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X Marks the Plot

  New X-Men Vol. 7: Here Comes Tomorrow

 

Grant Morrison, Marc Silvestri

Marvel, 2004

Rating: 4.2

 

 

Posted: July 8, 2004

By The Gentleman (exclusive to Shaking Through)

With Here Comes Tomorrow, A-list comics writer Grant Morrison concludes his run on New X-Men in much the way you'd expect him to. Which is to say, by defying convention. Here Comes Tomorrow bucks tradition in a number of ways: It's penciled by former X-artist Marc Silvestri (best known to a generation of readers as one of the founders of Image Comics and current figurehead of Top Cow) rather than, say, Morrison X-collaborators Phil Jiminez or Frank Quitely; it ties together strands from Morrison's run on the title with the eleventh-hour revelation of a behind-the-scenes villain; and it takes place in a dark future 150 years hence. As such, it's as much, or more, a flagrant self-tribute to Morrison's far-reaching imagination than it is a satisfying wrap-up of all that's come before.

It's apparent that when beginning his work on New X-Men, Morrison made a checklist of those hallmarks of Marvel's mutant franchise he wanted to revisit and put his stamp on. Sentinels? Check (sort of; see E is for Extinction). Wolverine's past as Weapon X? Check (see the Assault on Weapon Plus arc). Empress Lilandra and the Imperial Guard? Check. Phoenix? Check. Magneto? Check. And now, Morrison adds seminal X-Men writer Chris Claremont's legendary Days of Future Past storyline to that list. Indeed, it's not a stretch to say that with Here Comes Tomorrow, Morrison pays a sort of tribute to Claremont's unbridled, anything-goes aesthetic. In the process, as Claremont sometimes did, he inadvertently sacrifices a bit of clarity (and reader satisfaction) on the altar of his fevered imagination.

The four-part storyline opens in that distant future a century and a half away, with a human named Tom Skylark and his traveling companion, a damaged Sentinel robot named Rover (shades of A Boy And His Dog), on the run from a group of Nightcrawler clones. Skylark soon meets up with the sentient machine E.V.A., who was once the spaceship-slash-aide to the enigmatic mutant Fantomex. E.V.A. is a member of this future's X-Men, a characteristically ragtag band of fighters united against The Beast, a despotic scientist somehow responsible for the ravaged and ruined trash heap the world has become. Skylark and Rover have recently stumbled across something called the Phoenix Egg, which E.V.A.'s X-Men desperately need to keep out of The Beast's hands; if he harnesses the power of the Phoenix, mankind and mutantkind are certainly doomed.

Needless to say, The Beast gets hold of the egg, and it hatches a befuddled Phoenix with a spotty memory (Jean Gray having died at the end of the previous Planet X storyline). The Beast, of course, is the X-Men's own Hank McCoy, except he's not. He's been taken over by an entity called Sublime, a kind of "intelligent bacterial colony gone rogue." Sublime, as it turns out, has been the power behind the scenes manipulating much of the action in Morrison's tenure on New X-Men; it's a unique life form, as old as man, content for millennia to let mankind think it was the dominant species -- until mutantkind (Homo Superior) arrived on the scene, presenting a threat to Sublime's domination. "We had to infect them with aggression, had to divert their great energies into mindless conflict," he reveals in the grandest Bond-villain tradition. "Locked in perpetual struggle, they could never breed, their population could never grow to threaten us with extinction."

The future X-Men (including Wolverine, of course, as well as Cassandra Nova and a descendent of the awkward mutant Beak) inevitably confront Sublime, of course, laying the groundwork for the obligatory moment in which a character does what it must to prevent this particular future from ever coming to pass. The problem is, the reader never really gets an entry point into this world. In Claremont's Days of Future Past, the Kitty Pryde of our time is thrust into the alternate future, and it's through her eyes that we encounter that bleak world. All of the characters in Here Comes Tomorrow are of its time period, and consequently it's as if we've dropped in to their world from our own.

It's certainly exhilarating to be plunged into this strange new world, but without an anchor to the X-Men of the "present," it's harder to form an emotional connection. Of course, that's long been a problem with Morrison's work; his ideas whiz by in an overwhelming rush, leaving the reader dazzled but seldom invested. (In fairness, it must be stated that the resolution of the storyline, in addition to preventing this dark future, paves the way for Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, to avoid succumbing to emotional turmoil, and to continue leading the X-Men and pursuing a romance with Emma Frost. This catharsis of sorts is rewarding enough, but it comes at the very end of the book, after the whole alternate-future business has already been put to bed.)

Fortunately, this proves a minor quibble; the "wow" moments come at a steady pace, and Silvestri, aided and abetted by a crew of adept colorists, creates a visually pleasing backdrop. If Sublime's revelation feels a bit contrived, and we lack a character (aside from the human, fish-out-of-water Skylark) with which to identify, Here Comes Tomorrow nonetheless caps Morrison's run with the all of the inspired spectacle and inventiveness for which he's become known.

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