New X-Men By Grant Morrison Ultimate Collection Book 3 TPB: Bk. 3 (New X-Men Ultimate Collection) Paperback – 26 Nov 2008
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I've been a big fan of Morrison ever since his ground-breaking arc on Doom Patrol (in my opinion the greatest superhero comcis story arc ever, including 'Watchmen') and thoroughly enjoyed the first two volumes collecting his X-Men run.
Unfortunately, this third volume doesn't live up to the expectations created by the earlier arcs - Morrison's handling of Magneto is nothing special, we get the whole Phoenix thing again, nowhere near enough Emma Frost and a 'Dark Beast'/future scenario which is...quite frankly, dull. Sometimes studied whackiness isn't enough, and structurally, these arcs are weak compared to Grant's usua; standard.
The art is wanting too, featuring the unwelcome return of Image-kid Marc Silvestri, a vintage but massively over-rated former X-Men artist who is a kind of bargain basement Jim Lee, but a little less scratchy (of course if you like Lee, MCFarlane and that crowd, you'll love this - which probably means you're not a child of the silver/bronze ages of comics).
Instead, do yourself a favour and buy all six volumes of Doom Patrol - yes, it may have influenced X-Men a little (the team first appeared about 3 months prior to Marvel's Mutants), but I think Doom Patrol owes much to Fantastic Four. In Grant's DP, you get masterful plotting, wild ideas, structural integirty and great art, plus some of the most stunning ret-conning in superhero history.
There are three stories in this single book, each illustrated by a different artist - emphasizing drastic changes in mood for each distinctive story line
SPOILER ALERT (but ONLY SLIGHT SPOILERS, I THINK, maybe)
Story 1 ('Assault on Weapon Plus') - a 4-parter involving a boys' night out for Scott, Wolverine and new guy Fantomex. This story would never have been allowed back in the old the Stan Lee days (- when much stricter censorship was in place and all comic-book stories had to be approved by the 'comics code' .) Scott Summers has 'business' with a prostitute and we get to see banter between Wolverine and Sabretooth, whilst they're both stood peeing into adjacent urinals - and that's just in the first few pages. As the story unfolds we learn much about secrets behind the Weapon X program - of which Wolverine was a test subject - and we learn of its links to both the Super Soldier and Sentinel programs.
Story 2 ('Planet X' ) - a 5-parter - is Morrison's penultimate take on the X-men. This is where things get darker and grittier. Muslim student Dust reveals that a certain terrorist has infiltrated the teaching staff at the Xavier Institute and things get really ugly for the X-men - a story loaded with shocks and horror.
MAIN SPOILER ALERT
Story 3 ('Here Comes Tomorrow') - a 4-parter - is the stunning conclusion, set 150 years after the previous story.
The world is in ruins. The USA is now 'Megamerica', Britain is part of 'Intereuropa Island', New York has been destroyed and Manhattan is just a crater. Most of the surviving populace are mutants. Humans are a dying species - only a few thousand are left. The X-men are now an interspecies team. Wolverine, Cassandra Nova and the Stepford Cuckoos have all survived. Fantomex is presumbly dead, but his external feminine nervous-system - EVA - still lives and can now morph into different shapes - choosing to primarily manifest as a hairless, anatomically perfect female - with silver skin and dome-shaped skull.
The Stepford Cuckoos are now the 'Three-in-One' and Cassandra Nova is the Headmistress of the Institute. These surviving X-men - along with No-girl - are joined by a muscled, bird-headed descendant of Beak - and also by British human hero - 'Tom Skylark' - and his Sentinel guardian - 'Rover'.
Certain things are never fully explained - such as how have the surviving characters managed to have such extended lives? Ok we know Wolverine has innate healing factor - but why does he also appear to be 20 years younger than the 1970's version of his character (- as portrayed by Dave Cockrum and John Bryne?) Also a flashback showing Scott and Emma at Jean's graveside gives no explanation as to why Emma Frost is suddenly sporting 'Lolo-Ferrari'-type breast implants.
Despite such mysteries, this was a thoroughly enjoyable tale with all kinds of magic touches - such as the attraction between Tom Skylark and EVA and the alluded heartbreak of Rover, This is a grand scale, apocalyptic tale and also very cosmic. I loved the end scene of Jean - on a level far beyond Earth, surrounded by other Phoenix avatars.
One to be read and re-read time and time again.
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