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X-Men, Cyclops, love triangles

Big Sunny D responds to our X-Men blogging. What he says about recent developments in Cyclops’s soap-opera love triangle sound very good to me, and I think the connected Scott-Emma-Jean and Scott-Jean-Logan love-triangle plotting has been a central focus for the New X-Men themes I’m interested in. Right now I’m thinking: the Cassandra Nova storyarc plays with the themes in a crazy overwrought fantasy metaphor, New X-Men: Riot at Xavier’s does them as a revisionist critique of the X-Men political metaphor, the Weapon Plus stuff does them as a story about turning control of your self over to a higher power. And the love triangles revolving around Scott’s pathetic motionlessness is of course doing them as good old-fashioned X-Men soap opera. Moreover, I read the soap-opera plotting as metacriticism, about the X-Men property itself losing control of its narrative in decades of directionless subplotting muck.

“It must be getting rather tedious, Scott dear. These reruns of your grief.” That’s a great line, hinting at that metacriticism. Is Scott’s absurd love life a microcosm of the X-Men, endlessly repeating old stories, the Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, Days of Apocalypse, ad absurdum? Morrison’s New X-Men has been hailed (and derided) as the first truly new thing to happen to the X-Men in a long time, but look what we get: Phoenix. Soap opera. A now-he’s-dead-now-he’s-not plot twist with Magneto. An apocalyptic-future storyline. Ooh hoo, the newness. Is what’s new a sense of playfulness about the way the stories are told? I hasten to note that New X-Men is practically the first X-Men comic I’ve ever read, but I get the impression (from, e.g. J.W. Hastings’s post on the X-Men) that the X-Men have been rather a serious and grim bunch for quite a while. The Stan Lee/Jack Kirby X-Men issues I’ve read are not surprisingly very fun and playful, so the fun and playfulness of New X-Men isn’t so new, but it certainly seems to be a change. Even when bogged down in the awful art and nonsensical mysticism of the Cassandra Nova story, Grant Morrison manages to keep his words both light and serious, joking around (”You’re my favorite super hero, Scott,” one of my favorite lines) and suggesting some pretty heavy thematic stuff below the surface, which kept me going without too much effort even as I gnashed my teeth at hideously drawn characters babbling about evil psychic twins built out of Charles’s spare body cells.

I’m not as confident with thinking and talking about the art as I am the writing, but I have some vague ideas about it. I think one thing Frank Quitely manages to do is capture Morrison’s sense of energy and fun. And there’s something about his tiny stick-figurish Emma and Jean that’s both creepy and endearing, I don’t know what.

I’m getting really interested in the Cassandra Nova stuff in preparation for Cassandra returning in Here Comes Tomorrow. My goal for this weekend is to reread the first couple TPBs and blog my thoughts on them. I also need to think more on the evolution of the X-Men concept over the decades, which is going to require an expedition in search of early-Claremont-era stuff, probably some Essential X-Men and maybe the Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past if I see them.


  1. Bruce Baugh says:

    Morrison’s run has two distinctive features. One is, yes, that spirit of playfulness about it, and the awareness of mining familiar territory and the search for fresh riffs. The other is the synthesis of that with updates: changing the significance of the metaphors, drawing in new thoughts about changing society, and so on. The first gives the series its sense of sheer pleasure, the second its sense of momentum.

    — 15 January 2004 at 3:44 pm (Permalink)

  2. Steven says:

    Hello, Bruce! Yes, that looks like a good summary of the aesthetics of New X-Men.

    — 15 January 2004 at 6:39 pm (Permalink)

  3. David says:

    Hello, I’m glad you found some useful stuff in that post of mine.

    Here are my (admittedly very rough) impressions of the various New X-Men artists and how their art relates to the stories that they illustrated:

    As I see it, this is more difficult to talk about in regards to the first year or so of the comic than it is in reference to the latter parts of the run. There’s something slightly haphazard about the art coordination during that first year that threatens to get in the way of any meaningful attempt to describe the role the artwork plays in the scale of things. I mean, you can almost feel the pressure the artists and editor were under to get work in for the deadline during the ‘Imperial’ arc!

    Anyways, I tend to find that Igor Kordey’s art style works quite well in ‘Germ Free Generation’ (it’s a bit grubby and so is the story), but clashes entirely with the tongue-in-cheek superheroic elements of ‘Imperial’ (it undercuts things a little bit too much, and is extremely sloppy in places to boot). His work on the first Phantomex arc falls somewhere in between success and failure for me, as while there’s something “right” about his style for this kind of warped super-spy story, it’s all a bit too rushed for my liking.

    Phil Jimenez and Ethan Van Sciver have a very romantic, old school superhero style that both accentuates and is accentuated by Morrison’s scripting, which is both sincere and knowing in equal measure. There’s something slightly overdone and old fashioned about their work, but it’s also very dramatic and aesthetically enjoyable, so things never feel like a total piss take.

    Chris Bachalo and Mark Silvestri illustrate the weirder stories in the run (the ones that are richer with Morrison’s own brand of strangeness), and there’s something very gnarled and warped about their respective styles that is perfectly suited to this mode of storytelling (though I thought Bachalo was perhaps a tad too baroque in places!). The element of self aware silliness is still here though. Morrison himself has claimed that ‘Assault on Weapon Plus’ is a riff on certain boys-own style adventures, while ‘Here Comes Tomorrow’ is obviously a retread of various other “X-Men in the future” stories, and there’s a trashy element to the work of both artists that deliberately emphasises this.

    The J.P. Leon issues had a soft, scratchy quality to them that evoked a nicely melancholic atmosphere at all times. Obviously, this turns out to be a bit of a red herring in the Xorn issue, where it feeds quite nicely into our expectations of Xorn as a narrator.

    Frank Quitely is, in pretty much every way, perfect for New X-Men. You’re right to point out that he captures the “energy and fun” of Morrison’s style very nicely – there’s something weird and humorous about the man’s linework which both adds to the playfulness of it all and also makes everything look that little bit newer and weirder than it really is. He makes the goofy looking superheroes in ‘Imperial’ look more genuinely “cool” than anyone else does while keeping a sense of humour about them, for example.

    He also has a skill for depicting body language that none of the other artists can touch, and this really helps to make the character interaction in his issues stand out a bit – that scene at the end of ‘Riot at Xavier’s’ with Emma Frost and Cyclops talking in the garden was amazing!

    Actually, in a general sense I’d say that Quitely’s just that little bit better than the rest of the artists that have worked on the title; his handling of action scenes is exquisite (it’s all about the simple arrangement of panels, and the figures within the panels), and he can do creepy so well (in the silent issue, or even in parts of ‘Imperial’) – he is more versatile with tone than anyone else, and given the bizarre mix of tones and styles that play off of each other in New X-Men, I’d say that this is very important.

    Hmmm… sorry if I’ve been a bit vague here; I’m still trying to think this through at the moment!

    — 15 January 2004 at 8:29 pm (Permalink)

  4. Matthew says:

    See, one thing to consider about New X-Men is that it’s set up so that it can very easily be the only X-Men comic you ever read, and when it’s over, you can walk away from it. It’s fresh in all the ways that you mention, but the old tropes are there because it is essential Grant Morrison’s idea of the ultimate X-Men story. So you get the greatest hits: sentinels, love triangles, the Shi’Ar, Wolverine taking a teenage girl under his wing, a former villain becomes a hero, a hero is revealed to be the secret villain, the Phoenix, the Weapon X program (sorry, Weapon Plus), the Hellfire Club, Magneto, the Brotherhood of Mutants, the dystopian future, the hidden conspiracy, and (probably) Apocalypse.

    — 17 January 2004 at 11:41 am (Permalink)

  5. daniel says:

    quiero ver a los x-men en sexo

    — 6 September 2004 at 9:51 pm (Permalink)