Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Frank Quitely with Avalon Studios
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Quentin and his group of drugged crazed fellow students basking in their newfound sense of importance as they set out to shatter Xavier's dream of a peaceful co-existence by triggering a full-scale riot of the Academy grounds, on the very day that curious humans are paying a visit to the School, to learn that mutants aren't the inhuman monsters society would have one believe. As the situation becomes more & more chaotic, and Xavier is nowhere in sight we see the X-Men decide they have to step in on put a lid on this situation, as the Beast's attempt to reason with the group of unruly students proves to be a failure. With Cyclops using his optic blasts to disable members of Quentin's group, and the White Queen protecting his back, we see the considerable threat that Quentin poses is still unaddressed. However, we see that the Stepford Cuckoos have decided to do something about Quentin, and working together we see they are able to launch a devastating mental assault that leaves Quentin in a very bad way. However, this victory does not come without a cost, as mutant/human relations have taken several steps backwards, and we also see that the Stepford Cuckoos have paid a terrible price.
This issue is littered with impressive moments, as Grant Morrison does a pretty good job of realizing the potential this current arc had. Now given he does spend the issue running around in a drug induced bloodlust, the sudden attempt to present Quentin as a scared little boy making a desperate bid for attention was rather unconvincing, but up until we reached this point the book did a nice job of establishing Quentin as a fairly formidable engine of destruction & chaos, and the arguments that he makes against Xavier's dream do have the added bonus of being quite valid, so it's difficult to dismiss his as an outright lunatic. I also have to say that Emma Frost finally gets a chance to step into the spotlight again, which is always nice, as out of all the additions that Grant Morrison's brought to this book, she is far and away the one that I want to see him focus his energies upon, as she is so wonderfully jaded & her sense of haughty superiority is quite endearing. In fact she is one of the most refreshing additions that has ever been made to the angst ridden cast of the X-Men, so this issue's focus on her was a welcome touch. I also have to say that the big finish was quite a shocker, as we see the Stepford Cuckoos step up to the plate and pay a very dear price for having done so.
This issue acts as a fairly solid example of one of the main problems that I find myself having with Grant Morrison's time on this book, in that he seem far more invested in the situations that he comes up with than he is in the X-Men themselves. I mean I could go back over his run and point out trend time & time again, but since I did start off by saying this issue was a good example I'll limit myself to its pages. Now the riot at the school is an interesting idea, and it's one that one would think would evoke a response from the X-Men. However, not only is the final victory over Quentin and his group provided by characters that Grant Morrison created, but the X-Men themselves are limited to a handful of little moments that seem to be included only to show the readers that Grant Morrison hasn't forgotten who they've come to see. Now the healthy respect/fear that Quentin's group displays of Wolverine was cute, and the White Queen's rescue of Cyclops is a great Emma Frost moment. However, with a full-blown riot on the campus, and lives in danger, it struck me an incredibly odd that the X-Men played such a passive, almost observer role in this action. I mean Beast makes an attempt to resolve the situation, and Cyclops puts on a display of his power, but given people are dying this seems almost too little, too late.
Before I start discussing the art I do have to point out an odd little detail that does display a rather poor sense of artistic continuity by Frank Quitely. There's a scene in this issue where we see Radian is gagging Professor Xavier's with a strip of duct tape, and when he emerges from the school later in the issue we see him pulling off this gag. However, in-between these two scenes we get a look at Xavier reacting to the riot that is occurring outside, and the duct tape looks to have mysteriously vanished. Now it's not a huge detail, but it is strange that no one caught this little detail before the issue went to press. As for the rest of the art, Frank Quitely does a fairly impressive job of lessening the hostility to was built up when his glacial like pace was seen by fans as being largely responsible for this book's highly erratic shipping schedule. Now I'm more inclined to blame the editorial department for not being more on the ball when they started to notice him missing the deadlines, but this is water under the bridge now that they appear to have their act together, and Frank Quitely seems to be able to maintain the illusion of a monthly artist during this latest arc. His high energy, detail intensive art certainly helped to convey the chaotic nature of this material.
A pretty entertaining read as long as one enjoys the various additions that Grant Morrison has made to the title, as this issue center almost entirely around the students, not the teachers, and the only X-Men who get a chance on center stage are Xavier & the White Queen. Now Xavier's role in this issue is largely to act as a devil's advocate to Quentin's ranting, but truth be told Xavier ends up look rather ineffectual, and one has to wonder how a telepath as powerful as he is believed to be can continually be surprised by the actions of others around him. One also wonders why such a dangerous device like Cerebra is so easy to access, but I will concede that it does allow for a rather impressive display of power from the Stepford Cuckoos. As for the White Queen, one has to love her opening speech to the Stepford Cuckoos, and she also gets a nice little moment where she saves Cyclops from a rather painful looking death. I also have to say that it is nice to see Wolverine wasn't used to save the day, as Quentin makes pretty quick work of Logan.
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