Thursday, September 04, 2008

New X-Men: 'Some Angels Falling' (#131)

“Some Angels Falling” is another really strong issue that mixes some nice low key character development stuff with further development of the ongoing soap opera plot with Scott and Emma.

The opening line “So who the hell was Darkstar anyway” is an instant classic. Even the X-Men themselves have trouble keeping up with their myriad b-list members. But, Emma’s quip doesn’t obscure the quiet beauty of the actual funeral sequence, where Xavier is able to show everyone a glimpse of the person that Darkstar was, a decidedly post human conception of what a funeral should be.

The Beak/Angel storyline is a fun, sweet piece. I really like the dynamic between the two of them over the course of the series, the way his extreme self loathing makes her feel better about herself. One of the things I really like about Morrison’s X-Men run is the way he builds the entire culture of the Xavier Academy and is able to subtly parallel it with traditional high school groups. Beak and Angel are pretty much the ‘Freaks’ of the school, as Freaks and Geeks would define them. Beak may be “straight-edge hardcore” but their academic and social failure leave them both a step away from Daniel Desario and Kim Kelly.

Angel ostensibly kisses Beak as part of a bet, but as we see later on, she does have some genuine affection for him. I think it’s largely because she has suffered so much in her life, and it hurts her to see Beak suffer in that way. And, hanging out with him makes her feel better about her own standing in the world. Their successful trip up to the spaceship is a really fun sequence, and Beak’s turn from absolute nihilism to absolute joy is well done. For someone who so utterly hates himself to be shown any kind of affection is amazing, and to be kissed on top of that. He’s probably not exaggerating when he says it’s the best day of his life.

While the freak kids are struggling with their relationship, the glamorous teachers struggle with issues of their own. The Scott/Emma Frost storyline gets its most significant development yet. Emma is ostensibly helping Scott with psychic therapy, but the line between psychic affair and therapy gets increasingly blurred. Everyone seems to know what’s going on, except for Jean. Wolverine tries to caution Scott, but he doesn’t want to listen. Morrison keeps Wolverine as the zen sage with his line “Man’s gotta’ mow his own lawn,” skillfully juxtaposed with Emma’s catty remarks. Scott tells himself that what he’s doing isn’t wrong, that he’s doing it to save his relationship with Jean, but it’s really all about getting what he’ll never get from Jean.

I love Jean Paul Leon’s art in this issue, particularly during the surreal skydiving sequence. The old costumes spilling out of his parachute is one of my favorite images from the entire run. Scott ponders “Why can’t everyone just be straight with me,” a quintessential Scott Summers line. This is a straight shooter who does stuff by the book, he’s stuck with the reputation that he’s a boy scout, and part of the attraction of Emma is the chance to shed that reputation and do his own Dark Phoenix thing. Why should Jean get to go evil when he can’t? The context for all this is a storyline in which Scott was briefly possessed by Apocalypse, and it’s that exposure to evil that’s the impetus for this whole thing. But, the crucial thing is the idea that even as an evil character, Scott didn’t get to do the kind of bad things that Jean did as Dark Phoenix.

Emma dresses up Dark Phoenix, and claims that she is always going to be drawn to the fire. Scott says “Why not?” and decides to play with some fire himself. It’s notable that he waits until Emma is playing Dark Phoenix to go with her. He is attracted to that bad girl part of Jean, but she’ll never show it to him. That’s what he said earlier that she wore corsets for others, sensible shoes for him. He’s bored, in a midlife crisis, and if he can’t have the fire that Jean possesses, he’ll go for the next best thing, Emma.

Scott may have ostensibly approached Emma to get help with his marriage, but what he was really attracted to was the bad girl in her, the piece of her that was like Jean as Dark Phoenix. He never loved her like he did on the mesa, at the height of her power. He can’t get that with Jean, so he’ll try to find it somewhere else. This is a guy who walked out on his wife to get back together with Jean, and now he’s realizing that maybe he was more attracted to the idea of Jean than the reality of her. People change, but if so much of his identity is wrapped up in his love for her, how can he leave her without losing himself?

So, two stories of love, both new, only one innocent. It’s a really important issue, laying the groundwork for a lot of character stuff later in the run, and nicely mixing the soap opera elements inherent to X-Men with the sci-fi stuff that Morrison has brought to the title. Top it off with Jean Paul Leon’s top notch art and you’ve got a wholly satisfying issue.

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