Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Phil Jimenez (p), Andy Lanning (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Bishop & Sage arriving at the X-Mansion, where they order an immediate lock down, in an effort to keep whoever murdered Emma from making their escape. What follows is a series of interviews in which Bishop questions the more likely suspects in Emma's murder, and this is a rather laborious process as Emma did manage to accumulate a lot of people who would like to see her dead. As the Beast begins the near impossible task of reassembling Emma's shattered body, we see Bishop begins to eliminate the more likely suspects, as Jean gets a pass after Bishop gets a sense of the power Jean commands, and the Stepford Cuckoos managed to secure the Beast as their alibi for the time when Emma was shattered by a diamond bullet. As Bishop expands his questioning to include Xavier, who has shown a history of falling under the mental control of an outside force, we see Bishop comes to believe Emma murder is connected to the dealer who has been unloading the drug "kick" at the X-Mansion, and to this end he's able to learn where the drop point for this drug is. However, when Sage investigates this drop point, she makes a rather starling discovery in a nearby work shed, and what's more it would appear that she's also learned the identity of Emma's killer.
I suppose it's not overly surprising that Grant Morrison tipped his hand as much as it would appear he has when it comes to the identity of the murderer, as I didn't really piece it together until the final sequence of this issue, and even then I still have some questions that I would like to see answers to. I mean there's still the question of how this character managed to secure a gun that would fire the diamond bullet, let alone the diamond bullet that was fired. There's also the placement of the shot, as unless it was an extremely lucky shot, I can't see this character knowing the exact spot that would effectively shatter Emma. Still this issue does a nice job of developing a motive for why this character would commit murder, and in typical Grant Morrison style it's a downright bizarre extension of this character's mutant ability. I mean the last scene of this issue is out & out creepy in the way that it reveals its big secret to the readers, and one can't help but look upon the murderer in a new light. Now the X-Men have played host to some unusual abilities over the decades, and Grant Morrison had introduced some truly surreal character's into the student body, but the last issue is far and away his most impressive "what in the world" moment. I mean, this is an idea that almost equals the oddball factor he achieved on "Doom Patrol".
I haven't read a single issue of Chris Claremont's X-Treme X-Men, so I've lost touch with several characters, who I'd been rather fond of when they were part of the X-Men. I miss Storm, Rogue & Gambit, and I will confess there have been moments when I've been tempted to pick up an issue to see what these characters have been up to. However, the one character who I didn't give a single thought to would have to be Bishop, as the character never really struck me as having much of a purpose after the X-Traitor was revealed. I mean, his power was interesting enough, but the character seemed to be a bit lost when his entire reason for being in the book was done away with, and the X-writers never really bothered to come up with something else for the character to do. I have to give Grant Morrison full marks for coming up with a role for Bishop to play in this story, as having him conduct the murder investigation is a downright inspired use of the character's background as a police officer. I also rather enjoy the way he carried out his investigation, as there's a nice sense that he is able to read these character's like a book, and that he is seeing beyond what he's being told. Plus one simply has to love the opening scene where we see the gathered cast being told they are all murder suspects.
First off I'm a sucker for the floating heads cover shot, and Phil Jimenez does a lovely job working the logo into this cover image. As for the interior art, this issue is largely a talking heads affair, and Phil Jimenez is called upon to deliver a sense of mystery & intrigue while his characters are moving about though the brightly lit, almost cheerful looking environment that is the X-Mansion. Now it's a testament to his skills as an artist that this issue works so well, as the opening sequence where Bishop & Sage make their arrival at the mansion is very nicely done, as is the credit page reaction shot of the cast as they are labeled murder suspects by Bishop. The art also does some nice work detailing the task at hand for the Beast as he attempts to reassemble Emma's shattered body, and if nothing else the scene in the second half of the issue where he starts to realize how large a task it is, does a very nice job suggesting to the reader that Emma may very well not be coming back. There's also a wonderful scene where Bishop questions Jean, and the brief flash of power we see from her, as well as Bishop's stunned expression after this encounter is really quite disturbing. The final page reveal shot of this issue is also worth a mention, as it perfectly captures the sense of horror that I suspect Grant Morrison was aiming for.
Before I typed up this final column I made a quite jump around the internet to see what others thought of this issue, and I was left with the sense that many people haven't jumped to the conclusion that I've arrived at, so I guess Grant Morrison was a little more ambiguous than I had given his credit for. Now I believe a have a very good idea of who the murderer is and I also believe the final pages of this issue detail why the murder was committed, but in the interest of preserving the surprise I'll bite my tongue. If nothing else I will give the book full marks for offering up a pretty solid array of suspects, and the simple surprise factor that Emma is playing the role of the murder victim is enough to earn this murder mystery my highest praise. I'll also give Grant Morrison credit for his use of Bishop, as this is easily the most interesting I've found the character to be since he first made his debut in the X-books. Some fairly enjoyable character scenes as well, with the encounter Bishop has with Jean being a particularly effective moment.
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