Not that I worship at the divine altar of Grant Morrison. But…
More than 10 years ago, Marvel made a decision to revamp their X-Men titles. It had been done a year prior with Chris Claremont returning to the house he helped build, but his style proved to be outdated and entirely too resilient to appeal to most fans, old and new. But in 2001, Marvel changed their revamping formula. They managed to snag a Scottish scribe by the name of Grant Morrison to re-imagine the X-Men. Placing him as the writer on X-Men (Vol. 2), he changed everything about the book, even the title: Under him, it was called New X-Men. It was a pretty bold change and a bold move.
Morrison was known for his acclaimed run on DC Comics titles like Animal Men and JLA, so what could he do that hasn’t been done to the X-Men? Um…Everything.
He’s the first writer since Scott Lobdell who “got” what the X-Men were about and then some. He made “mutant” the new Black, turned Magneto into a Che Guevara type of figure, re-imagined the Sentinels, re-introduced the concept of Xavier’s school as an actual school, and introduced the most frightening comic-book villain ever: Cassandra Nova. Morrison took the characters into a new direction and brought some new outside-the-box concepts to previously established continuity (“The White Hot Room” in the middle of the M’Kraan Crystal and coining the term “secondary mutation”). He wrote New X-Men from issues #114-154 over a four-year period. Each of his story arcs were stellar, intertwined and finally culminated in the future story “Here Comes Tomorrow”. In retrospect, Morrison’s vision of an alternate future almost felt like a parody of similar alternate future storylines. And I write that because this future (designated as Earth-15104) is precipitated not by an assassination of a political figure or the premature death of a soon-to-be important historical figure, but by an event so seemingly small that its simplicity is admirable: Scott Summers leaving the X-Men.
In Earth-616: After the death of Jean Grey (yeah, she’s really dead this time and has been for the past 10 years), her husband Cyclops makes a decision at her grave to leave behind the X-Men and Xavier’s school for good. The Beast (Henry McCoy) tried to hold the school together in Scott’s stead, but couldn’t. To cope with the stress, he did what most people do if they have the money: He started taking drugs. Specifically, Hypercortisone D, better known by its street name Kick. The drug temporarily gives a boost to mutant powers, but what no one knew was that it was an aerosolized form of Sublime.
Sublime, a sentient bacterium, infected countless species for billions of years and implanted them with sufficient aggression leading to conflict. It did this to ensure its survival and eliminate its competition. Then came the dawn of Homo Sapiens Superior, mutantkind, to threaten its dominance. To protect itself, Sublime needed to infect mutants. And what better way than by disguising itself as a designer drug for mutants? When Beast used Kick, Sublime took over his body. As Beast, Sublime caused evolution to cease and decimated the human population. Fast-forward to 150 years into the future:
The Xavier Institute is now an integrated organization with a Martin Luther King-like statue of Charles Xavier; the X-Men have one constant: Wolverine, who’s still in his prime. What sets the story into motion is a man named Tom Skylark, a human with a giant original Mark I Sentinel for a pet and protector. On Earth’s moon, he discovered the Phoenix Egg and that’s when all Hell breaks loose. Sublime has access to all mutant DNA and uses it to create his soldiers, the Crawlers. He dispatches them to retrieve the Egg from Skylark, but is met with resistance. By the time Skylark is transported to meet the X-Men of this future, Sublime was taken the Phoenix Egg caused it to hatch. The Phoenix, with vague memories of its time as Jean Grey, faintly recognizes Sublime as Hank McCoy, but falls under his brainwashing nonetheless. He manages to splice his host body’s DNA with Phoenix’s energy which exponentially magnifies both his powers and megalomania. All of the X-Men die at Sublime’s hands, but not before Cassandra Nova (yeah, that’s right…her) re-activated Jean Grey’s memories, restoring her to human form. With Jean Grey reanimated and in full control of her powers, she separates Sublime from the Beast and explains to it how “the Judgment of the Phoenix” is meant to eradicate evolutionary dead-ends, which is what Sublime became after the first mutant births. When Jean recognizes how this future came to be, she enters the center of the M’Kraan Crystal, the White Hot Room, to determine a course of action with other avatars of the Phoenix-Force. As such, she travels back in time 150 years earlier and telepathically “pushes” her husband to stay with the X-Men and begin a relationship with Emma Frost.
Cyclops and Emma Frost (Earth-616)
X-Men of Earth-15104 (Wolverine, the 3-in-1, Cassandra Nova, No-Girl, E.V.A. and the Beak)
Tom Skylark & Rover
1.) Jean Grey’s secondary mutation is that she ultimately becomes the Phoenix-Force, no longer its template or human avatar.
2.) Cyclops decides to remain with X-Men as field commander and headmaster of the Xavier Institute with Emma Frost.
3.) E.V.A. is Fantomex’s nervous system now given a default humanoid form. It’s hinted that Sublime’s lieutenant, Apollyon, is a brainwashed Fantomex.
4.) The Crawlers are Nightcrawler clones spliced with the DNA and powers of other mutants (Cyclops, Archangel and the Multiple Man).
5.) The Beak in this future is Tito Bohusk, a descendant of the original Beak from 150 years prior.
6.) Sublime is still in control of the Weapon Plus program. It’s revealed that the 3-in-1 (the Stepford Cuckoos) are Weapon XIV.
All images appear courtesy of the Marvel Entertainment Group.