Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Been reading a lot here and there about Grant Morrison's recently finished run on New X-Men, specifically Dirk's first ¡Journalista! column in ages. Now I gotta re-add him to the links list! Anyway, I've made it sort an ongoing project to read his run in TPB format, and I am currently through the third in the series.

Now it may surprise you, since I have so often been on record as being an admirer of Grant Morrison's work, that I haven't been picking up this title since the first issue came out, but it's true- I did not pick this up in floppy format. When Morrison first announced he was going to Marvel and specifically that he was going to write X-Men, such was my disregard for the X-Books that I figured the sheer ponderousness of the accumulated pretentious bullshit from previous writers and editors would drag him down, so I decided to pass. Even though his Flex Mentallo cohort Frank Quitely was on board. In fact, I had not bought an X-Men comic on anything even remotely resembling a regular basis since about 1984 or so, they were just so awful. In my opoinion, of course. However, the other title he did not long after, the beautifully drawn (J.G.Jones, and that's what got my attention) and sharply scripted Marvel Boy, kinda reassured me that Grant would persevere, so I decided that I would sample not only New X-Men but its companion in nouveau Marvel respectability, X-Force, of which I had also declined to partake despite my admiration for Milligan and Allred at the time. Anyway, I bought the first trade collection of both, thinking I would buy the one I liked the most on a regular monthly floppy basis, and get the other in trades if I liked it enough. And the quirky X-Force won out, but sadly ran out of juice (as far as I'm concerned, anyway) not long after so I dropped it. Twice. Anyway, I've been slow to get those NXM trades, disposable-income deficient wretch that I am, but I have (as I said before) picked up the first three. And when I have read them all, I hope to do a more in-depth thing about them. But right now, some brief impressions of the first three trades.

First, I honestly wish that they could have kept a regular artist, or at least artists with a consistent style, throughout. While there is an impressive array of art talent in these stories, including personal favorites Quitely, Igor Kordey and J.P. Leon, the abrupt shift in art styles is a bit jarring. This is most evident in the third trade; I'm thinking it was mostly Quitely & Kordey in the first two. A generous part of the third is also given to Phil Jimenez, a competent but unexciting George Perez disciple who has done quite a bit of work with Morrison and Vertigo titles in general, but whose style never seemed like a good fit. I'm hoping that he won't be back for the next books in the series.

Second, I was a little taken aback by how episodic and disjointed these stories are. Morrison takes delight in a non-linear approach, I fully realize this, but while reading these books I'm always coming across characters I don't remember seeing before, or events referenced that I don't recall, and Morrison's tone is always so deadpan that it just seems weird and strange. And honestly, I think this is one of the most straightforward narratives that he's ever written, but I'm constantly confused by abrupt, anticlimactic resolutions and the other things I just mentioned. I almost feel like I've missed whole issues, like they didn't get bound into my copies. Before I really go on record with this complaint, I should read them all back to back- there's a pretty good gap in between my readings of 1, 2 and 3- and perhaps it's just me on this account. I kept encountering instances where the characters would refer to events that are part of X-Men-as-written-by-Claremont lore, such as the Phoenix saga and the business with the Thunderbird character and so on. I was under the impression Grant was setting out to make his own continuity and to disregard all the crap that had gone on before. Did I miss a meeting or something?

Third, I like that Fantomex character. He adds some badly needed panache to the proceedings, plus the whole mystery of his backstory promises to be good, presuming Morrison ever gets around to dealing with it. For all I know, he may wind up as something totally different before this is over...but for now I like this guy. I also like Emma Frost as written by Grant- she's part of a proud Morrisonian tradition from Crazy Jane to Lord Fanny to Ragged Robin of strong, fascinating female (or shemale, if you will) characters with a acid wit. Can't understand what she sees in Scott, though, except perhaps he's a challenge. Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives.

Finally, I am happy that Morrison has managed to avoid the ponderous, soap-operatic cliches of his predecessors. Of course, this no surprise since he strives to avoid cliché and easy solutions rather than perpetuate it and them. It's almost a little too pat and dry so far, though, and I'm just not as caught up in it as I usually am by the best Morrison. Perhaps this will change as I go on with the series, who knows. Stay tuned.

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