This is Why (New X-Men, pt. 3)

And now we bring things to an end, ladies and gentlemen…

Parts one and two are available at the preceding links, if you need to get all caught up. Last time we left off, we’d just talked about the Murder at the Mansion story arc, and its intentionally ambiguous ending, which made it clear that something was terribly awry at Xavier’s school. Oh yes, and Cyclops had just quit the team once again, rushing off to parts unknown, after Jean learned about the psychic affair he’d begun having with Emma Frost. Let’s bring it on home…

My Mutant Power (Issue 142)
Whoever thought that putting Scott and Logan in a strip club would be this much fun? The odd setup makes for some wonderful moments of absurdity, which also form an effective teaser for yet another major status quo shifting arc. Touched on this a bit earlier, but the newfound level of maturity and mutual respect that’s the cornerstone of this new relationship between Scott and Logan is a welcome development, and as seen here, can lead to great character moments for them both. Certainly in the past, Logan would be the first to try to capitalize on Scott and Jean’s marital problems, but here he gets Scott good and drunk on Jack Daniels, and then drags him into a dangerous adventure to get his mind off his woman troubles. And when Logan tells Fantomex, “This guy’s one of the best,” you know he means it…even with Scott currently passed out on the floor.

Weapon Plus (Issue 144)
One of the most interesting aspects of Fantomex’s introduction was his casual clarification that Weapon X has always really meant Weapon Ten. It was such a simple and clever distinction that I’m surprised no one thought of it before, but I suppose that’s why Grant Morrison has earned such an incredible reputation over the years. But this arc further expands on that grander vision for the history and the objectives of the secret government program that created Wolverine, and most of those ideas are his typical brand of greatness—just tossed out there like they were the most obvious things in the world, and just begging to be explored further. You ask me, there could be an entire book about The World, and all of the interesting things that go into building super soldiers to hunt down and contain the mutant race. The Euthanasium? The Alteration Chamber? Synthetic time? That’s some fantastic material right there.

It was also a great idea to incorporate guys like Captain America and Nuke into the history of the program. And putting the main base of operations in deep space as an answer to the timeless question, “Why can’t anyone ever find those Weapon X assholes?” Throw in a Scott Summers with performance issues, Fantomex, and Chris Bachalo, and you’ve got another bright spot in a series that has already had several up to this point.

Star Brain (Issue 146)
So here we are at the infamous revelation that Xorn was really Magneto in disguise. This issue really works, regardless of your personal thoughts about the overall ruse, because of the sense of dread it creates with every scene, everything falling like dominoes until Charles’ terrible discovery. Finally we learn what’s really been going on with Xorn’s special class, who’s been pumping Kick into the campus, and what really prompted the attack on Emma Frost. And it’s all connected by a campaign that’s been in play almost as long as this incarnation of the book has existed.

Again though, I wish it were clued in a little earlier, maybe even as far back as the character’s first appearance in the ’01 annual. While appreciating what a cool turn it was at this stage, I instantly had a stack of logistical questions. How did Magneto actually escape Genosha during the massive Sentinel attack? Was there ever a real Xorn, or was he a complete fiction from the start? How did he conceal himself from three of the world’s most powerful psychics for what appears to be months? Most importantly though—why go to all the trouble for yet another ultimately futile attempt at embarrassing Xavier and beating the X-Men? We’re going to get into that last one in just a bit, but on the face of it, this was an incredibly clever stratagem that effectively gave Magneto the one thing he could never quite manage on his own—absolute trust. Which he naturally abused of course, but more on that later.

Always A Way (Issue 148)
It’s a pretty decent trap, you have to admit—Jean and Logan, the two heaviest hitters on the entire team, trapped on the wreckage of Asteroid M on a one-way trip into the sun. But Magneto hasn’t been paying attention to the rest of Morrison’s run apparently, because this is the all-new, all different, and slightly more impossible Jean Grey. I mean, you’d think that having spent so much time around her these last couple months, he’d know that all previous bets are off. That whatever he thinks she’s capable of doing, it’d be safer if he just took that and multiplied it by a hundred. Because like she told Charles several issues ago during one of her Phoenix manifestations, being able to tap into that almost infinite power source is, “…how it feels to be the last hope…and to know you’ll win against all odds.” And these look like some terrible odds, right? So you know Jean’s gotta have one last trick up her sleeve to give the X-Men a necessary edge against Magneto…too bad she had to die first…

Xavier School is the Best School (Issue 150)
Despite his clever little Xorn identity, this latest assault by Magneto officially confirms that he is truly a remnant of the distant past, with no new perspectives or fresh ideas to offer the future of mutant kind, or this book for that matter. For all his planning and subterfuge, once he gets an opportunity to affect some real change, the only thing he can think to do is blow everything up. Or turn Manhattan into a pretzel. Stand in front of people that see him as some mutant folk hero and savior, promising them things he has no capacity or intention to deliver. In the world of New X-Men, he’s little more than a fossil that refuses to evolve with everyone else around him, doing nothing but coming back over and over again with the same threat of reversing the earth’s magnetic poles. He’s your typical supervillian in a series and framework that’s become larger than him, and the only way he can even hope to keep up is by using drugs. The end of Planet X was written the second he removed Xorn’s helmet and revealed himself.

Before too long, the X-Men are going to escape their respective deathtraps, regroup, and then take him down. This time it’s a little different, likely reflecting how far beyond him everyone else has evolved. His special class quickly learns they’ve been sold magic beans. Cyclops, with absolutely no doubt at all that his friends are still alive, leads the assault and rediscovers his optic blast, firing it directly into Magneto’s helmet and setting his entire head on fire. And then Wolverine delivers the killing blow, after Mags’ last-ditch attack on Jean Grey.

Magneto just doesn’t get that he’s a symbol of everything “wrong” and backwards about superhero comics, and that he’s being made an example of. If it’s true that coming back from the dead is his secondary mutation, maybe next time it’ll be with something different or more interesting to say. I think it says a lot that he was infinitely more interesting when he was pretending to be someone else, which I believe Ernst actually says while he’s in the midst of one of his villainous rants.

Inherit the Earth (Issue 154)
Only Morrison would end an entire run like this, with an arc that takes a handful of his plot threads and ideas from the last few years, mashes them all together, and fires them 150 years into the far flung future. I have always loved the title of this arc, Here Comes Tomorrow, but even more interesting than that is the course of the entire future hinging on an important decision by Scott Summers. For a Cyclops nut like myself, the idea that what appears to be a fairly unimportant decision about he and Emma taking over the school being the one thing that literally cracks the world in half offers some sort of strange validation that’s difficult to explain. I mean, I’ve always considered Summers the lynchpin of the entire franchise, but this story went to incredible extremes to solidify that viewpoint.

And it also spoke to the larger importance of the Emma/Scott relationship, which obviously was to become even more crucial than it initially appeared. A well orchestrated redemption arc for Emma, and a fine emotional note to leave us with, after a highly explosive beginning. The fact that Jean offered her blessing was another nice touch, and like I said before, even in Grant Morrison comics all you need is love. Something very refreshing about that, I think.

 

So there we go, folks, over three dozen issues of New X-Men come and gone. Hope you all enjoyed this series, and that you’ll come back for the upcoming complement digging into Whedon and Cassaday’s spiritual successor Astonishing X-Men.

New X-Men, by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Phil Jimenez, Igor Kordey, Ethan Van Sciver, John Paul Leon, and Keron Grant…this is why I love comics.

Additional thoughts and discussion of the entire series are welcome below, as always.

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3 Comments

Filed under This is Why

3 responses to “This is Why (New X-Men, pt. 3)

  1. Peter Velez

    Yeah, you pretty much summed up my feelings about the Xorn reveal. It’s stated in his first appearance that he’s been in that Chinese prison for years. One day I’ll have to do my own re-reading on Morrison’s New X-Men and see if I can pick up on the clues.
    My favorite part of “Here Comes Tomorrow” was Rover the Sentinel. Just heartbreaking stuff and one of the best “Robots Have Souls Too!” stories I’ve ever encountered.

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  3. gokitalo

    “How did Magneto actually escape Genosha during the massive Sentinel attack?”

    Never send a metal robot to finish off the Master of Magnetism. 😉 (unless they’re made of non-ferrous metals, but I digress)

    Paul O’Brien did a great job at spotting all the clues back when the reveal was made:
    http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks/msg/1323852c822d0868?dq=&hl=en&lr=lang_en&ie=UTF-8&rnum=1

    Oh, and here’s another Magneto-esque line from New X-Men #127: “There is no word for monster in any mutant dictionary.”

    “His special class quickly learns they’ve been sold magic beans.”

    Nice!

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