Monday, April 30, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 142

[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).


neilshyminsky said...

A general comment not so much on this issue as on Bachalo. As cute and suggestive as his art often is, there's one element of it that bugs the hell out of me. It's detailed, sure, but sometimes that detail veers into cluttered - the eye has difficulty knowing exactly what to look at because there's simply too much to look at. I recall this being an especially significant problem on 'Steampunk', where I'd occasionally get lost on the page.

(Though the addition of Townsend is a major an improvement on NXM. Townsend is a particularly good inker because he's able to make the penciller he works with looks better than he is - in Bachalo's case, as in Madureira's, he would often resort to using thick lines to trace the focal point and lend direction where there was none.)

Mitch said...

The mixed up word balloons have always bothered me in this issue. I can't remember the page number, but there's one part where Wolverine's word balloon is coming from Cyclops and Cyclops' word balloon is coming from Wolverine. I love the issue otherwise, but that tiny imperfection has always infuriated me. Someone please tell me I'm wrong, so I can move on.

I also remember a lot of backlash about Morrison giving Sebastion Shaw mental powers, which he never had before.

Matt Brady said...

You're wrong, Mitch! Actually, I have no idea whether you are or not, but I wanted to help you move forward with your life.

Mitch said...

Haha. Actually, I found it last night. Cyclops says to Wolverine:

"You don't get too many glimpses of the obvious through that visor, do ya?"

Geoff Klock said...

Neil: I very much LIKE that quality of his art. You have to live in the art to understnad the art. It slows you down and makes you appreciate it. and it does make sense if you do that. But I understand what it bothers some people. Steampunk, by the way, is one of my favorite comics of all time.

Mitch, Matt: yeah that is not great.

neilshyminsky said...

Geoff: The problem i feel with 'living in the art' is that it doesn't actually help me to 'understand the art' - I get trapped in them, unable to move with/through them in diegetic time. I appreciate comic book art for the way that it tells a story, and some of Bachalo's stuff lays out a grand scene but feels static and too crowded; they feel less like a part of a story and more like singular moments.