I have been thinking about the X-Men for the last few days pretty steady. It was the first comic I ever read. Lately, I have not really enjoyed the X-Men. Now they are throwing it all around and changing the X-Men again, which is fine because I didn’t really like X-Men for the past few years, ever since Grant Morrison left. So the post-Morrison, pre-Brubaker period was “meh” for me. Sure, Joss Whedon’s Astonishing has been the strongest, but… Morrison was better. He had great ideas for changing the X-Men. And it worked. And then slowly, Marvel has eroded all of Morrison’s genius.
A lot of people would disagree with me about the sentiment that Morrison was a genius on X-Men. But it is hard to disagree about the erosion of his great ideas. The reason why this has come up is because for the last two years since Morrison left X-Men, something had been bothering me. I didn’t know what. I finally have put my thoughts mostly together and have come up with it. Firstly, Grant Morrison is insane. He has been called the rock star of the comics industry. He has a lot of stuff that is way out there (like the Invisibles) and then he has taken characters and revived them and made them awesome (Animal Man, Doom Patrol) and mostly importantly, revived the JLA with the characters everyone wanted to see: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, the Flash, and Aquaman. To start, a brief history of Morrison’s run. Like any new writer, Morrison gathered the X-Men he liked the best and shoved the others to the wayside. The other writers scrambled up their characters–Claremont took his “X-Treme X-Men” (such a stupid name) Storm, Sage, Rogue, Gambit, etc and moved them far away from Morrison. I have heard that Morrison wanted to kill Gambit and Rogue but Claremont snapped them up. I don’t know if this is true or just an anti-Morrison tale that is out there. Morrison’s X-Men were Cyclops, Jean Grey, Emma Frost, Beast, Professor Xavier and Wolverine. Of course, Wolverine was in every book. No one knows why. Perhaps that is his “secondary mutation.” Secondary mututations, from what I have gathered, is a way for a character to get another power. Emma Frost, for example, had a secondary mutation. She can turn into solid diamond. Little known fact: Dani Moonster has had more secondary mutations then anyon in the Marvel Universe. (That’s not actually a fact, I made it up, but I truly do believe it’s true) Morrison took the X-Men out of thier costumes, which I thought was great. Stan and Jack established at the beginning that the X-Men were not like the Avengers or the FF. They wore colorful costumes so the regular people would trust them as they did the other super teams, but it never worked. Putting Jean Grey in jeans and a shirt makes sense to me. Morrison organized all of the X-Teams into “X-Corp” which was all basically the same goals, instead of X-Factor and X-Force and this mutant team and that mutant team and blah blah blah. The great thing about X-Corp was that Morrison had all of the super-hero mutants that Xavier had been affiliated with and they were all in one place if a future writer wanted to pluck them and use them. Characters that had been let by the wayside. Like Bendis says, ‘Everyone is someone’s favorite character’ it gives a chance for everything to come together. Genosha had been in continuity hell for ages. The mutants are slaves! Now they are not! Now Magneto runs it! The problem with all of that is that everything that’s happened with the X-Men has happened “recently” there has never been a set time that the X-Men have been around. They age at different speeds. The original team was teenagers in the 1960s, not they are early 20s-ish? When Kitty showed up in the early 80s she was fifteen. Now she’s early 20s-ish? But the original X-Men are still early 20s-ish? It doesn’t make sense. DC has established that Batman and Superman have been around for roughly ten years. The Justice Society formed during World War II but they were stuck in Limbo for years and didn’t age, but they are noticeably older then the Justice League. Time passes (still slowly) in the DCU but it passes. Back to Genosha. He destroyed it. And who was that old man staring out the window? Was it Magneto? Is Magneto dead? We don’t know. And devestation meant something. Usually in comics, when something gets blown up, it gets better and no one is sad. Morrison took Polaris, a mutant with magnetic powers who Magneto may or may not be her father–dancing around that issue for 20 years, and used her as a “black box” for Genosha. She recorded the last minutes of everything. And it made her fucking crazy. And Emma! Grant Morrison knows Emma well enough that even though she is a huge bitch her top concern is her students. So where was Emma? On Genosha, teaching a telepathy class. As typical Emma goes, she says “I propose we spend today’s telepathy period hacking into the minds of some of our favorite screen idols. Gold star to the first girl who discovers the awful truth about Tom and Nicole…” After the Senitels hit Genosha loaded with atomic bombs they find her… she’s alive, of course, her secondary mutation kicked in, she’s a diamond now. She wants revenge on those that did this to her students. Jean reminds her that killing enemies is Magneto’s way.
Emma says, “I’ve become the perfect Faberge killing machine for a reason… and that reason is surely not to wave the flag for X-Liberalism.”
Jean: What makes you such a bitch, Emma?
Emma: Breeding darling. Top class breeding.
A few pages later, Emma returns to the school to snap the neck of Cassandra Nova, the woman responsible for the attack on Genosha. Cassandra starts to heal (everyone has a healing factor now) and the Professor shoots her. Wolverine looks and says, “Hardcore Chuck.” Cyclops says, “Emma I knew you wouldn’t turn your back on us.” Emma says “Sweet as you are, I didn’t come back for you, Scott. I came back for my handbag. Lucky for you, this is a Louis Vuitton…” Emma also had a thing for Scott, as weird as that was. But is she or isn’t she really all about him? Could she betray him at the drop of a hat? Probably. She’s Emma. She’s manipulative and can only play the good guy for so long. Oh, and it turns out that Professor Xavier had a twin sister and tried to murder her in the womb. Yup, strangled her with the umblical cord. The Professor finally “came out” and told the world he was a mutant and his school for “the gifted” was not just a private academy, but also a school to show students how to use their powers. How long where the people around there going to not question why Magneto, space aliens, Juggernaut and Sentinels keep attacking a private school? More students poured in, which I always thought was better then just half a dozen students there at a time. The new characters Morrison created were more freaky then beautiful. Mutants weren’t “feared and hated” all of the time anymore. They were a counter-culture of their own. Teenagers thought mutants were cool and wanted to be mutants. Teenagers wore shirts declaring “Magneto Was Right” and a section of New York sprung up called “Mutant Town” where all of the mutants lived. There was a series called District X, which had Bishop (another lame ass character) paired up with a regular cop and their beat was Mutant Town. It was a cool idea, but I felt it was poorly executed. A lot of people really liked it. Playing off of this, Bendis created a drug called MGH–mutant growth hormone. It was a street drug and when the user took it, they would temporarily gain super powers. There was an Alias story where Mattie Franklin (Spider-Girl) was doped out and being used by drug dealers to extract MGH from. Bendis has expressed that he is not Morrison’s biggest fan, he thinks Grant Morrison is hyped up on Grant Morrison, which is probably true, but the Morrison stuff that Bendis incorparated into Daredevil and Alias was awesome. The X-Men ran across a mutant named Xorn who had a star instead of his helmet. They rescued him from China and he became a teacher at Xavier’s. The special ed teacher, no less. The twist with Xorn was something that no one saw coming. Fanboys posting online may say that they did, but ultimately, they are full of shit because Morrison dropped zero hints. Jean Grey died (again) but the cynic in me said, “I wonder how long Jean will be dead this time!” I will say this, some of Morrison’s stuff was a little off the wall for me. His last story was just awful, I thought. And maybe it was Michael Turner’s art. The biggest issue with Morrison’s X-Men was art and timing. Frank Quitely’s art complimented Morrison’s writing style but the art started bouncing between Quitely and then Van Schiver and all over the place. The working theory I have is that Quitely was taking his sweet ass time (which you can do when you work for Image) and it was making the book late so the art was moved to someone else. So where did that leave us after he was gone? The same old stuff. Magneto was miracously alive and Xavier went to hang out with him on Genosha, which suddenly wasn’t a nuclear wasteland. Chris Claremont started undoing what Morrison did as soon as he could. The X-Men went back to the same old, same old. Joss Whedon (shame on him) took them and put them back into their costumes. Then what? Nothing. Colossus came back… Psylocke came back… Rachel came back… same old characters, just spinning wheels in mud. But then Bendis saved it. Bendis had the Scarlet Witch go batshit crazy, and she killed the Vision, Hawkeye and Antman (Scott Lang). And finally when the dust settled, Magneto came and took her away. I was surprised, thinking that Magneto was dead but a lot of things didn’t add up in those last few issues of Avengers. Bendis, with his infinite tolerance for fanboy bitching advised us all to “Go back and reread it knowing what you know now about the Scarlet Witch.” It seemed like a cop out until the end of the House of M… she could do anything. It seems pretty likely that she just brought Magneto back from the dead. House of M brings us to the new chapter in X-Men. The Scarlet Witch, aided by her brother Quicksilver, created a world where mutants were in charge and everyone had everything they wanted–Peter Parker woke up next to Gwen Stacy, Uncle Ben still alive… Magneto ruled the world from Genosha. Wanda had her children that she had conjured up once before out of thin air. Without spoiling it (Read House of M, especially #7 & #8) Wanda effectively changed mutant history. She screamed, “No more mutants” and when the world was back to the way it should be, most mutants lost their powers. Just gone. Of course, Wolverine didn’t lose his powers… it seemed random. After House of M, the X-Corp building was blown up. So everything Morrison did was gone. I was very upset. I still am very upset. Grant Morrison pushed the X-Men more then Chris Claremont did in the 20 years he wrote them. And now it’s gone. The only piece of his stories not undone is that Genosha is still kind of a shithole, but not radioactive anymore, Jean is still dead (for now) and Scott and Emma shacked up. Years ago, when asked why he stopped writing the X-Men Joe Kelly said something along the lines of, “You don’t write the X-Men. You baby-sit them.” Joe Quaseda, Marvel’s EIC took a chance with Morrison and let him shake up the X-Men titles. Morrison was barely out the door when everything he did started to become undone.
So I’m excited to see what Dark X-Men brings for Emma, but honestly? I want the Grant Morrison days back.
Grant Morrison’s collection of New X-Men is available from Marvel. The single issues were New X-Men (1991) #114 – #154 & New X-Men Annual 2001