Chuck Austen’s X-Men: Bright New Mourning

Still in epilogue mode so we have another two-issue wrap-up.

newxmen156Took Place In
New X-Men #155-156

Team Line-Up
Cyclops (leader), Beast, Emma Frost

Others You Should Be Aware Of
The Stepford Cuckoos (Phoebe, Celeste, Mindee)

In a Nutshell
Cyclops and Beast go looking through the ruins of the X-Mansion for Cassandra Nova then give up because Beast is mad that Cyclops has hooked up with Emma Frost immediately after burying his wife.  They then rescue Emma and the Stepford Cuckoos from a burning building.

Grant Morrison’s New X-Men has ended, yet there’s still a couple issues before the ReLoad of Joss Whedon in which our beloved Chuck Austen helms X-Men (minus the New), so the New X-Men title gets an epilogue (another one) with the only two issues of New not written by Morrison. Much like Of Darkest Nights, this serves as a follow-up not to Austen’s own stories over in Uncanny, but rather Morrison’s own New X-Men story. Of Darkest Nights got away with it by using Polaris, Charles Xavier and Wolverine, all prominently featured in Austen’s run. Bright New Mourning instead uses Morrison’s characters, which ends up being a problem.

You see, despite being heralded as one of the greatest X-Men runs ever, Morrison’s New X-Men can get a tad confusing if you’re not really paying attention. I’m still not sure I quite understand whatever the hell Sublime was, and he’s showing up in recent comics. There’s a lot of stuff that Morrison tossed in that might have taken an extra read or two to really nail down, and it seems like Chuck Austen simply didn’t understand, or didn’t bother to figure it out. That’s okay – you’d assume there were editors to help out, right?

If you believe that one, then you haven’t been following our Chuck Austen adventure thus far.

Our story picks up right where Morrison’s left off – with Cyclops and Emma Frost making out right in front of Jean Grey’s grave. You might recall that this was something that Jean herself pushed from the White Hot Room (or whatever) which changed Cyclops’s mind from walking away from the Institute to co-running it alongside Emma Frost. That was the big payoff of the whole final story.

Here, we ignore that as Cyclops and Emma return to the wrecked mansion to learn that Xavier has gone to Genosha and Cyclops tells Beast that he’s not going to run the school, which Beast agrees to. So four pages in, we’ve already missed the point of the finale of Here Comes Tomorrow. Excellent start. Emma disagrees and tries to argue for teaching the students, but Cyclops says he would instead prefer time for a life “with someone I care for”. It’s a sweet sentiment meaning that he wants to get into a relationship with Emma, since the whole Jean thing didn’t work so well there at the end.

But of course, Emma has come under the influence of being a female character in a Chuck Austen story, which means all rationale and logical thought towards relationships goes clear out the window (not too difficult, being that the school’s windows are all broken). So she gets all huffy about being referred to as “someone” and instead drives away, leaving Scott behind. I suppose I should mention that Cyke stopped the graveside make-out because there was supposed to be a memorial for Jean gathering, but that never happens. I guess no one liked her that much. She was a ginger, after all. Beast has the decency to call Cyclops out about the inappropriateness of his actions, but Cyke just mentions that he’s hot for her and Jean probably doesn’t care, and Beast is fine with that. Why not?

That's right, Emma.  You're a very special girl!

That’s right, Emma. You’re a very special girl!

They share a bit of small talk about what had gone on before, leading to Xavier’s decision not to return, and suddenly realize that Cassandra Nova is probably still held captive somewhere in the Institute and they should probably go check to make sure she’s not…you know…FREE TO DECIMATE THEM AGAIN.

Pause for a second for another non-understanding of a Morrison point. One of the kids in Xorn’s special needs class was a young girl named Ernst who for some reason looked like an old lady. During Here Comes Tomorrow, Cassandra Nova is with the X-Men, completely rehabilitated, and she mentions that it’s okay to still call her Ernst. That means that after taking the body of the alien Stuff, Nova became the childlike Ernst for her re-education – the childlike form representing the mental state she was left in at the end of Imperial. It was a neat little bit that made sense in the whole story. Ernst didn’t appear until after Nova was defeated, and she bore a striking resemblance to her. Instead, that is completely ignored. Eventually Joss Whedon would have Nova’s Stuff body locked in a machine in Astonishing X-Men while Ernst was never seen again.

Cut to Salem Center, where Emma Frost is going to check on her students at the SC branch office of X-Corp. And here’s another thing not thought through. You see, X-Corp was set up as an international organization in which trained X-Men were stationed at various branches throughout the world to allow immediate reaction to mutant needs as soon as they thought “X” as a mental paging system. The offices were meant to allow a team to show up when needed. Now assuming that Xavier was running the entire operation from the school, there would be no need for a branch in Salem Center, which is just down the road, as any team stationed there would have much better resources being in the damn X-Mansion. Why would Xavier send them down the road to sit in an office during on-call hours with no Cerebra or training facilities? Oh yeah – oblivious and kind of a dick. I suppose the Salem Center X-Corp branch is the perfect representation of the Austen-written Charles Xavier.

Anyway, Emma shows up to find the building on fire with rioters outside. Emma identifies the building as a school and a sanctuary for children (wrong on both counts) and tries to stop the rioters, only to fall victim to the classic X-Men villain, the thrown Brick. One rioter asks another how she knew Emma was a mutant, to which she gives a fantastic response.

One step away from yelling "She's a witch!  Burn her!"

One step away from yelling “She’s a witch! Burn her!”

Emma tries to call out to Scott, but he and Beast are too distracted by not being able to find their way through the lower corridors of the X-Mansion, since apparently broken glass and exposed wires makes the place unnavigable. You know – halls move and rooms switch around when Magneto comes through. Magnetism – that’s what it does. That, and bring a bunch of Danger Room robots to life which quickly begin to beat the crap out of the two most experienced X-Men on the roster. Cyclops, for example, repeatedly gets his face slammed into metal and concrete walls, but doesn’t get so much as a bloody nose and continues conversing with Beast as they fight. Or get beat up.

Still more enjoyable than The Draco.

Still more enjoyable than The Draco.

Beast calls Cyclops useless for only being able to affect something that he’s facing (the robot has grabbed him from the back of the head), so Cyke does the only reasonable thing that a man with his insane level of tactical skills can do – he shoots the wall and brings the entire ceiling down on the two of them. Because everyone in Chuck Austen’s X-Men are really dumb. Don’t worry – it gets worse.

At the X-Corp building, the three surviving Stepford Cuckoos have dragged Emma’s unconscious body into safety, where she awakens to find the deputy mayor of Salem Center who reveals that the rioting started when a town meeting was called to try to curb anti-mutant hysteria in the wake of Magneto’s attack. So the two-dozen people have hit the streets (with signs, even) and Emma cannot bring them down with her telepathy because she got hit in the noggin by Brick. Nevermind the Cuckoos are right there as well (and we will learn that one of them is ridiculously powerful in the finale). They’re powerless and they need to flee. Accept it. Yet Emma still has enough telepathy to contact Cyclops, but unfortunately, he’s unconscious because he dropped a ceiling on himself. And cliffhanger.

The next issue picks up with the Cuckoos offering to calm the mob down (logic picks up!) and the fifth and final Cuckoo finally gets named. Unfortunately, the name picked is “Mindee”. And that gets a very big UGH.

You see, the names of the Stepford Cuckoos was actually something of a gag in itself. The first letter of the five names were actually to be used as an acronym. Morrison named four of them:

Sophie
Phoebe

Celeste
Esme

The final name would have gone in the middle, finishing the acronym to spell out “SPICE”. Unfortunately, this was not picked up by Austen or any of the X-Editors, so the fifth Cuckoo was saddled with “Mindee” was the whole thing was lost. Until, that is, Matt Fraction later swung around and renamed her “Irma” to finish the acronym. Today, depending on the writer, she gets called either Irma or Mindee. I think Brian Bendis is using Mindee, but knowing him he’s doing it just to piss Morrison off.

Anyway, Emma praises the Cuckoos, but they reveal that they still hate her, and Mindee even has a boyfriend in the building named Germaine. And let me tell you, in a Chuck Austen story, it’s almost a certain death sentence to be a newly created love-interest character. Germaine could have been drawn with a red shirt on. Anyway, we get introduced to the sacrifical lamb boyfriend and Emma goes to the window to watch the rioters and again try to reach Cyclops telepathically with the telepathic powers that don’t work…or don’t work well? Apparently the Cuckoos aren’t going to go with the plan they just brought up.

Back at the mansion, Cyclops digs Beast out only to be chastised for his rather ludicrous plan of action, which almost killed them. Cyclops defends himself, only for Beast to reveal that he’s being catty (a-thank you) about Scott locking lips with Emma, which he sees as a betrayal to Jean. With that, the two simply leave the tunnels, completely forgetting that they were down there to look for Cassandra Nova. Seriously, they don’t find her, nor do they ever bring it up again.

Back in Salem Center, the rioters bust past the two (count ’em TWO) police officers assigned to quell the crowd and into the X-Corp building. Emma asks how they managed to get to her in which Germaine reveals he used his fire powers, but Emma decides against that because it is too destructive. One of the Cuckoos manages to contact Beast and Cyclops, who appear there in about five seconds. Beast begins leaping the children out of the window to the ground, apparently planning to stuff them all in one jeep. The rioters, apparently still hanging out on the first floor of the building, do an about face only to get zapped by Cyclops in a rather brutal use of his powers.

Peacefully co-exist with THIS, jerks.

Peacefully co-exist with THIS, jerks.

The crowd, who was dead-bent on killing the mutants because of their powers, begins to scatter when one actually uses his powers. Until one simply pulls out his gun and shoots Cyclops three times. I suppose they ran out of bricks. The other rioters manage to break into the upstairs room, and Germaine, being an idiot as much as everyone else, lights up his fire powers and sets the entire room on fire. It’s about on par with the “shoot the ceiling down” strategy in terms of “likely to kill us and you”. Beast takes everyone out EXCEPT Germaine, and of course the rioters beat him to death. But you probably don’t care, because much like the victims in God Loves Man Kills, it’s hard to get much sympathy in the death of a one-dimensional character introduced specifically to die. I suppose you could feel bad for Mindee, who just lost her boyfriend, but again the relationship was established about 10 pages earlier, so really, who cares?

Cyclops manages to get back into the fight (thank goodness the rioter only had five bullets), but Emma herself gets chucked from the window as the rioters continue killing the boy-toy. As Emma rushes back in, the rioters realize a)they killed the boy and b) the building’s on fire and decide to vamoose. Except for the two who actually killed him, who of course get stuck in the fire and need help. Emma hangs them out the window, but Beast keeps her from dropping them to their deaths because X-Men/killing whatever. She carries out Germaine’s body and Mindee gets a good cry as Emma finally convinces Scott to reopen the school. You know…again.

Now you may wonder what happened to the sizable riot that was going on – well, that’s not important. I guess it just stopped once they realized the building they were trying to destroy caught on fire. It’s just not there anymore. So don’t worry about it. Maybe a Quantum Leap marathon was on.

A few days later, Austen’s team from Uncanny is watching the school get rebuilt while Scott goes to Jean’s grave and tells her that he’s pretty much been a douche to her and says he’s going to start over. You know, doing that thing that made him kind of a douche. “That thing” being Emma Frost. And as he walks away, the Phoenix firebird appears over Jean’s grave, but that doesn’t really mean anything.

And that’s it for New X-Men. We’re now in the final stretch to the end of Chuck Austen’s X-Men, which means we get new Xorn, Precognitive Blind Gambit, and the epic debut of Mammomax, the acidic elephant. Be there.

Missed an issue?  Glutton for more punishment?  Check out the rest of Chuck Austen’s X-Men!

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