Monday, June 04, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 150

[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 click the new X-Men label at the bottom of this post.]

"Have your eyes grown back yet" is a great first line for any comic book; you knew Wolverine and Jean were not dead, but this is such a cool way to announce it.

Meanwhile, the Beast and Emma's ship, after it blew up in mid-air, crashed in the ocean and floated; the Beast and Emma survived somehow and have been sitting on it for three days. The combination of a lack of imagination and missing information here is maddening. Emma's response to Jean's dramatic rescue on the other hand -- "Bloody Jean showing off again" -- is wonderful.

Some nice foreshadowing: Magneto says he always suspected there was more to Ernst than meets the eye, and Esme knows who Weapon 13 is -- both of these details will lead into the true identity of these characters in the next four issues.

Fantomex's "You and whose knees" is a great little quip, and his retort "is everything you say a cliche" is great -- that actually makes Morrison's theme here fun.

Scott gets genuinely angry at Xorn for not being Xorn -- he is the voice of the reader here, angry that Xorn was never real -- but then lamely backs off after blasting him in the face: "I didn't mean to...". He almost changed, but Morrison's unpleasant little point here comes back and comes back -- he will always be weak and stifled because the X-Men, like Magneto, are in a repetitive cycle, a metaphor for the franchise (Morrison makes this point explicitly in a popimage interview a while back). That is why Morrison has Hank attack Magneto just like Hank attacked Nova, jumping on him with needles. We are already cycling back, and Morrison is not even done yet.

In "E for Extinction" Morrison introduced the idea that humanity is going to die out because of a genetic trigger. Hank has solved it in this issue, scratching on the wing of the plane. So there ends that little plot, which started the book off with so much edge. Morrison is angrily ending the things he introduced because he is finished writing this book, not because the story itself demands that they end here. It works with his theme, but it makes him a bad storyteller in these issues.

Magneto just kills Jean with an electromagnetic pulse, giving her a stroke. Again, not great storytelling, but Morrison is just fucking done here, and so he ends it. Wolverine cuts Magneto's head off; no more of the mutant justice Morrison introduced in his early issues, in which a genocidal maniac gets rehabilitated in the robot body of an alien. Heads roll like the French Revolution.

The issue, against all odds, ends beautifully, hauntingly. It is a wonderful end to a pitiful story, which is such a strange thing. Morrison can tell a story, he just does not want to in much of "Planet X" because his theme is that these repetitive superhero stories suck. As Jean dies a crack in the universe is created -- Jimenez just draws a simple tear in the page and zooms in on it, rather than do some cosmic shot of the multiverse or something more inhuman and Crisis-like. Scott in tears calls for Xorn failing to remember Xorn is not real until he says the name out lout, which is heartbreaking. The panels shrink into nothingness and break apart, and Jean calls Scott her best friend, tells him (in the voice of the Phoenix) to Live, and then (back to Jean's voice) says in small letters "All I ever did was die on you." Morrison can do wonders, when he wants to.


neilshyminsky said...

Just a brief note on Morrison's run-as-critique. When I first read the completed run on a month-to-month basis, I loved it because Morrison was clearly whining about the same things that I was. I didn't mind that his sexy post-human approach failed because I thought it was a clever indictment - the X-Men, and super-hero serials in general, are so paralytic that they can do nothing but move in circles, and even Morrison can only manage to indicate the problem and is powerless to break it.

What it leaves us with, though, is a self-reflexively bad story in critique of bad stories. And no, being self-reflexive isn't enough to elevate it to something other than bad. (Though, as Geoff says, there are some great moments.)

Morrison takes the easy way out, I think, and that's what's most disappointing about the run. It's very easy to bitch and complain and mock, but it's much harder to construct a clear and coherent alternative, a means of escaping the circle that you despise. Somewhere shortly after the introduction of Fantomex, I think, that option is just totally lost.

Dante Kleinberg said...

If the same exact run had been written by Howard Mackie (sorry Mr. Mackie but you're a good example) I think it would receive a lot more praise. But because it's Morrison, and a lot of the critics are fans of Animal Man or Doom Patrol or the Invisibles (or whatever) then something as mainstream and accessible as New X-Men can't help but disappoint them.

New X-Men was the first thing by Morrison I'd ever read, and brought me back into comics in a big way after I'd stopped reading during the Spider-Man Clone Saga.

Matt Brady said...

"What it leaves us with, though, is a self-reflexively bad story in critique of bad stories. And no, being self-reflexive isn't enough to elevate it to something other than bad. (Though, as Geoff says, there are some great moments.)"

I dunno; speaking for myself, I do think the commentary aspect of the run alone elevates it to at least slightly above bad (with a definition of "bad" being "of no redeeming value"), and I think there are enough positive pieces of the run to redeem the whole thing. As we've seen during Geoff's examinations, there are some pretty poor moments throughout, but even in the worst issues there are glimmers of really good stuff, unforgettable character moments and mindbending ideas that will make the run worthwhile.

Dante: I agree that this would be considered a masterpiece by many lesser writers, but we've come to expect greatness from Morrison. Hell, even his mediocrity is better than most. But there are parts of the run that are well below mediocrity. I originally had similar feelings about it as you did, since it got me excited about comics again after the excesses of the 90's (clone saga included). But following along with Geoff's examinations has changed my mind about it; I still like it quite a bit, and there are parts that are pure genius, but overall it's not the amazing comics work I once thought it was.

neilshyminsky said...

matt: It was kinda unclear, but I was talking about Planet X specifically when I said 'bad' (and I'm willing to admit some value in something that's 'bad' - i'd probably say there's no value in 'terrible'). There are, of course, other stories that I think are just fantastic.

Matt Brady said...

Neil: thanks for the clarification about Planet X versus the entire run. And I expected that "bad" can have different levels of badness, which was why I added the little definition. My reaction when I hear "bad" is to think "no redeeming value", but yeah, it's definitely different for different people. And "terrible" probably fits my definition better. Huh.

wwk5d said...

"because his theme is that these repetitive superhero stories suck"

If only he would just writen a series of essays about that, instead of this 5 parter. Yes, the ending is sweet, but not enough to redeem this storyline. As others and myself had pointed out, I wish he had offered something new instead of pointing out how much the status quo sucks. That's one of my main problems with Morrison; too much focus on the meta commentary, and not enough on constructing solid plots.

And sorry, Geoff, but the worst is yet to come...