Issue Date: June 2004
Story Title: Bright New Mourning - part 1
Staff: Chuck Austen (writer), Salvador Larroca (penciler & cover), Danny Miki (inks), UDON (colors), Virtual Calligraphy’s Rus Wootan (letters), Cory Sedlmeier & Stephanie Moore (assistant editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
At Jean’s gravesite, Scott and Emma’s relationship has been made official with a kiss. However, Scott’s trouble with emotional expression and his unsure feelings about reopening the school immediately cause the couple’s first fight and Emma leaves in anger. Left alone with Hank, the two begin to survey the damage Magneto wrought upon the Institute and suddenly come to a horrific realization: Magneto’s rampage may have damaged the cell holding one of their deadliest foes, Cassandra Nova. Meanwhile, Emma receives her own sight of horror upon arriving in Salem Center, seeing the X-Corp building, where the Institute’s students have been sheltered, in flames. Before she can act, Emma is attacked by one of the rioters who started the flames and is knocked out. She is rescued by her former students, the Stepford Cuckoos, who drag her into the building. There, she meets the assistant mayor of the town, who explains that the riot is the result of an attempt at good gone bad, when a town meeting designed to quell mutant fears turned into an anti-mutant rally. Finding no way out and her powers diminished, Emma telepathically calls out to Scott, asking for help. However, Emma’s calls go unheard, as both Scott and Hank have run into a Danger Room robot during their investigation, leading to a battle and a collapsing ceiling, which has buried them both.
It is a moment captured in time. The morning sun basks its rays on a graveyard, its grounds now covered by autumn’s leaves. Standing among the leaf-covered graves are two people, former enemies who had recently become allies and even more recently have become much more. Illustrating this transition with actions, rather than words, Emma Frost cranes her neck up to Scott Summers’ and kisses him deeply. More importantly, at least to her, is that he kisses her back.
Finally pulling back, Emma remains close, her gloved fingers traipsing over his face. Playfully calling him Mister Summers, Emma tells him that he does that so well. The words have an unintended effect on Scott, who pulls back from their embrace and stares down at the ground in deep thought. When asked what is wrong, he replies that it’s all right, he just…
Halting him front his exit, Emma tells Scott that they’re not doing anything wrong. Jean’s gone, she reminds him, and there’s nothing bad about what they did, before or now. Scott replies that he knows, he just… he feels uneasy with everyone coming… for Jean’s memorial; especially given all the other trauma everyone’s been through lately.
As they make their way down from the hilltop graveyard, they see the remains of the Xavier Institute, now in ruins. Examining the remains is Hank McCoy, who is almost lost in thought. Regarding his two teammates entering the grounds, arm-in-arm, he asks if they were paying their respects. After Emma snidely rejoins that Scott was, Scott changes the subject, asking Hank if Professor Xavier is planning on rebuilding the school. Placing his hands in his pockets, Hank replies that, oddly, he’s left that up to them. The Professor’s gone to Genosha with Logan, he then adds, and he’s not sure he’s ever coming back.
Taken aback, Emma declares that he has to come back. He can’t close the school. Well, Hank rejoins, that was the impression he got. The recent horror with Magneto left him drained and lost. He may have had enough of being exposed and constantly on the defensive. Undeterred, Emma suggests that they move the school. Someplace secret and safe, where no one knows they’re mutants. They don’t need Xavier; she has money and they can run things themselves…
Interrupting Emma, Scott replies no. Telling Hank that he knows he doesn’t speak for him, he’s not interested in running a school. He thinks he feels like Charles does… it’s time to move on. His eyes downcast, Hank replies that, as much as he understands the need for the school to continue, he’d be lying if he said his experiments wouldn’t take priority. Whether he means to or not, he tells Scott, he believes that he does speak for him as well.
Bitterly spitting out a fine, Emma tells the two that they can sit in the hot tub while she runs the school, but the Institute is too important. They can’t just let it end. To this, Scott replies that they can and, honestly, he thinks they should. But what about the children, she retorts. Who will teach them? Who will protect them? They can return home, Scott replies, to their families, who should be the ones protecting them, anyway. Or stay at the temporary X-Corp building in Salem Center where they are now. They’re safe there. Here, they’re just a target.
Moving forward, Scott takes Emma’s hands in his and suggests that they let someone else run the operation, not them. They deserve some time for each other… a life away from all of this. And he deserves some time for a life… a life… a life with someone he cares for. Taking in these words, Emma repeats them, even as she begins to understand their implications. Someone he…, she stammers. “Someone” he…
Without saying a word, Emma casts her head down in thought. Raising it back up, she withdraws her hands from Scott’s and backs away. There are things more important than a life with “someone,” she tells him. Without another word, she walks to her car, a silver-white Lamborghini.
Watching her depart with Scott, Hank places his pawed hands on Scott’s shoulders. Telling Scott that he knows he likes Emma, he asks if he doesn’t think it’s a bit… disrespectful to have these displays with her… to kiss her at Jean’s gravesite? With a cold response, Scott asks back if it isn’t hypocrisy to pretend he feels otherwise? Walking away and examining a ruined piece of the Institute, Scott then adds that, if Jean is still “around,” either as a ghost or in heaven or otherwise, she knows what he’s doing anyway. Whether in agreement or not wishing to argue, Hank tells Scott that he supposes he’s right. And hopefully, he adds, Jean is still “around,” as he says. She was Phoenix after all. Lost in thought as he looks over the grounds, Scott replies with a simple, “yes.”
Scott’s moment of reflection ends with the sound of Emma’s Lamborghini driving off. Joking that it looks like his ride is leaving, Scott asks Hank if he can give him a ride back into town, to which he receives a prompt, of course. Returning to the subject of the school, Scott asks his friend if he really thinks the Professor won’t come back; won’t rebuild. Repeating what he said before, Hank states that the experience with Magneto seems to have taken a serious toll on him. To this, Hank reminds Scott that it came on the heels of what they all went through with the school riot and Cassandra Nova. Even before Magneto she nearly destroyed…
With his customary exclamation of “Oh, my stars and garters,” Hank comes to the same realization Scott does, as seen by the looks of horror on Scott’s face. Quickly, the two begin to make their ways into the bowels of the demolished Institute. Finally entering a chamber by removing the door leading to it from the hinge, Hank rhetorically asks Scott that she’s still got to be in there, right? In response, Scott reminds him that the backup generators should have kept the forcefield up, but Magneto destroyed so much. Finally replying that he doesn’t know, Scott tells Hank that his guess is as good as his.
Arriving into Salem Center, Emma Frost still fumes at Scott’s words. She is not just “someone,” she informs the non-present Scott, then adding that she will not just abandon these students, especially not her… Emma’s words trail as she drives past a local theater, where the prefix “un” has been spray-painted on sign, changing the welcome in “Mutants Welcome” to unwelcome. This sight gives way to a worse one, which causes Emma’s eyes to open wide. “…my girls,” she finally says, finishing her statement. The sight she now beholds with horror is the multi-floored building of the X-Corp’s building in Salem Center, which is now aflame.
Leaping from her vehicle, Emma calls out to the gathered crowd, among which are several masked individuals who clearly have something to do with the fire. Yelling out to them, she declares that this place is a school, a sanctuary for children! What is wrong with them? Seeing them continues to ignore her, Emma decides to change tactics, placing her hands upon her head and announces, Erotic overload for all!
Emma’s attack is thwarted by the sharp aim of a rioter, who throws a rock and strikes her on the temple, knocking her out. Another rioter chides the first, asking how he does he know that was a mutant. Pointing to Emma’s revealing costume, the first retorts that she’s either that or a prostitute, the ways she dresses. To this, he then adds that he doesn’t was them in his town, either. Regaining consciousness, Emma tries to telepathically call for help. Scott, she mentally calls.
Walking through the bowels of the Institute, Scott asks Hank if he said something. Replying no, Hank then suggests that the eeriness of the place is getting to him. Isn’t it strange, he then adds, how something that was so familiar can become so alien now? He’s not even sure what part of the sub-basement they’re in. To this, Scott states that it doesn’t help knowing that some of the people who used to be down there were usually trying to kill them.
Finally gathering his bearings, Scott informs Hank that Cassandra’s cell would be this way. It’s looks like… The control console for the Danger Room, Hank finishes, turning on the lights of the chamber. The place now illuminated, he tells Scott that Cassandra’s cell would be on the other end to the right. If the control room is still where it used to be, Scott counters. Surveying the damage even here, Scott tells Hank that Magneto must have run through there like a tornado. Nothing seems to be where he remembers it. To this, he wonders what other surprises they’ll find down there. Leading his teammate down the tunnel toward Cassandra’s cell, Hank tells Scott that he knows Xavier… it’s always an adventure. As the two proceed down the darkened passage, they do not see the robot that begins to stir in the control room and rise to its feet.
As Emma continues to struggle in and out of consciousness, her inert form is dragged down the hallway of the X-Corp building by two young girls. A third, completing the triplets, notes Emma’s latest struggle with awareness and states with glee that she’s awake. See! She told them she wasn’t dead! In clarification, one of the others states that she didn’t say that Miss Frost was dead, she said she looked dead. In disagreement, the third sister replies that she did not. She reminds her that, when they had said “let’s go get her,” she said “She’s dead! Leave her in the street!”
Leading the group through the hallway, which continues to fill up with smoke, a man tells the children to focus. Finally winning the battle of consciousness, Emma tries to rise to her own feet and agrees. Can they please stop the pointless bickering? She is alive but they’re pushing her closer to death with their squabbling. Having arrived to a spacious room, the man tries to assist with Emma’s recovery. Now fully erect, she asks the man who he might be. She doesn’t believe she’s had the pleasure. Introducing himself, the man states that he’s the assistant mayor of the city – Salem Center. And he’s afraid the mayor and he may be largely responsible for the violent outbreak.
With great force, the robot pushes Cyclops’ face into the wall and then proceeds to take a swift at the Beast. Using his agility to avoid the strike, Hank calls out to Scott, asking if he’s all right. Still alive but very much in the grasp of the robot, Cyclops yells back at Hank, telling him to stop asking if he’s all right and do something!
With the robot’s next strike, the Beast leaps upon its back. When the robot batters Cyclops’ head again, the Beast is able to maneuver himself into position and informs his teammate that he thinks he can shut the system down, provided it’s running remotely. Still in the robot’s thrall, Cyclops retorts that he doesn’t need a play-by-play!
The Beast’s pulling of a group of wires, however, does not finish the job, and the robot counter-attacks by extending its telescopic legs, launching the three to the ceiling. The move causes the Beast to be violently rammed against the chamber’s ceiling but he remains uninjured, even going so far as to chidingly comment that “that’s gonna leave a mark.” The still-helpless Cyclops, his head still in the robot’s grip, informs Hank that his jokes aren’t helping. As he continues to pull wires, the Beast rejoin by asking if it’s his fault that his powers are useless unless he can turn and face the thing?
Useless? Cyclops repeats. His face currently being held upward, Cyclops lets out an optic blast, which impacts upon the precariously balanced ceiling, causing it to collapse. The robot and two X-Men can only watch as a ton of debris falls upon their heads.
Continuing his story as they look out a window, watching the rioters continue on the street below, the assistant mayor informs Emma that the mayor and he called a town meeting to head off some fears among the citizens that had been growing since Magneto’s attack on New York. There had been some isolated incidents of violence against mutants – mutants fighting back – and he wanted to stop things before they got serious. But then, Emma chimes in, everyone together brought things instantly to a head – is that it? Of course it did, one of the Stepford Cuckoos state. Group Dynamics 101.
Watching the scene outside the window, Emma tells the girls that it seems her mental gifts seem a bit diminished since that charming blow to the head. She doubts she could affect all of these people and calm them by herself. So, she concludes, is there a back way out? In angry response, one of the girls asks if she doesn’t think that they would have taken it already if there was.
Turning to the girl, Phoebe, Emma tells her to not raise her voice to her. She knows her and her sisters have lost all respect for her but that’s no cause to be rude, is there? Perhaps she should remain locked in puberty until she learns some manners, eh? When Phoebe stands her ground and states that she doesn’t scare her, Emma smiles a devilish smile and tells Phoebe to give her time. Give her time.
Now turning away from the window, Emma once again tries to call out telepathically for Scott. Not receiving a response, she continues, telling him that it is she, Emma, and she needs his assistance, if he pleases. Miles away, her telepathic words go unheard, as both Scott Summer and Hank McCoy lies motionless beneath the wreckage that was once the Xavier Institute.
Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost (all X-Men)
Unnamed Xavier Institute students
Assistant mayor to Salem Center
Danger Room robot
Cyclops’ hesitance to begin his relationship with Emma and rebuild the school seems to be in stark contrast with his intentions at the end of New X-Men #154. Even his knowledge of Xavier’s plans seems to be different. Most likely this is the result of New X-Men #155 & 156 being “filler” issues by a different writer, Chuck Austen, to bridge the gap between the end of Morrison’s run and the X-Men “Reloaded” series-wide relaunch with #157.
Magneto destroyed the Xavier Institute in New X-Men #147.
Xavier and Logan’s trip to Genosha is depicted in Uncanny X-Men #442 & 443. Xavier will ultimately decide to remain in Genosha in the new Excalibur (2nd Series) title.
As was revealed in New X-Men #153, Cassandra Nova was the Institute student known as Ernst. With this knowledge, it is puzzling at first glance that Cyclops and Beast believe her to still be in her cell. However, given that Magneto (once assigned to be Ernst’s teacher while he was in the guise of Xorn), was unaware of Ernst’s true identity [New X-Men #150] and that it would be unlikely that Xavier would have assigned someone to instruct so potentially dangerous a student without being forewarned, it is likely that all of the X-Men were unaware of Ernst’s identity. Further, given Ernst’s and, later, Cassandra Nova’s, close relationship with Martha Johansson, it is possible that Martha used her mental manipulation powers to secretly free Cassandra and give her a new identity.
This Issue has been reprinted in:
Uncanny X-Men Vol. 6: Bright New Morning (Trade Paperback)
Issue Summary written by: Douglas Mangum