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New X-Men #136

Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Frank Quitely with Avalon Studios

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with a group of U-Men gathered like vultures over the body of a recently deceased mutant, but their attempts to secure mutant gifts from this corpse are interrupted by the arrive of Quentin Quire and his group of drug addicted fellow students. As we see these young mutants eagerly rip into this collection of U-Men, we look in on another group of U-Men who are closing in on Xorn & the class of young mutants that he took on an impromptu camping trip. While Beak & Angel are able to warn the others about the U-Men lurking in the bushes, we see Xorn sends the students ahead, while he remains behind to deal with the approaching U-Men. However we see one of the U-Men managed to slip by Xorn, and these students have to get their act together, and deal with this threat. While they manage to take down their attacker, and Xorn deals with the rest in a rather unsettling display of his power, we join the rest of the X-Men back at the Academy, where we see Emma, Xavier & Hank are busy discussing the problem that Quentin poses. However, we soon see this conversation didn't prepare the X-Men for the next day, as Quentin sparks a full scale riot at the Academy.

Comments:
While the X-Men have gotten the short end of the stick in this arc, the students of Xavier Academy have emerged quite nicely from the background, to become some fairly engaging characters. Quentin & his fellow collection of malcontents make for a pretty solid threat, and their encounter with the U-Men in this issue made for a very powerful display of how far gone these children are, as we see the scene ends with them gleefully torturing a man. This issue also offers up a pretty exciting sequence where we see the half-dozen students who had joined Xorn on his impromptu camping trip have their own encounter with the U-Men, and while they only have to really deal with a single member, the group dynamic of this collection of students made for very interesting reading. Now Grant Morrison does overplay the smart fart joke, but I know several people who will repeat a joke when they are nervous, in a bid to hide their nervous state, and as such it makes sense that Basilisk would go into repeat mode. This encounter also offers up a rather disturbing revelation about Xorn, as we see unlike X-Men of the past, Xorn has a power that is highly dangerous, and he's willing to use it to kill his enemies.

I recognize the fact that the story is far more exciting if the villain's plan isn't cut off at the knees before they can set it into motion, but I have to wonder why Grant Morrison insists on presenting the X-Men as a bunch of ineffectual goofs, whose biggest reaction to Kid Omega's activities is to stand around and discuss what they think his plans are. I realize that Quentin is just a student, and as such Xavier is likely to give him the benefit of the doubt, but given they were given a heads up in last month's issue that Quentin & his group had taken part in a savage beating that left several teens dead, one would think Xavier and his X-Men would acknowledge the idea that these young misguided students were dangerous. There's also this issue's conversation among the X-Men, where we see they are able to easily connect the dots & realize that the upcoming Open Day would make an ideal target of Quentin's antihuman stance, and yet the final pages of this issue make it seem like the X-Men did absolutely nothing with this information, which in turn presents the group as a being overly passive, and if any of the students and/or guests are injured as a result of this "riot", then the X-Men are largely to blame for not dealing with this problem before it reached this point.

Two issues of Frank Quitely art in a row, and not a single missed shipping date? Well it took eight issues of guest art to deliver this fairly impressive illusion that Frank Quitely is able to meet the deadlines, but it's certainly nice to see this book's art is getting itself back on track, and I like the relay style approach that the book looks to have adopted, as each arc is handed off to a different artist. Plus, while he's one of the slowest artists this side of Arthur Adams, Frank Quitely does have a gift when it comes to delivering Grant Morrison's ideas, as out of all the other artists who have provided the art for this title during Grant Morrison's run, it's the Frank Quitely issues that stand out as the ones that have captured the true essence of the material. Now this arc has been quite impressive in that Frank Quitely has been called upon to expand the characters that have populated the background of his previous issues, and he's more than up to the task, as the students of Xavier's Academy look quite nice in the spotlight. From the decidedly creepy opening sequence where Quentin's group crashes a U-Men ceremony, to the wonderful shot of Xorn standing before the flaming van. My only quibble with the art is that there's a scene where Beak kills a U-Man, while the dialogue makes it sound like he's only trying to stun the villain.

Final Word:
A pretty enjoyable follow-up to the first chapter, and at the moment I have to say that this current arc is standing up as one of the strongest efforts that I've seen from Grant Morrison since he arrived on this title. Now I'm a little concerned by the idea that the story does seem to be contingent on the X-Men being quite ineffectual, as there are moments when it looks like they acknowledge they have a problem, but these scenes are followed up by moments where it seems like the X-Men are completely clueless. Still Quentin and his fellow students make for a rather unique threat, and given he is a telepath one can't rule out the possibility that the X-Men's inability to deal with this problem is due to his messing with their minds, though it is hard to believe Xavier could fall victim to any telepathic influence. This issue also brings back the U-Men, and while this time out they aren't much of a threat, but there is a nice sense of impending danger developed during the sequence involving the "special" class.



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