Monday, August 06, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 9

[This post is part of a series of posts looking issue by issue at Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run. For more of the same click the Astonishing X-Men link at the bottom of this post.]

In the danger room Wing gives weird speeches, and the X-Men attack, releasing the Danger Room in humanoid form.

"This being has power we can't fathom, and all it has ever known in violence." This is a persuasive point, and justifies Whedon's idea of a sentient danger room. Whedon adds some stuff about consciousness and contradiction and finding yourself in the contradiction which is actually pretty good, I think, though I do not know much about the science of consciousness and language. It sounded pretty good, which is all that matters here. And the contradiction Whedon imagines makes sense: we thought the danger room was programed not to kill, but Whedon's idea is that is was programed to kill and then had a separate parent program that prevented it from killing -- hence the anger, aggression, and the feeling of being trapped. This is pretty good stuff, well thought through.

Two problems here, though. The first may not really be a problem, and I need to check it to be sure, but Chris Bachalo drew an arc of Uncanny in which Cerebro became sentient, then came back to kill the X-Men. I expect, and like, major plots like Return to Weapon X and Days of Future Past to be returned to again and again in different versions. That is inevitable, and good, as I explained in the context of Morrison. I am less sure what to say, and what to think, about a doubling of a minor earlier story with no real acknowledgement. That seems to leave allusion and revision behind for less reputable modes of memory. Or is could just be inevitable that stuff like this happens in a comic book that has been around for more than forty years, and it is no big deal.

Problem number two? As everyone pointed out at the time the Danger Room -- Danger from here out -- has dreadlocks. Now the word dreadlocks refers to the dread of god Rastafarians have; they do not cut their hair because of a biblical commandment. This fits in with the religious stuff the religious stuff Danger has been spouting. But it does not do much about the fact that Danger is a bit of a design disaster. She is at boring and a bit silly when something awe-inspiring is needed. It has other problems too, which I will talk about next time, as it comes up.

Cassaday repeat/background watch. Wolverine gets a zoom, the X-plane gets a double take, Wing gets a double take. The X-Men spend time in a blank grey space, much of the danger room is a blank red space, which morphs into blank blue space. Enough of the panels have a background, or assorted details, to make the empty ones acceptable. Cassaday does some cool stuff here, before the reveal of Danger.

11 comments:

FP said...

I agree with the design failures of both the danger room lady and also ord, both looked weird to me, although i never really made the connection between the hair being dreads, i just thought it was some weird wire, cabling, hair thing she had going on

hair made from cat5 cabling must be a nightmare, you try having a full head of wire hair and see how you get on

Dante Kleinberg said...

I also had a problem with Danger's design. Same with Ultimate Vision. Why would a robot need boobs? Doesn't make sense. Male robots don't have genitals (I don't think -- though I guess Red Tornado and Vision probably do, considering) -- I don't know. Seems odd and pointless.

James said...

I immediately thought of that Cerebro story when I first flicked through an issue of the Danger arc, which (this was before I'd read any Astonishing X-Men, and had dismissed the title out of hand) reinforced that Whedon's comic wasn't worth bothering with. Having read it (and now an AXM devotee), I definitely categorise the semi-repitition as "no big deal". Especially since Danger, for all its problems, is infinitely (INFINITELY) better than "Cerebro Attacks!" or "Everything You Thought You Knew About Professor Xavier And His X-Men Was A Lie!" or "90s X-Men Comics Have Become So Cosmically Bad They Have Acheived Sentience!", or whatever it was called.

James said...

Dante: To play devil's advocate, Danger doesn't have genitals either (as far as I can remember, anyway), and most male robots do have pecs.

Matt Brady said...

Oddly, I don't think I noticed Danger's boobs until her second or third issue. I thought the character was male at first. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention (which is odd, considering breasts were involved).

As for this issue, it was still pretty good, but if I remember correctly, it might have been where the arc started to show signs of dragging too long. And there was one kind of embarrassing moment, in which Colossus jumped through the ceiling to take out some wiring and lasers and unlock the Danger Room door (or something like that), and we got a close-up of Wolverine's face with him saying "He's back. Peter's really back!" Oy, we get it already. Whedon is usually better than that; I would think he would know better than to trumpet the fact that he resurrected a popular character.

Stephen said...

That seems to leave allusion and revision behind for less reputable modes of memory. Or is could just be inevitable that stuff like this happens in a comic book that has been around for more than forty years, and it is no big deal.

I definitely vote for the latter.

If the first quoted sentence is a coy allusion to plagiarism -- which is what it sounded like to me -- I think it's unwarranted. Whedon has said he didn't read the X-Men in the 90's, coming back with Grant Morrison; and it's the sort of recreation that is (as you said) more-or-less inevitable in a 40+ year comic.

I haven't read the other story (since I, like Whedon, wasn't reading X-Men in the 90's -- I too basically came back with Morrison (retroactively, in trades, but still)), but it sounds like innocent recreation to me. This is no big deal.

It is especially no big deal if the newer version does it better -- which, from James's comment above, it sounds like. It's always fair game to do a bad story better -- and if you don't realize it's recreation (quite a reasonable occurrence), then any need to signal the repetition is, for me, clearly void.

(The need comes in when one does a good and beloved story again -- i.e. Days of Future Past or something. Not with inadvertent repetition of obscure (especially poorly-done obscure) stories.)

SF

Dante Kleinberg said...

James: You're right, but I missed a key point in what I was saying.

Robots like Vision and Red Tornado (and most others you can name) were created by humans to look human -- whereas Danger and Ultimate Vision created themselves and just decided to give themselves robot boobs for some reason.

James said...

But: clearly they're creating themselves in the image of humanity, so the question becomes not "why give themselves breasts", but "why do they have/choose a gender"? Which I don't think would be particularly hard to justify in either case.

neilshyminsky said...

dante: I think that your elaboration on the difference between Vision and Red Tornado versus Ultimate Vision and Danger (or, like, Jocasta) is actually a difference that could be played up in interesting ways. When robots are created by men, they resemble men; when they are created by an artificial intelligence, they resemble women. There could be a techno-feminist politics at work here, somewhere. Or we could imagine one, anyway. :)

Christian said...

"When robots are created by men, they resemble men; when they are created by an artificial intelligence, they resemble women. There could be a techno-feminist politics at work here, somewhere. Or we could imagine one, anyway. :)"

Of course there could also be read a misogynist viewpoint into as the machines transform themselves into the, as some may perceive it, "less threatening" of the two sexes.

Though I highly doubt it. Just playing Devil's Advocate.

neilshyminsky said...

christian: Less threatening is incredibly relative, though, when we expand our frame of reference beyond human beings - given that insects comprise the majority of the animal kingdom, and that female insects are often more dangerous than the males, this is hardly a universal thing. Robots are an entirely different 'species', as it were, so they need not use humans as their basis for comparison. (And, in many cases, resent humans altogether.)

Which is just to say that I can't imagine why a robot would built a 'female' robot unless that first robot thought that there was some advantage to the form.