What Exactly Was The Deal With Xorn Anyway? [Mutant Week]
We’ve been celebrating Mutant Week all week here at ComicsAlliance, and it’s fair to say that everyone has had a lot of fun. However, now it’s time to get serious and talk about the stuff that really matters, that being: What the heck is Xorn’s deal?!
If you’re unaware, Xorn was a character with a cool design and a cool hook, introduced by Grant Morrison and Leinil Francis Yu in New X-Men Annual way back in 2001. He had a star for a face, he was a healer, and he taught the remedial class at Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters. Then, Grant Morrison pulled the rug out from under us with a reveal so drastic that Marvel spent years trying to to undo it in a satisfying way.
If we take New X-Men as read, Xorn was first introduced as a Chinese mutant with a white star where his head should be, kept locked underneath his protective helmet. He was held captive by the Chinese government and attempted suicide by removing his mask, which would also destroy the world, but he was talked down by Emma Frost and offered a place in the X-Men.
He discovered healing abilities and even healed Charles Xavier’s paralysis. He took over the “Special Class” of students at Xavier’s school and was well liked, if a little earnest and preachy.
In a shock twist, it turned out that Xorn was Magneto the entire time. Magneto was thought dead during Cassandra Nova’s attack on Genosha, but instead he constructed an elaborate ruse with the help of Chinese officials, and every single part of Xorn’s backstory was faked. He paralyzed Charles Xavier again and destroyed much of New York City, with the aim to destroy the Earth.
However, Magneto found that his message was stronger in death than it ever was in life, and now he was nothing but a drugged up would-be despot, He was defeated by The X-Men, but in his final moments he killed Jean Grey, and in return his head was chopped off by Wolverine in the midst of a feral rage.
It should be noted that Morrison himself gave Magneto an out for the death and destruction caused in New York by later revealing that Magneto was under control of the sentient bacteria Sublime, which he was unwillingly taking in the form of the drug “Kick,” but that’s neither here nor there right now.
A lot of people don’t like the “Planet X” storyline, and the editors at Marvel were among that group. The publisher liked Xorn as a character, and tried to convince Morrison to keep him around. The editors also didn’t want to give Magneto such a permanent and definitive ending, because even if you brought him back to life, he massacred a good chunk of New York, and that’s hard to come back from.
This is where things get confusing.
Marvel launched a new volume of Excalibur by Chris Claremont and Aaron Lopresti, starring Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto living in the ruins of Genosha. Within the pages of the book, it is revealed that whatever his motives may have been, Xorn was an imposter Magneto, and the real Magneto was not only alive, but innocent of the slaughter in New York.
The story was further addressed in the pages of Chuck Austen and Salvador Larroca’s X-Men, where it was revealed that Xorn --- full name: Kuan-Yin Xorn --- had a twin brother named Shen Xorn, who had a black hole where his head should be. Kuan-Yin Xorn was apparently working with John Sublime to impersonate Magneto and bring down the X-Men; information which is corroborated by Emma Frost and her telepathy.
It’s a bit clunky, but I think we’re all following so far, right?
It was never fully established in the comics what connection Kuan-Yin Xorn had with Magneto, or why he chose to impersonate him. Instead that reveal came from the most unlikely and underwhelming of places. It was revealed in --- of all places --- the pages of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: X-Men 2005 that Kuan-Yin Xorn’s transformation into Magneto was a result of the Scarlet Witch’s meddling with reality prior to the House of M event.
That’s really unsatisfying, right? That’s a weird way to close out this accidental mystery that Marvel set up, which Grant Morrison never intended to create. Don’t worry, we’re not done yet.
The matter is expounded upon in the pages of New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato. When the Scarlet Witch removed the majority of the world’s mutants' powers, the energy formed The Collective, which was essentially a sentient incorporeal cloud made up from those powers. The Collective possessed an Alaskan man named Michael Pointer, killed Alpha Flight, and eventually found its way to Magneto in Genosha. Magneto recognized the dominant personality in The Collective as Kuan-Yin Xorn.
Xorn explained that he took Magneto’s image during “Planet X” because he knew --- or at least hoped --- that Magneto was a symbol that mutantkind could rally around. However, following M-Day, Xorn had decided that now more than ever mutantkind needed the real Magneto back, and offered to repower him. Magneto refused, and The Sentry threw The Collective into the sun, as is his wont.
Okay, so let’s see where we are
- There are two Xorn brothers, Kuan-Yin and Shen
- Kuan-Yin was a bad egg who pretended to be Magneto in an attempt to rally mutants behind his cause
- Kuan-Yin was killed by Wolverine, but somehow his personality found its way into The Collective
- The Collective was thrown into the sun.
There we have it! That’s the official in-continuity explanation for Xorn, a character so interesting that Marvel didn’t want him to be a fake-out, but ended up ruining forever by trying to keep around.
Shen Xorn recently returned in the pages of Uncanny X-Men by Cullen Bunn and Greg Land, so who knows, we might see Kuan-Yun again, and yet more retcons on top of retcons to try and fix a story that arguably didn’t need fixing in the first place.
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