Thursday, June 14, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 153

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

As I keep saying over and over again: Morrison is great at naming things. Bumbleboy is a great name for a superhero. He should have been in Seaguy, also a great name.

A hilarious little detail, for people who have read all of Morrison's run and have been paying attention: Nova says to Martha "of course you can still call me Ernst my dear." Casandra Nova was little Ernst in the special class the whole time -- the child who looked like an old woman, a character who appeared only after Nova was trapped in a alien shapeshifting body for re-education. At first (NXM 126) it looked like Nova was going to be rehabilitated in a virtual classroom, but it was in the Special Class that she would learn her real lessons.

It is in this issue that we get the major coup of Morrison's X-Men run -- really one of Morrison's BEST ideas. Adumbrated here, and expanded upon in the next issue, is the idea of the Sublime bacterial colony, which has existed since the beginning of organic life on earth. This bacterial colony has been fighting for survival, killing off rival species as early as 530 million years ago. It has now infected the Beast, just as in the main narrative it used Magneto, and Dr. Sublime (creator of the Weapon Plus program), and John Sublime, from way back in "Germ Free Generation." The mutants are Sublime's real enemy; this is Morrison's most audacious move, absolutely brilliant beyond measure: Beast says

"The diverse, the strange ones, the crooked masses of Megamerica, forever breeding and multiplying into new and more lethal forms. Swarming millions, each faster, stronger, more adaptive, more immune than the last. Giving birth to creatures like [the Phoenix] introducing cosmic strands into the global genebase. The mutants might have become immortal, unstoppable supermen if left unchecked. I had to make them fight. I had to protect myself somehow. I refuse death! I deny extinction!"

The Beast -- Sublime -- fights for total genetic perfection, an end to evolution, so that the X-Men and mutants will no longer be a threat. Morrison has taken the basic motivation of the goofy X-Men villain Apocalypse and revised it into this -- The Beast (of the Apocalypse) and Apollyon (from the book of Revelation) fighting for genetic perfection at the end of the world. And much more than that: he has posited Sublime as THE opponent in the Marvel Universe, the narrative explanation for decade after decade of meaningless punch-em-up comics. Morrison's point in Planet X was that the X-Men are caught in a cycle of meaningless violence they cannot escape from, from which they cannot grow or evolve. Morrison's metaphor for the franchise has a narrative explanation, a fascinating one.

In Planet X Morrison is deeply pessimistic about the future of the X-Men -- he started with something new and strange at the beginning of his run, but they just cycled back again to beating up on Magneto. In Here Comes Tomorrow possibility opens up again: the X-men are a threat to Sublime because they keep evolving, maybe faster than Sublime can keep up with them. The defeat of Sublime opens the possibility of change without handicaps. Morrison gets it both ways: he tries to do something new with the X-Men at the start of his run (E for Extinction), he demonstrates why the form will not allow him to succeed (Planet X), then he imagines removing the obsticle (the defeat of Sublime in Here Comes Tomorrow), and then he stops. Whedon's Astonishing X-Men, a book that picks up just after this leaves off, is thus in an impossible position: how to continue from here?

(Whedon goes conservative, and hopes that solid storytelling will save him, and it sort of does; I may tackle this book next).


Christian said...

I'd really love to see you do Whedon's run as well. Then I might understand how Cassandra Nova was both Ernst and some weird pod thing.


Dante Kleinberg said...

Hmm. I never picked up Sublime from the U-Men and Sublime from Weapon Plus being two different people... Not that it would make if they were the SAME person, but the white guy named Sublime kind of threw me, I guess.

And by the by, I'd rather discuss Doom Patrol than Astonishing X-Men, but that's me.

neilshyminsky said...

Maybe it would make more sense to cover Astonishing X-Men after Whedon has finished it?

Jason Powell said...

I still vote for The Maxx as the nexxt comic, see what I did there.

troy wilson said...

Dante: I'm with you re: Doom Patrol.

Stephen said...

I was going to say that I'd love to see you do Whedon... but having read the other comments, Doom Patrol would be even more fun.

But I recall your saying you want to do a non-Morrison book next. If so... yes, do Whedon. Please.


Mass Hystereo said...

Gotta say that if you were to do Morrison then Doom Patrol would be great. What do people think about doing Planetary?

wwk5d said...

The Sublime thing was interesting, but not a concept Morrison originated. Byrne, of all people, introduced a similar concept back in the day (called That Which Endures, or something). And to have Sublime be THE big bad of the Marvel Universe all this time? Cop. Out. Even if you take Sublime as a meta for the X-men breaking out of their repetitive cycle, it still doesn't work. It could have, had it been referenced more in the series prior to this story, but, I'm not buying it. Sorry.