Monday, June 18, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 154

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

What I discussed last time in the context of the previous issue is expanded upon here in the opening pages -- Sublime is a 3 billion year old bacterial colony hidden in man and mutant, infecting them with aggression and mindless conflict so that they would fight each other and not Sublime, who was behind the U-Men, the Super-sentinels, the nano-viruses and Kick. I know I already said this, but that is just amazing. It is a great idea, though it is also a poor cop out for issue after issue of bad characterization ("Magneto and Quentin Quire are supposed to be lame idiots because they were being controlled by blah blah blah..."). In the context of the run, not great. In the context of this story -- fantastic. In the context of superhero comics generally, one of the best ideas for a villain ever.

Tom loved his sentinel Rover and was crushed that Rover thought he was ditching him for something new, EVA, a story that plays interestingly with the old versus new dynamic that Morrison has been playing with all along. Wolverine says cynically in this issue that we've seen it all before. The series ends with severe thematic ambiguity -- Morrison is at his most imaginative, and also repeating and revising everything -- which I am fine with.

Two reveals in the final issue for people who have been with Morrison since the beginning: No-Girl -- someone mentioned in the Special Class as a mutant invisible to ALL forms of detection, the class imaginary friend basically -- turns out to have been a cartoon character invented by Martha. And the Cookoo's turn out to have been Weapon 14 all along -- they were the Sleeper Agent mentioned by Dr. Sublime, and somewhere along the way they were converted to Xavier's cause, which is nice to think about.

In the end the Sublime bacteria is isolated and destroyed by the Phoenix -- "did you think you would live forever, little speck?" is one of my favorite lines in the book.

Apollyon takes the Beast's head off with a flying disk, as his mythological counterpart did. Morrison's point in "Planet X" was that this story just plays again and again, in cycles of meaningless violence. Here, 150 narrative years later, Beast, like Magneto attempting genetic perfection, dies just as Magneto did.

Another little reflexive moment: Fantomex cries out; turn the page and a dying EVA says "Fantomex?" (actually she says "Ffzzzzzannnttommzzzk???? Izzi That U ? I thought / heard I / thought / heard / I thought"). It seems the cryptic allusion to "what happened to Fantomex" was referring to his transformation into Apollyon. The details of what happened are less important than the formal gesture of Morrison bringing his creations all back for the finale, and offering little twists on all of them. This is why Quentin Quire is a Phoenix. It is not supposed to make sense; it is supposed to provide closure, which is more about form than content.

In the end Jean amputates the future, and goes back to the moment it all went wrong -- when Cyclops abandoned the school and Emma after Jean's death. She gives him permission to love Emma and changing that detail changes the whole universe. All of this has been about one man and a decision to soldier on and change his life, or just give up. It is a tremendous note of heart to end the series on, something to ground all the madness -- the higher-than-highs and lower-than-lows and about the same amount of each and very little in between -- this series has been running for five years.

I will post a final summary judgement on Morrison's New X-Men shortly, where we can talk in overview about the series.


Dante Kleinberg said...

Very astute observation with the whole Apollyon/Beast thing. I'm not familiar with apocalypse mythology and would never have caught this myself. However, knowing it now, it's kind of amazing. The cycle of violence is no longer an issue with superhero comics but is now relevant to all human history. (of course, I should have realized this from the first issue where the humans wipe out the neanderthals but I didn't)

Thanks for pointing this out!

The Paranoid Android said...

Don't forget this comic shows us something Marvel would normally never allow us to see (and bless Morrison for getting away with it): Wolverine dying. Those last words of his get me every time. Simple, true to character,...Although Wolvie never was Morrison's favorite X-Man, he still gives him this fitting, noble death. Wolverine dying shows you just how much a dead end that future has become. He is the ultimate symbol for X-Men evolving and yet staying the same (case in point: the adamantium/bone/adamantium claws)...If he dies, then the cycle truly is broken.

brad said...

[This is me applauding] Thanks for helping me enjoy the series all over again.

James said...

Yeah, congratulations on finishing the analysis, Geoff. A mammoth achievement, and a job well done.

troy wilson said...

Yup, job well done, Geoff. I haven't commented very often (because honestly, I agreed with you more often than not and didn't have much to add), but I've read and enjoyed every single entry.

Mitch said...

File under lame-o: I was actually going through a very bad break-up when I initially read this issue. The whole "Here Comes Tomorrow" story line really helped me look at the negative cycles my life had gotten caught in and made it easier to go forward. Anyway- Morrison's magic comics save the day again. Like I said, LAME-O.

Cheers, Geoff. This has been fun.

wwk5d said...

The Paranoid Android: Interestingly enough, we see him die during DOFP...granted, his last words weren't so eloquent then ;) Aaah, for simpler times when Wolverine was just Wolverine, instead of WOLVERINE lol