I sold off my copies of Grant Morrison’s run of New X-Men from 2001-2004 in a big purge a couple of years ago, thinking to get the Omnibus to replace them…only to find out that it was out of print. I dragged my feet on picking up new copies in trade in the intervening time, until I found out several months ago that they were going to re-print the Omnibus—which I had understood never to happen, so yay procrastination.
So I picked it up last Tuesday and spent a week getting through it. Re-reading it was interesting.
I was impressed with Morrison’s ability to set himself up at the very beginning with things that weren’t going to reach fruition for a while. For instance, there’s a moment in the second issue where Cassandra Nova injects herself with nano-Sentinels that I had never before noticed as the moment setting up the nano-Sentinel sickness that becomes of importance…well, all through the series. From the early sickness that afflicts all the X-Men that ultimately leads to Beast’s downfall at the end of the series.
In fact, it is this very deftness that leads to the one great disappointment, which is, of course, the big reveal of Xorn as Magneto. A lot of people say they see evidence from the moment that the character is introduced that Morrison planned it that way, but if that’s the case, it’s too subtle for me, because I find it all but impossible to make it fit as seamlessly and clearly (in retrospect) as so many other thing in the series.
Besides that, I find it most interesting to view this through the lens of Morrison & Quitely’s Absolute Superman.
New X-Men reads like a dry run, in some ways, for that book—the sense that the value of the events is to shine a light on the characters, to let their most vital essence show through, the willingness to acknowledge what has come before without being bound by it.
The moments at the end for Jean Grey—when Logan kills her in an effort to try and spare her a painful death, and the surrender in her final statement to Scott Summers, “I’m always dying on you.”—carry a lot of emotional weight while still acknowledging the fundamental unseriousness of death in comic-books, and set the scene for an emotional component that Morrison succeeds in sustaining throughout Absolute Superman.
I’m not going to suggest everyone go out and spend the $71 that Amazon charges (in contrast to Absolute Superman, which I would suggest everyone read), especially since this ends up being a true doorstop of a book—it’s a little unwieldy. But if you have any affection for these characters—if you grew up with them in their heyday of the late 70’s and early 80’s, you should really consider reading this, even if you just borrow it.