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.


Roger Whitson said...

I still think that had they allowed Beast to be gay, it could have been interesting. I don't think there are any gay mutants (with the exception of Northstar who hasn't shown up since right before Morrison's run). And that whole I want to "challenge preconceived notions" is just B.S. I always roll my eye at conferences when people say that they are "challenging the prevailing view" or giving a "radical account of" because most of the time they have no idea what the prevailing view is.

Instead of pontificating endlessly about being a joker and "challenging," just do something interesting and let other people call it "challenging."

Geoff Klock said...

Roger -- I agree.

neilshyminsky said...

I remember at least a dozen people (probably more) actually freaking out over Darkstar's death on my message board. Another poster very wisely asked 'if you cared so much, why did you choose this moment to let everyone know?' I think, perhaps, that Beast and Fantomex had pushed the book in a direction that seemed too mocking and ironic. And it will, of course, only get worse.

Roger Whitson said...

but alot of Morrison's stuff edges into the mocking and ironic--see his JLA in which Morrison tried to see if he could top each storyline in terms of its scope. In my view, it ended up being a mockery of the book's (and by extension DC's) tendency toward the epic.

Matt Brady said...

Geoff, you're right about the Scott/Emma affair being the real shakeup. In fact, I think it's just about the only element of Morrison's run that hasn't since been reversed. Somebody will probably split them up after Whedon stops writing Astonishing.

Geoff Klock said...

Neil, Roger: we need to distinguish between characters like Beast and Fantomex being mocking and ironic (I agree that they are) and Morrison himself being that way in his whole run, which is not as clear. One of the ways in which Morrison's New X-Men is bad is that it never gets a proper tone established -- at times it seems to mock, and then an issue later we have a 9-11 tribute. Morrison's JLA does try to top each issue in terms of scope -- which leads into the Authority and all the problems that followed -- but I am not sure that is mocking. It is hyperbole squared, but mocking suggests a hatred I do not think Morrison has toward the JLA. Again, on NXM it is hard to pin him down -- I will keep my eye on him doing this as we continue. This is very helpful. Thanks.

Matt: I bet you are right.

neilshyminsky said...

roger: Sorry, my tone was probably unclear. When I said 'it will only get worse', I meant for the people who object to Beast and Fantomex.

geoff: Yeah, I had always had difficulty naming the anxiety NXM could sometimes conjure, but I think that you're right to suggest that it's the ambiguity over whether Morrison is being mocking (hateful) or ironic (playful). There's a lot to suggest that Fantomex is of the latter sort but by the time Xorn is revealed to be Magneto it appears to be entirely of the former (whether or not I agree with what Morrison was trying to express, mind you). And then there are a lot of moments that are somewhere in between.