Wednesday, May 03, 2006
NEW X-MEN "E IS FOR EXTINCTION" Marvel Comics, 2002
Grant Morrison's comic books freak me out.
I'm a huge fan of his work, but I only picked up a few single issues of Morrison's legendary run on New X-Men. The ghostly voice of Yoda said to me, "Wait for the trades you must, hmn? Better value, it is. Satisfying more, eh?" I've learned it's best to always listen to the spooky disembodied voice of Frank Oz, which has never steered me wrong (the possible exception being an attempted dine-and-dash in a Moses Lake, WA diner. Bad call, Yoda.)
Anyway, I picked up the trades and I loved them, particularly the issues with Frank Quitely art. I love Frank Quitely, probably more than XXXX does, and I think his art perfectly compliments Morrison's script; it just has the right vibe. And that vibe is freaky as hell.
My favorite storyline is collected in a trade paperback called e is for extinction. The first three issues of Morrison's run introduce a new X-Men villain, who freaks me the hell out: Cassandra Nova.
Cassandra Nova is Charles Xavier's miscarried twin sibling, whom he tried to kill inside his mother's womb. That's right, fetus war. They were brawling in there, throwing little fetus elbows and fetus headbutts. As I understand it, the, um, discarded biological material that would become Cassandra Nova grew in a sewer, fed by powerful mutant psi energy. Now she's a hideous bald freak with godlike telepathic powers who is insanely, dangerously evil. Cassandra is basically Professor X's evil twin, but saying it like that sort of diminishes her freakiness.
In this story, Cassandra Nova causes the death of tens of millions of mutants, makes people bleed from the nose, and puts Cyclops in the Black Bug Room, which is not cool. That's just for starters, baby - in Marvel's trade paperback Imperial she takes genocide to a galactic level. Plus, she looks scary. Look at her! Man, she freaks me the hell out.
Cassandra has found a huge Master Mold factory in the rain forest, and intends to use it. The factory produces robots, but not just any kind of robots. It makes Sentinels, and Sentinels exterminate mutants. No good can come of this.
The leather-clad X-Men Cyclops and Wolverine drop in on Nova's Sentinel hive, and after much violent hikinks, they get the drop on the bald freak. Or have they?
Here's a few poorly scanned panels of the extermination:
Nova gains access to Cerebra, but is stopped by the timely arrival of Emma Frost, the White Queen, who snaps her neck. Nova twitches on the ground...
...and then Professor X takes out a revolver and shoots Cassandra Nova multiple times.
As will later be revealed, Cassandra Nova psychically possessed Xavier, swapping bodies just as her neck was being snapped. Nova, in Xavier's body, shoots Xavier, in Nova's body. Things get worse: The Beast gets beaten with a baseball bat (that should be a Ramones song), Nova gets a hold of a fleet of spaceships and an army of superhuman aliens, lots of people die.
I really dig Cassandra Nova because she seems genuinely frightening and dangerous. She's not scary because she may do bad things, she's scary because she does do bad things. Nova wipes out tens of millions of mutants and the X-Men can't stop her. In most superhero comics, the whole point is for the hero to stop the bad guy from killing tens of millions of people - in Morrison's X-Men, it's done just to establish how evil Cassandra Nova is. I really dug the whole Genoshan genocide thing - that sounds horrible, I know - because there shouldn't be that many mutants in the world. I always though Genosha as a mutant paradise sort of undermined the core concept of the X-Men - you know, hated and feared by the humans they defend?
Grant Morrison's work freaks me out because it shares the qualities that many of my favorite childhood books had, that alchemy of gee-whiz adventure and soul-shriveling cosmic terror that I loved so much. There is a wonder and awe in his work that is only matched by danger and menace, that sense of horrors beyond human ken. Remember the Scissor Men, from Doom Patrol? Freaky as hell.
Morrison's work is like Willy Wonka crossed with H.P. Lovecraft, or H.R. Puffenstuff crossed with Hunter S. Thompson. It's like reading a Roald Dahl book in a hash den while someone watches shrill Japanese cartoons in the other room and the smoke stings your eyes and somebody is arguing in French outside and your head is floating, floating...
It's just like that.