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New X-Men #138

Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Frank Quitely with Avalon Studios

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with the X-Men racing to catch one of their students before he can make the already disastrous Open House into an incident that would forever damage mutant/human relations. The book then returns to the Academy where we see Wolverine is busy putting a good scare into the rest of the students who actively took part in Quentin Quire's riot. We then look in of the surviving sisters of the Stepford Cuckoos, who have decided Emma Frost is to blame for their sister's death, as she inspired them to be heroic. However, Emma isn't exactly one to wallow in self-pity, as after this moment of tension, she quickly turns her attention to another student who she feels could benefit tremendously from her guidance. After the book takes some time to show us what happened to Quentin in the aftermath of the riot, we see Xavier takes some time out to address the student body, where his words of wisdom manage to quell the growing sense of doubt & mistrust that Quentin had managed to create. After we get a rather surprising twist in the relationship between Beak & Angel, the book looks back in on Emma who is continuing her affair with Scott on the astral plane. However, we see the Stepford Cuckoos have decided to exact a little revenge upon Emma, as they make contact with Jean Grey.

Comments:
Emma Frost is easily one of the more interesting additions that Grant Morrison has made to the X-Men, as he's latched onto an element of the character that has her coming across as a decidedly twisted version of Charles Xavier. My first exposure to the character was in the pages of New Mutants, where she was the headmistress of the rival group of teenage mutants, and when the New Mutants became X-Force, the White Queen's student were summarily killed off. She then moved on to the pages of Generation X, and while I lost track of what happened in that book after Chris Bachalo left, I did gain the impression that her relationship with that book's young cast also ended badly. Now this issue arrives and we see another one of Emma's attempts to act as a mentor for the next generation of mutants has gone off the rails, but in spite of this rather tragic finish we see Emma is quick to establish yet another one of these seemingly cursed relationships. However, we do see that Emma should take some pride in the fact that the Stepford Cuckoos did learn their lessons well, as not only do they manage to ease their burden of guilt by blaming a third party, but we also see they have also embraced the concept of payback, as Emma discovers in the final pages that the Stepford Cuckoos aren't quite done with her.

As for the rest of the issue the book opens with a fairly exciting, if somewhat pointless display of action, as we see a throwaway moment of humor from the previous issue is expanded upon. In fact aside from the plot elements that focus on the White Queen, most of this issue is devoted to some run-of-the-mill plot contrivances. We have the problem of Quentin Quire dealt with in a rather perfunctory manner, as his powers continue to grow until he departs this level of reality. We then have Xavier make his way outside where he essentially quells the remaining vestiges of the riot by reiterating his well worn message of tolerance, which pretty much invalidates the sense of doubt that Quentin managed to raise with his little uprising. In fact I must admit I'm a little disappointed that Grant Morrison didn't really continue to examine this idea, as one almost gets the sense that Xavier has completely dismissed any questions that might've been raised, and the debate becomes a complete nonstarter. This is further reinforced by the award ceremony where we see Xavier rewards the Stepford Cuckoos for the rather reprehensible method that they used to put down the raging Quentin, which stuck me as a bit odd considering the horror he expressed at the end of the last issue when they were carrying out this attack.

Frank Quitely really shines in the opening pages of this issue, as there's an energy to this sequence that makes this throwaway display of action into something special. I also have to give the art credit for making it remarkably easy to follow the series of actions that the X-Men use to take down this out-of-control mutant, though I must confess I didn't know Xorn possessed super-strength. As for the rest of the issue there's some fairly impressive work on the scene where the White Queen finds herself being blamed for the death of one of the Stepford Cuckoos, as one has to love that she doesn't really get upset until the girls say they are leaving her. There's also a great little scene where we see her anguish turns into anger after the departing Stepford Cuckoos call her old. There's also a nice moody atmosphere to the scene where Quentin is consumed by his power, and there's also a nice little scene where Angel makes a rather surprising confession to Beak. I also have to make mention of the final scene of this issue, as Frank Quitely is very good when it comes to conveying the more surreal aspects when the book shifts to the astral plane, and one has to love the sense of impending doom that is delivered on that final page.

Final Word:
A great character study for the White Queen as Grant Morrison is quickly making her into one of my favorites. From the casual way that she gets over her guilt, to the decidedly sinister way that she turns her attention to her latest project, Grant Morrison has really developed Emma Frost into a character who I can't help but find fascinating. In fact my only real concern with what he does with the character in this issue occurs in the final pages, as it is rather difficult to believe she'll be staying with the team much longer. As for the rest of the issue, I must admit that aside from a fairly energetic opening action sequence, Grant Morrison didn't really offer up much. I'm disappointed to see the debate that Quentin's actions started has effectively been dropped, and that everything is quickly restored to the status quo, with Xavier coming across as almost dismissive of the idea that a section of his student body displayed such a violent objection to his ideas.



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