[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run issue by issue -- to read most posts on the subject, hit the New X-Men links button below.]
We learn that Jean is such a powerful telepath that she can simply tell blood to clot, and think her way into machines, which is quite cool. Also cool: Morrison's idea that humans can create liquid time and then immerse subjects in it and evolve them artificially -- the point is not emphasized here, but this is Morrison's new sentinel, his twist on the idea of "futuristic" killer robots. In a brilliant moment Fantomex, speaking to Jean, compares his mask, which keeps his thoughts hidden, with Jean's Wonder-Bra -- a great moment that links sex with control (something that will be explored more in the Scott-Emma relationship). Just having characters joke about Jean wearing a Wonder-Bra is refreshing, in a superhero world where women are just imagined to naturally look like that.
The character Animal seems like a bad sitcom joke -- a guy who is so stupid the military, as their primary plan, bets he might be immune to telepathy. He is reduced by Jean Grey or Professor X to spouting self-help style "breakthroughs" about the real reason he acts like such a brute (he resented his dad, but the shell he built to be strong and take his father's place isolated him from normal relationships -- "maybe I'd be better working with handicapped kids" he says). I guess this is supposed to be very funny, but it is so broad it does not work here, in a book so subtle elsewhere.
Fantomex is a hard character to pin down. While that is the point of him -- his mutant power is misdirection -- it can be difficult to follow what is going on in the story. He casually takes Xavier and Jean to his mothers home during a lethal attack on X-Force and tries to sell Xavier information. Xavier says suddenly "If you intend to travel to the wreck we'd like to travel with you" which is odd because I cannot see what makes them think that is what Fantomex wants to do. Even stranger is when Fantomex agrees, and suddenly switches from a thief with no morals to a guy who wants to make a "statement against mutant vivisection" -- at which point he leads the attack on Weapon XII as if he was intending to do that all along. He just seems to be messing with the X-Men because he can.
(Also he pours orange juice on his head for some reason -- can anyone explain that to me? Is it a coloring mistake? That seems likely, but it still seems like a weird thing to do with his head covered in a mask.)
I wrote an online essay a few years ago for Reconstruction on the X-Men and section six focused on Fantomex and Assault on Weapon Plus. Let me reprint here what I said about Fantomex there (I have tossed in some small additions), in order to underline what a great character Fantomex is:
"Fantomex is one of Morrison's perfect creations -- and one of comic books' perfect creations -- because (like the Silver Surfer, for example) he rides a fine line between the hyper-cool and the completely ridiculous: looking like a G. I. Joe figure, Fantomex -- whose name and look are derived from the Mexican incarnation of the French pulp-novel character Phantomas -- is a Matrix-style acrobatic, wise-cracking, double-gun-toting French super-ninja genius with multiple brains for independent processing, whose mutant power is that his nervous system is located outside his body in the form of a sentient, living flying saucer that grew from something he literally coughed up one day. Morrison occasionally hints that Fantomex only appears to have the powers he displays, suggesting at several points that his only powers are illusion and misdirection -- the ability to convince others he is what he says he is."
Fantomex is pure empty charisma, and nothing more, and he functions perfectly as both a very cool character and an absurd parody of characters who think they are very cool. (The fact that his name riffs on "Phantom X" is smart, but also suggests someone thinking very hard if there are any words with the "ex" phoneme not already co-opted by an earlier X-Men writer). It is in this context that we must judge the final major talking point of this issue -- one of Morrison's most audacious revisions: Weapon X -- Wolverine -- is not Weapon X but Weapon Ten: Weapon XII just showed up and Weapon XIII will be revealed in the next issue to be Fantomex. One the one hand, wow, what a huge idea. On the other hand it is all just smoke and mirrors. Fantomex's empty but amazing flair is also Morrison's here. They are both having a lot of fun messing with the X-Men for no other reason other than that they can.