Current Reviews


New X-Men #142

Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Chris Bachalo (p), Tim Townsend (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens at the Hellfire Club where we find Scott Summers trying to regain the spark that he feels was lost when Jean found out about his telepathic affair with Emma, by having one of the telepaths at the club perform a striptease while casting the illusion that he's watching Jean. However, knowing it's an illusion effectively dampens Scott's enthusiasm, and as such he tries to find comfort at the bottom of a bottle, though his drink of choice (sparkling wine), earns him a visit from Sabretooth who is also at the club partaking in the various services the club provides. After Sabretooth is driven off by the club owner Sebastian Shaw, we see Scott isn't exactly big on discussing his troubles with Shaw either, though Shaw is able to figure out that Emma played a role in Scott's sour mood. We then see Scott finds his desire to be alone simply isn't going to happen, as Wolverine has arrived at the club for a meeting with the mysterious Fantomex, and Logan takes the time to bring Scott up to speed on events that have been playing out at the Mansion. We then see the two men get involved in a drinking contest, and it is during this exchange that we learn Scott became involved with Emma because it was something that other people would never expect from him, and he's looking to change his life & escape the role he feels he's been trapped within. We then see Scott passes out, where upon he becomes a partner in Logan's attempt to find more information about his past.

On one hand it's nice to see Grant Morrison making an active effort to do something interesting with the character, but on the other hand Scott Summers remains one of the dullest characters in the entire cast of the X-Men, and as such being treated to an issue that focuses almost all its energies on the character made for a somewhat uninspired reading experience. Now I will concede that Grant Morrison appears to have recognized the limitations of the character, and to a certain extent he's embraced them, as this issue almost seems to rejoice in the idea that Scott is devoid of a real personality. I mean here's a man who has just been caught essentially cheating on his wife, and his biggest problem seems to be that he's not really sure that he's even all that upset about the damage that he's done. I mean aside from having Scott come across as rather self-absorbed and conceited, I will say that the story does score some points when it has Scott discuss the idea that he's trapped in a box largely of his own making, as up until this recent fling with Emma, Scott had never really done anything even remotely unexpected. Heck, when Jean died he went and got himself married to a clone of his late love, which while a bit creepy when one thinks about it, did act as a pretty good indicator that Scott has always been one to move in the direction the fans expected him to, and this has always made him a fundamentally dull character.

There are moments when I do have to wonder if Grant Morrison purposely inserts little continuity flubs into his stories in an effort to ferret out the readers who are ready & willing to make a big stink about such details. I mean making Sebastian Shaw into a telepath is a perfect example of Grant Morrison's seeming lack of research into the character, and while the secondary mutation idea that has been kicking around the X-books could explain this new power, if nothing else the story should had Scott express some doubts about Shaw's new power. However, there are also moments when Grant Morrison's seeming unwillingness to let continuity stand in the way of his stories can also lead to some truly inspired moments, such as having Wolverine & Sabretooth running into each other at the urinals, as I do believe only Grant Morrison could get away with a scene like this. I also enjoyed the idea that the Hellfire Club has now become a high class gentleman's club that presumably caters exclusively to mutants. Having Scott get into a drinking contest with Logan was also rather cute, as was the idea that before he ran into Logan Scott was trying to drown his sorrows in sparkling wine. It's fun little details like this that kept me from writing this issue off as a failed attempt to make Scott into an interesting character.

Chris Bachalo was an artist who I couldn't get enough of when he first came on the scene, as his work had a truly unique quality to it, and it detailed the material in a visually interesting manner. However, somewhere along the line his art lost the ability to tell the story in a manner that was easily understood, as his panels became highly cluttered affairs where one almost developed eyestrain attempting to figure out what was going on. However, this issue is a fairly simple exercise that would seem well suited to Chris Bachalo's style, as it's a fairly uncomplicated affair, and the art makes good use of this lack of activity on the page, to give the important moments in the issue their proper sense of impact. From the rather opening dance number by the dancer in the Hellfire Club, to the hilarious scene where Sabretooth & Logan have meeting in the men's room, the art seems to be having a grand old time with the rather uneventful nature of this material. This doesn't mean the art is visually uninteresting as there's some lovely visual touches, such as the transition scene where the readers are pulled into Cyclops' visor, or the decidedly seedy way that Logan is introduced into the story. I also enjoyed how the art went about expressing the idea that Cyclops was getting good & drunk, and his attempt to walk away with his dignity intact was rather cute.

Final Word:
My disinterest in this issue largely stems from the simple fact that there are far more interesting plot threads playing out back at the X-Mansion, as the mystery of who helped Esme murder Emma has yet to be resolved, and I would also like to know if Emma is back on her feet, or was it just a temporary return so she could name her murderer. I also have to confess that Scott Summers is far and away one of my least favorite members of the X-Men, as I've always found him to be dull as dishwater, with the only real interesting element to the character being the times when he had to reign in the more ill tempered members of the X-Men (e.g. Wolverine). The idea that this next arc will be yet another attempt to uncover information about Logan's past also leaves me a bit underwhelmed, as I've never been all that eager to see these gaps filled in. Still this issue works better than I expected it to given Scott is the central focus, and there's a couple clever moments that made this issue quite enjoyable (e.g. the Wolverine/Sabretooth encounter).

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