A look at the "New X-Men"
9.14.2002 by , every Thursday.
A super busy August has come and gone. A backpacking trip through England, Belgium, Holland, France and Italy. Back home to Montreal to try and get a job. To register for classes. To go to school for the first time in two years. But all that’s been settled, and I can get back to the important stuff, talking comics.
Well, being out of the country for a while does have its perks. When I went to my local shop to pick up my subscriptions, I had fifteen books there waiting for me. It was like it was my birthday, all these well-wrapped presents, my name on them. (Of course, I had to pay for them and that quelched my party mentality, but what the hay, comics = good.)
This time around, I’m gonna take a look at one title, the “New X-Men”, published by Marvel. The title was changed a few months ago from just “X-Men”, with the introduction of a new creative team, notably new writer Grant Morrison. Morrison came over from DC, after a long and successful run on their title “JLA”. (As a side note, his work on JLA has all been reprinted in trade paperback form, and is pretty darn good.) He took on the X-Men, and promised to take it in a wholly new direction. Well, pretty much every writer says that when he starts on a new book, but he had a lot riding on this project. Morrison was making a big cross-company jump, and was leaving behind a title he (along with JLA artist Howard Porter) had made a hit. He was taking on the flagship title for Marvel comics. A top ten book, every month, for at least two decades. How much would he try to take it into a new direction? How far would Marvel let him?
Well, the answer to the latter came from Marvel editor in chief, Joe Quesada. He saw the plans that Morrison was planning on bringing to the X-Men, and gave them the go ahead.. Grant Morrison now only had to live up to his own words, and actually take the book in a new direction. He started that of with a minor line-up shake-up, opting to trim the team down a little. Prof. Xavier, Cyclops, Beast, Jean, Wolverine, and adding Emma Frost and Xorn. Next, along with artist Frank Quitely, they redesigned the costumes of the team, shucking the spandex for a more…black leather look. Team jackets, black jeans, and leather gloves all around, and with the exception of Emma’s lick and stick, gravity defying outfit, gave the team a more real look. But this stuff is all pretty par for the course for a new writer taking on a new title. It’s what came in the stories that Morrison really made good on his word. Just a quick overview of some of the plot and sub-plots he’s introduced since taking over:
-Sentinels killed sixteen million mutants on the Island of Genosha, including their president Magneto, a veritable Mutant genocide.
-The Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters is reopened, and hundreds of little mutants arrive on campus.
-Xavier is “outed” as a mutant on national television.
-The storybook romance of Cyclops and Jean hits the rocks, and sexual tension oozes between Cyke and Emma. An affair is hinted at, but not out in the open (…yet).
-Beast, after mutating further into a more animalistic appearance and getting dumped by his long-time beau, announces to the world that he’s gay.
-Wolverine is a badass mofo. (Whoops, that’s not really innovative, um, never mind that last one)
Coupled with talented artists Frank Quitely, Igor Kordy and Ethan Van Sciver, Morrison has changed the feel of the book, away from “flash and lasers” to a closer look at the interactions of the already well developed characters of the team. Making it more of a drama, which has given the ever-present action in the book more weight. Spending more time on what is driving the players in the book, and seeing more of their reactions to the fights they get into, makes those fights much more important to the characters, and by way of them, through to the readers.
The most recent issue, New X-Men #132 , is really one of the better examples of Morrison’s ability as a writer. Released this September 11th, this issued draws parallels between the destruction of Genosha and the World Trade Center attacks. Mutant heroes gather at the center of the Sentinel attacks one year later, and amid the utter destruction of the capitol, reflect on what has happened. Xavier and Jean from this title meet up with Storm, Thunderbird (who are regulars in Chris Claremont’s X-Men X-Treme), Sabra, and Quicksilver (now an Avenger, as well as being Magneto’s son). While walking amongst the wreckage of the city, they happen across the Toad, who along with a couple of other survivors, are constructing a monument from the parts of a giant, disabled Sentinel. A fight is averted as both sides agree this is neither the time nor the place for it.
This issue succeeds in so many ways. It is subtle enough to not be “really about 9-11”. It doesn’t refer to the events in New York, and is only linked by the way the characters have feelings that mirror those that people have in life. Regret, anger, and loss are shown masterfully in all the characters there. Also, a very keen choice of characters by Morrison makes a point, almost subliminally, to the readers. Thunderbird, Neal Sharra is East Indian, and lost his brother to a terrorist attack, Sabra is an Israeli super agent, and Toad is a criminal. It was done to show that the events on Genosha transcended nationality and religion, but it was in no way thrown in the reader’s faces.
Secondly, the portrayal of these characters in this setting is so smooth and honest. Reading it, the dialogue is involving, and it lends so well to the fantasy of these people, that it evokes an emotional response from the reader. Good stuff, truly. This issue rates my highest recommendation of any other I have read this year.
On this weeks “Threads, Baby!”, a look at the Castle-man himself, Frank Castle, aka the Punisher! His black and white outfit, with the super-sized white belt, really shows how funky fresh this former soldier boy really is. He’s bringing his own brand of justice to the streets, and along with that, he’s bringing a style that every body can dig, weather they be metal-heads or hip-hoppers, go-go girls (love the white boots) or professional assassins (who are never without their accessory belts). He gets great points for the outfit, but his hair issues are way too large to ignore. A little mousse could have brought him up a notch, but as it stands, the original Big-Pun gets 4 under-roos for his kevlar duds.