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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #193

“Grant Morrison Ate My Brain” Week continues with a great extended run on a very popular title. According to me, it’s the only time said franchise has ever been any good. Read on! (And visit the archive for past entries.)

7/12/07

193. New X-Men

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Grant Morrison’s epic 42 issue run on X-Men, which he retitled New X-Men, was a strange beast. All the old X-Fans hated it because Grant was “ruining” their beloved concepts and characters, and all the X-Men haters loved it even though Grant was using quite a few of the old tropes.

For me, well, it was the first time I was ever interested in the X-Men, and the first time I really experienced a “Grant Morrison Comic.” I’d read some of his stuff before– the first JLA trade and an issue of Skrull Kill Krew or something– but I hadn’t taken notice of the mad Scotsman. But I heard this X-Men run would be really interesting and I was intrigued and picked it up. By the second issue, I was hooked. My interest would ebb and flow over the course of the run, but I’m glad I stuck with it. New X-Men is an excellent, rewarding comic. It’s a great gateway drug to the world of Grant Morrison comics. We3 is too, and it’s shorter and cheaper, so I’d probably go with that first, but NXM also works.

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(Click to enlarge any of the images, as always.)

The real world was growing ever more terrifying as New X-Men was being published– the utter destruction of Genosha pre-dated the September 11 attacks by a month or two. Morrison always notes bizarre parallels between his fiction and his reality, and that’s the most unfortunate one. The series reflected reality in that it portrayed a world accosted by change– a world where mutants were supplanting humans and humans were trying to turn themselves into mutants.

I’ve written about the X-Men before. There’s at least one solid fact in that piece, and that’s that the X-Men are about evolution and civil rights. Morrison understood this perfectly and made evolution the central conceit around which his entire run was based. From Cassandra Nova to the wild Sentinels to the U-Men to Weapon Plus to Quentin Quire to the students to the Phoenix to Sublime to Here Comes Tomorrow, it was all about growing and changing. Xavier’s Academy became an actual school, preparing new generations for the future. Cyclops underwent a personal evolution of character, growing from a bore to a confused, conflicted man, to a hero. Jean evolved into the Phoenix entity again. Beast became a cat. Okay, they weren’t all big sweeping things. I could go on and on about the relationships explored in the run, from Scott/Jean to Scott/Emma to Jean/Logan, but that could fill a few pages of a term paper, so let’s just say it turned out well in the end, as all G-Mozz stories do.

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New X-Men was also about breaking cycles. I was never a fan of Claremont’s X-run, but Grant Morrison clearly was, bringing back so many X-Tropes like the Shi’Ar and the Phoenix and Magneto and whatever else, and then letting them end. The conclusion of New X-Men is about ending the cycle, letting the old things that don’t work finally die and cool, exciting, new things take their place. Unfortunately, editorial didn’t listen, but I don’t want to get into that too much.

I really loved the new ideas Morrison injected into the X-Mythos as well. He expanded on the Weapon X establishment, he gave us wild Sentinels and nano Sentinels, and he gave us Xorn, the sensational character find of 2001, the man with a star for a brain, the character everybody loved. In hindsight, the twist should’ve been obvious, but quite a few never caught on, and it gave us some great thrills.

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The new students were also fantastic. The pages were filled with great new mutant kids, some of whom were just recurring background characters. Others became tremendous characters in their own right. Especially Beak. Man, I loved Beak– the poor, tragic non-hero who never got it right but who had such a magnificent spirit that he encapsulated the soul of the X-Men. His arc was great, as he passes the test and becomes a responsible man. A lot of readers detested him, but I can’t understand why. He’s back now, in the new New Warriors book, but he’s depowered and human and good-looking and I don’t care anymore. It’s not my Beak.

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The book was filled with superb storylines. E for Extinction blew me away, as I recall. It lagged a bit afterwards, with high points mixed in, but it was non-stop greatness from Riot at Xavier’s on. Some people didn’t like Assault on Weapon Plus, but I loved it. A lot of people didn’t enjoy Planet X, but I did. Quite a few people hated Here Comes Tomorrow, and many didn’t seem to get it– including the editors of the X-books– but I thought it made perfect sense and provided a terrific conclusion to Morrison’s story. How about you? Which arc was your favorite?

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I haven’t talked about the art yet– and if you go by the panels I’ve provided in this post, you might think the entire run was drawn by Frank Quitely with maybe a few fill-ins from Phil Jiminez, but that’s not true. Quitely drew less than a quarter of the run, though he knocked it out of the park, especially in the brilliant “silent” issue. Ethan Van Sciver and Phil Jimenez have styles that don’t really work for me, but they did some good stuff. Igor Kordey did the best he could with the time he was allotted, penciling and inking entire issues in the space of a week or so. His European influences were good for Fantomex. I wish he was given more time so his art could really shine. And I quite liked the art from Chris Bachalo, who was perfect for the chaotic mayhem of Weapon Plus. There were a few more artists mixed in there– Tom Derenick, John Paul Leon, Keron Grant, and Marc Silvestri– and they all did fine work. Not all the styles really mesh, but the book looked fine.

Since I’m talking about visuals here, I might as well mention the outfits. I adore Quitely’s redesigns, and hate the costumes we’re stuck with these days. Ugh. Give me those gorgeous jackets any day.

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I could probably go on and on and gush for several more pages, but I think it’s conclusion time. New X-Men was a really damn good comic that convinced me of Grant Morrison’s excellence, introduced me to the awesomeness that is Frank Quitely, and told a brilliant story that finally did the X-Men concept justice. The story is rich and involving, and its themes are excellent. Also, there are explosions and lasers and psychic affairs and thought monsters and aliens and creepy mutant/human surgical hybrids in gas masks and stuff. It’s got all sorts of cool ideas dripping from it. Read it if you haven’t. It’s a good time. It’s really the last X-Men story you ever need to read.

Unfortunately, the point of the run was largely ignored, and the X-Men were returned to costumes and outer space and all sorts of stuff that we didn’t need anymore. The mutant population is now almost non-existent, defeating the evolutionary impact that Morrison was trying to achieve. The Xorn and Magneto stuff was retconned to death. No one has really stepped in and ran with a lot of the stuff Morrison’s set up, or sought to add more new ideas into the franchise. It’s back to being awful again, aside from maybe X-Factor. That’s no fun.

I will now sum up the entire situation. Here is what reading New X-Men is like:

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Here is what I think of the editorial mishandling of this run:

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There you have it.

For some other looks at New X-Men, try this link or this one. Or this CBR retrospective end-of-run interview dealy. I link only to good stuff.

See you in the future.

72 Comments

I got the Omnibus for Xmas, read through it in three days, then read through it again.

Great, great stuff, despite some hideous work by, well, every artist other than Quitely (although I know that they have their reasons, especially poor Kordey).

Riot at Xavier’s would be the one trade that I’d pass onto anyone who wanted to read an X-Men story.

Even the parts of the run that didn’t work for me still filled me with a sense of excitement the first time, as I was still enthralled as to where the series was heading.

This was the only time I ever bought X-Men. I enjoyed the series quite a bit until the Xorn reveal. I still think it was stupid. How was it that Wolverine couldn’t smell him?

Regardless, it is frustrating that once Morrison left the first thing Marvel did was undo everything Morrison did. El Lame-o.

I miss the excitment I got from reading those stories. everything was so fresh and new and I liked where the series was going…but now Marvel is trying to cash in on ecimation which was one of the worst moves in comic history. The mutants that Morrison created were so unique and cool, likeBeak or Ugly John. I miss Ugly John and I would have always welcomed more new mutants.

As someone who was a HUGE X-fan (I owned all 113 issues of this series, plus almost 300 issues of Uncanny) when Morrison started, I must say I was a big fan of his run. It was just more interesting than what anyone had done with the X-books for a long time. I still don’t like the Emma/Scott thing, but at least it was something. I know T. and others like him like to say that Morrison leaves nothing for subsequent writers, and that’s relevant to a certain extent here, but if Marvel and its writers had any balls, they could easily expand on what Morrison did.

Gee, I’m a big Morrison fan, but I so far you’ve mostly singled out stuff I don’t actually like (possibly because I find Quitely’s art unbearable and unreadable). What about Animal Man? What about Doom Patrol? What about the Seven Soldiers (well, some of them, anyway)?

It never ceases to amaze me how a book so steeped in change and futurism can have such a hidebound, artistically ultraconservative fanbase.

Hell, I even liked Planet X, the arc even Morrison supporters hate, just because finally came out and said “Dammit, Xavier and Magneto are just in the fucking way!”

Marvel doing away with everything good about the run, and mucking up everything else, less than two years after Morrison left, is one of the greatest blunders in the company’s history.

Chalk me up as another who was underwhelmed.
The same Sexy-Glam-Pop vibe that made The Invisibles so tedious for me was in full force, and with the exception of Phantomex and the Stepford Cuckoos, there was nothing in the run that invested me emotionally, intellectually, or psychologically.

I still like tossing about that all my favorite X-Men stories have nothing to do with evolution and human rights and gloom and doom and everything to do with crazy Victorian throwback clubs, Giant Pharoah type guys going after Alex Summers, crazy Conan villains transforming New York, and crazy cloned spurned ex-lovers hanging out with a lot of demons.

But I guess that’s just me.

I know a lot of people aren’t going to agree with me, but I fucking love Assault on Weapon Plus and Planet X. It’s funny, because I kind of hated both storylines the first time I read them, but the more I reread them, the better they got until they became my favorite parts of the run.

Planet X especially has so many amazing character moments it’s hard to pick a favorite. (If I had to, it would probably either be Wolverine walking into the sun with Jean Grey in his arms or Magneto’s last words.)

I wasn’t a huge fan of Morrison’s X-Men run (I don’t dislike it, but it didn’t wow me as much as it did some), but I still think it’s really criminal how Marvel panicked and hit the reset button on almost every single thing that happened in it. It’s especially sad in light of House of M and Civil War, which altered longstanding properties just as much as New X-Men, but were vastly inferior comics.

Even though I wasn’t a big fan of New X-Men, I do have to admit it gave the franchise a real sense of direction that was sorely lacking before (unless “do what the editors say” counts as direction). At the same time, though, we do have to blame Morrison taking over the X-books for the abomination that was Claremont’s X-Treme X-Men. I will never understand how that name got approved.

Why, exactly, must we blame Morrison for Claremont’s sins? Marvel could just as easily have told Claremont to hit the road as given him his little vanity book.

This book ruined me for the X-Men.

What I mean is that, after reading Morrison’s run, no X-Men comic would ever satisfy me the way his did. His Cyclops was the best that character has ever been, and made me adore him. The mutant student body was fascinating and diverse, and Quentin Quire is my favorite X-Men character of all time. The riot storyline brought up so many obvious points and issues regarding Xavier and the school that had somehow gone ignored before. I loved the continued evolution of Beast (also the only time I’ve seen any worth in that character), as it really put Hank to the test and showed how he could make it through.

Oh, Beak. You’re the best, Barnell. I love your little chicken-fly babies.

I don’t think I’ve been as excited month-to-month abuot any comic as I was about New X-Men. And yeah, the costumes were perfect. Badass, functional, and stylish.

I’ll admit it. The Xorn reveal totally surprised me. I just wasn’t even on that plane of thought when it came. I was wondering what new, insane idea was coming…

and it was THE original foe.

One of my favorite comic runs ever.

Nitz the Bloody

July 12, 2007 at 9:32 pm

Bill,

Not to sound snotty, but I’d reccomend you look into some of the old X-Men comics that you claim Morrison is vastly improving on, as well as the new X-Men comics you claim are so ” awful “. There’s a lot of merit to the classic X-Men that wasn’t worth erasing.

“X-Men are about evolution and civil rights. Morrison understood this perfectly and made evolution the central conceit around which his entire run was based.” THANK YOU! I liked the Deceimation stuff, and the current Aftermath stuff but it seems like everyone in the past 20 years has forgotten this.

As for Marvel discarding pretty much everything that Morrison did, I think its because Quesada and the editors at Marvel were mad about Grant leaving and signing his DC exclusive. This is all speculation and conjecture, but thats my best guess.

Oh, and I think “No More Mutants” was the best way to get out of the mutants taking over the earth story. Its a lot better than just pretending it never happened or trying to undo it some other way.

Quoting Joe Rice, this was The Progressive X-Men Era.

“Bill,

Not to sound snotty, but I’d reccomend you look into some of the old X-Men comics that you claim Morrison is vastly improving on, as well as the new X-Men comics you claim are so ” awful “. There’s a lot of merit to the classic X-Men that wasn’t worth erasing.”

Such as?

And, just so we’re all absoutely clear, none of those old comics were erased. They’re still there; I’ve gone back and read some of them to check. Change does not erase. This being the point of the X-Men, one would think more of their fans would realize this.

While, as Michael mentioned, those older stories wouldn’t have been erased if Morrison DID mess with them – he didn’t even mess with them!!

His run was very respectful to Claremont’s past work. Maybe not respectful to Claremont’s contemporary work at the time, but it was to Claremont’s past work!

To me, the x-Men have never been better than they were during Morrisons run. Actuually, I don`t think I have ever read a mainstream superhero comic quite as good as Morrisons New X-Men. These were also the first X-Men comics I ever read, so that probably colour my perception somewhat.

Also: I think Planet X was probably the best arc of all, but only when you put it into context with the rest of the run. Magneto is so cool because he has always had this dualism about him. Using Xorn, Morrison manages to portray all his really good sides, especially through all the things he teaches Xaviers students. In the end though Maggie reveals his evil aspect – in which he is the greatest villian of all – and Morrison shows that he is better of dead. Excelent stuff, really.

There’s at least one solid fact in that piece, and that’s that the X-Men are about evolution and civil rights. Morrison understood this perfectly and made evolution the central conceit around which his entire run was based.

I gotta disagree with you on this, Bill. Evolution, civil rights, “protecting a world that hates and fears them,” all that sort of stuff, it’s all WINDOW DRESSING. Somewhere around the mid-’90s, we X-fans got it in our heads that our little megafranchise needed respect, so we started throwing out the “civil rights” and “evolution” lines at people who snickered at us for reading our juvenille funnybooks, in a desperate hope that they’d go slack-jawed and say, “Wow, you’re so more enlightened and adult than me reading that four-color socio-biological masterpiece.” It didn’t really work, but it made us feel better anyway. And then, to our astonishment, Singer’s first X-movie is released and our pathetic self-delusion suddenly becomes mainstream dogma. Everywhere we looked, there was a press release or review or interview where some respected high muckety-muck was spouting our old argument like a pro.

But as I said, it’s just for show, window dressing for a specific metaphor: teenage rebellion. What, did people actually think we were into the X-Men because we were dabbling Darwinians and armchair integrationists? Sadly, no. The X-Men were popular because they spoke to the universal teenage experience. Like every teenager, they raged against the machine, were treated like unwanted nuisances, and felt alienated from society, knowing all the while that someday they would inherit the earth. It’s a broad metaphor, sure, so you can take related metaphors like civil rights and evolution and take them out for a spin, but at the end of the day, it’s the teenage metaphor that the X-Men drive with. Claremont wasn’t the greatest writer in the world, but he knew where the treasure was buried.

Morrison changed all that, though. He took those splinter metaphors and made them the central ones. The X-Men lost their universal appeal in favor of specific, niche concepts. I’ll admit, it allowed for stronger stories (and no one knows how to find and exploit strong stories better than Grant), but it conversely weakened the storytelling engine–and dilluted the target audience as a result. Look at it this way: where the X-Men before were broad with the possbility of quality from someone, he made them narrow with the probability of quality from him. Which isn’t to say that the pre-Grant X-Men were bubbling with genius and he selfishly stole it away, just that he, in exploring his own genius, cut the property off from untapped but not untappable potential that had kept many fans around through years of crap.

From a quality standpoint, I loved it. Morrison really did write some of the best stories the X-Men had ever seen. But in a way, they weren’t “X-Men” stories so much as X-Men in “Morrison” stories. And to beat a dead horse, it was all so narrowing. Narrow the mutant population. Narrow the team. Narrow the focus to the school. Narrow the metaphors. Narrow the relationships. Hell, narrow the variety in uniforms. Practically the only thing Grant didn’t narrow was the scope of his imagination.

Which brings me to my real problem. NEW X-MEN would have been a perfect WHAT IF? or THE END epic. But Marvel gave it to X-MEN, gave it to continuity, gave it implicative importance. Maybe they were expecting Grant to redux his broadening JLA, but he didn’t go that route, probably because the X-Men weren’t as conceptually inclusive. For whatever the reason, he gave Marvel something that changed the X-Men’s genre. And that left them with a dilemma: follow or retreat? The thing is, there wasn’t a whole lot to follow with. Because Morrison narrowed everything, so did the pool of writers capable of treading Grant’s skinny path. And worse, sales had dropped under Grant’s run; if sales weren’t great for the boundless Morrisonian brilliance, what the hell were they going to be for some sub-Morrisonian also-ran? But still, they could have tried. Slog through a few years of post-Morrisonian ineptitude and maybe some heretofore unknown newcomer would have flourished on Morrison’s groundwork. What did Marvel have to lose? They’d already let the cat out of the bag, why not see if the cat could turn a trick or two? Instead, they tried to have their cake and eat it. “Yeah, Morrison’s run happened, all of it without question in continuity and important. Well, maybe not all of it. Just the cool parts. Which we’ll retcon a little bit (won’t make sense, but what the hell?). No, the COOL parts, not the parts that anyone knows about. Don’t worry about it, we’ll let you know. Maybe. Hey look, Bucky’s alive!”

Really? You think Morrison narrowed the X-Men? I couldn’t have gotten a more different impression — I thought he dramatically opened up the avenues for exploration in a family of titles that had grown astonishingly stagnant.

And while I would agree that civil right and evolution aren’t necessarily the central metaphors the make the X-Men work, I think they’re both valid interpretations all the same and fine launching points for stories. It’s not an “either/or” proposition… for an ongoing family of titles like the X-books, you need all the angles you can have at your disposal.

Pedro Bouça

July 13, 2007 at 2:26 am

I may be the only guy in the world to think so, but I find Morrison’s work irregular. Sometimes it is genieus (We3), sometimes it’s pretentious drek (Sebastian O, at least IMHO). Not counting the things he did with Mark Millar, of course, which are ALWAYS bad (damn Mark Millar!).

I thought the same of his X-Men run. There WERE some brilliant moments, but also some quite bad ones. I loved the last few Kordey issues, for example, and the Fantomex character, but thought Riot at Xavier’s was a pretentious pastiche of teenage rebellion cliches.

And, unlike most people, I did enjoy the art most of time! OK, some Kordey issues were horribly rushed and Silvestri’s art was terrible, but most artists did a great job! It had the best Phil Jimenez artwork I’ve ever seen and the best Bachalo in a LONG time, for example.

But I thought the writing was irregular. Sue me.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Oddly enough, Riot at Xavier’s was my favourite arcs. I like stories where the heroes can’t just beat the bad-guys into submission, because it’s not about proving who’s stronger, or faster, or tougher, or who has cooler powers, it’s about who’s RIGHT.
And I’ve always found stories where the heroes have to examine and evaluate their beliefs and their moralities, and then use those beliefs… not their powers or their fists… to overcome evil.
It’s one of the reasons why I initially found ‘Civil War’ quite compelling, for maybe a couple of pages there.

I was an X-fan long before Morrison came to the fold. This was the firs time I heard about him. Loved most of his run, with the highlights: Riot At Xavier, Planet X, ‘Nuff Said issue and the Xorn solo issue. Hated Here Comes Tomorrow. Sorry, Bill.

Agree with Pedro. This probably had Jimenez best art ever.

I loved Morrison’s run so so much. Reading this retrospective filled me with happiness and warm feelings for this run. I recall being excited about every forthcoming issue, and am extremely saddened by all that’s come after it. Especially the Magneto death retcom. I hate that more than anything.

Morrison’s New X Men never quite grabbed me the same way his JLA did, but then I’m a die-hard DC old fogey.

One thing I really did like about E for Extinction in trade was the ‘manifesto’ they published by Morrison. It’s kind of like the statement of intent Morrison published in his first issue of Doom Patrol (“I want to bring them back to being the junkyard dogs of the DC universe”) but it’s incredible how cunning and media savvy he is– he did away with the costumes precisely so that people coming from the movies could have an entry point, and he really wanted to look at the implications of all the things Claremont and Byrne particularly did back in the day and build on it.

His proposal for taking the X-Men forward was bold and exciting…pretty much like everything about Marvel in the Bill Jemas era. Bill Jemas gets a lot of stick but I think he should be a reason to love comics. I was never more excited about Marvel than when he did it. Yeah, Marville sucked and there was a lot of stunts but he did a lot of cool things too, and bringing Morrison to Marvel was one of them.

What astonishes me to this day is how much Marvel didn’t get it. Putting them back in costumes the very next issue felt like a giant leap backwards. I may have prefered JLA but I miss the New X-Men. It’s a relic from the early days of this decade when Marvel was dangerous but a cool dangerous.

Oh and I think the fact that Morrison changed the name of the book so that the logo could be flipped in either direction is awesome.

Just wanted to stick up for the old school X-men fans here. X-Men got me into comics and I am one of those people that have way too much trivial knowledge of the X-Men. Two facts:
1. I loved Classic Claremont (X-Treme X-Men, not so much)
2. I also loved Morrison’s run. The two are not mutually exclusive.

“Narrow the mutant population.”

HUH?? Even killing six million in Genosha, Morrison introduced more mutants in his run than had been introduced in the past ten years of every X-book. Are you sure you’re not thinking of ‘House of M’?

“Narrow the team.”

Well, he didn’t expand it as much as he expanded “JLA”, but his team seemed bigger than was current then.

“Narrow the focus to the school.”

I don’t understand this at all. You thought his arc was focused on the school? Howso? what did ‘Assault on Weapon Plus’ have to do with the school? The only arc that “focused” on the school was ‘Riot at Xaviers’, and that’s the best arc!

“Narrow the metaphors.”

I don’t see how his take excludes your take; one thing I love about Morrison is the way his work can read differently from different POVs.

But I also disagree with your theory that the “civil rights” stuff was No-prized after the fact by fans in the ’90s… considering how blatant it is in Claremont’s run.

“Narrow the relationships.”

Man, you just love to complain, huh? For at least ten years prior, the “relationships” were so ill-defined that just by defining the relationships, they’re naturally going to be narrowed. That’s the result of trying to write vaguely realistic human emotion in your characters, as opposed to what had preceded Morrison, which could charitably be called erratic.

“Hell, narrow the variety in uniforms.”

I’ll grant (har-har) you that one, but, as pointed out above, that was him emulating the movie.

Actually, the logo was Quitely’s idea. Loved it, though.

I am going to reread the entire run of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men this weekend to reevaluate it.

The only bad parts was for me the uneven quality of the artwork. Igor Kordey’s rush job art (not a bad artist, just that circumstances were out of his control in this instance) and well, I just don’t particularly like Michael Silvestri’s work. I would’ve liked to be able to have an entire Morrison/Quitely X-Men run, but oh well.

I’m mixed on this run. I liked Cassandra Nova and Beak, but I’m not sure how I ever felt about Xorn, thinking both sides how good points.

What I couildn’t stand was how the school was run. Making students into different teams and have them compete against each other? Thats even more screwed up then how it was already run.

“Making students into different teams and have them compete against each other?”
Wrong New X-Men run you’re thinking of, there. That was the Weir/DeFilippis New X-Men: Academy X, which came out of New Mutants volume 2.

Nitz the Bloody

July 13, 2007 at 9:46 am

“Such as? ”

The best X-Men comics were defined not by ” mad ideas “, but by more subtle character interactions– the core concept was a band of outcasts finding connection and meaning with each other, and working together to do good. There were the larger sociocultural themes, but the books largely worked because they had such a strong cast with a lot of different interpersonal relationships. Much like the way Harry Potter, Buffy, and other series involving young people with powers work.

However, characterization in Morrison’s X-Men was given minimal and even absent attention; while there were a few good moments, like the Jean/Logan issue in space, most of it was downplayed. So much went on in New X-Men, so much rapid-fire transformation of the X-Universe, that there wasn’t enough time to deal with the emotional ramifications of what went on. For example, what became of the Beast pretending to be a gay icon? Was that just a thing that must have sounded like it’d be a good joke, but was ultimately dropped ( despite how much could have been done wit hit had it just gotten some focus )?

Similarly, the meta-text overtook the actual text at points; instead of belaboring the point that Magneto is a tired old man, couldn’t Morrison have worked to make the character something other than a tired old man? Ridiculing old comics isn’t as productive as focusing on new ones.

” And, just so we’re all absoutely clear, none of those old comics were erased. They’re still there; I’ve gone back and read some of them to check. Change does not erase. This being the point of the X-Men, one would think more of their fans would realize this. ”

When you spend three years trying to do the X-Men as great literature, you’re pretty much missing the point of both X-Men and great literature. The X-Men is a long-running superhero comic with multiple authors, and the demographic generally isn’t scholars of Kafka and Borges. Similarly, scholars of Kafka and Borges generally don’t look to decode life’s meaning in Marvel Comics.

D. Eric Carpenter

July 13, 2007 at 10:14 am

Actually it worked terrifically for me, and I think that’s due to the eras of X-Men I read. I’m grew up on the original Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne run and gave up at issue 210. I picked up spotty runs here and there over the years, but never seriously read the book again until Morrison took over.

The way it read to me was that the original run took place fifteen years before and this was the world after fifteen years of change and development.

To me, the individual runs and issues I tried over the years just had the books locked into the precise period with only illusion of change. By jumping over the vast majority of those issues, this run came across as ‘the future’ of the X-Men.

To people that have been reading the titles the whole time, it probably was an uncomfortable shift, but it worked for me.

What a mirror Morrison’s New X-Men is. When I look into it, I see something attractive and endlessly fascinating.

But that might just be me.

Magneto’s inability to grow and change is part of what makes him weak, limited, a supervillian. His creation of Xorn is a sad parody of the genuine evolution taking place all around him. In this regard, I thought it fit the story beautifully, as well as tapping straight back into Lee and Kirby’s original portrayal of the character. I never bought the character’s pretentious retcon as a conflicted, noble concentration camp survivor (which Morrison wickedly tricks us with via Magneto’s “last words” echoing through the rubble of Genosha), so Morrison’s take made me happy. He did Magneto right, and did the comics right by finally killing him so the books could move on. That they instantly moved backward is disappointing but expected.

All of the back and forth about what X-Men “is” about at heart loses sight of Morrison’s goal–to show what X-Men comics *could be* about–even while slyly, paradoxically referencing the book’s traditional storytelling models. He provided a template that made them relevant. These were superhero comics that deserved to be published, that actually said something interesting about their times. This can’t be said about 90% of the other cape books on the stands then and now. Complaints that he narrowed the books are, to my ears, apologies for those who feel much safer earnestly writing within and reading about established formulas that have been worked past death. The assertion that Morrison and his loose cannon imagination should be blamed for cutting off alleged potential that was *almost actually never realized* by other writers through thousands of comics across decades is downright perverse.

The Xorn/Magneto reveal was just such a great storytelling moment. “X-Men emergency, Charles…”

And making the school into a -school-? Awesome on top of awesome.

The Morrison era was full of change, and I’m sorry they didn’t keep more of those changes. The Xorneto retcon mess is just a shameful, shameful thing. It went me from looking up at my wife and going “Holy crap! Magneto was hiding at the school in plain sight all along!” to “Er, Magneto was really Xorn, who was a Chinese mutant who thought he was Magneto pretending to be Xorn and he had a twin brother who… aw, hell, y’know what? Look, the cat’s doing something cute!”

I think of all the things Marvel has done lately, I regret M-Day the most for what it did to so many of the bizarre, obscure, weird mutants I loved, ones created because Morrison had the balls to drop a truckload of change and mad ideas onto the Mansion.

I’ve always wondered what things would have been like if Morrison had done these stories (more or less) as the opening couple of years of Ultimate X-Men instead of in the main universe…in a lot of ways the run has the ‘hit all the classic stories’ feel that that would have…

brian lockhart

July 13, 2007 at 11:41 am

Reading your review reminded me of something I’ve been thinking regarding Seven Soldiers.
Is it me, or does it seem that both DC and Marvel love having Grant on board and he sells books. But once he’s gone they either do not know what to do with what he’s written, or simply don’t want to deal with it.
Seven Soldiers is a great example. I recall interviews in which Morrison spoke of his hope to infuse new life into these dormant characters. And he did that. But have we heard from them since? Nope. There was a rumour The Guardian was going to join the JLA, but that never happened.
Some, like Bulleteer and Klarion, have had guest appearances, but nothing special.
And even his current work on Batman, particularly his Joker stuff, seems to have been ignored by Paul Dini over in Detective.

However, characterization in Morrison’s X-Men was given minimal and even absent attention; while there were a few good moments, like the Jean/Logan issue in space, most of it was downplayed. So much went on in New X-Men, so much rapid-fire transformation of the X-Universe, that there wasn’t enough time to deal with the emotional ramifications of what went on. For example, what became of the Beast pretending to be a gay icon?

Baloney. Characterization was front-and-center in the run. Cyclops got an actual personality beyond “the boy scout”. Someone dared to suggest that his marriage to Jean might be less than perfect, and show some of that difficulty. Storylines like Assault on Weapon Plus were designed to serve as back drops for character development in Wolverine and Cyclops. The silent issue was an exploration of Xavier’s psyche.

Nothing much became of the Beast-gay joke because it was nothing in the first place. Beast is insecure about his new appearance and his girlfriend just dumped him BECAUSE of it. So, he says something to spite her and protect himself from the pain. More character development. But in the end, it’s just an awkward joke made at a soon-to-be ex-girlfriend.

And this whole “comics aren’t great literature, so they shouldn’t bother trying to be good” argument is a waste of your time AND mine. Don’t bother.

Ugh, I hate hate HATE those jackets. I’m sorry, they just look bulky and don’t work for me for a superhero team.

Gotta disagree about disliking Beak. IMHO, after everything he’s been through both as a member of the X-Men and the Exiles, I think he’s had tremendous character growth and look forward to what’s happening to him in New Warriors (though it is kind of strange that after House of M he looked normal except for a larger nose but quite normal in New Warriors).

Alright! Comments! I love comments! Let’s comment on said comments:

Matt Bird:

Gee, I’m a big Morrison fan, but I so far you’ve mostly singled out stuff I don’t actually like (possibly because I find Quitely’s art unbearable and unreadable). What about Animal Man? What about Doom Patrol? What about the Seven Soldiers (well, some of them, anyway)?

I can’t see how you can call yourself a Mozzer-fan, then. As for Animal Man and Doom Patrol, we won’t be seeing them this week. Hell, I’ve never even read Animal Man.

Cove West:

Somewhere around the mid-’90s, we X-fans got it in our heads that our little megafranchise needed respect, so we started throwing out the “civil rights” and “evolution” lines at people who snickered at us for reading our juvenille funnybooks, in a desperate hope that they’d go slack-jawed

Except I hate the X-Men, and was never part of this group you’re describing. I just look at the concept and I see what it’s about– and it’s evolution and civil rights. And, sure, the teenage movement in the 60’s, you’re right.

Look at it this way: where the X-Men before were broad with the possbility of quality from someone, he made them narrow with the probability of quality from him.

What? Morrison didn’t narrow the mutant mythos at all. He expanded it. And the X-Men *should* be a sci-fi comic that explores culture and the like, instead of a superhero comic where they fight aliens.

Nitz the Bloody:

When you spend three years trying to do the X-Men as great literature, you’re pretty much missing the point of both X-Men and great literature. The X-Men is a long-running superhero comic with multiple authors, and the demographic generally isn’t scholars of Kafka and Borges. Similarly, scholars of Kafka and Borges generally don’t look to decode life’s meaning in Marvel Comics.

Nitz, I don’t know what the hell happened to you, but you’re not the man you used to be. I think you might be a pod person. Last I checked, you were a Morrison acolyte who thought literate comics were awesome. Wha hoppen?

Lewis:

Ugh, I hate hate HATE those jackets. I’m sorry, they just look bulky and don’t work for me for a superhero team.

Yeah, but the X-Men *aren’t* superheroes, in my mind, and the jackets are a terrific, striking design.

Nitz the Bloody

July 13, 2007 at 1:31 pm

” Baloney. Characterization was front-and-center in the run. Cyclops got an actual personality beyond “the boy scout”. Someone dared to suggest that his marriage to Jean might be less than perfect, and show some of that difficulty. Storylines like Assault on Weapon Plus were designed to serve as back drops for character development in Wolverine and Cyclops. The silent issue was an exploration of Xavier’s psyche. ”

I suppose you didn’t read the 70’s or 80’s X-Men comics, but that aside, Cyclops’ personality during the Morrison run was basically as a whiny, cowardly mess, a broken man that Morrison didn’t put back together. ( And no, putting him with Emma at the end doesn’t count, since that’s basically like having an emotionally abused victim fall in love with their abuser ). The character development Scott got was

> Nothing much became of the Beast-gay joke because it was nothing in the first place. Beast is insecure about his new appearance and his girlfriend just dumped him BECAUSE of it. So, he says something to spite her and protect himself from the pain. More character development. But in the end, it’s just an awkward joke made at a soon-to-be ex-girlfriend.

Except that it was publicized all over the world, with Hank appearing on the cover of news magazines and being addressed for coming out by common civilians. Hank’s off-hand joke had made an impact on the world, but we never saw it addressed as more than an off-hand joke. I don’t know if it’s editorial’s fault or the writer’s fault, but it felt like Morrison was building towards something that was dropped.

> And this whole “comics aren’t great literature, so they shouldn’t bother trying to be good” argument is a waste of your time AND mine. Don’t bother.

Comics can be great literature. Superhero comics can be great literature, even. But franchised, corporate-owned superhero comics? The characters created for a general audience, licensed in multiple forms and existing for decades on end? Not so much, especially not when they’re being used in a context that is intended to go on past the current writer’s stay. ( Though if New X-Men were an Ultimate-type deal, I wouldn’t have this problem. )

Similarly, we must have different definitions of good, because I think a comic can be perfectly enjoyable and intellectually valid when it’s not trying to be the next Watchmen.

Ah, my bad. That was just so annoying.

Whose idea was the Emma Frost/Cyclops relationship?

Probably Morrison’s. Why do you ask?

Nitz the Bloody

July 13, 2007 at 2:33 pm

” What? Morrison didn’t narrow the mutant mythos at all. He expanded it. And the X-Men *should* be a sci-fi comic that explores culture and the like, instead of a superhero comic where they fight aliens. ”

The marketplace says otherwise ( given the small but notable decline in sales during Morrison’s stay, as well as all the other ‘ progressive ‘ X-Books like Brotherhood and Joe Casey’s Uncanny and so forth ).

I’m sorry, but as much as I love literature and Grant Morrison, not everything I read has to be literary. Instead of trying to attach delusions of artistry to a fandom, I’d rather just read true literature instead. If you want a good critque of terrorism and 9/11, it’s better to read John Updike’s recent book Terrorist than the Magneto issues of NXM. Or, if you still prefer comics, In The Shadow Of No Towers by Art Spiegelman. There, it’s actually addressed head on, rather than filtered through an ongoing franchise.

The marketplace says otherwise ( given the small but notable decline in sales during Morrison’s stay, as well as all the other ‘ progressive ‘ X-Books like Brotherhood and Joe Casey’s Uncanny and so forth ).

Yeah, And the current, superheroic, alien-fighting X-books are selling worse than that. But who ever gave a crap about sales? Since when were sales indicative of quality?

E for Extinction is brilliant. Best X-Men storyever for me.

Patrick: Don’t get me wrong, I think Morrison DID dramatically open a bunch of avenues. But most of them were so dependent on his own imagination that only Grant could have followed them, which is where the narrowing comes in. Who else but Morrison could write a saga about culture and not end up with 42 issues of boring nonsense? Who else but Morrison could write about a freak-school populated by angry supremacists, wallflowers, whiners, stuck-up debutantes, sour grapes, and Barnell Bohusk, that people would actually want to read? Go down the list of all the things Morrison did and imagine ANYONE else doing them. Got that picture of unholy disaster? NEW X-MEN was broad because it had Morrison, but it’s effect was narrowing because it didn’t.

And actually, shifting metaphors IS an either/or proposition. It’s one thing to dabble in other metaphors, quite another to change the operative one. For example, look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “High school is hell” is pretty all-inclusive, and they were smart enough to go for “College/adulthood is hell” for seasons 4-5; “Saving the world is hell” in 6-7 isn’t exactly relatable unless you’ve actually saved the world. Morrison took a popular “teenage rebellion” metaphor and turned it into “revenge of the freaks;” it made for an interesting angle, but how many people actually think of themselves as freaky enough to be tapped into that metaphor (sure, someone may think they’re treated like a freak, but there aren’t many who buy into it as a self-identifier)? You change the metaphor, you change the stories you tell in order to exploit that metaphor, and you change the audience that wants to read it. And in a continuity-driven property like the X-Men, that can be a dangerous thing to do if it doesn’t work. Which is why I blame Marvel for doing NEW X-MEN as continuity; we’ve now got five years of X-Men stories that don’t make sense in relation to what came before and after it, a void-like blip of incongruity in a 44-year story that depends on congruity. Once you lose that congruity, you lose the audience dedicated to it and good luck getting them back. Just ask Legion fans.

Nitz, you’re not making sense. You’re totally ignoring what people are actually saying, and arguing the points that prove you right.

And yeah, I have read those 70’s and 80’s X-Men comics. Cyclops didn’t get anything close to the characterization he got with Morrison. All Claremont ever did with him was have him make odd value judgments that he got recued FROM.

As opposed to Morrison’s run, where we saw WHY he would lash out and do reckless hurtful things like psychically cheat on his wife. We saw the terrible pressure he always put himself under and why that made him screwed up. And yes, Cyclops was whiny. That’s because he always has been! Even at the beginning, when he used to moan about being too scared to tell Jean that he liked her. Or when he’d complain about not having any parents. Or when he’d complain about the team not doing what he wanted them to. Cyclops is an incredibly critical character, of himself and others, and that shows in his complaining.

Go down the list of all the things Morrison did and imagine ANYONE else doing them. Got that picture of unholy disaster? NEW X-MEN was broad because it had Morrison, but it’s effect was narrowing because it didn’t.

No, that’s not the effect of the run, that’s the effect of the other writers. You can’t blame Morrison for being so much better than the average X-Men writer. I’d rather have a fantastic run that others can’t match, than consistently mediocre ones.

Yeah, Cove, I have to agree with Apodaca on this one. It seems unfair to criticize Morrison’s run because other writers couldn’t have done what he did. I refuse to think that Morrison should have dumbed down his run or been less adventurous because other writers weren’t up to the task. He brought his A-game to the book, and should be commended for it. Would that other writers had the cajones to do so — particularly for the expansive X-franchise, where you’ve got more room to breathe then with, say, Spider-Man — and more editors would, likewise, allow it to happen.

And even if Morrison did have a narrowing effect, I have difficulty imagining that it would have been any more narrowing then business-as-usual-for-the-X-books would have been.

And actually, shifting metaphors IS an either/or proposition. It’s one thing to dabble in other metaphors, quite another to change the operative one.

See, I disagree with this. I see where you’re going, but this all goes back to that expansiveness I mentioned earlier — X-Men isn’t a relatively unified property, as Buffy was/is. It’s a sprawling 44-year family of ideas, encompassing hundreds (thousands?) of characters, dozens of ongoing titles, countless miniseries, etc, etc. When you have a commercial obligation to tell that many stories, you need all the angles you can get, and I don’t see why you can’t tackle it through the lens of a handful of different central metaphors every now and then. After all, for the most part the various metaphors that have been bandied about are consistent with the premise: a fraction of the population, for mysterious reasons, are born with amazing abilities and freakish mutations.

Sure, teenage rebellion is a logical place to take that, but hey, so is civil rights and so is evolution. All of those avenues make sense and I don’t see why different creators couldn’t tackle the ones that interest them more. The possibilities for central metaphors with the X-Men are probably more expansive then the Legion’s ever were — and, by the way, I have no doubt that multiple continuity reboots are just as a big a problem with that franchise then changing metaphors ever was.

Also, I really think you’re overreaching by naming “teenage rebellion” as the core metaphor of the X-Men — to me, the big problem with that is that it was never all that central that the X-Men be teenagers in the first place, and most of the time they weren’t written that way. Sure, they were teens under Lee and Kirby, but the original 60s stories are widely understood to not be the franchise’s defining years. For that, most people look to Claremont and Byrne — by which point most of the characters weren’t teenagers, and they were never written that way. I think it’s telling that the most popular incarnations of the team with the general public (the 90s Fox Kids TV series and the Singer movies) both feature the X-Men as adults and not teenagers. Whereas “teenage” was a big part of Spider-Man and the Legion right from the start and in most of the defining stories, I don’t think it was ever all that important to the X-Men.

Now, the less-specific rebellion I would be more agreeable with — and I’ve long wanted to see the X-franchise taken in a more “punk rock” direction that might establish them as the counterbalance to the more establishment-friendly Avengers and Fantastic Four family of heroes — but I don’t think it has much to do with adolescence.

I wasn’t a big fan of that plot point either. Still not, glad it looks like its almost over.

” gasp {[choke]}”

Bill Reed said:
“Hell, I’ve never even read Animal Man.”

HUH?

I’m waiting for the punch line.
Is there a punch line?

If not, then TRUST ME Bill. get the twenty-six freaking issues and READ THEM now. Get past the awkwardness of the first few storyline and settle in. And you then will write a truly impassioned 365 Reasons article about how it has changed your life, or at least your week.

Otherwise, to use your own words, “I don’t see how you can call yourself a Mozzer-fan.”
Seriously.

And, a further impetus, as a fellow devotee of the mighty Flex, I would say that anyone who didn’t read the Animal Man run (and Doom Patrol of course) before going on to Flex Mentallo is missing something great. In a wierdly wonderful way it’s like he repeated some of the same notes, in a different key, on different instruments. On different planets. Or something.

imho etc

Be sure to get issues #27-32 too, the sadly overlooked Milligan issues, which are, if possible, weirder than Morrison’s.

Yeah, I’ve seen the Milligan issues. Really… really strange.

The Morrison trades have been on my to-buy list forever, but I wanted to get all the Doom Patrols before grabbing the Animal Mans. I’m weird. Haven’t read beyond the second trade of Invisibles, either, so it’s liked I’ve missed all the masterpieces. Supposedly.

Well, if you haven’t read Animal Man or Doom Patrol, then yes, you have missed two masterpieces. As much as I love his other stuff — and most of the comics you’re writing about during this Morrison week are among my favorites ever — those two top the list. The only thing they don’t have going for them is brevity. It’s a lot easier to hand We3 to somebody than to hand them three volumes of Animal Man, or even more of Doom Patrol. Still, they’re transcenant comics.

(Btw, Bill, what kind of weird collector’s tics have you got going on? You won’t buy Animal Man in trade — which has been complete for quite a long time now — because you’re waiting for slower-than-the-Turtle DC to release all the DP trades? That’s just messed up. Especially considering how some of their trades end up out of print.)

It seems unfair to criticize Morrison’s run because other writers couldn’t have done what he did. I refuse to think that Morrison should have dumbed down his run or been less adventurous because other writers weren’t up to the task.

You read me wrong. I’m not criticizing Morrison for this, just Marvel. Of course Grant Morrison came up with a redefining boundary-shatterer, that’s not the issue. It’s that Marvel went ahead and let him do it to the X-Men. This wasn’t the Doom Patrol, Animal Man, Marvel Boy, or the Seven Soldiers, properties that hadn’t really caught on with anyone since practically Day One; this was the X-Men, Marvel’s Merry Cashcow and still-beloved protagonists of many a thousand readers. You may think they were crap before Grant (and I’d agree), but apparently it was crap the audience LIKED (in theory at least–the last few years of Davis/Claremont/Lobdell put that to the test). Rather than get someone who could write a halfway decent traditional X-Men story that was somewhat faithful to what had been written over the years, Marvel basically said, “Screw that, we’re going to redefine the whole thing.” Except they apparently had no intention of sticking to their re-definitions, either because they didn’t quite like what Morrison did or because they couldn’t find a writer who could follow him who didn’t pale dramatically in Grant’s shadow.

All of those avenues make sense and I don’t see why different creators couldn’t tackle the ones that interest them more.

Again, it’s the difference between what the creators WANT to do and what the editors ALLOW them to do. Direction, metaphor, style, tone, and pace are just as important to an editor as quality. X-Men fight the Looter? Mutants as metaphor for bubonic rats? X-Men, Merchant-Ivory style? The Untold Saga of Rogue’s Genoshan Rape, in 164 parts? All perfectly workable angles, some of which (especially that Merchant-Ivory one!) might actually be quite good. But of course no responsible editor would allow any of that, at least not as the basis for an entire 5-year run as the X-flagship. Morrison’s pitch relied on redefining bits of all of those intangibles, but apparently someone at Marvel thought the quality would outweigh the risk. Apparently not.

Sure, they were teens under Lee and Kirby, but the original 60s stories are widely understood to not be the franchise’s defining years. For that, most people look to Claremont and Byrne — by which point most of the characters weren’t teenagers, and they were never written that way.

They were metaphors for teenagers, not necessarily actual teenagers. And in an adult society, ANY kind of rebellion is seen as teenagerish, otherwise they’d be a respectable adult and not a rebel.

sean:

But I also disagree with your theory that the “civil rights” stuff was No-prized after the fact by fans in the ’90s… considering how blatant it is in Claremont’s run.

Claremont was blatant about it, no question. But that wasn’t what his X-Men were ABOUT. They were mutant Robin Hoods, not Dr. Kings. Civil rights just gave him a heroic cover for his otherwise self-absorbed soap operas (“Oooh, I’m so angsty, but I’m a minority, so my angst is noble and profound!”) and action-adventures. In no way was anyone actually reading the X-Men BECAUSE of their civil rights preachings, it simply added flavor to what we were reading for. But then the ’90s rolled around and suddenly every other sentence about the X-Men was about “The Dream,” like we’d been reading 20 years of ANAD stories where Wolverine couldn’t drink from a human water fountain, instead of, y’know, Wolverine stabbing people. That comic never existed. Just like the Star Wars movie about philosophy never existed and the Lord of the Rings trilogy about anti-industrialism never existed. Just because my car has a cup-holder doesn’t mean it’s a beverage cart, nor did the guy who installed the cup-holder expect it to be.

(Btw, Bill, what kind of weird collector’s tics have you got going on? You won’t buy Animal Man in trade — which has been complete for quite a long time now — because you’re waiting for slower-than-the-Turtle DC to release all the DP trades? That’s just messed up. Especially considering how some of their trades end up out of print.)

I honestly buy maybe four trades a year, using the rest of my comics budget up on new singles. I’m the cheapest person alive. I hate spending money, and the amount I’m shelling out for new comics disgusts me, even though I don’t buy that much. Don’t mind me.

Nitz the Bloody

July 14, 2007 at 2:10 pm

“As opposed to Morrison’s run, where we saw WHY he would lash out and do reckless hurtful things like psychically cheat on his wife. We saw the terrible pressure he always put himself under and why that made him screwed up. And yes, Cyclops was whiny. That’s because he always has been! Even at the beginning, when he used to moan about being too scared to tell Jean that he liked her. Or when he’d complain about not having any parents. Or when he’d complain about the team not doing what he wanted them to. Cyclops is an incredibly critical character, of himself and others, and that shows in his complaining.”

Note, however, that in the past Cyclops’ complaining was kept mostly to an internal monologue. His thoughts were often broody, but he kept his problems to himself and remained a strong ( if very repressed ) character. And who here doesn’t sound particularly self-pitying in their heads? It was a natural way to show a character in turmoil, that didn’t undermine the character because his actions were those of a strong person.

Cyclops under Grant Morrison went to Emma for ” therapy “, whining about how he can’t misbehave and how the spark has gone out of his marriage and whatnot. In those therapy sessions, he didn’t sound like a man under terrible pressure– he sounded like a man who was weak and spineless, looking for Emma’s sympathy and even pity. Even in the early X-Factor days, when he left his wife and baby, Scott never sounded like this much of a loser.

Thoughts and feelings aren’t good or bad, as any credible therapist will tell you, but actions are. And Scott made some profoundly terrible choices in New X-Men.

Thoughts and feelings aren’t good or bad, as any credible therapist will tell you, but actions are. And Scott made some profoundly terrible choices in New X-Men.

Yeah, that was the point. I’m starting to realize what the real issue is here. You didn’t LIKE Cyclops under Morrison. Not the way he was written, but the character himself. God forbid a superhero should not always be heroic. Especially one that never asked for their powers. It’s not like that’s in the historic mighty marvel manner or anything.

When Cyclops has all the pressure of everyone else’s expectations, and his own, and a psychic wife that could easily snap and become a danger to the planet on his shoulders, he’s gonna crack. That’s what people do. And there, in the struggle to recover and prevent further cracks, is where character is built.

There’s a difference between behaving exactly the same way as he always has and behaving in a similar way to similar circumstances. The former doesn’t progress anything, despite whatever affection you may have for it.

Bill, you MUST read Animal Man. It is really deserving of all the acclaim it’s gotten.

It has everything you say you love about comics, and it still holds up perfectly. GET IT NOW.

Nitz the Bloody

July 14, 2007 at 4:35 pm

Apodaca,

You’ve heard of too much of a good thing, right? In terms of character flaws, that’s where Morrison’s Cyclops falls. I don’t expect characters to be perfect, nor do I want them to, but I want them to be halfway likable as well. Otherwise, why the hell would I want to follow their lives issue after issue? Why should I care if they live or die?

There are many stories I love in serial superhero comics where characters are challenged, do bad things under pressure, and are basically put through hell. Frank Miller’s Daredevil: Born Again, the Iron Man alcoholism stories, and Cyclops’ nervous breakdown in early X-Factor all come to mind. But all those stories showed the characters’ inner strengths in the end, because they came out the other end stronger for it, and atoned for their mistakes. In New X-Men, Cyclops doesn’t ever take accountability for his actions and atone for his sins, he just goes from being defined solely by Jean to being defined solely by Emma.

Other fictional characters who are scumbags often at least get some kind of redemption in the end.

X-Men #113 sold 96,000 copies
New X-men #114 sold 135,000 copies
New X-Men #154 sold 110,000 copies

Gosh darn, it Morrison really lost sales!

Was someone seriously arguing that Morrison’s New X-Men wasn’t a big sales hit?

Wow.

Feel free to rip on the book if you think it is bad, but the book was pretty plainly a sales success.

Like Astonishing X-Men – bad or good, Astonishing X-Men, like New X-Men, has been a sales success.

Perhaps Astonishing X-Men has gone down in sales from the early issues, but it still sells very well for Marvel. Same with New X-Men. It may have sold less than it did in the beginning, but it still sold very well.

Throwing out the last few issues (as of course #150 would have a sales bump, and of course the Silvestri issues would have a sales bump, so I won’t count those), the book was still selling over 100,000 copies.

It DID dip down to the sales level of the previous run for about five issues in the mid-130s (down to the 92,000-95,000 level) but quickly corrected back up to the high 90,000s-low 100,000s. I have no idea why there was that brief sales dip, though.

Astonishing, by the way, is nuts. I can’t believe how well it sells. It is, well, astonishing. ;)

Nitz the Bloody

July 15, 2007 at 1:11 pm

But given all the hype New X-Men got, and its positioning as the redefinition of the X-Men, nay, superhero comic to be something that would redefine the pop cultural landscape, a slight sales increase that eventually dipped down to more normal levels isn’t anything to write home about. Though he gave them a temporary boost financially, Morrison did not ” save the X-Men ” ( particularly not as an entire line, given the poor reception to the other X-Books of the ” progressive ” era ).

Really seems like you’re moving goal posts there, Nitz.

You first say “given the small but notable decline in sales during Morrison’s stay,” and when we look, there really WASN’T a notable decline in sales during Morrison’s stay. It sold around 100,000 then dipped down to 92-95,000 for five or so issues, then went BACK to around 100,000 BEFORE the end of the run which had bigger sales bumps that probably had more to do with an anniversary issue and Silvestri than Morrison.

So now it’s that he should have sold MORE? That doesn’t seem to be particularly fair.

As for the other books not selling, that really doesn’t have to do with Morrison’s book, does it? But yeah, the Progressive X-Men era only had the one sales success (Morrison’s run), but it’s not like sales have been better since (except Whedon sells a lot more comics than Morrison – damn, Astonishing sells a lot of copies).

You’ve heard of too much of a good thing, right? In terms of character flaws, that’s where Morrison’s Cyclops falls. I don’t expect characters to be perfect, nor do I want them to, but I want them to be halfway likable as well. Otherwise, why the hell would I want to follow their lives issue after issue? Why should I care if they live or die?

Because “likeable” and “interesting” are not synonyms. For a perfect example of this, see the subject of Bill’s latest 365 column, “The New Adventures of Hitler”. A fascinating, deep, haunting character study starring the most irredeemable, unlikeable, villainous characters the world has ever known.

If you need your main character to be a hero, that’s a limit you’ve imposed on yourself, and doesn’t negate the quality of works which exceed said limit.

Oh, and by the way, too much of a good thing? That’s called bliss.

Joe Gualtieri

July 15, 2007 at 6:19 pm

Nitz, those sales figures are only for singles in the US direct market. They don’t include over seas sales*, newstand sales, trades, the three original HCs, or the Omnibus. Morrison’s X-Men run is also one of the few series of trades Marvel seems to bother keeping in print, which would testify to it being one of their perennials.

*Supposedly, Vertigo does a lot better, proportiately, in sales to the UK. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think Morrison’s X-Men got a bigger bump in UK sales.

You’ve not read the bulk of The Invisibles or Animal Man…?

And you call yourself a Grant Morrison fan?

You shame us all Mr. Reed. You shame us all.

Re: teenage rebellion: Morrison’s manifesto in E for Extinction explicitly pulls this out:

“The X-MEN are every rebel teenager wanting to change the world and make it better. Humanity is every adult, clinging to the past, trying to destroy the future even as he places all his hopes there.”

I think you missed part of the New X-Men point in that it was Grant Morrison’s vision come to life of the Last X-Men Story. It was His Last X-Men story to the point where after he concluded it and tied up all his loose ends he would never feel the need to read the X-characters and their continuing adventures in their continuing universe ever again. He closed the book.

Either way, editors picking on his stuff and running with it kinda misses the point just as much as ignoring the stuff he set down does.

Just the same there have been better ways than the roads the X-office took in stories afterwards.

The Next Story, the Post-Morrison comics should have done different directions, but Joss Whedon took between six months and a year to tell a single story, and his Astonishing title run was supposed to be the successor to the Grant Morrison run and spirit. Then you had Chuck Austen, who is creative dillhole.

Then there is Chris Claremont, about whom I have nothing to say.

How can you blame the X-editors for not reacting appropriately, they hardly had the writing staff apropriate to pick up after The Last X-Men story.

“I don’t expect characters to be perfect, nor do I want them to, but I want them to be halfway likable as well. Otherwise, why the hell would I want to follow their lives issue after issue? Why should I care if they live or die?”

To be fair you never use this standard in real life. Sentimentality is never guided by the supposed worth of the person in question or necessarily what they ever did for you. We care whether a person lives or dies as part of an abstract comparison between the presence and absence of an individual. Objectively or subjectively we look explicitly at the effect of a person on the world, and we desire to see what happens when he vanishes. It’s not really whether or not I would have a drink or a meal with Cyclops or see movies with Scott Summers that matters, but when it comes to the Hero, what fate of the world are we risking should the hero not even be present to fail? If we care at all for the characters who love the hero, surely Jean or Emma or a character we do like would get it in the very soul for seeing their friend, for whom we care nothing supposedly, fall.

I like Cyclops, I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but even if you don’t care whether he dies, for the story to grow organically his death will effect you.

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