Sunday, May 8, 2011

Not So New X-Men

Funny how a lot of X-Men relaunches feature
 "X-Men walking towards the camera" type shots.
Grant Morrison's New X-Men is, in my honest opinion, a bit too highly regarded. Yes it has moments of greatness, yes it has moments that are appalling, and yes it has everything in between. What it manages to land at almost every point is "original". There are a number of formats to collect the entire run in be they single issues, trade paperbacks, the huge Omnibus, or the form I chose - the Ultimate Collection of three volumes. The first volume (this week's topic of review) is available from Amazon for around the $23 US mark at present, and contains issues 114-126 and the 2001 Annual, totalling some 376 pages (including bonus covers and sketches).

I need to be up front here and go on record as someone that does knock Grant Morrison. I also need to go on record as saying that whatever you've heard about this book, it's probably true. Because there's plenty of room for interpretation of quality here, and it's not possible to put it down to any one thing. Yes Kordey's art is terrible. Yes Quitely does great art (if you like his style, which I can never seem to decide on). Yes some of the ideas are wonderful. Yes some of those ideas are poorly executed. And, yes, Morrison changed the status quo and moved the X-Men away from the typical plot-lines of "mutants are an analogue for minority x".

I mean, it could have been "Alas poor Yorrick!"
Whether that would have been better or worse is up to you.
That last one is important, because Morrison actually begins to set the Mutant Race up as it's own minority, with its own problems unique to themselves. And it makes sense, because no other minority group in the world has the same powers mutants do. It becomes hard to say "mutants are like gay people" or "mutants are like asian people, or black people or indigenous people" because while mutants may also be those things, they are also powerful enough that they could, for example, take over a nation through force without having numerical superiority. And that's just the logical consideration, without bothering to mention that the old minority issues usage had become tired and played-out decades ago.

As a run down of some of the other sweeping changes that occur, New X-Men sees:

  • Beast's secondary mutation into a leonine form;
  • Genosha's annihilation (it's hard to be a minority when you control a nation);
  • Emma Frost's secondary mutation to have her diamond form (as well as joining the X-Men permanently);
  • No more spandex uniforms;
  • The School for Gifted Youngsters actually functioning as a school;
  • The introduction of Cassandra Nova, Xorn, John Sublime, Beak, Angel, and the Stepford Cuckoos; and
  • The beginning of the end of Scott and Jean.

There's also a decent fight with the Shi'ar Empire, and imagery involving Charles Xavier's conception that really was a bit unnecessary.

On the face of it, it's not that big a deal, and this volume doesn't contain some of the most talked about points of Morrison's run, however this collection (and the two that follow) are crucial to Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run, which in turn has been pivotal to Matt Fraction's work on Uncanny X-Men.

In the end I think there's a few things to weigh up before deciding on this, the first being if you want to really want to read a well written X-Men book, the second being if you can handle some of the poor art, and finally what format you'd like it in (keeping in mind that the Omnibus now costs an arm and a leg on eBay).

Personally I enjoyed it. I think there's the odd issue (or half issue) here and there that I could skip (really I could probably skip the entire Shi'ar side of things, as I've never found that side of X-Men to be as much fun) without missing too much. But for a fifteen issue collection, it's good value, and also more than a little necessary for reading before next week's review.
Bring it.


  1. Uggh....not a fan. This run shows exactly why Morrison is the definitive 'Vertigo" writer. Give him a playground there and leave the mainstream alone. Nice write-up tho'

  2. I actually like most of this volume, and a fair whack of the second volume. Volume three is when the Morrison rage definitely kicks in. Still, it's not as bad as "the JLA fight against angels".