[This post is part of a series of posts looking issue by issue at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run; for more of the same click the New X-Men label at the bottom of this post.]
Wolverine opens this issue by noting that he did not even smell Magneto till now. I think that is a metaphor, but what about its literal since? Why didn't he, with all his fancy hyper senses, detect that Xorn was Magneto? Morrison's twist just raises more questions than it answers. Magneto tells Ernst -- who misses Xorn, which is terribly sweet -- that he created Xorn with help from supporters in China. Well, I think I am going to need a little more than that -- did he create Xorn with help of undetectable supporters in China who can rig things to fool the most powerful psychics on Earth, and Wolverine?
When Magneto's speeches fail, Toad tells him that the crowd wants sound-bytes not Shakespeare. At first it appears Morrison wants to attack Magneto for being old-fashioned and un-imaginative -- for re-using old ideas like switching the poles of the earth -- but Morrison also seems to be making a claim that everyone has degenerated, including the people of New York. We never really get to see them here, which is unfortunate.
Magneto's "special class" seems surprised that he wants to exterminate humanity, but what kind of guy did they think he was -- they were posing with him like rock-stars after he destroyed Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. This story is hard to like because its main characters are written badly -- we do not understand them as people -- we do not understand how they got from the Special Class to here -- so when Morrison calls on us to sympathize with them, it fails.
The sequence with Jean and Wolverine, trapped on a rock in space heading into the sun, on the other hand, is great. Jimenez does a wonderful Jean in these issues -- realistically beautiful with her ponytail and sweat, and perfectly normal bra (in stark contrast to the embarrassing super-boobs he gave her in "Murder at the Mansion"). Morrison's writing for the two of them is spot on as well. The Phoenix Force burns away what does not work -- which is wonderfully Emersonian, and my favorite description of the Phoenix force. Wolverine tells a story about surviving without food by eating chunks of off his own arm, which grew back thanks to his healing factor, a great story that shows a great understanding of this character. Finally Wolverine kills Jean to activate the Phoenix Force moments before we see them both die. This is one of the most powerful images in the run, and thankfully we are given a full five pages -- the final three completely silent -- to absorb it. We need the time and we get the time, and it works.
This kind of swerve between bad writing and great writing is what makes this run so maddening, and worse, in some ways, than something consistently badly written. You keep seeing what Morrison can do, and then you have pages and pages of him simply not doing it. It would be a mistake to drop a book with so much good, but it still feels like a mistake to keep buying it when so much of it is so bad.