New X-Men by Grant Morrison has a reputation that precedes it. Lauded by many as one of the best books about the Mutants, this storyline is often credited as one of the writer’s greatest works.
However, Morrison can be hit or miss with some readers and throughout this review I will be giving my honest opinion on the story to let you decide whether it is worth picking up.
There will be spoilers here so it may be worth skipping to the Verdict if you want to remain unspoiled.
With that out the way let’s dive into New X-Men Volume 1.
Opening on the Extinction Arc, the graphic novel gets off to a flying start. We gaze upon humanity’s best (or at least most wicked) as they realise that the mutant population will slowly wipe them out due to the nature of evolution. Selfishly, they won’t allow this to happen so fight back in the only way they know how: Genocide.
Beginning in the Ecuadorean Jungle at a behemoth Sentinel Factory, Cassandra Nova enacts her master plan of destroying the majority of homo sapiens’ superior in one fell swoop.
Nova murders 15 million mutants by the book’s second chapter and this gut punch is a phenomenal way to start the storyline that will instantly have all readers hooked. Morrisson has always been adept at offering up thought-provoking subtext within his work and ‘Extinction’ is no different. A metaphor for the Holocaust, immigration and more, the lessons that one can take from the opener can still be applied today to the likes of Donald Trump and it’s outstanding that the writer managed to create a storyline twenty years ago that feels like it was only released yesterday.
This clean slate really allows the mutants to be branded ‘the New X-Men’ and it’s clear that Morrisson wants to draw a line in the sand and create his own continuity. Whilst I did wince at some of the character choices early on (Professor X is a cold-blooded killer now?) these curveballs are explained throughout the story and it feels like a huge gut punch when we get the true reveal to his motives.
Early on Morrison and Quitely nail the presentation and pace and the graphic novel sets a high bar for itself in the introduction that makes it an instant classic.
Life after Death
As the school deals with the massive loss of the mutant population they must also battle the intruder in their midsts. After entering Professor X’s Mind before her death, Cassandra Nova has taken over the world’s best psychics body. Tearing the team apart she really seems like an unstoppable force.
Mirroring this is the rise of The U-Men. Tired of being mere mortals, they seek to advance themselves by hijacking the Mutant X Gene to genetically alter their DNA. Evil to the core, they too add real conflict to the work and it’s great that Morrisson can balance both antagonists perfectly.
Whilst it fails to measure up to the arc that preceded it, the three part storyline still does an excellent job of setting up and introducing newer characters such as Angel. It also ties beautifully into the books third arc, which is where the stakes of the Cassandra Nova’s true conquest begin to come to fruition.
In order to save Professor X from Cassandra Nova’s Mind, they must delve into her deceased body and pull him out. Depicted as what can only be described as a labyrinth, Quitely and Morrison are able to showcase the true abstract nature of their creativity. Completely wordless, the standout issue is one of the most dramatic pieces ever put to page and beautifully showcases the root of the rivalry between the siblings without feeling overly bombastic or convoluted.
It’s the perfect piece that even today stands as one of the best single issue storylines out there and I highly recommend that you pick the graphic novel up for this part alone.
Returning with the Shi’ar empire and Nano Sentinels, Nova wages war on the mutants in an attempt to wipe them out once and for all.
War with the Shi’ar
The final chapter is every bit as epic as the ones that precede it. Filled with body swaps, last minute twists and more, it’s a Morrisson tale through and through and delivers on the high bar that readers have for him.
I really can’t compliment the book’s end enough and it really felt like a home run in what had been an incredible story.
The New X-Men feels like an improvement on all that has come before. It’s abstract, ingenious and feels like evolution of the characters in what is arguably one of their best books.
Even 20 years later it still feels fresh and invigorating and I can’t wait to see what the creative team have in store for the second volume.
This book is outstanding and deserves a…