The X-Men of My Discontent – Part 2

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Probably the most important aspect of the first year of Morrison’s run was the 2001 Annual. Aside from being in the ridiculous “widescreen” horizontal format, this one issue laid the groundwork for the next two years of Morrison’s stories:

• The introduction of the character Xorn. A mutant hidden in China whose mutant ability is that his brain is a small star that is contained within an iron mask. Somehow, this allows him to heal humans. Xorn joins the X-Men as their healer and the teacher of the “Special” class at Xavier’s School.
• The “night” in Hong Kong between Cyclops and Emma Frost. Whatever happened that night, it sowed the seeds for the love triangle between Cyclops, Jean Grey and Emma Frost.
• The further development of the villain John Sublime and the U-Men, a group of people who through surgery and grafts attempt to make regular humans into mutants or “The Third Species”.

The first year of Morrison’s run, in retrospect, was really good. I can honestly say that with a high degree of confidence. Despite all the changes, and my over protectiveness of these characters I’ve read over the years, Morrison really did move them into more modern stories with very well written dialogue, which made the book a much more interesting read. I take issue with the fact that in the end, as mentioned above, he didn’t really do anything original, in that the majority of the main plot developments have been done before in some shape or form. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Morrison revealed that by telling familiar stories, he was laying the groundwork for what was probably planned as his original, earth shaking stories. Unfortunately, what was planned versus what was presented were two very different things.

Somewhere in the second year of Morrison’s run, there was what I like to call, a “point of departure.” It was the point where either Morrison checked out of being interested in the X-Men or perhaps simply began failing in the execution of his stories/plans. Through three main story arcs in the second year, Morrison began to show cracks in his foundation of the stories being told.

The introduction of the Weapon Plus program and the character of Fantomex, issues #128 through #131, was the first suggestion of the beginning of the end. All of a sudden, we’re presented with a new character that claims to have all the answers about the Weapon Plus program, which was a super-soldier-like program to create soldiers who would eradicate mutants. Surprise, surprise, we find out that Wolverine was not Weapon “X” but rather Weapon “10” with the “X” being a roman numeral. We find this out through a very confusing and convoluted story that created more questions than answers over the course of three issues. But that may have been a part of the plan, as Morrison would later re-visit Fantomex and the Weapon Plus program later in his run, which was woefully disappointing to me. How many writers have attempted to make sense of Wolverine and the Weapon X/Plus/whatever program? Can’t thy just leave well enough alone?

After a series of a few seemingly random issues, #132 through #134 where the only substantive action that occurred was the introduction of another new character, Dust, whose role in the X-Men seems to have been to be used by Xorn later in the run rather than being introduced into the X-Men as a legitimate team member. While the use of her powers was later utilized by Xorn, I would not be surprised if she joins Maggott in the hall of forgotten X-characters, which is always a point of disappointment for me as an X-Fan. I don’t like to be introduced to new characters, only to have them forgotten by the next writer. That said, after her introduction and some seemingly wandering issues, we are led into the next big story arc which I see has Morrison’s biggest failure and the actual “point of departure” where Morrison loses control of the story.

Issue #134 of New X-Men introduces the character of Kid Omega aka Quentin Quire, a geeky kid who is described as one of Xavier’s most promising students. Although for the life of me I can’t ascertain what his mutant power is, but I’m guessing it is something surrounding Omega-level telepathy. Regardless, Quire is a great example of a freak within the freaks, not being liked by other students, ridiculed by the “cool” students, including the creepy and story divisive Stepford Cuckoos, a group of five identical girls with linked telepathy powers who run around like Mini-Emma Frosts and act as Morrison’s story catalysts from this story arc until the end of his run. After finding out that he is adopted, Quire goes off the deep end and further alienates himself from the teachings of Xavier. Fueled by a new street drug called “Kick,” Quire and his friends within the school have their powers magnified and create the “Omega Gang.” Their formation leads to the three-issue arc called “Riot At Xavier’s” where, very foolishly, Quire and gang attempt to take over the school.

Of all the stories Morrison came up with for this run, I believe this one, told through issues #134 through #138 to be the biggest disappointment. Long story, short – Morrison simply rushed through this one. He was sitting on a goldmine of ideas. The combination of a drug that mutant kids were taking that affects their abilities, Quire’s alienation within the school, and the rebellion against Xavier’s ideas could have been a story of amazing potential. I don’t want to sit here and second-guess his decisions, but the idea of the drug problem running through the school and a groundswell of rebellion from within could have been developed and cultivated over at least a year or so into a huge conclusion of which the results probably would have been remembered for a long time. Instead, we got a rush job that quickly got swept away by the Scott/Jean/Emma love triangle as that subplot comes to a head at the same time as the student rebellion. So we ended up with a situation where the consequences of the student rebellion are swept aside quickly for the obvious and possibly easier conflict between Scott and Jean, when she finds out about Emma. There are only two things of importance that came from this rushed story arc. The first being the abandoning of Emma by the Stepford Cuckoos who continue to be a mere plot catalyst to the different storylines Morrison weaved. This time, they lose one of their five in the riot, become disenfranchised from Emma’s teachings and are the ones who tip off Jean to Emma’s relationship with Scott. The second, in the conclusion as Quentin dies, he reveals hints of the future yet to come, foreshadowing Morrison’s final story arc and his swan song.