My personal excavation of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run continues. When we left off last week, the X-Men had just repelled a Shi’ar offensive cleverly orchestrated by Cassandra Nova Xavier, whose evil genocidal brain was secretly hidden in Charles Xavier’s body. But the good guys pulled it out in the end, thanks to the incredible psychic feats of Jean Grey-Summers, and when the smoke cleared, Charles had regained full use of his legs. Additional details and gushing can be found here.
Now let’s get it going once again…
Fantomex (Issues 129-130)
Another great new character from Morrison, that I’m pleased to see making a bit of a resurgence in recent (and coming) months. He always felt extremely promising to me in this particular arc—another Weapon X escapee slightly more “advanced” than Wolverine, with an equally mysterious past, and a personality surrounded by an impenetrable veil of overpowering arrogance. And this is even before you take into account that his partner is a cool ass flying saucer housing his entire nervous system. The dude just has “breakout character” written all over him, and it seems writers like Jason Aaron and Matt Fraction certainly agree.
But his introduction is great stuff here, placing Charles and Jean in a moral dilemma over his amnesty request, getting to spend a little time with his mother (maybe), learning that X has always meant ten, watching him shoot people in visually interesting ways, all before the reveal of why he really led them into a battle with Weapon XII. Know people tend to complain about Igor Kordey’s artwork on this series, but his style was a perfect match for this character, and if the time ever comes when Fantomex is spinning off into his own series, that’s the first guy they should call on. More on the storytelling and sales potential of Weapon Thirteen a little later on down the line, but seriously, that cover there is pretty awesome, right?
Cross That Line (Issue 131)
We didn’t know exactly how far it was going to go until now, this flirtation between Scott and Emma. Oh sure, this sort of thing has happened before, Scott and Jean being pulled apart by Logan, or Psylocke, or whoever, but bottom line, the X-Men’s power couple always emerges unscathed and relatively unaffected. But this latest development, what began as “counseling” now turning into a full-fledged psychic affair, always felt a little different, like they were really serious about changing things up this time. It was all about simple context, and this developing relationship felt a little more torrid than earlier attempts—not as much a physical betrayal as an emotional one, making it all the more genuine, if such a word can be applied.
This issue includes some great moments and imagery throughout—Scott and Jean’s old uniforms flying out of the chute, Emma slipping into some of Jean’s Phoenix gear, and Logan thinking that Scottie has fallen asleep at the wheel. No turning back from this point, so all we could do now was settle in and wait patiently for the inevitable confrontation.
The Originals (Issue 134)
This was just a tiny bit, but it was really good watching Scott and Hank interact a little when the world wasn’t splitting apart. Having Scott confront Hank about his real motivations for coming out, and on the flip side, Hank teasing him about his developing relationship with Emma was a gentle reminder that these two have been at this forever. And that they’ve built an endearing and complicated friendship that always manages to survive whatever changes they’ve both gone through over the years. Even apocalyptic mind loss, in this particular case. Again though, this is a small almost insignificant moment among others, but one I always personally appreciated.
Welcome to the Special Class (Issue 136)
Okay, so let’s talk a little about Xorn and the huge upcoming reveal that the Chinese healer with the star for a brain is really just Magneto, in a clever and elaborate disguise designed to infiltrate and destroy the Xavier school from within. Now, there have been a couple of very subtle hints scattered throughout, but to me, this refreshing diversion with the special class offers the first official clue that all is not what it seems with him. Which doesn’t make the eventual surprise materialize entirely out of left field, but this never felt like the “fairest” revelation to me, and every time I re-read it, I feel the same way.
I want to feel better about it, especially since Morrison’s original manifesto reprinted in the first hardcover made it clear something was up from the beginning, and I think there were some real opportunities to lay the groundwork a little more directly. Yeah, it’s kinda there, but even though there was obviously something funny down, I never thought, “You know what, maybe that’s actually Magneto again.” Even when he dispatches the U-Men with a strangely intense power manifestation, and makes it clear to Angel that no one is to be told about it, I never went there. Of course, that could’ve been entirely the point, and there’s plenty of time for this discussion when it actually happens, so let’s shift focus to the actual context of the aforementioned power manifestation.
The return of Quitely is again perfectly timed here, as his visual style really shines with these weird, and highly unusual new mutants. No offense to any of the book’s other artists, but no one really drew Beak like him, or Basilisk, or Ernst, etc. etc., and he had a way of humanizing even this terribly motley crew. This would be his final arc on the book, and Grant made sure he went out in style, giving him an opportunity to draw a lot of the major elements and new characters that he began cycling in with issue #114. Little more about this swan song right below of course, but clearly one of the greatest elements of it were his renderings of Xorn and his special class on a fateful camping trip interrupted by U-Men.
Break It Up Now (Issues 137-138)
Quentin Quire’s little youth uprising is great fun, powered by drugs, matching uniforms, and as Logan called it, “a half-baked manifesto,” but seeing the real X-Men hand them a well deserved beating is much better. Because of my Cyclops crush, I’m required to mention him breaking Redneck’s nose with an optic blast, and that dope-ass cartwheel/blast combo thing he does shortly after that. Oh yeah, and tearing down the road in a purple sports car, showing everybody what a well-executed takedown looks like, is great too. But you know, you definitely get the vibe that this crew has been kicking folks asses for years now, and it was a slight change of pace from some of the crazy overwhelming threats they faced in the first half of this run. Sometimes it’s really cool to see just how easily things come for experienced, well-trained superheroes. Unfortunately, some of the kids don’t come out of the riot alive, effectively ending the second act of the series as we wave goodbye to Frank Quitely, who delivered his usual best on every interior page he touched.
Explain (Issue 139)
You knew it was coming, and it’s as emotionally charged and visceral as you’d expect, but even though Jean’s anger is well justified, I don’t think that Emma Frost has ever come across as sympathetic as she does when Jean storms into her thoughts, and starts pushing things around. Emma clearly says as much when they’re sparring, but Jean’s increasingly heightened power levels are so beyond everyone else, that when she does cut loose with good reason, it’s easy for her to simply come across as a well…well, a playground bully. Attacking Frost with her greatest failures and insecurities seems a bit much, especially when Scott gets off scot-free with a telekinetic kick out of the room. But while combing through Emma’s deepest, darkest thoughts, Jean is surprised by a terribly inconvenient truth…that Emma is genuinely in love with her husband. And that important truth is going to be a driving force throughout this final leg of Morrison’s run, and be the one thing that literally saves the entire future of the X-Men. Even in Grant Morrison comics, love conquers all.
Motive For Murder (Issue 141)
One door on Morrison’s locked room mystery (which I guess is really a locked mansion mystery) closes when Bishop and Sage learn who attacked Emma Frost, but another more ominous one continues to cycle open as the exact why eludes them. This was a nice little story that featured fantastic guest turns from Bishop and Sage, an entertaining duo who I thought should be getting their own series following this appearance. There are some great character moments that come from them placing the entire school into lockdown, and treating every one of the senior staff and students as potential suspects in the murder attempt. The end result is an engaging and intelligent whodunit that takes full advantage of everyone’s varied abilities and relationships. The actual how of the crime involves a number of different characters dealing with a number of different personal issues, the identity of the secret drug dealer on campus, mind control, and a concealed pregnancy, offering a complex, but entirely believable conclusion.
And here’s where we take one last break before this whole deal is wrapped up just in time for the holiday. After that, we move on to Joss and John’s Astonishing X-Men work, which I’m having a great time experiencing all over again, without the frequent interruptions. Everyone have a great Thanksgiving, and thanks for again dropping by. Back soon.