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The Influence of Grant Morrison’s New X-men

In the late nineties Marvel comics was in a dire financial situation. It isn’t an exaggeration to say many writers were well aware that these could be the last Marvel […]

In the late nineties Marvel comics was in a dire financial situation. It isn’t an exaggeration to say many writers were well aware that these could be the last Marvel comics ever written. It was not a good time for Marvel itself, but it was a time for Marvel to bring in an era-defining number of writers. Brian Michael Bendis came over and began the Ultimate Spider-man book, which he still he still writes today, as well as his later work of New Avengers. Mark Millar was brought on to work on things like Wolverine: Enemy of The State and Civil War could be said to have been definitive title for the creative state of Marvel in the 00’s. Garth Ennis began the Punisher story Welcome Back Frank which ended up launching the Punisher: Max series, both of which are considered the high points of the character.

Amid this creative restructuring was Grant Morrison and his forty-issue run on New X-men. Morrison’s take on the X-men is a significantly darker one, choosing to reverse the idea of a sprawling soap opera with a racism analogue in the background. Instead of being superheroes the X-men were decked out in black leather and struggling with the urban and personal issues mutant-kind faced. It’s also perhaps the darkest the X-men have ever been. The second issue ends with an act of mass genocide on the mutant country of Genosha. It’s also worth noting that this genocide is headed off by giant fist-shaped jet crashing into a skyscraper Magneto is in mere months before the horrific events of September 11, 2001. (Morrison even notes the eerie timing in his book Supergods)

Such a dark take puts the idea of the mutants as a race to the forefront and shakes up the very foundations of X-men by eliminating a long-standing fixture along with one of the most popular supervillains in all of comics. Don’t worry, he gets better. This scene sets the stage for Morrison’s entire run on the X-men. What can mutants do and what is the mutant experience like? The emphasis on this book is on the mutant aspect. Mutants are not just an analogue for prejudice in Morrison’s book, they are their own culture and species in their own right with all that is entailed by that.

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