Aug 4, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 161: X-Men #40, January 1995


How does Legion get his hair to do that? I feel like he and Wolverine must go to the same barber shop.

I had made a deal with myself after yesterday's drubbing of the first part of this story to try to find the good in this second part. And I really did try. But then there was this utterly, ridiculously racist moment in the series, made all the more deplorable when considered from the perspective of a racist comment happening in a freaking X-Men comic!

Having been time-displaced by Legion, Iceman, Storm, Bishop, and Psylocke are suffering a very specific form of amnesia, in that they remember who they are, but not what they are or where they come from. While trying to suss this out, at one point Iceman, a.k.a. Bobby Drake, brings up the fact that they all woke up in "funky aerobic outfits," but then extends the strangeness of their outfits to the fact that their group includes "a British accent in an Asian body...a black woman with white hair," to which he adds the commentary "guys, that's not normal."

Um.

Fabian Nicieza, who wrote this issue, often gets coupled with Scott Lobdell (who, I think, masterminded the whole AoA crossover) as amongst the worst X-writers in the title's history. As I noted yesterday, the nineties were not a kind era to superhero comics. There's a couple of moments in this issue where the Liefeld-ness of it all comes through. Archangel (or Angel, or whatever he goes by at this point) has the constant grimace on his face, as do most other characters in the issue. Only old school Professor X and pre-evil Magneto have anything resembling human expressions. But Nicieza's dialogue is generally not bad. His run on Thunderbolts in the mid-2000s was very enjoyable. And, unless my memory deceives me, far less problematically normative. Now, I get that I come from a background that is predisposed to notice things like this, and I'd like to clearly state that I'm not accusing Fabian Nicieza of being racist. What I think this demonstrates rather nicely is, hopefully, the advances we've made in our use and understanding of language over the past 20 years. Iceman's use of the word "normal" just doesn't hold water (frozen or liquid) anymore. It didn't then either, let's be honest, but I think the word "normal" has undergone a significant shift in meaning, from denoting things that are all the same because of their homogeneity to things that are all the same because of their heterogeneity. I'll just leave that there as a talking point.

As for the story itself, it seems to be moving quite slowly. Chances are there was a need to pad things a bit in order that the AoA get coordinated properly, so I can forgive that. There's one really effective moment at the very end of the comic, in which Lilandra, the Shi'ar ruler, appears as a giant hologram in the sky above the present day X-Men, and warns them that Legion's actions in the past are affecting the fabric of reality.

(As an aside, I wonder how many times the term "fabric of reality" has been used in superhero comics to point out the seriousness of a storyline.)

This moment rather nicely offers a sense of scale and perspective, and is a testament to Andy Kubert's pencilling. I'll go on record as saying that his is not a style of art that I'm overly fond of, but he's really very good at what he does.

There was a bit of positivity in there, right? *Sigh* Okay, I'll try again tomorrow. See you then.

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