Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: John Paul Leon (p), Bill Sienkiewicz (i)
The book opens at the funeral of Darkstar and we see Xavier resides over her rather poorly attended funeral (I guess Russians aren't big on celebrating their fallen heroes). The book then shifts back the grounds of Xavier Mansion, as we see Archangel is busy teaching a flying lesson to the school's latest batch of flyers, and we see this group includes the crass Angel, and the hopelessly insecure & inept Beak. As Beak proves that it's rather difficult to fly while wearing a jacket over his wings, we see his tumble to the ground inspires Angel to break from her regular "I hate the world & everyone on it" mode, as see kisses Beak. The book then shifts it's attention to the Beast, as we see he's publicly declared that he's gay, though we see the White Queen thinks Hank is full of it, and states as much. We then see her turn her attentions to Scott, as we see her pay him a visit of the astral plane. As the two engage in a little verbal sparring, we see Emma looks to be helping Scott with his feelings regarding Jean, as we see he's not sure he loves her anymore. We then see Emma takes this therapy down a unusual road, as she places herself as Jean, and the issue ends with Scott willing to play along.
There are moments in this issue where I really think that Grant Morrison isn't really writing a story so much as he's throwing ideas out, and seeing which ones kick up the biggest fuss among the readers. I mean this issue is a prime example of this writing style, as there's not really a coherent plot at work here but rather it's a collection of scenes that are loosely tied together by the idea that they involve X-characters. We have the Beast stepping out of the closet in a bid "challenge preconceived notions about language, gender and species", but this line of reasoning doesn't really hold up if you really stop to consider how exactly the Beast's actions are suppose to be accomplishing this goal. We also have the risqué relationship emerging between Scott & Emma, but this too reads more like a bid by Grant Morrison to fan the flames of fan indignation, as we have almost half the issue devoted to this idea, but we learn little more than Emma's a flirt, and Scott makes an admission that he's not quite sure he's in love with Jean anymore. Now this last revelation is pretty big, but it's offered up in such a analytical/detached fashion that it's felt more like Grant Morrison pulling strings that a genuine emotional revelation.
This issue also offers up a return to a couple of characters that Grant Morrison created for this book, as the new Angel & Beak make their return to these pages, and we see that apparently these characters are supposed to be engaging enough that eight pages of this issue are handed over to them. So what is this fascinating plot involving these two? Why it's the old beauty & the beast switcharoo, where we see the ugly creature ends up feeling like a prince, while the pretty swan reveals her duplicitous nature. I guess I'm suppose to mention how Grant Morrison managed to pull the wool over my eyes by making it appear that Angel actually held feelings toward the Beak, but we then discover she only kissed him to win a bet. Now perhaps if this same plot hadn't served as the basis for almost every other teen film ever made I'd be impressed by this little moment of deception, but as it stands I found myself wondering why exactly is Grant Morrison wasting his time of this trivial little plot. I mean Mark Millar is playing with a similar idea over in the Ultimate X-Men, but at least he added a fun twist that has the Beast questioning whether Xavier manufactured Storm's feelings to keep him at the school.
I'm a fan of both John Paul Leon & Bill Sienkiewicz, with the latter being one of the few artists whose name alone guarantees I'll be picking up that project. However, mixing the style of these two artist together results in a final product that simply doesn't reflect the talent involved in the creation of it. The art on this issue does have its moments, like the somber mood established at the funeral, or the clever panel transition as we see Emma & Scott establish a telepathic environment to work out his issues. However, there's a few too many scenes in this issue where the art looks too open, and the backgrounds are a little too sparsely detailed. The facial expressions of the various characters are also lacking any emotional connection, as we don't get a sense of fear as Scott plunges to his death, or Emma's calculating ways as she wraps Scott around her finger. I also have to wonder about the little details like Beak wearing a coat when he attempts to fly, or Emma picking the one costume of Jean's that Scott should find disturbing rather than alluring. I mean I think the only time Jean wore this outfit was during her planet destroying Dark Phoenix period (and yes I know it wasn't really Jean during this period).
I'd like to think that I'm keeping an open mind, and that my general dislike of Grant Morrison's recent work on this title isn't merely a knee-jerk reaction to his revisionist approach to this book & it's cast. However, I've always held writers to a fairly simple rule when it comes to changing a title, and that is if they are going to mess about with something at least keep it interesting, and frankly this is where Grant Morrison's work is leaving me disappointed. I mean Scott confesses that he doesn't love Jean anymore, and Grant Morrison utterly fails to convey the importance of this announcement. It's almost like this book is a writing exercise where Grant Morrison can deliver half formed ideas, bizarre science concepts & whacked out theology, instead of a title that is looking to entertain its readers. I'll stick with it as Grant Morrison has shown himself a very talented writer, but I honestly don't think the X-Men are capturing his imagination.
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