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.


Pat Moler said...

I love you.

Coligo said...

Whilst I agree in general that it's a shame Morrison's run was blighted by fill in artists, as I've mentioned before I tend to be able to find enough that's great about the writing to overlook problems with the art. I know that you've said in this post that you weren't too concerned by Kordey's art for this issue and for the most part neither was I. However, I feel it is my duty to say that the final splash image of Emma Frost at the end of the book is one of the most distgusting images in comics I have ever witnessed. As you've spoken about, the Quietly redesigns created a pop-sexy-fashion-model image for the X-Men and no character was more evident of that than Emma Frost. Add to that the fact that she is attempting to seduce Scott at this point and it really does hammer home the absence of Quietly's skill.

That aside, I agree that this is an excellent issue. As with the beginning of E for Extinction, we're being treated to the start of a great story arc; intriguing villain, new heroes and a new direction for the X-Men themselves. Morrison's run always feels best when his imagination is running away with the what ifs of the X-Men's universe.

I think that is one of the reasons I enjoy his run so much. He speculates on the future of the X-Men and the whole of mutanity. His stories and characters develop and evolve as the arcs continue. Whilst I can understand your frustration at the everchanging Nova or the unreasonable Xorn/Magneto revelation, I find that Morrison is succesfully advancing the X-book beyond the easy status quo it often lumbers along in. Morrison takes his original concepts and just keeps rolling with them; what if Nova was this, now what if she's this, what if Xorn was Magneto all along, what if Scott got bored of his marriage, what if the school actually operated like a school, what if the students were as rebellious as they are in real life. His X-Men run actually feels like progress, and in superhero comics progress is extremely difficult to come by.

Ultimately I think thats why his run ends with his own Days of Future Pastiche. Morrison knows any progress or changes he makes will eventually be retconned or reversed in some way. So how can you stop someone from rewriting your characters past? You write their future.

craig taylor said...

Yeah. I hated Kordey's art on the previous issues, and this one, while not a whole lot better, kind of works. Kordey's style suits the darkness in the story. Maybe Morrison wrote the issue knowing Kordey would be drawing it.

And Morrison made me care what happened/might have happened to these "second-string" X-Men.

James said...

Weird, I remember this as one of the issues that annoyed me the most art-wise. A lot of great ideas (all mentioned in the post) fell flat for me because of scratchy ol' Kordey. Did Quitely ever even get to draw Phantomex? I know Bachalo did, and made him look a lot better than he does here, but I could never really get into the character because he was more often than not ugly.

Pat Moler said...

Aparently I misphrased my previous state what I meant was, I agree! I apologize if my none hurtful words were offensive.'m sorry I'm just broken up about CAP.

brad said...

How and when are they going to bring Cap back to life?

ZC said...

"...appreciate the [b]insanity[/b] of this character..."

Not to say that Fantomex is crazy, but this is probably the best description of Fantomex's entire character ever.

While Kordey's art bothered me, I feel like this storyline was layed out very, very well. Kordey's finishes may be kinda crappy, but if you got him to lay out panels for another artist I think it would turn out better than you would expect. He has a good sense, I think, of panel arrangement and composition. The sequence where Xavier tests Jean, touching the fork? Beautifully done, compositionally, at least.

Maybe I just need to find an upside to him. Heh. Though, I DO like the headshot of Xavier in the panel after he says "Oh, mineral water. Thanks Jean."

Geoff Klock said...

Coligo: I like the image of Emma on the last page of this issue for exactly the reason you don't: she looks fleshy -- not fat but made out of flesh -- and grossly sexual -- this is exactly what Scott is going to like about here after the pristine Jean Grey. I thought it was very striking and I liked it.

Craig: it is not just the style, it is the fact that he clearly has mroe time to work on this issue than he had in the past.

Brad: Cap will be gone for a year, but will be replaced by four different people who will wear the cap garb -- a robot, a clone, a black guy, and a whatever the hell the fourth fake superman was.

zc: kordey does do some great layouts in this issue, including the one you mention.

jmm said...

I must live in a different world: I simply LOVE Kordey's art, as long as he inks himself.

His X-Treme X-Men bastardization at the hands of Scott Hanna (if memory serves me) was painful and absurd, because it makes no sense to hire such a singular artist as Kordey, only to then have some trite inker make him look as poor and bad as most artist in the Marvel/DC stable. When left to his own devices, he can draw circles around most of his peers, no matter how rushed. In fact, that rush brings a loose, almost sketchy and vibrant quality to the page that I enjoy a lot.

Here in Morrison's run his art is only second to Quitely's (and in many issues surpasses him, again because of bastardization-through-inking, but this time with Quitely as the victim) and, his style is just right to try and follow Quitely's footsteps.

As for Fantomex having his neural system outside himself, located in his flying companion, that brings echoes of Chaykin's glorious MONARK, STARSTALKER in Marvel Premiere # 32 [1976], where the leading character had a kind of falcon companion that served as his nervous system... or something like that.

wwk5d said...

I always found the Phoenix stuff to be pretentious. And the interactions among the X-corps people (not all were X-force) grating.

I will say I found this to be one of Kordy's better issues.