[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.