Monday, March 26, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 133

[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run issue by issue. For more posts like this one, just click the link at the bottom of this post that says "New X-Men".]

Morrison killed off 16 million mutants in Genosha right around the time of the World Trade Center attacks. In issue 132 he tries to do a heartfelt tribute to that real world tragedy with mixed results. It ends with a silent page of the team crying for what has been lost, a heartfelt attempt, if a failed one. The very next issue opens up with Wolverine slaughtering Arabs in Afghanistan -- he gives one guy a chance to put down his gun (which cannot harm Wolverine, so they guy poses no threat), and when he does not, Wolverine cuts his hand off. So much for the sensitive treatment -- you will remember how I pointed out how this book cannot find any kind of coherent tone. Van Sciver adds a further ironic dimension to Morrison playing with real world events -- one guy has a "Van-Sci-Ver" gun. Wow that is not clever at all.

And that is not the end of Morrison using the X-Men in this issue to do the kind of ham-fisted "real world relevance / wet dream revenge fantasies" found in Cassaday's Captain America in the days following 9-11. Only pages later, Xavier and Jean are on a flight to India that is hijacked and they mind control the terrorists to put down their guns and talk like bad L.A. pop psychology self-help books, just as they did with "Animal" a few issue back. It is a pacifist version of Wolverine's violent revenge, but it is still a fantasy about brainwashing the 9-11 terrorists and turning them into idiots. Ironically, Xavier says they "talked" to these guys, but clearly he and Jean rewrote their minds with a force they could not resist. I expect a guy as smart as Morrison to be more interesting or subversive or SOMETHING with his fictional take on real world events. With all this stuff about mind control and punishment I do not know what to make of the fact that, when the terrorists attack, Xavier is reading an airport or in-flight magazine about HIMSELF with the words "mutant philosopher" in French and an image of him looking like the French theorist of discipline and power, Foucault. (This magazine was pointed out a while back -- whoever did it should take credit for the grab in the comments below).

Are we done with terrorism yet? No we are not, as, when Xavier lands, someone tries to take him out with a head-shot from a long distance rifle with a scope. It turns out to be Lilandra, still crazy from Nova, but still -- why does the only way she can think to kill him have to look like the assassination of an American president? I do not even know what to do with all these images, except be surprised that Morrison seems to be drawing on them in a fairly uncritical way. He is channeling the voice of the culture or something, and it is very depressing. I certainly do not know what to make of Xavier telling Lilandra that everything will be ok, and how maybe she should look on the bright side of Nova breaking her mind -- maybe Lilandra is not broken, but dissolved, changed to new form. It is ironic that Morrison's response to real world violence is to go back to standard revenge fantasies, and not new forms.

A fascinating female Arab mutant is introduced dressed in the traditional black covering of Muslim Women -- talk about a commentary on the sexy-leather uniforms Morrison introduced. (Jean, when she meets her, is wearing a Tee-shirt version of her Phoenix outfit, which is great -- Van Sciver draws her with a tremendous natural beauty in this issue, something he was not doing in issue 117). This new mutant can become dust and clean the flesh off men's bones with a storm, but all she ever says is "Dust." With all the idiot terrorist revenge stuff, this comes across like a breath of fresh air, an interesting new character who could go in so many directions. This is a character and an idea with a huge amount of promise -- a new character in the tradition of the around-the-world-team of Giant Size X-Men. Unfortunately, Morrison virtually never uses her again, which is just a stupid fucking waste.

My main point about Morrison's run as a whole is that it is uneven in the worst way, brilliant one moment, awful the next. So it is no surprise that this issue features on of my favorite bits in the run, A GREAT detail: We see a few more X-Factor and X-Whatever mutants working at X-Core India in the kind of superhero outfits common in the 90s -- because of Bollywood, they say, people love all the tassels and colors. What a FANTASTIC way to imaginatively salvage a bad moment in superhero costume history by finding a proper context -- there is the Morrison I know and love.

The issue ends with nonsense about the Phoenix hatching and how the planet has toxic levels of aggression and nature is dealing with the mutant threat through violence. Apparently the "toxic levels of aggression" in the culture were getting to Morrison as well in this issue, because he was channeling a host of them like a bad Death Wish movie. At least we got the great line about Bollywood, even if it buried in this mess.

7 comments:

Ultimate Matt said...

I distinctly recall this issue as being possibly the worst in Morrison's entire NXM run - the only one I felt had virtually no redeeming value (aside from the bollywood costume thing, which I agree was a brilliant moment).

Aside from the points you made above, which I agree with, I've always been bothered by the fact that Lilandra personally went across the universe to shoot Xavier. She couldn't find an underling to send? Maybe with a more high-tech manner of death? Just silly.

Roger Whitson said...

yeah, it seems that a book devoted to "posthuman" issues shouldn't worry itself with so-called real world events, it should make those events surreal or hyperreal (though not in the Baudrillardian sense)...

Geoff Klock said...

Matt, Roger: thanks guys.

Again, I just cannot understand people who read an issue like this and then call the run a great one. Great has got to mean no bad issues, at least.

Kaelin said...

Thanks for the shout out about the Foucault comment, Geoff. I appreciate it.

wwk5d said...

Actually, Dust was from Afghanistan, she wasn't Arab. Unless you're making a point I just didn't get? Sorry, I'm Arab, and these things kind of bug me.

I was pissed off at one bit of dialogue, where Morrison comments about someone speaking Pakistani. And we made fun of George Bush for saying he doesn't speak Mexican...

Anonymous said...

No bad issues is a statistical impossibility. There has never been a "run" without a single "bad issue." Yet, there have been great runs. Runs that truly redefined the way a comic was viewed, read, interpreted, and remembered. I'm not saying New X-Men was a great run, mind you, and not entirely disagreeing with the faults found therein, but it was unquestionably a very good run with only a handful of "bad issues."

-- mortsleam

GenoaCityGirl said...

The Bollywood comment isn't that great. It's rather condescending, given how "meta" Morrison's work can be ("Oh, we white people have evolved beyond bright spandex costumes and are now fabulous and sexy, but those brown people in Asia, bless their hearts, still go for that silly stuff").