in person; if that goes well, and I think it will, I will have my doctorate. Now that I have finished my work on the thesis and the book (which will be out in less than 10 weeks) -- as well as my Benbella essays and my class prep -- I am going to try to get this videoblogging thing going. Sorry for the delay, but hey, I had good reasons.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 128

Kordey is back but, not in a rush he is not nearly so bad -- still not the guy I want to see here but no longer horrible. At times in this issue -- Emma at the end, Fantomex shooting people, the train job mess -- I even begin to like him.

Morrison brings in X-Force -- in Paris of all places -- which is funny: it is fantastic that Morrison is thinking of how to revive the whole X-Men franchise. A few pages in we get a shot of the team getting ready in a locker room. Pay attention: this is a co-ed room where Siryn was clearly topless a split second before the panel was drawn. She does not even wear a bra under her uniform, which is a great real world bring-down of these Liefeld-"sexy" characters, and Morrison's own pretentions earlier in the series to make his own X-Men sexy. The real world "mornin Sam mornin Ralph" talk -- Multiple Man has a hangover -- is a great detail, as is the Tarantino bitching about code-names. Later in the issue the small talk continues to the point of fanboy insanity-- Sam regrets the sandwich he ate and threw up over Paris, and Madrox singing and harmonizing with himself leads into a question about whether he has orgies with his doubles. Then it all goes wrong when they get horribly attacked -- the attack means more because we have seen them in this context, which is good writing.

In a dark moment recalling Millar's very effective portrayal of Xavier in Ultimate X-Men, Morrison's Xavier says "No more need to hide our mutant natures. No more human rules." Jean points out that this sounds like Nova, but Charles embraces the idea -- Nova, he says, forced them to make necessary changes, and was thus, in her evil, an agent of good. He also wonders if people have control over their destiny or of they are controlled by an intelligent evolutionary process, an idea that will come back in the final issues of the run. Jean then worries she is turning evil, with the Phoenix force back. It is a great few pages -- once you leave human rules behind how do you know if you are good or evil since good and evil are human ideas (this is something that is used with great force in Morrison's Authority 2 out this week). The scene in which Xavier, investigating Jean's Phoenix powers, is wonderfully ambiguous: he tells her that he feels like he is "on the shores of what seems an ocean of psychic light" and that if he dared go further all his thoughts would turn to ash. "Only the ones you don't need in the light" she replies.
Once the Phoenix begins talking and showing Charles scenes of destruction Charles says "are these words from the future" something he has said before and will say again. Morrison is thinking here of his own comic book, which -- at its best -- feels like an artifact from the future, and tying his series together.

Fantomex is introduced here, "the most notorious criminal in Europe" seeking asylum. Fantomex is one of my favorite comic book characters of all time, but I am going to save a discussion of him for a later post. To properly appreciate the insanity of this character you have to know much more about him.

The issue ends with Scott talking about Jean with Emma and the first set up of their upcoming affair. The issue is fantastic, hitting many different points and scenes, all done excellently, all tied together powerfully. Fantomex for instance, is a great character, and also connected to the train job that is getting X-Force killed and everyone's morality has been compromised. Once again we feel like Morrison is doing something great with the X-Men.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Comics Out 7 March 2007

Review, recommend, and discuss the week in comics.

1 (What I got).

Marvel Zombies vs. The Army of Darkness #1 (of 5) by John Layman and Fabiano Neves. The artwork is clean and bright -- not so good for a horror book, and the writing is dull. Layman makes a point to go through a host of Evil Dead and Army of Darkness lines to try to charm the reader who knows those movies, and it feels forced. Also every single member of the Avengers responds when Ash shoots the intercom at the front of the mansion. Not good. All the life -- pardon the irony here -- has been sucked out of the original series.

Justice League of America #6 by Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes. The conclusion to the Red Torrnado story, and a very strong conclusion at that. This book has really surprised me, no moreso than in the ending. Endings are very hard, but Meltzer comes up with a powerful one that both affirms the status quo while also being quite dark. This has been a great six issues, which I never expected.

The Authority #2 by Grant Morrison and Gene Ha. Remember that about three quarters into last year Morrison launched his new vision of The Authority? Well one quarter into this year, you can now read the next 22 pages. There is an obligatory "meta" scene that bugs me but also HAS to be there -- and Morrison is smart to deal with it right off the bat -- but overall this is a great comic book. Morrison's challenge was to make the team, designed to feel HUGE, feel HUGE again. His "realistic" idea for them is crazy, but he has done it -- in the last page of this issue you FEEL how HUGE one character is. Again, surprising.


In comic book news CNN covered Captain America #25, in which Captain America dies post-Civil War. The complaints one could make about that are many but let's start with one from the standpoint of good storytelling -- if that was what you wanted to do that needed to be in the Civil War core series. Or stop the company line about how the story is in that series, and the tie-ins are just part of the bigger picture. I did not buy it. I am very tired of events now.


New Satacracy 88 up at

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bryan Curtis on Michael Crichton (Commonplace Book)

A bit of an odd one today, a quote from a Slate article about Michael Crichton. The sentence that begins "The joy of reading..." says with me as a fan of weirdly inventive genre fiction, and the stuff about seeing into the future applies to Morrison. This quote, I think, adds to our dicussion of what goes right and wrong in Morrison's New X-Men. I have quoted more than is necessary, but the context it strong and I thought you should have it.

To understand how Crichton stumbled, it's instructive to compare him to two
past masters of suspense fiction: Arthur Conan Doyle (whom Crichton celebrates
in Rising Sun) and H. Rider Haggard (whose King Solomon's Mines is a
model for Crichton's safari book Congo). Doyle and Haggard opened their
most famous novels by setting loose a familiar hero (Sherlock Holmes and Allan
Quatermain) on a mystery or quest, complete with new enemies and a cast of
supporting players. The joy of reading Doyle and Haggard is to enjoy the
conventions and watch the authors sweat to provide inventive variations on a
theme. Which clue will Holmes seize upon to crack the case? Upon which corner of
Africa will Quatermain inflict his colonialist brio?

Crichton, on the other hand, eschews flesh-and-blood heroes; the star
of his book is usually a high-concept premise—dinosaurs! killer viruses! Without
a returning hero to lure readers (à la Tom Clancy), Crichton's concepts
themselves must be nerdy and sufficiently topical. Crichton has an unparalleled
genius for this—a gift for seeing years into the future. ... Jurassic Park
arrived just as Steven Spielberg's imagineers figured out how to bring dinosaurs
to the big screen, making it an iconic film of the age of computer-generated
special effects.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 127

I have seen praise for issue 127 around here, but it was an issue that really frustrated me, and made me feel that even outside of the fill in artists something was seriously wrong with Morrison's New X-Men. I remember reading it on the subway, amazed at my boredom.

The issue is beautiful; Leon and Sienkiewicz are amazing, especially drawing and coloring Xorn (with his glowing blue eyes) and Jean Grey (with her halo of fire) -- both stand out wonderfully against the dreary surroundings. Quitely's cover of Xorn contemplating a cheeseburger is great, and goes well with Sciver's earlier one of him inhaling the essence from a bag of chips. The mutant Buddha confronting popular culture is a lot of fun. Professor X also makes a point that actually makes him sound like a very smart guy, about how humanity survived in tribes organized by shared ideals, but now we are living under the same tent and are guilty for mistaking our ideas for things. This is how Xavier should sound all the time.

But the issue itself is painfully generic. The story takes place in "mutant town", like China Town or Little Italy; I have heard that people like Morrison's idea that there would be a similar set up for mutants -- it is "realistic" I guess -- but it strikes me as a lame analogue. In the story a boy has become a freakish mutant monster people hate and fear, and is killed by cops for being dangerous even though he just needed medicine. I don't find that moving; in fact, I think that is the most generic X-Men story ever -- stupid people hate and fear a something peaceful but different that they do not understand. I think I have read that story many times over by now, and if I had not, I saw it in the sequence of Angel at home a few issues ago. It is also such a transparent bid for emotion it is embarrassing itself; I think Morrison showed significantly more real emotion when Jean told Scott "you are my favorite super hero" in the previous issue -- that was specific to that relationship; this is a fairy-tale allegory for all human-mutant relationships, and instead of characters it has the most simple kind of place-holders: an angry mob, a monster with a soul, a heartbroken mom. It especially annoys me that someone in the crowd wants to get Jean's autograph and then let her burn, and someone else, clearly unconscious of the unintended b-movie humor in the phrase, screams "it came from mutant town." Someone is going to tell me this is all perfectly realistic, and I don't necessarily disagree, but I still think it is stupid and I don't want it in my comic book.

And sweet, sensitive, Xorn: "if I could save every life, I would do it", "we only want to stop them hurting one another. Why were they so angry?" I know it is Magneto -- he even describes how he sees wavelengths and energy. But I just have such a hard time imagining any version of Magneto staying in character to this degree. I also cannot understand why Xavier, in the Cerebra helmet, says, when he looks into Xorn's mind, that "I see orchards in China, a star falling across the sky, a radiant star of pure thought." Xavier is a top notch psychic. How does Magneto do that? Later in the issue Xorn says Xavier cannot read his thoughts because he is blinded by the star under the mask -- what is going on? Is Xavier just being metaphorical? It is at least a little confusing, and it is Morrison's fault. Xorn narrates this issue in the form of a letter to Xavier -- an extraordinarily detailed cover for himself as Magneto, I guess, complete with a story about how he met a man with a connection to his ancestors. He even tells the mom that he once ate a dog. Again, Magneto? Really? It is possible, I agree, I just don't like it.

Xorn also claims that the monster-boy would have have grown, in just ten days, to something wonderful, rare and unique. Without looking ahead this just makes the story all the more pathetic -- veering into bathos. Looking ahead Magneto is just lying to be extra mean, I guess. He was, I suppose, lying about all the parts of the story that could not be verified by Xavier, making up, for example, eating with a man from China. Also he makes glowing light near the wounded in front of paramedics -- fake helping? Really helping somehow to keep his cover and kill everyone? If the Kick made Magneto crazy I want to know what is going on in his head at this point, before the kick (though is it before the kick?). It is a huge gap in Magneto's character that bothers me to no end. The whole thing is very messy and unsatisfying.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

TV: The Week in Review

Studio 60 may be gone forever. This week the show was not in its slot, was replaced with the pilot of a new show, and there was no announcement of when we will see it again. Frankly I am glad, as it was a chore to watch: the only reason I watched it was out of loyalty to Sorkin for Sports Night and West Wing and A Few Good Men. I probably would have watched, but not enjoyed, two years of the show before giving up. We will see what happens next.

I wanted so say one more reason the show went bad: Sorkin writes great male friendships: Leo and the president on the West Wing, Danny and Casey from Sports Night. Studio 60 looked like it was going to be about Matt and Danny, but then became the Matt and Harriet Show, with Danny and Jordan as a foil. He is writing against one of his main strengths.

Lost this week was fantastic, good fun. It is important to notice that Buffy, for example, cannot have an episode like this, where the big arc or monster focus is put aside for a great short about four guys drinking beer and fixing a car just for the fun of it. On Buffy they can do smaller episodes but they usually involve finding some magic thing or some new creature coming to town. The power of Lost is in how many different kinds of stories the concept allows for.

30 Rock was less good -- Fraiser has told that story before, with a guy in a wheelchair -- but still funny. I did like it when LL Cool J asked Kenneth "What's your game" and he replies, without missing a beat, "Boggle."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Free Form Comments

Free Form Comments. Shameless self-promotion. Anonymous complaints. Random thoughts, suggestions, questions, ideas, topics of conversation. Requests to be added to the blog-roll (which I have not updated in a while, but I will -- remind me here if you want to be on it).

For this week, I have a question about the New X-Men posts. Comments on the posts have been dwindling, down to basically nothing on the two most recent. That is not necessarily a bad thing, if people still like reading them, but having wrapped up the first year of New X-Men, this might be a good time to stop, or pause. One of the problems, I have discovered with the issue-by-issue thing, is that I have to repeat myself; I worry that is making the posts dull. You don't need to tell me you want me to keep going (as many of you already have, very kindly), but if you think it is time for a change, speak up now.

I am sorry it is taking so long with the videoblogging, but I have not forgotten it; they just discontinued the iCamera and I got busy.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 126

[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 click the New X-Men tab at the bottom of this post.]

The opening three pages are some of my favorites ever -- Xorn and Cyclops running for the teleporter with Cyclops showing that "ice cold lunacy under pressure" mentioned in issue 115 -- he has total confidence he will live and the good guys will win even though everything is against them. The first page is a single large panel that appears to be falling off the page -- this is how Quitely shows the ship lunging as it explodes, which is wonderful, simple and effective. The colors are perfect -- the fiery explosions and the cool blue of the Shi'ar transporter -- as is Cyclops's wry smile. Later in the issue Morrison will write one of my favorite lines: Jean says to Cyclops "You are my favorite super hero," which is lovely, and believable after these pages. Cyclops's optimism is terribly endearing; I love the way he smiles when Jean says, when everything is darkest, "Can I just remind everyone that Emma is still on the loose."

Xorn is in awe both of the ship and of Cyclops. Xorn is beautiful, but in terms of our Magneto watch it is all just an act (I guess). Magneto is apparently a great actor, never out of character for even a second. I have trouble imagining this, but OK. Xorn is a healer and heals the X-Men -- the X-Men are sick from the nano-sentinels and Magneto can short them out. I guess it is a coincidence that he claimed to be a healer and then the first time he is asked to do something, it involves little metal robots. That is one very lucky Magneto: anything else and he would have been useless, and his cover would have been blown. But here is my real question -- Nova kicks everyone's asses and Xorn just jumps on her in the middle of the fight and holds her still -- something the imperial guard was unable to do. Nothing metal to help him out here (Nova is naked) except his own outfit -- I guess he could make himself really heavy or something, but that does not seem like much. What annoys me is that even though he is one of the few characters to make a solid attack on her (even Wolverine could not do that) she ignores him. Read the part of my last NXM post on Nova and Xorn to see why that bothers me.

Another great Quitely detail, one I cannot believe Marvel did not censor -- Nova has a Shi'ar warrior with phasing powers raping the Imperial Guard who crashed to earth in the cow field: look at the clenched fists of the victim, and the way the rapist's hand rests on his victim's head -- not all of him is phasing. A stunning moment. Guardian will piss himself on the next page. Again, stunning.

Jean objects to the option of killing Nova, which is odd -- the X-Men bombed a facility in China from a jet, Cyclops euthanized Ugly John, and they chose to let Nova's body die when they had the option of saving it. But Ok, maybe Jean objected to those things.

Another Quitely detail: look at students in the hallway -- Quitely knows how to get the most out of body language, which is how he is the first man to make us believe Clark Kent is a good disguise for Superman -- Clark's body language makes it impossible to think he could be Superman.

I have already written about Nova's convoluted character design, which radically changes from issue to issue; in this issue her motivation is split, which causes problems. As the next step in evolution she still wants to kill all mutants. As Xavier's evil doppelganger, she only thinks she and Charles are real and only wants to hurt him (as we learned in 122). I suppose we can say she wants to kill all mutants to hurt Charles, but it seems like two different characters to me. We do keep going back and forth on her being unique or an example of a kind of monster -- here both options are mentioned in one issue.

The origin of this confusion is, I am now going to claim, Onslaught, an X-Men villain from more than a decade ago. Onslaught is mentioned in this issue and the reference is pointed because Nova and Onslaught are essentially the same character, the psychically powered dark side of Xavier, the return of his repressed. Nova started out as something new, but over time became a version of Onslaught. Morrison has been writing about the clash between the new and the old -- thinking about his new stories trying to break away from the X-Men rut of the last 20 years -- but something goes wrong: He fails to sell Nova as something new in the first three issues, and so she becomes Onslaught, a mere repetition. One of the reasons Morrison's New X-Men fails is that Morrison, at some point it seems, decides to dramatize failure rather than succeed. There is imaginative power in accepting loss and failure, but it is less than the Victory he has achieved elsewhere (All Star Superman, for example).

I have chastised Morrison for having no post-human philosophies to offer, but he does give us something here. Jean says mutant justice, not human justice, is needed -- and that is exactly what she finds: the mutant answer is the reeducation of Nova rather than her death or incarceration. It is a very strong ending to a weird plot and an odd but compelling character. The year has been a mess of highs and lows, but it ends on a powerful and persuasive note.

[EDIT: The title of this post, when it was first put up was wrong: I have now changed the "125" to "126."]