[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Morrison's New X-Men run; for more posts in this series click the New X-Men label at the bottom of this post.]
The last group of New X-Men issues have been bad -- Morrison lost his way for a dozen issues, maybe more: a year of reading has been pretty good at best, and issue 140 was the low point. With 141 Morrison comes roaring back, creating the first perfect arc since E for Extinction, and the first perfect issue since the silent one. You can disagree with my assessment of the last 12 issues, but if you have been following these posts you know ALL my reasons for thinking it.
Years ago I wrote an essay on Mark Millar's Ultimate X-Men, Grant Morrison's New X-Men and Gnosticism. Section Six of the essay focuses on Assault on Weapon Plus (New X-Men 142-145). In that section I said the bulk of what I have to say about that arc, so if you want the main review you will have to go there. I am just going to make some quick notes for this post, and the next three posts, on things in those issues that I did not talk about in the essay.
Bachalo's artwork in in top form, and Morrison has brought writing to match. We get an extreme close up of Cyclops's visor as he gets drunk watching a stripper at the Hellfire Club -- we get so close one panel, the maximum zoom, is just red; Cyclops responds to the stripper's "you really know how to murder a nice romantic mood" with "Yeah. I guess so. I think it might be my new mutant power", and then we just get empty space at the bottom of the page. The art is great and the line is sweet, silly, funny, perfectly in character (he ruined the mood by talking about the junky outfit the stripper will wear when she goes home to her boyfriend) and a parody of Morrison's introduction of "secondary mutations" to justify giving the Beast a new look or Emma a new power. The empty space at the bottom of the page makes the comic timing work. Cyclops notes the reserved table across from him and club honor gets from Sebastian Shaw, "reserved -- a little like yourself." Its these little things, this understanding of how characters speak, that tells me Morrison is back.
Bachalo does a great job with single color tones -- the club is burnt read, the bathroom is all white. Cyclops and Wolverine drinking is fun, and Bachalo draws one page in a twisty road shape to capture their intoxication. When Wolverine goes to the bathroom Bachalo plays a perspective game with a little picture of a pinup girl over the urinal -- we see her as closely as Wolverine does -- before Wolverine and Sabertooth get into a conversation about penis size. A glamour shot of the stripper is wonderfully used to punctuate a scene and to indicate time has passed.
Fantomex is drinking Champagne -- of course he is, he is French, or at least pretending to -- and he orders Tylenol for Cyclops, who now has little green bubbles around his head to indicate his drunkenness. They stand out in pages and pages of red, and are fun. This is what Bachalo
does best, and why I love him. He has a sense of humor. I think he would pair well with Whedon, and would have been my artist of choice for Whedon's Runaways.
The issue ends with Wolverine telling Fantomex that there is no one he would rather have in his corner than Scott Summers, which is really nice: Bachalo really sells it, ending the issue a page later with a single panel, surrounded with empty space (like the camera is backing away), of Wolverine and Fantomex standing over Cyclops who is on the floor saying "*hic*". The humor sells the emotion, which is Whedon's main device (the final lines of Serenity are the best example of this, I think).