I’ve just finished a big wodge of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, volumes 3-7 to be precise. This is the rest of the run that began in E Is For Extinction. You’ll recall that after reading the first volume, I was wondering if all the setup was going to pay off; and after the second, I thought it was just your basic competent comic book story. After reading the rest of this story run, I have to say that it’s better than I’d given it credit for.

Make no mistake: It’s still a comic book story, and people who don’t like superhero comic books will find absolutely nothing here to change their minds; this isn’t the sort of thing that’ll make people say “You know, I don’t really care for superheroes, but...” like Astro City or Watchmen. But as a superhero comic book story, it’s pretty damn good. Lots of involved setup and payoff, lots of use of the rich background mythos, and a willingness to rise above the two bugaboos of the superhero genre: cliche and stasis. Cynical teenagers make fun of a villain’s “Shakespearean” declamations; characters die (with various levels of permanence) and the world around them changes. It’s good stuff, and rises far above genre hackery.

The main problem I had with this series was the abrupt pacing. At times, it felt like Morrison was giving us a story outline more than a story — there’s so much for his story to do, and not enough time to do it all in, so panel transitions skip ahead abruptly, conversations are too terse, and there’s not enough time to savor the impact of major events before focus changes to something else entirely. The result is that the reader is kept slightly off-balance and slightly unsettled. Which, I suppose, actually works fairly well for Morrison’s purposes.

The more I think about this series, in fact, the more I revise my opinion of it upward. Even in the course of writing this little reviewlet, I’m sitting here thinking, “You know, that really was damn good.” So strike out all those vaguely weaselish praise words above and put in more emphatic versions. I’m sticking to my guns on this being only for superhero aficionados, but those aficionados owe it to themselves to give New X-Men a read.


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