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.


Geoff Klock said...

Also: HOW TO WE GET FROM MAGNETO's MESSAGE HERE TO THE MAGNETO THAT IS REVEALED TO BE XORN? Is this part of the evil plan? Did he change after this? Crazy.

Dante Kleinberg said...

As much as I love this run, and as many times as I've read it, this is the one story that still truly baffles me. I have no idea what the hell happens in this story. Electromagnetic ghosts? What? I never really saw it as a 9/11 metaphor, because I don't really notice metaphors, but whether it is or it isn't, it remains fairly incomprehensible.

Mitch said...

I surrender on this one, Geoff. I thought I had some argument, like on the Xorn issue, but Naked Polaris and the vanishing radiation suits is really hard to take seriously.

I don't have the book in front of me, but I do think there is a part where Jean gives Polaris her coat at the end.

Dan said...

Geoff, just to answer your sidenote: yeah, radio waves and light waves are both part of the electromagnetic spectrum, so both travel at the same speed.

Apart from that, I have little to add on this issue.

But this advice: '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' is good stuff.

I shall try very hard never to fall into such a trap.

Ultimate Matt said...

By the way, Geoff, have you ever seen this:$

(sorry, I don't know how to do text links here).

Geoff Klock said...

Mitch: Jean does not have a coat -- she is either in a radiation suit or just a top. I have a hard time seeing how you could put a fairly tight radiation suit over a big jacket like that. The point should be small except for the weird naked Polaris thing.

Matt: thanks for that link. That guy is very eager to please, to show that Morrison knows what he is doing. Once again I admit all this is possible, it just does not feel right.

Kaelin said...

I give up on this one too. Honestly, it always seemed to me like Morrison was coerced into writing this issue--it's just not his style, and in that respect it's safe to agree that his run (while quite brilliant at points, I think) is inconsistent. I guess it serves his own purposes in making the Magneto/Xorn reveal more pointed, but at the same time it serves little else in his run.

Geoff, you've used to term "sexy" in various incarnations in your readings--we've had post-sexy, "Liefeld"-sexy, ostensibly-sexy-and-hip, fashion cool, now sexy naked, and, of course, pop-sexy. I guess I'm wondering how you think sexuality plays into his run, especially since you keep coming back to it, often with hyphenates. At first it seemed you were miffed that the 'pop-sexy' of "e is for extinction" was overshadowed by more monstrous characters like Beak and what is (really truly) Kordey's hideous artwork--which does indeed serve the Paris X-Corps arc well in its own way. Given, though, that "e is for extinction" was only his first arc, how do you see these two ideas--sexy, 'media friendly' mutants on the one hand and floating brains on the other--playing off of each other? Does it work for you? Do you think that Morrison's point was to make the X-Men sexy again with the leather uniforms and the flashy (if vague) post-human ideology, or is he going for something else entirely by the end, especially with "Here Comes Tomorrow" in mind?

Anonymous said...

Only one thing to add: Unus is not an obscure character in X-Men comics.

neilshyminsky said...

Re: O'Brien's analysis of the Xorn story. I think that what he describes hangs together pretty well and doesn't necessarily contradict your points, Geoff. There's some confirmation bias at work in what he's writing, naturally - he ignores a lot of scenes and dialogue that would complicate or contradict his reading. And he doesn't question why Magneto would bother with the whole charade in the first place. It's a structural analysis and it works well - a character analysis would have to convince us that it's consistent with what we know of Magneto, and that's where if fails.

Geoff Klock said...

Kaelin: i guess my point is that the sexy stuff and the freak stuff do not play off of each other -- they are just junked together in a book that has no clear focus. He started up wanting sexy posthumans and with here come tommorow he ends 150 years in the future with sexy post-humans: EVA is sexy in that horrid Image Comics way, and Silvestri's Wolverine has almond shaped eyes, like a woman in makeup. Also jean shows up in a sexy Inferno outfit. In between there is a lot of mess and I don't think there is any way to resolve it.

Anonymous: Is he not? Sorry about that. I will have to learn more about Unus the Untouchable man, apparently. Any resources you would recommend?

Neil: Very well said. That's it exactly.

wwk5d said...

Still, I did like the scene with Storm and Xavier. I am curious to see how Morrison would have used her, if he was more interested in her.