The X-Men of My Discontent – Part 3

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The Riot storyline is followed by yet another three issue, ill conceived rushed story arc entitled “Murder at the Mansion,” (issues #139 – #141) where after the explosive results of Jean discovering Scott and Emma’s relationship, Emma is shot. This turn of events leads to the confusing visit of Bishop and Sage from the pages of X-Treme X-Men where they conduct an investigation of the shooting. Quite honestly, it was when these books were released where I started scratching my head trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Emma’s murder is, of course, suspected to be tied to either Jean or Scott because of the love triangle. But, I think, that Bishop discovers a connection between the drug Kick and the murder. Somewhere it is thrown in there that Beak and Angel (the new Angel, a girl with insect-like wings) had sex and gave birth to little Beak/Angel babies. Angel is suspected of murdering Emma, but it’s deduced that Esme, of the Stepford Cuckoos was involved, apparently in dealing Kick to students. She flees from the mansion, claiming to be a part of the “new” world that is coming. The arc concludes with everyone at Xavier’s wondering where Scott is and the readers are left trying to figure out what really just happened.

And where is Scott? He’s getting drunk at The Hellfire Club (which apparently is now a strip club for mutants?) with Wolverine who’s about to leave with Fantomex to break into Weapon Plus and we spiral off into another confusing story arc for four issues, numbers #142 – #145. Now I don’t know how crucial it was for Fantomex to break up Weapon Plus and how much more of the “truth” about himself Logan can take, but after the arc, we’re supposedly left with all the pieces in place for the penultimate story arc, “Planet X” where Morrison’s master plan comes together. In Issue #146 we see Xorn take his mask off to reveal that he is none other than Magneto.

Now this was the “shocking” plot twist that will define Morrison’s run on New X-Men. By laying in wait as Xorn, Magneto has been augmenting his powers with Kick, allying himself with Esme of the Stepford Cuckoos and the kids in the “special” class. He orchestrates the scattering of the X-Men and makes his move by taking Xavier’s legs away (because when Xorn “healed” him, it was just Magneto manipulating nano-sentinels in his spine) and first destroys the school, and then moves down to Manhattan and destroys it, in direct response for the destruction of Genosha. He renames New York as New Genosha and starts weeding out the humans from the mutants in Manhattan. He then reveals that he plans to resurrect his plot to switch the magnetic poles, thus flip-flopping the Earth creating “Planet X,” through issues #145 – #150

Magneto’s actions, which only scattered the X-Men, allowed them to regroup, unleash the Phoenix within Jean and fight back against Magneto. Ultimately, Wolverine killed Magneto (cutting his head off with his claws) just after Magneto sent an electromagnetic pulse through Jean, giving her a lethal stroke, killing her. This manic story arcs ends with Jean dying and a flash forward to 150 years in the future where a group of humans discover the “Phoenix Egg” on the moon.

For the final four issues, numbers #151 – #154, of Morrison’s run, we’re treated to his attempt at “Days of Future Past”. It’s 150 years in the future, and the world in unrecognizable. Hank McCoy has become infected by “Sublime,” which I assume is the same “thing” motivation “Mr. Sublime” who created the U-Men back in the first year of Morrison’s run. Now, in the future, he is plotting to take over the world with his army of genetically engineered clones with X-Men powers. Along with the Beast, Wolverine, Cassandra Nova, the remaining Stepford Cuckoos (now Three-In-One) and Fantomex’s companion E.V.A. are all still alive and keep Xavier’s dream and the X-Men alive. They gear up for their final fight against the Beast who has re-captured the Phoenix Egg and hatches it to bring back Jean, with no memory of the past. Of course, the X-Men win. Beast is defeated, Sublime extracted from him, Wolverine finally dies, and Jean ends up in some weird place made up of hundred of other Phoenixes. She learns that the world became what it was because Cyclops succumbed to loneliness after her death, so she tweaks the past universe and nudges Cyclops into Emma’s arms, thus changing the possible future.

The most noticeable detail of this final story arc is the number of “What the hell?”s it elicited. Cassandra Nova is alive and on the X-Men and further she was really Ernst, one of Xorn’s special kids? How is Wolverine, the Stepford Cuckoos and Beast still alive in 150 years? Just question after question that Morrison showed need to explain.

Again, Morrison in his final three story arcs takes story ideas that have been done ad nauseam in the past pages of the various X-Men books, gives it his “modern” spin and presents it as if it was an original idea. Wolverine wanting to find out the truth about Weapon X? Someone hiding in a different identity? Magneto flipping the magnetic poles? Jean becoming Phoenix again and eventually dying… again? A bleak future scenario? These are all themes we’ve seen time and time again. It feels as if the only thing Morrison gave us was the same stories we’ve read for 20+ years, but hid them in convoluted plot twists and inexplicable events. The fact that, as the series progressed, there was a four to five paragraph recap at the beginning of the issue seems to show that even the editors, much less Morrison, had trouble keeping up.

And so, after 41 issues Morrison definitely left his mark on the X-Men. Will it be remembered as one of the seminal periods of these characters’ history? I don’t really know. As of right now, my gut feeling is that it won’t be. Or at least when compared to his run on JLA, it will always fall short. In comics these days it’s so cliché to say someone didn’t live up to his or her potential, but I really believe this is the case with Morrison and New X-Men. In looking back, Morrison really started out on the right foot. He shook things up, made changes and then started weaving plots. But for whatever reason, he fell back on the established “X-Men type” stories and after the “point of departure” rushed through them. I could forgive the lack of originality if the stories were paced a bit slower and seemed more thought out. Moreover, had he taken his few original ideas and cultivated them, I think we would be talking about this run as of the greats.

Grant Morrison has developed himself as a Rock Star creator and has the resume to prove it. Did the three years of stories on New X-Men help to further establish that? I would have thought no, until I came across this

First thing I thought of was the old “Clapton is God” graffiti in England back in the 1960s. So maybe Morrison has continued to be elevated as the rock-star comic writer. But for this comic book reader, and X-Men fan, this was just a total, and yet another disappointment to the characters I love.