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.


Matt Brady said...

Was this the final issue of the arc? I remember liking the scene where Xavier took over hundreds of Multiple Man copies to fight Weapon XII. Was that this issue or the next one?

As for the portrayal of Xavier, I was unaware that that trend was begun by Mark Millar. I guess it's another example of his darker take on superheroes that was once confined to the Ultimate books leaking into the mainstream Marvel universe. It's really been overdone in recent years, with Whedon's "Danger" arc, Brubaker's "Deadly Genesis", and Bendis's "Illuminati". He's almost a villain now.

Jason Powell said...

I may not have any place commenting on these New X-Men posts, as I have not read any of Grant Morrison's X-Men work (other than a few pages skimmed in stores).

Just reading these reviews (which are fantastic), I have a feeling I wouldn't like it. As an example: People are talking about the cleverness of making the "X" in "Weapon X" be the number 10 -- and it probably would be clever ... except, this strikes me as more redundancy. A bit like how it's been pointed out that Cassandra Nova eventually became a retread of the "Onslaught" idea (which in itself was a retread of a throwaway idea from Uncanny X-Men 106 back in the '70s). Mucking around with the origins of the "Weapon X" program was done ad nauseum back in the early 90s.

I remember distinctly, for example, that it was established that Wolverine wasn't the only one designated "Weapon X." There was a new Weapon X, called Kane, for example. It was all terrible and dumb and confusing back then, and it sounds as if Morrisson was simply adding more confusion to something that was already a mass of incoherence.

Also, Geoff ... I'm curious, do you think Fantomex fits into the pop-sexy paradigm you discussed in earlier reviews? I got the impression that what you liked about the early issues was that there was a very modern, fashion-magazine-style sophistication (if "sophistication" is the right word -- I don't want to misrepresent your point of view) to Morrison's X-Men, and you quoted the bit in Morrison's manifesto about making the X-Men sexy to both men and women.

How does a character making sophomoric comments about Jean Grey's pelvis fit into that? (My question is somewhat inspired by having read an essay in "The Unauthorized X-Men" by a female writer who was -- to put it mildly -- pretty unimpressed by this particular scene. "Ah yes, the pelvic tilt," she wrote. "It gives us [women] away every time.")

Kaelin said...

'm guessing you might get a lot of flack from people about liking Xavier's darker aspects, but I think you're dead on here--they work especially well in Morrison's work because so much of it is about really considering the ramifications of what Xavier's school is trying to do. This gets much more focus in "Riot at Xavier's," where Xavier's own ideologies end up getting taken to the extreme and (literally) coming back to hit him in the head.

@ Jason: I really think Morrison's rather absurd extreme on mutant powers works precisely because it's so absurd. Yes, we find out that No Girl is really just Martha, but isn't there something charmingly ridiculous about the idea that someone's mutant power is that they only exist conceptually? Isn't that at least better and more creative than however many redundant lupine metamorphic characters we had in the nineties or, say, the number of characters who for various reasons do nothing more glamorous than super strength? Some of Morrison's powers are weird, sure, but it's more about pushing the idea to its limits.

Yes, he's re-hashing a lot of old territory with Weapon X, but at the same time, I think he's doing something different besides just trying to tell the story--the entire thing becomes so all-econompassing and complicated ("The World") and yet ends up so ridiculously simple once things are traced back to Sublime in the end. And Wolverine, whose entire 'mystique' has been re-hashed to the point that it's laughable, ends up similarly simple. For all of the copious Wolverine spinoffs attempting to capitalize on his backstory (to the absurd "Origins" monthly), we find out that Wolverine is really nothing more than an insane killing machine.

What's more important is that, as Geoff mentions, Morrison seems aware that, no matter what he writes, none of it is going to stick--he can reduce Wolverine to nothing more than an animal used by sentient bacteria (which is, I think Morrison would admit, a ridiculous concept even if it's also kind of cool) because it's just going to be retconned the next month anyway. And it was.

The X-Men had gotten stale by the time Morrison picked things up and, for better or worse, Morrison takes some of those stale ideas, puts them in a broken fridge for a year, and pulls them out to show how monstrous (and strangely beautiful) they can become. It may sound ridiculously pretentious, but I think in some ways it's safe to say that Morrison's New X-Men works better as a metacomic than as a standard superhero comic. And that's how most of his comics read--look at Animal Man, look at the Invisibles. That seems to be why some people really hate New X-Men or any of his other works.

Geoff Klock said...

Matt: this is the one where he takes over Multiple Man -- it is a great moment in which he becomes like the monster, in an issue where he speaks like the monster. I have to say I like Xavier as dark as can be without being obviously a bad guy.

Jason: As you point out the whole Weapon X thing was already nuts before Morrison got a hold of it -- he knows it is crazy and dives right in and makes it MORE CRAZY. I think it is a fun move. Think about it this way -- if he tried to make the history of Weapon X makes sense that would be yet another revision. Here is accepts that it is crazy and works in that frame. This kind of insantity is almost TRADITIONAL but Morrison finds a new twist.

Fantomex does fit the pop-sexy thing I want but he complicates it by being so "super-sexy-cool" -- he brings the idea to the breaking point and is also nothing more than pure empty charisma -- the emblem of the whole idea of pop-sexy. His sophomoric comments fit into what I have just said exactly -- it is almost a parody of Wolverine's sniffing. He is an extreme but logical endpoint of Morrison's initial manifesto, just as the Authority are the extreme but logical endpoint of the superhero genre (they are bullies and psychos cause that is what happens to a genre where you put a mask on and punch people you don't like). If Morrison had kept up his initial idea of pop-sexy, Fantomex, introduced in year two, would have been the moment where Morrison begins a double edged self-critique with a character who is both an emblem and a parody of what he started out with.

The Unauthorized X-Men writer, as far as I can tell from your quote, is taking this scene far to literally. She is making fun of this moment without noticing that Morrison already intends this as at least half silly.