New X-Men Annual 2001

Issue Date: 
September 2001
Story Title: 
The Man From Room X

Grant Morrison (writer), Leinil Francis Yu (penciler), Gerry Alanguilan (inker), Hi-Fi Design (colors), RS & Comicraft’s Saida! (letters), Pete Franco (assistant editor), Mark Powers (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

In the Feng Tu facility of China, John Sublime makes a deal with its jailer, Ao Jun, to acquire his prisoner, Xorn, a mutant with incredible energy powers. Sent to Hong Kong to investigate the murder of X-Corporation member Risque, the X-Men and Domino learn that John Sublime and Ao Jun are part of a mutant organ smuggling operation. Sublime’s pharmaceutical company kills mutants and implants their body parts into human beings so ordinary people can gain powers. Sublime calls these augmented humans U-Men, the third species. The X-Men infiltrate the Sublime Pharm Solutions building of Hong Kong where they learn about Xorn. The X-Men locate Feng Tu where Xorn tries to kill himself, and take the world with him, swallowed by the black hole he’d create. Cyclops convinces Xorn to stop and offers him membership in the X-Men, which Xorn accepts. The X-Men destroy Feng Tu and Ao Jun is killed. However, John Sublime and his illegal activities still persist.

Full Summary: 

A man sits masked and chained in a cell. “Xorn, you have a new master now,” he is informed by Ao Jun, a Chinese military officer.

Turning to his guest, John Sublime, who is only present via screen, he tells him he is fortunate he cannot smell the human dung and rotten metal in this room. Xorn has been here in Feng Tu for over half a century. Lead eyeshades. Behind the visor he no longer has a face. Is he done with the specimens?

Sublime informs Ao Jun that his people only wanted the little critter’s hands. Laser eyeballs in her palms, can he believe that? He doesn’t know about the other youngster. Maybe he got mixed up in this by mistake. Use them both for the test if he wants.

Beginning to unlock Xorn’s facemask, Ao Jun complains that the bureaucrats in Beijing never understood Xorn’s potential. Fastened deep in the bedrock, this monster could have powered ten thousand communist super cities. He was kept alive only because they imagined he might be turned loose as a doomsday soldier in some future conflict with enemies of the republic.

Xorn’s face is turned towards the two children they talked about earlier, one of whom has had her hands amputated. Ao Jun and the guards look away. This is what a three second exposure to the face of Xorn does to a living being. Energy flares. Ao Jun replaces the mask and tells Sublime that he hopes he is satisfied. Of the children, little more than ashes and some bones remain.

Sublime announces they have a deal. As for Xorn, they will only need the head, but they will take him off his hands too. To Hong Kong then….

On a ship in Hong Kong harbor, Emma Frost asks Scott Summers what’s all this she has heard about his vow of celibacy. His poor wife’s loss is shared by the world’s eligible women. Looking away, Scott sternly tells her he’d be flattered by the attention but he can’t help remembering all the times in the past when she tried to kill them. What is she doing here with the X-Men?

She deserves sympathy for her sordid past, not scorn, she informs him. Those were difficult days. She was probably very confused and out of her mind on drink and drugs. It’s no always about “good” and “evil.” The X-Men are currently the only credible alternative to a world where mutants are simply ghettoized, persecuted and exterminated.

Hey lighten up! Wolverine tells them as he joins them along with Beast. They are going to a funeral!

Later at X-Corporation Hong Kong, over Chinese food Domino informs them about the situation. Since the 50ies when the first of the atomic generation mutants began to appear, the mainland Chinese government has unofficially enforced what you might call a “hardline stance” on Homo superior. Translation: X-gene carriers tend to get murdered at birth. Meanwhile… Professor Xavier outs himself as the mutant Ghandi, opens X-Corporation offices in Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Mumbai and Melbourne.

Beast interrupts: when did Gloria die? Domino continues that X-Corporation Hong Kong is her, Gloria Dolores Mu-oz aka Risqué, a Cerebra connection and a mandate to monitor mutant rights violations in, she quotes, “Asia.” Two weeks into the big adventure, Gloria uncovers evidence of an illegal trade in mutant organs from the mainland. Evidence in this case being the testimony of a skunk with fins which was usually good enough for her. Gloria could implode things with her mind. The police judged she must have used her power in self defense.

Domino hands them a ball. This is one of the people who killed Gloria in the carpark of Sublime Pharm Solutions.

Cyclops explains they came to pay their respects. If there is anything else they can do… Domino continues the deeper she looks the wilder it gets. They are talking links to a high-ranking Red Chinese army officer and a radical self-esteem cult masterminded by a pharmaceutical CEO. She is in over her head. So… what kind of lunatic would attempt to graft mutant organs into human tissue? Emma wonders.

Said lunatic, John Sublime, is addressing his adoring public. Haven’t any of them ever felt special? he asks. Haven’t any of them wished others could see the super-potential they know they have inside? Then maybe they are one of the Third Species, like him. Maybe they are a mutant soul born in a frail, powerless human body, afraid to express their nature. His bestselling book gives a voice to the people who have decided to transcend their species orientation. At the white hot moment where today becomes tomorrow stand the U-Men. Beings like him or them, but better.

Several armored people behind him step to the fore. Jan, Biro and Harriet call themselves “Homo perfectus,” Sublime explains, the self-mutated. They explain that they live in a world where new developments in spare-parts cloning and cosmetic gene surgery are making it possible for people like them to cross the gap between man and mutant. They demand the right to use these techniques to better themselves. And, until the day their demands are recognized, they refuse to touch the soil or breathe the air of this fallen world.

They want to be mutants too, Sublime agrees and live in a better world than this one. Society has come to accept tattoos, piercings and other body modifications. Why not accept this?

Watching this on a TV screen while shopping, Emma remarks this makes a delightful mockery of Charles Xavier’s mutant rights charter. Their beloved headmaster has opened the floodgates to every lunatic with an outrageous demand and a publishing deal.

Face it, friends, Sublime smiles, the third species is here to stay!

Nigh time on a skyscraper roof. Domino and Wolverine are watching what’s going on on a roof below. Domino opines that Scott Summers has a king-size bug all the way up to his duodenum. Logan tells her she is way off base. He just got back from being taken over by one of the forces of evil they come face to face with now and again. There’s nothing funny about being taken over, and right now he’s clinging to his sanity with his teeth gritted so hard the beats are shooting out of his ass. He’s clenched so tight, when he farts only dogs can hear it. But you can trust that king-size bug with your life.

Watching several men leave a limo, he asks who the old guy is and how many of him are there. Ao Jun, their Chinese army connection, Domino explains. Get this for official worst mutant gift ever: Hair, skin flakes, dandruff, anything he sheds grows into a short-lived briefly conscious totally naked Ao Jun golem. Some people get all the breaks, Logan announces as he claws his way inside the building. So… she need some company after this gig? Can’t hide from the man with the hyper senses, huh? Domino asks as she attaches a line to the elevator shaft. No strings, animal passion she decides, and he is paying for drinks. He warns her to take care as she jumps down. There is a smell of death down there.

Domino witnesses Ao Jun receiving the money from Sublime and observing he has become a capitalist. His fantasy is to have two white girls wrestle in crude oil until they suffocate, he informs Sublime, who tells him his is worse. Authorities in Beijing are only too happy to accept Sublime’s discreet solutions to their mutant surplus. They are coming to terms with possibilities the Communist Party under Mao never understood or foresaw. He loves a party, Sublime cheerfully informs Ao Jun and suggests they join the throng.

Domino informs Logan Sublime is buying the keys to some frozen real estate in Ningxia Hui province. A moment later, she is surrounded by flaky Ao Jun doubles, which she shoots with a laser from her eye. Fourteenth floor, she tells Logan, then disables the entry alarms for thirty seconds.

Sublime stores the keys in a safe. He explains the combination can’t be broken. The computer reads the bioelectric patterns, turns them into code and creates a unique combination. They can duplicate mutant gifts when they try, he announces as they enter the party room. Does he really believe he can turn humans into mutants? Ao Jun asks. The U-Men live in constant agony. He has heard stories in the media of grafts being rejected… Sublime corrects him that he mistakes agony for ecstasy. He’ll be back shortly. They have one last donor to see to downstairs.

Ao Jun notices a stranger at the party, namely Wolverine dazzling several young women with his war exploits. Ao Jun informs him this is a private function and he doesn’t remember him from the guest list. He speaks Cantonese very well for an American.

He’s Canadian, Wolverine retorts and he won’t find him on the guest list because his friend is here to steal his valuables. He is just the distraction. He tears apart the two Ao Jun clones surrounding him.

Domino finishes with the safe when a monstrous clone of Ao Jun commands her back. Unimpressed, she warns him that the Wolverine is coming to get him.

Wolverine is busy fighting dozens of Ao Jun clones.

In the garage below are the other three X-Men. Did any of them ever meet Risque? Cyclops ask. Emma shushes him, then informs them that below the concrete are little mind whimpers of suffering… pharm solutions. Beast sniffs, announcing he can smell her blood. Risque died right here. He points to a concealed entrance. Scott orders him back, then shatters the wall with his optic blast.

They step downwards into what seems to be a kind of processing station… as Beast puts it, a little corner of hell Dante forgot to write about. They find a mutant caterpillar girl who shouts they took her wings away.

Upstairs, trying to draw the gunfire, Wolverine orders Domino to get the keys out of the safe. He will cover her. It’s done, she replies. The safe combination was exactly the same as her ex-boyfriend’s phone number. She guesses she’s just lucky…

This good luck power? Logan asks. If they just threw themselves out of the window up ahead, everything would work fine for her, wouldn’t it? She replies her power didn’t come with a rulebook. She might hit concrete ten floors below. But she’s been looking for a crazy man to kill the boredom. After him. They jump and luckily land in a pool.

Downstairs, Beast tries to help the Chinese mutant girl. He tells Scott she is losing blood and needs an operating table. The next moment, he is shot with knives by two U-Men. One of them announces he is reloading with poison tips and tells is colleague to finish him, then harvest what they need for the organ stores.

Cyclops fires at him. The suit shatters and the U-Man is horrified to be breathing the air of the fallen world.

Emma has turned into her diamond form, wondering if she can do something about that. She touches the U-Man’s face. Organic diamond drill, frail human skull she announces. Talk or she’ll let the air all the way into his spinal cord…

After both groups have exchanged information, Domino summarizes that they are vivisecting organs in Hong Kong. John Sublime’s pharmaceutical company is a front for an illegal operation to turn humans into mutants.

The world gets lovelier every day. Emma adds that they can’t prove Sublime is involved. But they can kill him. Scott suggests they examine some other options first. They know this guy paid for a thousand acres of Ningxia Hui province in China. And these keys to something kept in the Cold War internment camp… It’s not about proof. It’s not about human laws. The most important thing was to get hold of something they could telepathically scan for real information. He hands the keys to Emma, who sighs that it could take hour upon tedious hour to establish a connection with…

Instead, it is instantaneous. She sees images of a field in which sits a Chinese boy whose head becomes a star.

Shaken Emma tells his story. His name is Xorn. Two days after he reached puberty, his brain was incinerated by a microscopic sun. He survived. He should have been a genius… a healer… a Buddha. But he was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. So they built an iron prison around him. She drops her cup… without sunlight… without human contact… chained in a metal hell…

Somebody died in the room next door, she moans and decides it’s enough. She turns to her diamond form in which she has neither telepathy nor any empathy. No compassion, just a cruel sense of humor and a cold, hard heart.

Logan helps her up. What’s Feng Tui? It’s from mythology, she explains. The capital city of hell, and she can get up on her own, so please take his hand off her left buttock.

Beast enters, grimly announcing that the girl died on the table. She lost too much blood. Can they stop this?

At night, in his room Scott is in telepathic contact with his wife, Jean Grey. She senses his churning thoughts. Did someone die? Who’s Xorn? He tells her to download the whole thing from his memory when he’s sleeping. They’ve uncovered some pretty nasty mutant right abuses

Is Emma behaving herself? Jean asks. She’s on his mind. He’s keeping his one good eye on all of them. They are heading into China tomorrow, so be ready for him to yell for back up. He tells her goodnight.

Suddenly, he hears someone at the door and grabs his glasses. In the doorway stands Emma, dressed in a slinky, black dress, holding a bottle of champagne. She couldn’t sleep after the theatrics of the day… tell her more about the world of chastity, she suggests.

In the meantime, Sublime’s troops have reached Feng Tu and Sublime already imagines how they’ll have the place running as an organ farm. Get some color in to cheer up the place.

Ao Jun warns them. Xorn escaped once in 1969. It took them two whole weeks to subdue him. As a punishment, they rebuilt Feng Tu around him where he fell. To punish Ao Jun after his herbal gene suppressant wore off in the midst of it all… he was made Xorn’s jailer. Why do they want to be mutants? Mutant lives are short and fearful, or worse long and fearful.

Mutants will inherit the Earth, Sublime replies, displaying his wings. Lord knows, he’s prepared to adapt but his body has trouble accepting the tissue grafts. His throat implants are fine but the rest… well, his back is in constant pain. But one day he will fly!

They get a look at Xorn, who is glowing in a strange light. Ao Jun announces that he fears the star in his skull has grown old and sick along with Xorn. One of the U-Men speaks up that he used to be a keen amateur astronomer. If Xorn is swallowing light like that, there could be a micro black hole in his skull. Wouldn’t that be a completely insane turn of events? Sublime asks amused.

When they open the box, instead of finding the key, they instead find a note: “We are the X-Men… Booh!

The Blackbird dodges several Chinese missiles and lands at Feng Tu. They are allowed to do stuff like this now? Wolverine asks. Cyclops remarks they just did. Let’s see who complains.

The U-Men hesitate. Beast growls and Domino asks which of them is ready to own up to killing Dolores Mu-Oz. Err, one of them stutters.

Sublime snarls that Ao Jun betrayed him after everything. Of course, he betrayed him, Ao Jun agrees. Here is his revenge on the world that locked him underground with this incoherent monster. Last night, he fulfilled all his fantasies. Today he dies happy. Beijing dies with him and all the world dies with him.

A U-Man snaps his neck. What a freak! Sublime sighs and orders to feed him to Xorn. Let’s keep this going as long as they can and hope the mutants fix it up.

The X-Men follow the U-Men inside and see the energy effect around Xorn. The U-man explains they think it’s an event horizon. The point at which nothing can escape the gravity of his brain. Emma senses nothing where Xorn’s thoughts should be… ideas… identity… sucked into the emptiness. Cyclops tells her to get out of his mind. He is not a machine or a black hole. He is a living being and he’s preparing to commit suicide. They have to talk him out of it.

Exasperated, Emma announces there are moments in Scott’s company when she feels touched by the presence of sheer insanity. The only one among them who can speak Chinese is Logan. She tries to order Xorn to stop sniveling, then announces it’s no use. She can feel the gravitational pull of his head in her womb. His event horizon is expanding.

Scott tells her to find the nearest Chinese speaker and rewire his language center through his so that he can talk to Xorn. She bows to the master of diplomacy, Emma sighs and complies.

Cyclops asks Xorn to come back to them. He has a proposition for him. His old life is over. There’s a whole new world out there and he thinks Xorn can help them make it better and safer. Think of this in basic physics terms: He just has to shed some of that gravity to come back to them.

Domino points out to the others that in sixty seconds the human black hole in that room will consume mainland China. After that, they have about two minutes to evacuate planet Earth! Beast tells her not to worry. Scott is very good with the depressed.

Scott continues that it’s not so hard to lighten up. Think about all these theories which suggest that when a black hole collapses into itself it becomes a white hole somewhere else in spacetime. Imagine what he could do! Imagination is the only thing which can survive a gravitational collapse.

The event horizon shrinks and a human shape emerges. He could have built heaven on Earth, if only they’d let him, Xorn complains. He could have laid the foundation stones of paradise here on Earth! There’s still time if he wants to, Cyclops point out and hands him the keys to his prison.

Stepping outside his prison for the first time, Xorn marvels that the world seems so much smaller than he remembers.

Seven little words, Domino remarks. One awful concept. “Unknown, insanely powerful mutant on the loose.” He’s not loose, Cyclops replies, he just accepted his offer of a job with the X-Men!

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Phoenix IV, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Domino (X-Corporation)


Ao Jun
Ao Jun’s clones
John Sublime, founder of the U-Men


Story Notes: 

First appearance of John Sublime and the U-Men.

The Annual takes place between New X-Men (1st series) #116 and #117.

This book is Marvel’s first in the so-called Marvelscope format. The format didn’t prove very successful.

Risque died off panel.

Xorn rejoins the cast in New X-Men (1st series) #122.

One image shows Cyclops sleeping without his glasses which is rather unlikely.

What happens between Scott and Emma will be revealed in New X-Men (2nd series) #139.

Cyclops was taken over by Apocalypse during the The Twelve crossover.

Emma has never displayed psychometric powers before.

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