Thursday, September 02, 2004


Johanna Carlson was kind enough to link to, and quote approvingly from, my post on Morrison's New X-Men from two days ago. But the truth is that I wasn't entirely candid then when I said that what I read of the comic (the first hardcover volume) didn't interest me. In fact, I was repulsed by it. Why such a strong reaction? To start with, early in the book, Genosha, a country with a population with sixteen million mutants, is wiped out and all its inhabitants killed in a matter of hours. On the second page after we discover this (the first page after is a pin-up of Emma Frost), we see the Beast, on the scene, holding the skeleton of one of the victims and making a wisecrack. The wisecracks continue on the next three pages, and Jean Grey joins in. At this point, I permanently lost interest in whatever Morrison was seeking to accomplish. True, Morrison does give the Beast a line to the effect that he has to make jokes to keep sane (though I don't see anything to show that he, or any of the other characters, have suffered any lasting trauma becuase of what they've seen). But the real reason the wisecracks are there is that Morrison thought it would be shocking and cool to have a hero whose first pictured reaction to genocide is a callous joke.

In general, I was distressed at the amount of gratuitious sadism in the book. (I had the same reaction to the only issue of The Filth that I read.) This sadism did impel me to read, or at least skim, the rest of the book to assure myself that the U-Men and Cassandra Nova were defeated; so you could say that it was a smart move from a commercial viewpoint. But it also left me with a disinclination to look at the book again, even to analyze it.

It wasn't the violence itself that repulsed me. I enjoyed the very violent Stacy, and I've enjoyed other violent works of art as well. Rather, it was the contempt Morrison seemed to have for his characters, regarding them not as people, but as toys to be played with and sometimes broken. As evidence of this, here's what Morrison said about the destruction of Genosha in the "Morrison Manifesto": "It's like Hiroshima with robot monsters and we can have all manner of superfluous mutant bastards wiped out in one genocidal spree." Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying that Morrison is personally callous. I'm sure he reacts to real-life genocides with the appropriate horror. Nor am I accusing those who enjoyed his New X-Men of callousness: I'm just describing my own reaction, not trying to impose it on others.

In any case, I think that writing primarily about the "Manifesto" was really a way for me to evade thinking about those aspects of Morrison's New X-Men which disturbed me. Unconsciously, my dislike of the book may also have distorted my speculations why it wasn't embraced by the general public, though I still think my points are generally valid.

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