Xorn entered into the X-Universe when he tried to commit suicide. The Chinese government was going to sell him to John Sublime and the U-Men, but Xorn was choosing to take off his containment helmet and destroy the Earth in protest. Cyclops and Emma Frost talked him down from it, thus causing him to join the X-Men. But, Xorn didn’t find his place in the X-Men in a similar way to past misfits. Xorn couldn’t be telepathically scanned by Professor X, so he kept a diary of his thoughts. Whenever Xorn tried to interact with Chinese refugees or public mutants, he’d find his actions rebuffed. Even among the Xavier special class, he was entrusted…Xorn was treated as a freak among freaks.
When Xorn revealed himself to be Magneto, it was a big show in a run that was meant to be a modern day update of the classic Claremont/Byrne era. Basically, everyone should’ve saw it coming. There were plenty of hints scattered across the comics leading up to the reveal, but it was a way for Morrison to have Magneto escape the Genoshan Holocaust and attack the X-Men where it counted. During the Planet X storyline, Magneto Xorn tries to reverse the Earth’s polarity while creating a Nazi style state in New York City. The special class and the X-Men revolt against him, but he snaps. During Planet X, Xorn is revealed to be a separate personality inside of the drug addicted Magneto. Xorn tries to use Magneto’s inner sense of nobility to stop the bloodshed.
Unfortunately, he kills Jean Grey before he comes to his senses. Wolverine snaps and then cuts his head off. But, the story of Xorn doesn’t end there. That would’ve made sense for all parties involved, but Marvel only saw the loss of Magneto as the end result. X-Men 3: The Last Stand was still an upcoming film and Marvel didn’t want to lose one of their biggest villains. Given the politics of today, Marvel would’ve had an Inhuman plus a few extraneous characters run a murder train on Magneto. So, Marvel brought the character back. But, we’re missing a huge aspect of the character’s legacy if we jump right into that.
A time displaced Jean Grey showed up as Lady Xorn during the “Battle of the Atom” crossover. She’s revealed to be an adult version of the Jean Grey from All-New X-Men. But, her powers are out of control and this eventually leads to a power overload after she removes her helmet. Once dead, Professor Xavier II keeps using his powers to bring her back. But, let’s stop a second. Xorn in all of its forms is revealed to be a power dampening unit. But, if the Xorn as Magneto reveal shows that it was all part of the lie, why keep using it for those purposes? It doesn’t make sense from any storytelling standpoint.
Shen Xorn was part of the disgusting retcon of the Xorn character by Chuck Austen and Marvel editorial. While I have made my disdain of Austen’s time no secret, the particular level of spineless in this twist is still appalling. Shen Xorn was revealed to be Xorn’s twin, who just happened to Armin Tamzarian his way into a similar power setup. Shen Xorn’s entire existence was to remove the crimes of Planet X from Magneto’s record while giving the X-Universe a second chance at Xorn. Unfortunately, Shen Xorn was left depowered after M-Day. It has yet to be revealed if Shen Xorn got his powers back after Avengers vs. X-Men, but given Secret Wars…I don’t see that being revisited ever again.
When the X-Men first found Xorn during the Morrison era, he was revealed to be a prisoner in the custody of the Chinese government. Let’s cut out all of that John Sublime as a mutant bacteria business. Xorn is shown as this mystery mutant who is hidden away because his head is a super charged star. Let’s forget that he is never revealed to be telepathic and there’s no logic given for how the Chinese were able to capture him. He exists as a caged and masked mutant with rather Caucasian hands for a captured Chinese national.
Xorn represents something that I really hate about the X-Men and comics with enough history. There are times when a continuing narrative will get a character so good, that it confounds editors and writers tasked with following a strong act. Thus we begin the act of the retcon to help format upcoming stories that were nowhere near as imaginative as the original. It makes zero sense for Xorn to be anything but a cruel joke that Magneto perpetrated on the X-Men. The character’s creation has giant holes that were meant to be discovered, plus it serves as a sharp revenge for one of the few survivors of the Genoshan Holocaust.
By the time that we first meet Xorn, Genosha has been destroyed for only a few weeks. Magneto has setup his fake capture and created an identity in a rather cruel homage to the Count of Monte Cristo. He exists to play upon Professor Xavier’s desire to be mutantdom’s savior without really investing himself too deeply. When Xorn gets the leadership of the Special Class, these outcast mutants outright rejection of Xorn is meant to be far more biting. If we buy into the later retcon, it removes any meaning from these scenes and characters that continue to thrive at the Jean Grey Institute and with Cyclops’ X-Men.
Xorn is two-fold. A trojan horse figure meant to exploit Xavier’s arrogance and a mirror for the failure of Xavier’s dream. If all mutants are meant to be saved, then are they view equally among their fellow mutants? The special class regularly belittles Xorn to his face during their time together and Morrison dwells on the fact that everyone from Kid Omega to Herman to the Stepford Cuckoos hates the guy. Think about it. What if you were in High School and College, then you were left with a former political prisoner as a teacher? Would you make fun of him or her to his face until he almost cries or would you respectfully listen? Xorn was truly a messed up spot in X-History.