X-Men: New X-Men by Grant Morrison
Cover concept by Lorenzo Princi, 20th October 2013

X-Men: New X-Men

Author: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quietly

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi

“Mutant music, mutant styles, mutant ideas are becoming more and more fashionable...”
Wasting no time, Grant Morrison enters with a bang, setting up his own X-Men world with a three part opener in which a powerful bring destroys Magneto’s Mutant haven island of Genosha. Resulting in the death of millions of it’s Mutant inhabitant the story of delivering the strong message, this is a whole “New” X-Men. In the aftermath of the genocide, Emma Frost who manages to survive, joins the X-Men. In the final moments, Morrison rounds out the the rule breaking introduction cliffhanging final frame in which Xavier goes public, telling the world he is Professor X, leader of the X-Men.

It is always difficult to gauge where certain comic book runs fit in the wider context of their canonical franchise history and that is no different here. Generally speaking, the style, tone and plots may as well live in their own universe to anything I remember from the more iconic Uncanny X-Men volumes from Chris Claremont and John Byrne. In one sweep, Morrison changes the entire X-Men landscape. Stories now focus new world themes and a grungy new generation tone emerges. Where the X-Men had always focused on marginalisation and mutant/human relationships, New X-Men looks at how the mutant phenomena would permeate in a modern Gen-Y world. The U-Men addition specifically, demonstrates modern self interest ideals and examines cosmetic surgery by showing humans who are adding mutations and cybernetics to their “normal” bodies. No longer is the discussion limited to whether or not the homo-superiors will outlast homo-sapiens but whether either of them will survive a world facing new internal and external threats. With Morrison, the lines are always blurred and in New X-Men, more than ever, the definition of what constitutes a “mutant” is challenged as we are no longer focused solely on the concept of natural selection, but rather a forced evolution with the harvesting of x-genes demonstrating new world sensibilities.

Morrison’s heavy themes are of course the sub-text to an action packed saga, there is no shortage of ultra-violence and hyper-sexualised content as the team faces threats from near and afar. The Shi’ar Empire arc being one of the most interesting and complex in the saga, as Xavier's body is taken over by the essence of his long suppressed twin "Cassandra Nova". Fooling Princess Lilandra into believing the mutants have gone mad (due to a micro-sentinel virus she has spread), her forces are sent to Earth with the intent of destroying all mutants. The scope of each mini-arc ranges from this type of galactic fair all the way down to things much closer to home, such as the misguided rebellious uprising at the school by teenagers. A short lived attempt at revolution which plays out as a poor substitute for Magneto’s ideal world of superior mutants, though not without it’s own serious consequences.

Tackling themes such as love, power and control; Beast, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Emma Frost and Professor X are presented as more cynical characters, having long histories. All their old ideas are challenged as they are called upon to save and survive a brave new world. Adaptability and change echo the evolutionary current which always permeates throughout X-Men. It is time for the X-Men themselves to change as Professor X’s pacifist ideals are tested. Notable, is the use of Jean Grey’s Phoenix side, usually suppressed, here however, being called upon more and more to save the day.

Scott Summer's has one of the more important arc's in the series as he struggles with his relationship and marriage to changing Jean Grey/Phoenix, as she becomes more powerful and detached. Scott doubts himself (outside of the world of war which he owns) and his affair with Emma Frost is central to much of the series. Wolverine, surprisingly, is perhaps the shallowest of Characters, reserved as the resident tough guy for the most part and perhaps the least iconic version of the character we've encountered.

Morrison's talent is undeniable, however his metaphysical anarchy can be a little much at times and often the artists he works with seem to be having off days. New X-Men is not as difficult to follow as say, The Invisibles, however Grants signature tone is very much present throughout with satirical jabs at celebrity and mainstream culture. Tonally appropriate for the times and a definite shake up for the series, with grown up themes and dialogue, Grant Morrison's complete run of New X-Men still suffers from the same inconsistent artwork that hurt The Invisibles. The layouts in particular seem very lazy, as if set by a default 9 panel per page computer program.

So, is this X-Men as I imagined it growing up on cartoons based on the Uncanny X-Men tales. Nope. But it’s somewhere between the Claremont Classics and the Bryan Singer movie universe - dialed up to the extreme. To conclude, Morrison delivers a hyper-sexualised, ultra-violent, wise-cracking, attitude laden, generation next, chaotic sci-fi epic told though the X-Men lens.
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