COMICS: Wow, that sucked. I said yesterday that I hadn't read anything by Chuck Austen. Well, that's been remedied as of today and oh, how I wish it hadn't. I told my comic shop guy to stop pulling New X-Men for me as of Grant Morrison's last issue but he didn't and I figured I'd try it out to see what the deal was with everyone hating Austen's work. Good lord.

It's one thing to replace one semi-talented writer with another semi- or less- talented writer, as Marvel does seemingly every month. It's another to follow up a groundbreaking and seminal run by one of the best writers in comics with a complete hack. It's like driving on a smooth, brand new freeway and crossing over a bridge onto a pothole riddled dirt road. First, I don't think Austen even read Morrison's run to see what he had done with the title. He's made Emma Frost, the first villain-turned-(almost)hero that I actually believed as a character, into some other random wailing woman. She actually has the line "What about the children!" for god's sake.

Then there's a search through the mansion's basement to find Cassandra Nova which directly contradicts what Morrison did with the character (it's not completely spelled out directly that Ernst is Cassandra re-educated in the alien shapeshifter Stuff's body, granted, but he doesn't even address it which makes it again seem like he hadn't even read the book or asked anyone about her whereabouts). In true "Return to Old Superhero Cliches" fashion the search leads into the discovery of Random Violent Robot and a fight. During the fight, I almost had the idea that Austen actually did understand one of the places Morrison took the New X-Men which is and end to all the old expected superhero crap like explaining what you're doing during a fight. The Beast begins explaining to Cyclops (who Austen must believe has a healing factor of some kind because Random Violent Robot smashes his head through at least two concrete walls) what he's trying to do to the robot and Cyclops replies that he doesn't need the play-by-play. If Morrison's Cyclops had said this line I would have be sure Morrison knew why he was saying it, as a nod to the old ways which are now over. Just as he had Wolverine say he was glad they got rid of the spandex costumes at the beginning of his run. Austen, however, obviously does not understand what this line should mean since Beast goes on to keep explaining. He uses it as just another superhero fight throwaway joke and completely misses any chance to keep the book on the high road it was on before.

The only man in the world brave enough to review every X-Men comic cluttering the shelves, Paul O'Brien, has labeled Marvel's new three-steps-backward "reload" of the X-Men titles "Everything Old Is Old Again" and from what I've seen, once again the man is on the spot. It's as if Marvel got one too many letters from old-school X-Men fans who couldn't understand Morrison's run on the book and they've decided that while his run was nice and critics seemed to like it, that now it's over and they can go back to the same non-threatening spandex fight scenes the old fans want to see.

As much as I like Joss Whedon's work on Buffy and Firefly, I don't imagine being able to stomach more than a couple of issues of his seemingly back to 1980s Astonishing X-Men, even given art by John Cassaday. Since the X-Men were one of the two books that got me into comics in the first place (the other was Batman) I have a soft spot in my heart for them but I won't spend money on a book that look out from its lofty perch and decides that rather than fly higher from there it wants to climb back down to the ground where it's safe.