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New X-Men #118 Annotations

    
  
NEW X-MEN #118

Germ Free Generation 1 of 3
 
Marvel Comics, November 2001, Color, 32pgs, $2.25
 
Written by GRANT MORRISON ; Art by ETHAN VAN SCIVER; Cover by FRANK QUITELY
 
"Germ Free Generation" Part 1 of 2!
 
 Rising human infertility rates. Mutant births on the increase. And a genetic code that programs the human race to self-destruct within a few generations. These are the secrets exposed in the "Extinction Dossier" — the final research of Moira MacTaggert! Now, mutant militancy explodes as the human/mutant dynamic is seemingly turned on its ear. What — if anything — can the X-Men do to control this situation?
 
Plus: introducing the all-new Angel!
 
"Quicksilver himself would be proud at the speed with which Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison have made their mark on this franchise... fans of series like The Authority or Rising Stars - as well as Morrison fans in general — will likely want to keep an eye out for this series. Grade: A-" - Comics Buyer's Guide
 
 

Commentary

 
The infamous 'Sex' issue.  Not that there's any actual sex in it, just that artist Ethan Van Sciver manages to secrete (hmm, maybe not the best choice of word...) the word 'Sex' on pretty much every page of the book.  The wag.  Peter Luzifer wrote a detailed break down of every sordid instance (with pictures!) way back in the months following the comic's release.  You can read it here.
 
Van Sciver's art this issue, as with last month's, is perfectly servicable but suffers here from too many inkers - Prentiss Rollins, Scott Hanna and Sandu Florea each inked part of the issue.  Van Sciver was originally contracted to do two issues a year to ease the burden on Frank Quitely, though that soon proved to be a hopelessly optimistic estimate as to how fast Quitely could work.  Weirdly, Van Sciver only draws another two issues after this one (#123 and #133).  I would have bet money that he'd drawn a lot more than four of the forty issue run.  And I would have lost it.
 
The solicit for the book was clearly written before Marvel editorial decided that Moira McTaggert, a world authority on genetics who was also an old flame of Charles Xavier's, was, like Colossus, out of bounds for Morrison, having been killed off six issues before his run began.  Though her Wikipedia page speculates that she was intended as the scientific 'brains' of the team, and subsequently replaced by Beast when editorial nixed her involvement, the solicit for this issue seems to indicate that any involvement she was intended to have would've been posthumous.  Indeed, the solicit would seem to put her much more in the role that John Sublime occupies as the catalyst for public antagonism toward the X-Men and the villain of the piece.  McTaggert's 'Extinction Dossier' never surfaces in the series, and the idea that humanity will die out in scant generations to make way for mutantkind is put forward by Sublime himself.
 
 

Annotations

 
Cover -
 
Page 1 - We're seeing the action through the point of view of the victim of a high-school shooting, Arthur Swift, cliched closet gay jock, with a reversal to the POV of his unrepentant murderer on the next page.  
 
Page 2 - Magneto as Che Guevara - commercialised rebellion in t-shirt form.  In Morrison's world of 'normalised' mutantkind, the stereotypical high-school outsider has a new subculture to gravitate towards.  The unnamed shooter doesn't just identify with the mutants, he wants to be a one of them.
 
An oblique 'first appearance' for John Sublime, as the 'angry geek' brandishes his book, The 3rd Species.  Thirty-odd issues down the line, Sublime will be revealed as the antagonist of the whole run.
 
"Uncool is the new cool" - Echoes the themes of Morrison's contemporary essay for the London Evening Standard, 'The Geek Shall Conquer The Earth', where he (pretty accurately) predicts the submission of Western culture en masse to historically marginal, and often juvenile, entertainments.  In today's world, where Christopher Nolan's Batman movie The Dark Knight is one of the highest grossing films of all time, its difficult to argue with Morrison's point.
 
The U-Man Army are an inversion and twisted reflection of the X-Men - regular humans who want to 'become' mutants.
 
Another inversion - traditionally the mutants have been the shunned outsider, fleeing to the comforting bosom of the X-Men to save them from angry mobs with flaming torches.  Here, the mutant is the popular jock, envied by his less socially-capable classmates.
 
Page 3 - "No girl in the hall will be safe from my x-ray..." - deliberately invoking the old comic-book ads for x-ray specs, "See through clothes! Through flesh!"
 
As in his essay, a position he reiterates in the Supergods book, Morrison is ambivalent in his sympathies towards 'angry geeks'.  With his anime collection and unhealthy internet habit, the shooter could easily be taken as a reader indentity figure; but as in all of Morrison's work in this period, and beyond, he posits another way; where that frustration at being on the outside looking in can be channeled into positive social and creative energies.  Everybody is a star, and just because you like comics doesn't mean you have to be a jerk about it.
 
The muted pallete of this opening sequence gives the glorious day-glo spread over the page a little extra zing, an effect totally ruined in the original comic by a double page ad spread between the two.
 
Page 4-5 - As with the first arc, the title page is a double page spread of the team's line-up.
 
Page 6 - Nice visual shorthand (Van Sciver's work?) with the exposed brains and 'inner thoughts' Jean's seeing through her psychic probing.
 
"...solar radiation tied to a recent alarming rise in mutant birth rates." - Another reference to Iain Spence's Sekhmet Hypothesis, described in detail in Morrison's Supergods.
 
Its a long standing X-tradition that the onset of puberty is the trigger for your mutant powers.  The athlete refusing the DNA test is one more example of Morrison's world building, taking the traditionally pretty insular world of the X-Men and setting its tropes and idioms free upon the 'real' world.  This news report is just one more iteration of Morrison's statement of intent.
 
Martha Johansson will pop up again shortly.
 
Page 7 - Wolverine's out on the road, recruiting more new blood, while Henry lies prone in a hospital bed.  His roses are blooming again.  Things seem to be on the up and up.
 
Page 8 - More religious invective in the anti-mutant demonstrations - 'mutant plague', 'pray for extinction', 'mutant abomination' - The grafitti reading Lev 20:15 is a reference to Leveticus, and this Biblical quote:
"And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast."
Page 9 - The first appearance of the Stepford Cuckoos, Emma Frost's proteges.  Named for Ira Levin's Stepford Wives and John Wyndham's Midwich Cuckoos, their real names were intended to spell S.P.I.C.E. as a tribute to the Spice Girls (yes, really).  Morrison managed to get around to revealing four of their names - Sophie, Phoebe, Celeste and Esme - before Chuck Austen, the widely reviled writer who followed Morrison on New X-Men, named the last remaining Stepford Cuckoo Mindee, ruining the joke somewhat.  This being comics, and continuity blips being the itch that they can't stop scratching, 'Mindee' has been retroactively revealed to be a nickname - her real name is now Irma, and everyone involved can now sleep a little easier at night.
 
Some years after New X-Men's conclusion, Greg Pak, bravely picking up threads from Morrison's run when most writers wouldn't touch them with a barge pole, established in his Phoenix: Warsong mini-series that the Stepford Cuckoos were actually clones of Emma Frost.  They appeared as background window dressing in Brett Ratner's 2006 film X-Men: The Last Stand. 
 
"...we were learning to implant deceptive erotic images in the minds of our enemies..."  Genius.
 
"Xavier's is a SCHOOL!"  - Barely...
 
Page 10 - The newsman gives us an altogether more human perpective on the X-Men's status quo, echoing real world fears of behind closed doors militarised cults like the Branch Davidians
 
Page 11 - Note the U-Men logo on the side of the ambulance, a three headed angel entangled in a DNA helix.  "Fulfill your potential" - for Morrison's unique take on corporate sigils and they're effects see his Pop Magic! essay.
 
There are no known mutants in any of the world's governments.  Just like thirty years ago there were no gay politicians in any of the world's governments.  Well, none that the general public knew were gay anyway...
 
Emma's "bliss button" doesn't appear to relate to anything scientific, though it has passed into the general lexicon of slang terms for a woman's clitoris.
 
Page 12 - Cerys Anacapella, the newscaster on the TV, seems, like Barnell Bohusk before her, to have a name designed to produce no Google hits, and hence make life much more difficult for potential annotators ten years down the line.
 
"I've tried going into Hank's mind but it is an empty room." - Cassandra's doing?
 
"Everybody in the place has the flu, even Logan."  Oh dear.  Would that be Sentinel nanobot flu?  Foreshadowing the big reveal of a couple of issues hence.
 
"If you want me and Emma to check out Sublime..." - Scott and Emma shared a moment in the Annual.  Morrison keeps up the slow build-up here.
 
Page 13 - Magneto, post-Genosha, is becoming a cultural icon like Guevara, Charles Manson or the Unabomber.  Surprisingly, Jean's mocking "Magneto on lunch boxes" isn't a metatextual gag.  I can't find a picture of a Magneto lunch box anywhere.  Gap in the market.
 
Sublime's Transpecies movement, literally 'beyond species', has a creepy ring of Cronenbergian body-horror about it.
 
Hank's waking, clawing an X into the bed sheet.  A warning against Xavier?
 
Page 14 - John Sublime's first physical appearance.  Of course, to back up his doctrine of submission to the surgeon's knife to join Homo Superior, he's a dashing Bruce Wayne type, inherently trustworthy, or at least as far as his TV image goes.  I'm not sure his philosophy in these early issues matches up all that well with his grand scheme, as revealed in 'Here Comes Tomorrow'.  We'll see how well the two reconcile as the re-read continues.
 
Another new mutant and key character of the first half of Morrison's run, Angel Salvadore makes her first appearance.  In puberty's merciless grip, her peculiar human butterfly powers are just now manifesting.  Apart from the fact that introducing new teenage students gives the book some much needed point of view characters for the comic's supposed target market, (i.e teenagers)  Morrison wisely divines that the X-Men need an Angel free from the endlesly depressing continuity that has mired the original for the preceding thirty years.  Employing the simplest solution to the problem, he just creates a new one.
 
Angel's home is very cliched Hicksville - Elvis pictures on the wall, Jack Daniels bottles, crucifixes.  Her dad looks like a fatter Wolverine with his wife-beater, cigar and sideburns.
 
Page 15 - Mutantity and religion again.  They seem to be largely incompatible.
 
Page 16 - As Angel emerges from her chrysalis, now a full fledged mutant, Sublime's sinister U-Men arrive on the scene
 
Page 17 -"We need the wings!"  Sublime's men are harvesting mutant body parts; like the shooter from the opening scene but on a military industrial scale.
 
Like a fly, Angel has corrosive vomit (ew...) she can spew at you.  Don't mess.
 
Page 18 - Angel is clearly not yet adept at using her newfound gifts.  What she needs is training!
 
"This one could totally take hours to sterilize"  Note the 'totally'.  These aren't middle aged mercenary types, they're young men and women, drawn to Sublime by the promise of a better tomorrow.  A new day where they too can fly and shoot lasers from their eyes.
 
Page 19 - After we've seen his book and him on TV, we finally meet the real John Sublime, who appears to be wearing some sort of shiny metallic suit.  Mutant fashions again?
 
Note the evolutionary scale on Sublime's office wall - from crawling in the dirt, through human kind, and on to mutanity.
 
"The strutting genetic elite in their skintight outfits and bikinis"  A little meta-commentary on Marvel's mutants, who have almost always been drawn as beatiful supermodels.  Chris Claremont's Morlocks, a gang of mutants who lived in the sewers beneath New York, are a rare example of mutants whose powers and appearance are often more of a curse than a gift.
 
The illegal mutant organ trafficking ring was smashed in the X-Men Annual.
 
Page 20 - The mutant brain in Sublime's desk drawer is all that's left of poor Martha Johannson from page six.
 
"As ruthless in business" - Originally, Frost was a powerful businesswoman who used money from her Frost International corporation to help fund the activities of the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club.  As she gradually edged towards the good guys' side over the years, the successful businesswoman aspect of her character was pushed further to the background in favour of torrid soap opera tales of her formative years (see for instance the Emma Frost series from 2003 anddiving paraphenakl 2005's X-Men: Deadly Genesis where, instead of becoming part of the Hellfire Club's Lords Cardinal through her social standing and business acumen, she is a stripper at the club who sleeps her way to the top).
 
The U-Men have definitely got that insect-other/deep-sea diver thing going on that so many of Morrison's evil henchmen have.  See also The Invisibles' Cyphermen and The Hand from The Filth.
 
Page 21 - Presumably Sublime's using the syringes in Martha's brain to contol her.
 
Page 22 - Assisted by Cerebra, Jean's powers are so ramped up she can even feel the rain.
 
Page 23 - Wolverine's adverse and brutal reaction to the U-Men ties in to his own torturous past, experimented on by the Canadian government as part of the Weapon X programme.  Though Morrison has a lot more to say on that later in the run...
  
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