Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday! Now, as you’re well aware, one of the core themes of the X-Men is evolution. Our beloved mutants are always changing, so there’s no reason why this X-Men-themed column shouldn’t follow the same rules. So this week, we’re trying something all-new and all-different…
X-Men Monday Book Club!
And the “book” we’ll be discussing this week is revolutionary writer Grant Morrison’s groundbreaking New X-Men run! Kicking off in 2001, this saga would rock the mutant side of the Marvel Universe for the next four years and introduce elements to the X-Men mythos still in play to this day. There’s so much to dig into here with our special guest, X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White. Jordan may not have worked on New X-Men, but the man’s a fan, for sure, and recently had a chance to reread it all!
So get a drink, help yourselves to some cheese and crackers, and take a seat. Oh, and stick around until the very end for some very cool–and eXclusive–preview art for eXciting things to come. Let’s begin!
AiPT!: Welcome, Jordan! So, Marvel recently singled out New X-Men as one of the “seminal moments” in X-Men history. Speaking as the X-Men Senior Editor, what is the biggest lesson you took away from this groundbreaking run?
Jordan: I think the big lesson was that the X-Men can grow and change, still. This run took the core of the X-Men and spun it in a different direction than it had been before. It was (and I guess I am sorry about the pun here) an evolution of the idea. It went into bigger ideas about evolution and culture and society, it changed the character’s relationships to one another as well as to their roles in the X-Men and what the X-Men meant. The fact that such big moves could happen while still feeling both fresh and like the X-Men was amazing. It’s what made me a regular monthly X-Men reader rather than someone who just read collections of older material. It felt like it was the X-Men of that moment, the X-Men of the current world rather than a callback to the X-Men that were in the past. So, in the end, the lesson to learn is about why they did what they did, the larger ideas behind what they did rather than the specific things they did.
AiPT!: One of Sam – Agent of G.I.R.L.’s (@WasFourTalking) favorite things about this run was how it explored how the X-Men are incredibly flawed and dysfunctional individuals. What are your thoughts on the way Morrison explored those flaws?
Jordan: Oh man, I love it. Flawed characters are the best. Characters overcoming their own shortcoming, or at least struggling with them, is pretty much the thing that makes the best stories. It’s what makes Marvel Marvel—the classic idea of the heroes having feet of clay is what set them apart from a lot of the heroes that came before. Superman is, for the most part, a purely aspirational hero. He is perfect, he is good at everything, he has all the powers and can defeat anything. Spider-Man fails the people close to him, he struggles to do what’s right and usually gets punished for doing it. (Side note—that is not a knock on Superman. I love him as an aspirational hero. To my mind, people complaining about him being too powerful are missing the point of Superman. But that’s neither here nor there.)
But back to flawed characters, yeah—I think this series did a great job with them. I know there are some people who are still very bitter that Cyclops cheated on Jean Grey, and I cannot blame them, these characters are our friends and sometimes you don’t want to forgive one friend for hurting another. But I think it was a great thing—the idea that he is this moral paragon in some ways, that he is a hero and he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders… and then he has a failing on this front. That’s real and that’s relatable. The question is how he deals with this—that’s the heart of character drama.
AiPT!: Nir Revel (@revel_nir) said Beast’s main arc through this run was about if he was evolving or devolving and his relationship to that–something that a lot of other writers picked up on later for their works. Do you feel that after everything that happened, Hank is over that?
Jordan: Beast is another great example of a terrific flawed character. I think a lot of the nuance of Beast that I love has roots in this era. The X-Men fans who hate Beast love to rage at him being a hypocrite, at this mistake and that mistake that he made. And you know what? They are right about a lot of it… and that’s why he is great and interesting. He is an incredibly smart guy who has good intentions and thinks a lot about what is and is not right… but thinking and doing are two different things and he really struggles with that. Sitting and thinking about ideals is a very different thing than reacting to real life in the moment, and sometimes you end up in a different place than you wanted to. I can really relate to that.
Whether Beast is over his evolution/devolution problems… I think he is far less concerned about it than he was back then, but a lot of that is because there were much larger moral dilemmas he was wrestling with in the years since this run. That and the fact that he seemed to change to a more “stable” form in recent years.
AiPT!: Michael Q (@20_mmitchell) pointed out that Morrison created a slew of new mutants who are still very prominent today–Glob, the Stepford Cuckoos, Cassandra Nova and so on. In your opinion, what is it about these Morrison co-creations that have stood the test of time?
Jordan: Honestly, I think it’s as simple as telling a great story that lots of people read and loved. That these characters came from this era that so many of the writers who have worked on X-Men since really have a strong affection for is why they come in and want to use those characters… and then them telling more great stories with them makes the NEXT writer want to use them and so on and so on.
Incidentally, that is also why the older characters are still used so much—they have exponentially more stories that people could read and fall in love with. That’s a huge factor in why Cyclops and Wolverine appear more than Glob or Quentin.
AiPT!: Well, speaking of Quentin, Let’s Discuss Quentin Quire (@OmegaLevelTalk) asked who you think is responsible for Sophie’s death. Quentin, Esme or Sublime?
Jordan: I mean, there is blame to go around to everyone. If I have to pick one person to give the lion’s share of the blame to, though, I would say Sublime. The reveal of what Kick was and how it worked seems to put him as the reason behind all the worst behavior in this run.
AiPT!: Kevin (@MagnetoRocks) is here with the obligatory Xorneto question. Obviously, the reveal of Xorn and the subsequent portrayal of Magneto were somewhat controversial among fans and soon heavily retconned. What do you think worked and didn’t work about the twist and it’s aftermath?
Jordan: My opinion on this has actually changed based on my recent re-read. If you had asked me this a few months ago, I would have said that I thought it definitely should have been left as Magneto and that undoing all of that was something I was not a fan of.
However, in reading it over with the foreknowledge of the reveals ahead of time… I am far less adamant on it. Honestly, it’s really hard to read Xorn’s first bunch of appearances and reconcile them with the reveal. There is no hint of what is to come in there, and there are a bunch of bits that I don’t feel like make sense with the ruse. Same with Sublime, honestly. So, that kind of relaxed me on it a bit. There is still a lot about the retcon that I don’t think makes sense as well… but I am not as hard-lined on it as I once was.
AiPT!: I’m curious, what was your favorite character moment in New X-Men?
Jordan: I am sucker for the big ones. I think, in the end, I will have to go with Jean pushing Scott into Emma’s arms to save the X-Men and the future.
AiPT!: And now, speaking purely as a fan, is there one element of the New X-Men run you wish the X-Men line had continued to explore?
Jordan: Oh yeah—for sure, the whole aspect of mutants as an actual culture and sub-section of society. The fact that, in this run, mutants went from either existing in secret or having to live like Morlocks most of the time to just a part of society with its own fashion trends and things like that… that was so cool and it brought the metaphor forward into reality in a way I thought was incredibly effective. I have said before I was not a fan of the drastic reduction of the number of mutants in the world to less than a few hundred, and it was doubly so because I felt like there was so much potential that we lost from that.
I guess the biggest change that DID stick around was turning the Xavier School into a real school rather than the idea of the school being a cover for the training of the X-Men. I guess that really came from the films, but this is where it entered into the comics. And as much as I love a lot of the characters they introduced in the school (and in later books as well), I still feel like making the X-Men teachers with actual non-super-hero students is a weird fit for the franchise.
AiPT!: Zack Jenkins (@XavierFiles) wanted to know what you think the X-Men line would look today if the creative reaction to this run was to build off of it instead of reverting to the status quo.
Jordan: I don’t know that I would say it reverted to the status quo… they stuck with the school, Emma stayed on the team. Astonishing X-Men started 2 months after Grant Morrison’s run ended, and there was a lot of stuff that carried over into that. Joss Whedon definitely had a bit more reverence for the past stories in his run than New X-Men did, but I don’t think it was reverting.
AiPT!: Fair enough. OK, as this is the first meeting of the X-Men Monday Book Club–what’s one comic series you would recommend to fans of New X-Men?
Jordan: What, I can’t just say House of X and Powers of X?
I think the thing to do then is to stick with Grant Morrison, who writes a pretty amazing comic no matter what he’s working on. All-Star Superman is a comic you should read if you like pretty much anything, so if you have not read it, please do so. But I think I will say if you’re a New X-Men fan who likes the crazy new ideas Grant brought to the X-World, you should definitely check out The Invisibles. It’s the story of a group of agents working for a secret society and the madness they get caught up in makes what happens to the X-Men look tame.
AiPT!: Thanks for the recommendations, Jordan, and thanks for swinging by the X-Men Monday Book Club! Please, take some of that cheese for the trip home. Oh, and thanks to all the X-Fans who submitted questions! You can have some cheese too, but I feel like what you really want are these eXclusive preview images. Enjoy and have an eXceptional week!