New X-Men (1st series) #127

Issue Date: 
August 2002
Story Title: 
Of Living and Dying

Grant Morrison (writer), John Paul Leon (penciler), Bill Sienkiewicz (inker), Hi-Fi Design (colors), Comicraft (letters), Mike Raicht (assistant editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

In the section of Manhattan called Mutant Town, Xorn assists Cyclops and Phoenix in dealing with an anti-mutant riot. The riot, fueled by the mauling of a dog by a suspected mutant, grows beyond control causing the trio to return to the Institute. After a conversation with Xavier, Xorn decides to personally search the city area and find the mutant before he is found by the mob. Xorn's investigation leads to his discovery of a mother and her son Sonny, a twelve year old boy in a hulking body. When Sonny's mother collapses from a deliberate overdose of medication, Sonny goes wild, rampaging in the street and a nearby drug store. The police quickly converge on the youth and, through gunfire and a flame-thrower, end his life. Saddened by this tragic and needless loss of life, Xorn seeks solace and wisdom from a man he has met who is from the same province of China. After their thoughtful reflection, Xorn tries to use his recently learned skill of writing to capture his feelings about recent events. Failing, in his own mind to fully do so, he finishes with a truism that brings him comfort: life goes on.

Full Summary: 

Tenderly, Xorn cradles the neck of a dead police horse as it lies in it's own blood on the street. The blood from the horse trickles from the street to the nearby sidewalk, which is covered by trash and other refuse. As he runs his hand along the horse's neck, Xorn thinks to himself that if he could save every life, he would do it.

Having taken his moment to mourn the innocent animal, Xorn jumps to his feet and runs back into the out of control, rioting mob. Caught in the middle of the rioters, Cyclops attempts to avoid swings and punches. Yelling to his teammates, he tells everybody to get down. With his teammates warned, Cyclops unleashes three optic blasts knocking down rioters and separating others. Despite this show of power, the rioters continue their rampage. Suddenly, they grow quiet and look to the sound of the voice of a red-haired woman. The woman, Phoenix, tells the crowd that they are the X-Men. Haloed by an aura of light around her head, Phoenix tells everyone that they are all thinking nice, calm thoughts now, okay ?

Some distance away, a rioter asks her how they are supposed to be calm when there's a monster on the loose. A mutant monster seven feet tall ! Answering the man, Phoenix tells him that nobody here is a monster. Holding up the severed leg of a dog, a boy tells her to tell that to Snuffy. Another man yells that it came from Mutant Town and that those people don't belong anywhere near normal folks. As the rioters move in with broken bottles and "Nuke Em All" signs, Phoenix erects a telekinetic shield to protect herself, Cyclops and Xorn. Seeing this, the mob begins to throw debris and trash, which harmlessly ricochets off. Various rioters yell that they are all monsters and all support one another. Another calls them cannibals. Seeing their situation only escalating, Cyclops tells Jean to close 'em down. Xorn, looking into the hate filled eyes of the mob, tells his new teammates that they only want to stop them from hurting one another and asks them why are they so angry?

Later in the Cerebra room of the Xavier Institute, Xorn stands cross-armed while Xavier works. Recalling the word Monster that the crowd used, Xorn tells Xavier that he too was called a monster by his jailers. On one knee and examining the inner workings of his machine, Xavier reminds Xorn that he healed his spine, giving him one more reason to be rather fond of monsters like him. Asking his healer to think of it a new way, Xavier tells Xorn that humankind, with no special gifts other than its intellectual skill, survived for many thousands of years in a very dangerous world. One of the ways they survived, he continues, was by forming themselves into groups or tribes, gathering around flags and books and laws. A shared ideal, he says, is one of the best ways to hold a tribe together in the face of chaos. But now, the tribes are all sharing the same tent, and we can be guilty sometimes of mistaking our ideas for things. Rising to his feet, Xavier says that sometimes the idea of a monster is more real than the monster itself. The job of the X-Men, Xavier says he sees it, is to help build bridges between human and mutant thinking.

Xavier rises and begins walking, with his cane, across the room. Following him, Xorn tells Xavier that it is his gift. That he likes to mend broken things. Motioning his head to some nearby tubing, Xavier asks Xorn if he wouldn't mind carrying it, as he is still not used to his legs. Returning to their conversation, Xavier tells Xorn that Scott and Jean spoke very highly of his skill and sensitivity during the riot assignment downtown. Picking up the tubing, Xorn tells the professor that he doesn't know what he is. Continuing, he says that he was once a boy in China who then became a mutant sun inside an iron mask. He knows color and wavelengths, he feels the movement of energy and emotion on many scales, and speaks by shaking the particles in the air with his gravitational senses. Looking back at the professor, Xorn tells him that he could look into his finding machine and see if there really is a monster lost and afraid in Mutant Town. No one, he says, should suffer in chains like he did.

As he tries to connect the tubing that Xorn carried into a machine, Xavier replies that he'd certainly be willing to try as soon as he's finished. One of the students, he says, suggested an upgrade to the Cerebra system's X-gene detection functions, which would allow him to telepathically remote-control mutants out of dangerous or threatening situations. Continuing his work, Xavier says that when the trials are over he will have a look for the "monster". Until then, Xavier suggests to Xorn, he should conduct a search in the purely physical realm and get to know something of the city and its people. Holding his Cerebra helmet in his hands, Xavier tells Xorn that when he thinks of what he suffered at the hands of those frightened, cruel men, he is very glad that he didn't give into despair. And he's glad that he chose to join them there at the Institute.

Hooking up the other end of the tubing to a machine, Xorn admits that he sometimes misses the certainty of his iron prison. While there, he sat motionless in deep meditation and he now walks in the great turmoil of the world and tries to learn. Turning to the professor, he asks when he looks into his mind, what does he see? Now in the Cerebra chamber, Xavier dons the Cerebra helmet, covering most of his head. Even with his eyes covered, Xavier looks onward and answers. He sees orchards in China, a star falling across the sky, a radiant star of pure thought.

In Manhattan's Chinatown, Xorn travels the subway, walks through the streets and shops in a grocery store. Meeting the people, Xorn talks to them and learns. One old man he meets knows the roads of Urumqi below the lake of heaven in the Xianjiang Uygur autonomous region. From him, Xorn learned the tools he needs to set down his thoughts in the form of symbols. Meeting another man, Xorn looks over his shoulder and sees his grandfather and his own uncle meeting on a dusty road near the One Thousand Buddha caves. He tells Xorn that he is proud that someone from Xianjiang Uygur has done so well for himself on television and calls Xorn a man of peace. Walking away from the man's store, Xorn is pummeled by soda cans from people and thinks that he would like to live up to the man's words.

As he walks through the streets of Mutant Town, Xorn sees dozens of mutants openly displaying their mutant abilities. One man casually walks around aflame, while two winged mutants soar scores of feet above the street level. As he watches one of the mutants fly, two police officers stand a few feet behind him. Talking to his fellow officer Dan, one officer remarks that in New York, there is one section for gays, another for poets, anarchists are in one place, and copy editors are in another. Now, he continues, militant mutants are setting up flags in Alphabet City. What happened, Dan asks, to the nice, quiet melting pot they promised him. Jokingly, the first officer suggests they all just drink the same damn beer to establish a global culture. As an after thought, he asks whoever listened to Officer 375 ?

Looking down briefly at the ground, Xorn says aloud that there is no word for monster in any mutant dictionary. With this said, Xorn continues his stroll. The first officer, Eugene, asks Dan if he has any idea what he was talking about. Getting Xorn's idea, Dan tells Eugene that he meant that Mutant Town was the wrong place to look for the dog-eating freak. Trying to make it even simpler, he tells Eugene that it's a zen thing.

Making his way up a stairwell, Xorn ignores the snide remarks of two of the tenement's residents. Walking along a hallway, Xorn thinks that he has no eyes to see with. As his hand finds a door, he thinks that his brain is a tiny sun in a bottle made of thoughts and feelings in raw iron. After pushing the unlocked door open, revealing a pitch-black room, he thinks that he only knows things by their light. Further inside, Xorn finds another room with a tiny light in the corner. On a stool next to the couch, sits a woman with a water drenched rag, using it to cool the head of the being on the couch. The being, she tells Xorn, is her son.

Lying on the couch in a fetal position, the woman's son is the size of a large bear. Hairless, with a reddish scaly skin, the boy lacks all human features, save the obvious pain of his condition. As her son moans softly, the mother tells Xorn that he only got out once, when he was smaller, just when the change began. In pain herself, she asks Xorn how was he to know what he was eating? The dog, she points out, was always yapping anyway. Approaching the two, Xorn admits that he has eaten dog once, a long time ago and doesn't believe it to be a capital offense. Hugging her boy, the mother says that he likes chicken soup and Cheerios.

Moved to tears, the mother says that she is a human being, so why isn't he too? What happened ? He's a twelve year old boy. No, Xorn corrects her, he is a mutant, like himself. This is a time of great change, he tells her, and he will not be alone in this new world. No, she corrects him. He will be a monster. Holding up a vial of now spent pills, she tells Xorn that she took half of them and gave Sonny the rest. Now it has nothing to do with him. She doesn't want people to hang him from a traffic light. She doesn't want to see people cheer while government robots trample him to mush.

Approaching her, Xorn tells her that the pills she has swallowed are damaging organs vital to her body's function. He tells her to stay still and let him help. There's nothing wrong with her son, he tells her. It's only that his mutation is not complete and he is not fully grown yet. Impaired by the medication, the mother loses consciousness. Releasing the pill bottle in her hand, it falls to the floor. Concerned by his now unconscious mother, Sonny rises to his feet. Still not at his full height due to the ceiling, Sonny towers threateningly over Xorn. Looking up at the enraged but powerful youth, Xorn tells him that he can still help her.

Xorn flies through the brick wall of the apartment and falls several stories, finally landing on a NYPD patrol car. Engulfed in flames, Xorn tries to regain his senses. As amazed as they are at what happened to their vehicle, the police are even more started when the nearly two-story Sonny crashes through the tenement building's entrance, still holding his mother. The police open fire, but are easily dispatched by the enraged, powerful youth.

Back on his feet, Xorn thinks that Sonny is still not yet grown. In ten days he would have become something new and wonderful. Something never seen before. Something rare. Unique. Still enraged, Sonny bursts though the glass window of the nearby drug store. Knocking patrons aside, he demands through slurred speech for medicine. Xorn runs in and attempts to subdue Sonny, but is knocked back by his powerful arm.

The police enter enforce through the now demolished window. Both Sonny and Xorn look in their direction, with the same concern. Despite Xorn's yell to wait, the police open fire, making Sonny cry in pain. A new officer arrives with a flame-thrower and tells the others to back off. Grasping his mother in one arm, and this prized medicine in the other, Sonny in slurred words tells her that the medicine will make her better. The flame-thrower ignites, engulfing Sonny and his mother. Still aflame, Sonny runs to the street and collapses.

Xorn reaches the collapsed youth and tries to heal him. Talking to the officers, he tells them that in ten days, it would have been all right. He would have awakened to his potential. Uncaring about this information, one officer offers only a curse.

Sometime later, as the paramedics treat the injured, Xorn lends his healing skills. On a large stretcher, medics wheel Sonny, sealed inside a massive body bag, toward a crane. Xorn watches as the crane is used to hoist the massive bag, and the tragic Sonny inside, into the bed of a dump truck. The pouring rain makes Xorn think reflectively, and he writes his thoughts to Xavier in his recently purchased journal. "The clouds", he writes, "recycle water molecules onto the concrete. You wished to see my thoughts and were blinded by the sun beneath my mask. So I have tried", he continues, "to capture his feelings in the form of symbols on the book of paper leaves. But these lines and curves are not much like thoughts or feelings at all". Reflecting on a conversation with the old man he met earlier, Xorn tells Xavier that while the rain fell, they spoke of living and dying below the lake of heaven.

"And life goes on."

Characters Involved: 

Cyclops, Phoenix IV, Professor Charles Xavier, Xorn (all X-Men)
Sonny's mother
Old man from Xianjiang Uygur, his wife and child
Dan (officer 375), Eugene, and other NYPD officers
Drug store patrons
Various Mutant Town residents
Subway riders

Story Notes: 

Alphabet City is a section of Manhattan in its "lower east side". This section earned the nickname Alphabet City as it is bounded by Avenues A, B, C & D.
The Xianjiang Uygur is the westernmost region of China and one of the largest. It is bordered by Mongolia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and the former Soviet Union. The region does contain the city of Urumqi and the Lake of Heaven (also called the Heavenly Lake), which is one of China's greatest tourist attractions.
When Xorn refers to learning to form symbols on paper, he is apparently learning to write for the first time. Having only recently learned English, it is unclear whether the man has taught Xorn to write in English or the actual word characters used by the people of China and other Asian countries.

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