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New X-Men #114 Annotations

NEW X-MEN #114

E is for Extinction Part 1 of 3
 
Marvel Comics, July 2001, Color, 32pgs, $2.25
 
Written by GRANT MORRISON ; Art by FRANK QUITELY; Cover by FRANK QUITELY
 
 • THE SCOOP: The future is now as the X-Men are remade!  
 
 • THE STORY:Humankind's time on Earth is nearly at its end. Within a half decade, they will be extinct, replaced by their genetically gifted cousins: mutants! With this discovery, the very fabric of society begins to fray. And as fear and paranoia grows by the day, it will soon tear! Charles Xavier has been forced to evolve his X-Men. But in the shadows, something beckons to him. A mutant more powerful — and more depraved — than he ever could have foreseen. And very soon, that mutant will threaten his people, his world and his every perception! New creators, new characters, new costumes, a new logo, a new direction... this is the start of it all!
 
 • THE CREATORS: Grant Morrison remade the JLA. Frank Quitely made Authority a must-read. Just imagine what they'll do together to the X-Men!  
 

 • THE FORMAT: 32 pages, with ads.

 

ANNOTATIONS 

 
Page 1 - New costumes for Cyclops and Wolverine, in line with the ‘leather look’ from the X-Men movie. These are not the brightly coloured spandex superhero suits of old, but a functional and fashionable update for the 21st Century.
 
First appearance of Ugly John, a harbinger of Morrison’s ‘modern mutant’. Clearly there are people in this world for whom mutant powers really are a curse, with abilities that serve no useful purpose and an appearance that would truly inspire the kind of fear in the general populace often seen in the X-titles.
 
The scene is set as Sydney, Australia, the famous Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge can both be seen.
 
The Sentinel seen here is the update of Kirby’s classic design first introduced by Roy Thomas and Neal Adams in X-Men #57.
 
Page 2-3 - “30,000 years earlier…”, a common Morrison transition. See also Frankenstein #4, “1 billion years later…”
 
Neanderthal man vs. Early humans. A scene revisited at the beginning of Final Crisis. Early signs of mankind’s aggression toward the ‘other’, here the Neanderthal, later mutant-kind.
 
Blood as a carrier of germs and infection, a symbol of difference from ‘normality’. A theme that runs throughout the run.
 
First appearance of Cassandra Nova, Xavier’s ‘evil twin’.  ‘Cassandra’ from the Greek meaning "shining upon man". In Greek mythology she was a Trojan princess, the daughter of Priam and Hecuba. She was given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, but when she spurned his advances he cursed her so nobody would believe her prophecies.  'Nova’ from the Latin meaning ‘new’; also refers to a star that suddenly and dramatically increases its light output before burning itself out.
 
Evil twins are the first signs of Morrison’s use of soap-opera story-telling tropes in comic books’ greatest soap-opera, the X-Men.
 
First appearance of Donald Trask III, a dentist and nephew of Bolivar Trask, inventor of the original Sentinels, as seen on the proceeding page.
 
“Mutant germ line”, a corruption of gene line, again aligning, from Cassandra’s perspective, the mutants with germs and infection.
 
Widescreen panel aspect, first used by Morrison in his seminal run on JLA, later popularized by Warren Ellis and Mark Millar in The Authority. Became a defining feature of many early 2000’s comics, often called “widescreen comics”.
 
Page 4-5 - Morrison’s New X-Men line-up in full. Originally Colossus, killed by the Legacy Virus a mere 4 issue prior to Morrison’s run, was part of the team but the then-current editorial team imposed a moratorium on resurrecting dead characters. When a fan suggested Morrison might use Emma Frost in some capacity during his run, Morrison ran with it, replacing Colossus with Frost in the story and coming up with the notion of a ‘secondary mutation’. Rather than simply being a telepath, Emma would now also have the ability to transform her skin into synthetic diamond, an obvious nod to Colossus’ steel skin.
 
Jean Gray’s dismantling of a watch using her telekenesis suggests her powers have become much more focused and precise. It also brings to mind Dr Manhattan in Alan Moore’s Watchmen.
 
Wolverine’s adamantium claws define him as a character. Notice the blood spatters here.
 
The eyes on page 5 belong presumably, to Charles Xavier and Cassandra Nova, suggesting a duality that becomes apparent later in the story.
 
X vs. X, red vs. blue. The X-Men’s worst enemy, in keeping with Stan Lee’s grand Marvel tradition, is most often an aspect of themselves.
 
Note the use of real names. Superhero monikers become code-names to use in the field, not something the heroes themselves would use to identify each other. A technique later appropriated and used to much lesser effect by Brad Meltzer in Identity Crisis and his subsequent Justice League of America run
 
Page 6 - First appearance of Cerebra, an amplified version of Cerebro, Professor X’s super mutant-finding computer, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and introduced in X-Men v1 #7. Cerebro had, prior to this story, been involved in a typically convoluted storyline where it was bonded with a human. Thnakfully, no reference is made to that tale here. The machine as seen throughout Morrison’s run draws inspiration in its appearance from Bryan Singer’s X-Men movie.
 
Again the filmic widescreen panels.
 
New costumes for Jean Grey and the Beast, indeed the Beast has a whole new appearance. Previously a curious sort of blue monster, the Beast is now much more lion-like in appearance. Caused by a ‘secondary mutation’ (see above), Beast, Morrison and Quitely’s most radically altered character, addresses his change in form often in-story, here referring to his “brutish paws”.
 
"Be careful…” The first acknowledgement that Xavier’s mind is a dangerous place to be, a running theme through this first arc.
 
“I have no earlobes,” James Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld had no earlobes in Ian Fleming’s book (and the movie) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Blofeld and Xavier are, of course, dead ringers.
The rose on the table is an allusion to the Beast’s romantic nature. Although created by Stan Lee as a scientist with the body of a brute, Beast’s subsequent characterization over the years, most especially during a stint in Steve Englehart’s Avengers, has shown him to be a romantic at heart.
 
Page 7 - Beast again addresses his change in appearance in-story.
 
“Mutant Baby Boom”, Morrison posits mutant-kind as a minority group in society rather than their unsophisticated past depiction as a group of super-heroes and villains fighting each other.
 
The reference here to sunspot activity is an allusion to Iain Spence’s Sekhmet Hypothesis. Spence theorizes that the rise of youth subcultures such as hippies, punks and the acid-house movement all coincide with
peaks in sunspot activity approximately every 11 years. The theory was also alluded to in Morrison’s The Invisibles
 
Tantra is the Hindu sex god, as in tantric sex. The Beast as manic depressive rings true with previous conflicts in characterization; scientist/romantic, genius mind/brutish body.
 
Page 8 - GPS, or the Global Positioning System, was big news in 2001. Though it was operational throughout the 90’s, the American military used what was known as a Selective Availability (SA) signal to stop other people’s GPS units from functioning with any degree of accuracy. The SA signal was shut down in 2000, paving the way for GPS to become the ubiquitous presence it is today.
 
The X-Gene genetic trigger for mutation was part of Lee and Kirby’s original X-Men series way back in the 1960’s.
 
Condensation – more foreshadowing of Xavier’s dangerous mind.
 
The Cerebra scan shows a much larger distribution of mutants than previously acknowledged in the comic books. Xavier, of course, presides over this picture like a benevolent God.
 
The enormous spike in the scan is Cassandra, preparing to release the wild Sentinels.
 
The X in the sky in the last panel is Scott and Logan, aboard an X-Wing en route from Australia, a fantastic scene transition.
 
Page 9 - The X-Wing, a new jet to replace the Claremont-era Blackbird. Another aspect of tying the comic books with the recently released X-Men film.
 
Cyclops acknowledges in story that their superhero aliases have become code-names to be used on-mission.
 
Castlemaine XXXX is a brand of Australian lager.
 
The old-style Sentinels are portrayed as ineffective when dealing with these experienced X-Men. Wolverine can take one down in five minutes. Of course, this is all foreshadowing how quickly the wild Sentinels will take him down.
 
“Decommissioned government surplus” Project: Widawake, the US government sponsored Sentinel programme, played an important role in Chris Claremont’s many years on the title.
 
Page 10 - Wolverine’s healing factor gradually works its magic over the course of the page.
 
More blood as Wolverine’s body rejects the bullets.
 
Westchester, New York is the location of Charles Xavier’s mansion and his Institute for Higher Learning, the base of operations of the X-Men for most of their run.
 
“Prepare your forebrain…” a great Morrison line.
 
Page 11 - The dead Neanderthal and the blood are the last vestiges of the images seen on pages 2 and 3. Cassandra’s time-hopping jaunt is revealed as a virtual simulation. The bug-eyed VR helmets recall Morrison’s use of insects as the extraterrestrial ‘other’ in works ranging from the Doom Patrol, through JLA and the Invisibles.
 
Bolivar Trask makes an appearance. Created by Stan and Jack and first appearing in X-Men vol. 1 14, Trask was the inventor of the mutant-hunting Sentinels seen earlier in the issue. Referring to the ‘Philadelphia Trasks’ gives them an air of American nobility, like the Kennedys.
 
Like Cassandra says, Kirby’s (with a healthy dose of Neal Adams) Sentinels are a design classic and no matter how many new versions appear over the years, they usually, as with the opening of this issue, end up reverting to their ‘classic’ form.
 
The shadow Sentinel programme referenced here is another allusion to Project: Wideawake, as above
 
Page 12 - The reference to Alberquerque recalls Bugs Bunny’s frequent trips there.
 
Colombia and Ecuador have a long history of American covert activities taking place within and across their borders. Morrison has a little fun here at the CIA’s expense.
 
The Master Mold is a kind of autonomous Sentinel factory created by Lee and Kirby and first appearing in X-Men vol. 1 15-16. This is the 1st appearance of the Wild Sentinels, mutant-hunting robots made from adaptive technology, scavenging anything and everything to make their bodies and weapons. Their nature recalls nano-technology theories of self replicating robots.
 
Page 13 - Scientific and genetic diagrams as backgrounds, highlighting the grounding in ‘real’ (fringe) science.
 
Morrison again addresses his authorial changes in-text. “Thoughts on the uniforms?”
 
Scott’s body language seems to imply he’s not as comfortable as the others inside Xavier’s head.
 
An explicit indication that Morrison is moving away from the superheroics usually associated with the X-Men and into a new dynamic. “The Professor thought people would trust…” At this point, the X-Men have been a suspicious, untrustworthy bunch for nearly thirty years. Clearly their approach could do with some fresh thinking.
 
Page 14 - The Doctor in question is The Beast, his “keen animal eye” is of course his new-found cat’s eye(s) – Intuition?
 
“Couldn’t wait…” Again, inside Professor X’s head can be a dangerous place
 
“I don’t insinuate.” Wolverine demonstrates his lack of subtlety, a flaw of the character that no doubt has contributed to his enduring appeal
 
Cyclops – binocular vision. Scott is blinded to his own inner demons. Morrison is foreshadowing Cyclops’ inner conflict here.
 
Page 15 - More blood, a recurring visual motif, here in an attractive ‘lava lamp’ effect.
 
“Tele-immersive” – meaning immersion in a convincing holographic projection.
 
“Trying to remind himself…” Death and tragedy follows the X-Men like a favourite pet. Morrison is clearly trying to return the focus of the X-Men’s stories to the bigger picture, social rights etc
 
Page 16 - The whistle seems to set off Cassandra here, signifying her animal nature.
 
Again with the implication that Xavier’s mind is incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands. Of course amplifying its power only makes it more susceptible to attack.
 
A quick reminder of Xavier’s physical disability versus his mental mastery. The X-Men, like the Doom Patrol and the Fantastic Four, could be construed as disabled from some perspectives.
 
Page 17 - First, oldest…” As Cassandra is (seemingly) Xavier’s re-animated twin, Charles is her only enemy, indeed her whole world is geared toward his destruction.
 
More blood, psychic nose bleeds, even a lesser-seen psychic ear bleed. Xavier’s mind has been torn open like the soda can on page ?
 
Page 18 - Xavier is all too aware of the danger his mind poses when in the wrong hand, hence carrying a gun in his wheelchair.
 
Jean picking up psychic interference?
 
“Thoughts are bleeding” Classic Morrison dialogue.
 
“Pure, appaling hatred” as will be revealed, this is precisely what Cassandra is.
 
Page 19 - Cassandra, Charles’ psychic twin, even shares psychic nosebleeds with her brother.
 
More ridiculousness from Donald Trask, comic relief dentist.
 
The monster wasp hints at the real giant insects the Amazon is home to.
 
Cadavers used in a display of power, reanimated by Cassandra’s powerful psychic abilities. She is clearly a major threat.
 
Page 20 - The ostrich Sentinel is both ridiculous and terrifying, signifying the Wild Sentinel’s adaptive abilities learned from the animal kingdom.
 
“Not attacking you…” Cassandra is not a mutant, as will be revealed she is a thoughtform given flesh by Sublime.
 
 

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