Monday, May 28, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 148

[This post is part of a series of posts looking issue by issue at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run; for more of the same click the New X-Men label at the bottom of this post.]

Wolverine opens this issue by noting that he did not even smell Magneto till now. I think that is a metaphor, but what about its literal since? Why didn't he, with all his fancy hyper senses, detect that Xorn was Magneto? Morrison's twist just raises more questions than it answers. Magneto tells Ernst -- who misses Xorn, which is terribly sweet -- that he created Xorn with help from supporters in China. Well, I think I am going to need a little more than that -- did he create Xorn with help of undetectable supporters in China who can rig things to fool the most powerful psychics on Earth, and Wolverine?

When Magneto's speeches fail, Toad tells him that the crowd wants sound-bytes not Shakespeare. At first it appears Morrison wants to attack Magneto for being old-fashioned and un-imaginative -- for re-using old ideas like switching the poles of the earth -- but Morrison also seems to be making a claim that everyone has degenerated, including the people of New York. We never really get to see them here, which is unfortunate.

Magneto's "special class" seems surprised that he wants to exterminate humanity, but what kind of guy did they think he was -- they were posing with him like rock-stars after he destroyed Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. This story is hard to like because its main characters are written badly -- we do not understand them as people -- we do not understand how they got from the Special Class to here -- so when Morrison calls on us to sympathize with them, it fails.

The sequence with Jean and Wolverine, trapped on a rock in space heading into the sun, on the other hand, is great. Jimenez does a wonderful Jean in these issues -- realistically beautiful with her ponytail and sweat, and perfectly normal bra (in stark contrast to the embarrassing super-boobs he gave her in "Murder at the Mansion"). Morrison's writing for the two of them is spot on as well. The Phoenix Force burns away what does not work -- which is wonderfully Emersonian, and my favorite description of the Phoenix force. Wolverine tells a story about surviving without food by eating chunks of off his own arm, which grew back thanks to his healing factor, a great story that shows a great understanding of this character. Finally Wolverine kills Jean to activate the Phoenix Force moments before we see them both die. This is one of the most powerful images in the run, and thankfully we are given a full five pages -- the final three completely silent -- to absorb it. We need the time and we get the time, and it works.

This kind of swerve between bad writing and great writing is what makes this run so maddening, and worse, in some ways, than something consistently badly written. You keep seeing what Morrison can do, and then you have pages and pages of him simply not doing it. It would be a mistake to drop a book with so much good, but it still feels like a mistake to keep buying it when so much of it is so bad.


Roger said...

I'm thinking that the whole Magneto arc was a bad joke--it certainly played out like a tasteless joke. Morrison knew many people liked Xorn, he must have known it. And in an authorial powertrip, he threw him away to resurrect Magneto just to kill him again. If I remember correctly, Magneto was killed right before Morrison's run and in precisely the same manner (wasn't Magneto skewered by Wolverine both times?). This signals to me Morrison's hatred of Magneto, and a revenge plot against a fanbase who might demand a Magneto story (not only does Morrison give us a shitty Magneto story, he destroys the most beloved new character in the process). The arc was so unbelievably bad, and parodic (but in a _Scary Movie 4_ type way), that it makes it difficult to believe that Morrison wanted anything more than to flip off the character. And it must have been--like you said--not planned from the beginning. In fact, I'm willing to believe that the storyline was put together last-minute. Marvel wanted so badly for there to be a Magneto storyline that Morrison threw it in, compressed or removed two storylines he might have otherwise planned to write (the Xorn mystery and the Phoenix stuff), and made it crappy to show Marvel (and the fans) how stupid it would be to actually have a Magneto storyline in the middle of his run.

mitch said...

When I said earlier that this was one of my favorite issues in New X-Men, I mean just for the Jean/Wolverine stuff and the ending.

Two characters, with a romantic history I might add, trapped in an outrageous situation that is seemingly beyond their means to resolve. Isn't that what the best X-Men stuff is all about?

Oh and I made this for you with the toys at my office, Geoff. The anxiety of action figure influence:

Matt Brady said...

Mitch, I can't get the link to work. I know it's for Geoff, but I wanna see it too!

As for this issue, I also remember disliking the Magneto stuff but digging the Jean/Wolverine scenes. I thought the idea of throwing them into the sun was just crazy, even if I had trouble following what exactly was going on. I'll have to read it again someday.

As for the Magneto scenes, I remember being annoyed that he destroyed New York, but none of the other Marvel characters seemed to notice. I don't know what the state of Marvel was at the time, but apparently they weren't keeping a very tight cross-title continuity. You'd think Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, or hell, even Luke Cage might have tried to do something about the giant furnaces set up to incinerate people. In the (mythical?) days when Marvel was more together, this could have been a big crossover event (you can decide for yourself whether that would be a good thing or not). But this seemed like a giant cataclysmic event that nobody noticed outside of this particular series.

Mitch said...

Anxiety of Action Figure Influence, Fixed

Troy Wilson said...

Fun stuff, Mitch. Go, Ian, go!

Off-topic: Loved the CGS podcast, Geoff. Can't wait for future Klock/Fraction team-ups! Bought the Casanova hardcover and loved it too. Many thanks to Ping for recommending it to Geoff and to Geoff for recommending it to the rest of us.

Geoff Klock said...

Roger: thanks

Matt: good point


Troy: Glad to hear it.

wwk5d said...

Actually, Lobdell wanted to kill off Magneto, but was told not to, as Morrison wanted him...

Yeah, pretty bad version of Magneto here. It's almost like Morrison WANTED or was provoking the next creative team to retcon him or something.

The Phoenix stuff was silly stuff, if you ask me. As if the Phoenix Force wasn't already confusing enough, this just made it worse. Still, the scenes with Logan and Jean were really, really good.