A benevolent being, with the best intentions, who unfortunately spent the majority of his life in fear and captivity, due to his vast power, Xorn manifested his special gifts during puberty, and was almost immediately incinerated, as a result. Over half a century afterward, the X-Men managed to make contact with him, and their leader, Scott Summers, a.k.a. Cyclops, offered him a place to the group, an offer which Kuan-Yin Xorn accepted.
Xorn was created by Grant Morrison and Leinil Francis Yu and first appeared in New X-Men Annual #1. Although Morrison had (seemingly) always intended the character to be the X-Men's arch-nemesis Magneto, Marvel was unhappy with this decision and Chris Claremont and Chuck Austen are responsible for retconning Xorn into a different character entirely.
Major Story Arcs
The Man from Room X
Xorn first appeared in New X-Men Annual 2001, by Grant Morrison. He was being held within the Feng Tu facility (Feng-Tu being a Chinese underground prison designed to hold mutants), and was used without his consent for the murder of two young mutants that Ao Jun, the Feng Tu prison warden, and John Sublime considered to be disposable. It was during that exchange between Jun and Sublime, that small hints of Xorn’s origin and abilities were given, since it was mentioned that he had been held in Feng Tu for over half a century, as a result of the bureaucratic disposition towards him in Beijing, but was kept alive in case of an emergency conflict with enemies of the Chinese Republic. While restrained by chains, Xorn’s helmet was partially removed by Ao Jun, and that action revealed two things: that Xorn no longer had a face under the helmet, and that even short term exposure to an unhelmeted Xorn was sufficient to incinerate a living being.
Glimpses of a season long past
Not long afterwards, an X-Men squad, including Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, and Beast, went to Beijing to pay their respects and assist Domino, after the murder of a good friend of hers, Gloria Dolores Mu-Oz. Tracing links back to high ranking officials, guided by a pharmaceutical cult, Domino found herself overwhelmed, and asked the X-Men to prolong their visit. Infiltrating a night club which operated under Sublime’s control, as a front for horrible experimentation on mutants, the X-Men stumbled upon a pair of keys, specifically designed in order to unlock Xorn’s visor. Unaware of their true use, they decided to let Emma Frost perform a telepathic scan on them.
Emma was devastated by the pain, sadness and suffering of Xorn’s life, glimpses of which she got from his remaining mental imprint on the keys. She exclaimed that Xorn was born in the wrong place at the wrong time: he was destined to be a genius, a healer, a Buddha. Instead, two days after reaching puberty a tiny star was ignited within his head, which, as a result, was incinerated by it, and after that, an iron prison without sunlight, or human contact was built around him. Xorn managed to escape briefly, in 1969, and it required two weeks for him to be subdued again. As punishment, Feng Tu was rebuilt around the place he fell, using fragments of the original facility. Chained in a metal cellar, he could do nothing but wait.
Intending to stop the torture for all the mutants, the X-Men broke into Feng Tu, just at the time when Xorn, wishing to commit suicide and end his torture, had reversed the natural state of his star, resulting in the creation of a micro-black hole.
Once the X-Men entered the room in which he was being held, Emma Frost stated that there was nothing where Xorn’s thoughts should be; no ideas, or sense of individuality – just emptiness. Furious that a living being would waste his life like that, Cyclops was determined to talk Xorn out of it. Instructing Emma to rewire the language centers of his mind in order to be able to speak Chinese, Cyclops made direct contact with Xorn, asking him to put aside his past life, and help the X-Men re-shape the whole new world that awaited all of them, into something beautiful, and safe.
A minute before the black hole within Xorn’s head would consume mainland China, and a few more before expanding enough to destroy the Earth, and after being repeatedly asked by Cyclops to use his imagination, as “imagination is the only thing which can survive a gravitational collapse!”, as Cyclops humorously remarked, Xorn finally restored his powers back to normal, but was still bitter from the mistreatment during his life time, regretting his inability to build paradise on Earth. Giving him back the keys to his helmet, Cyclops said that it was not too late to attempt it, if only he still wished so.
Finally free, Xorn felt the world was, peculiarly enough, smaller than he remembered. Domino, commenting on how dangerous a mutant of that power could prove to be, if set loose, received the answer that Xorn wasn’t just freed, but had also accepted Cyclops’s offer to join the X-Men.
Cyclops tracked Xorn down to a monastery, where he was told by the monks that Xorn has demonstrated healing powers. The pair are captured by the Shi'ar but arrive at the X-Mansion in time for Xorn to heal the X-Men of a nano- Sentinel infection, restoring Professor Xavier's ability to walk in the process. Xorn is soon put in charge of the "Special Class", a group of physical and social misfits attending the Xavier Institute. Though he hopes to befriend these students, he becomes disillusioned as they mock and insult him. He remains determined to help his "Special Class," even saving their lives from a group of U-Men.
In the storyline " Planet X", Xorn removes his mask, revealing himself to be the X-Men's arch-nemesis Magneto, who has been believed dead since the destruction of Genosha. Magneto explains that the Xorn identity was an elaborate ruse crafted with the help of Chinese supporters, in order to infiltrate the X-Men; even the prison was a fake (This later turned out to all untrue, since Xorn was under the control of X-men enemy Sublime). Having returned Xavier to a crippled state (Xavier had not been healed - Magneto merely used the nano-Sentinels to "glue" his spine together), Magneto levels the X-Mansion and conquers New York City, where he enslaves the human population and destroys much of the city. He attempts to recreate the Brotherhood with Toad, the rebellious Stepford Cuckoo Esme, and the members of Xorn's "Special Class." Magneto finds, however, that many of his recruits are unresponsive to his ideas and approach, with some asking for the return of the more humane Xorn, and others doubtful that Magneto has truly returned, much to his chagrin. Indecisive and relying heavily on the drug Kick to augment his power, he struggles to maintain the loyalty and respect of his followers. He announces a plan to invert the planet by reversing its magnetic poles, and employs increasingly fascistic methods (including the construction of a Nazi-esque crematorium in which he plans to eradicate the remaining human population of the city). He also appears to be experiencing a form of Dissociative identity disorder, as the "good Xorn" persona begins to manifest itself as a voice within "Magneto's" head, claiming to be the embodiment of Magneto's wisdom, idealism, and nobility. After his defeat at the hands of the X-Men, but before his capture, Xorn fatally wounds Jean Grey; Wolverine, in a berserk fury over Grey's death, decapitates him.
After the events of the Decimation, the powers of many mutants traveled to Alaska and merge with Michael Pointer. He was later seen in Canada, very much disoriented and with his new power, manage to kill Alpha Flight except for Sasquatch. The Collective travel to Genosha where it found Magneto and manage to repower him. It also identified itself as Xorn and that he masqueraded as Magneto so that mutants will follow him and that mutants need Magneto. With the combined efforts of Ms. Marvel, Iron Man and the Sentry, they were able to send the Collective into the sun, but not without the Collective saving Michael. Michael still has the power of the Collective and has recently joined a new incarnation of a superhero team based on Canada, the Omega Flight, taking on the name Guardian.
Both of the Xorn Brothers have a star that functions as their heads, though in different states. Kuan-Yin Xorn's star is in an active state, a miniature sun, while Shen Xorn's star is in a state of collapse, a miniature black hole. As such unique beings, they have unique powers. They both have influence/control over the four fundamental forces (Strong and weak nuclear force, electromagnetism, and gravity) and they also do not need to breathe, nor do they require food or water. They have been shown to use their powers for a variety of effects. Kuan-Yin used his star to generally control electromagnetism; he to emitted blinding light that can incinerate anything, released EMPs, and mimicked Magneto's powers. Shen Xorn has used his black hole to generally control gravity, pulling anything inside, even light. They both can manipulate the form of their stars, where Kuan-Yin can collapse his star into a black whole and Shen can cause his black hole to flare into a sun. Kuan-Yin displayed minor healing abilities and Shen displayed minor telepathic abilities.
The Xorn brothers first appeared in the sixth issue of Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye, and have since been featured in both its sister titles, the Ultimates and the X-men. Here, they are known as Xorn of the Celestials (Kuan-Yin Xorn of Earth-616), and Zorn of the Eternals (Shen Xorn). The two brothers are nearly identical , having the same skull-like faces and fire for hair, while wearing matching black and white costumes. However, while Xorn has yellow and orange fire around his head, Zorn has a nemus of black and blue energy. Likewise, the colour schemes on their outfits are reversed, so that the black areas on Xorn's clothing is white on Zorn's. and vice versa. While their appearance is highly similar, the two brothers have markedly different personalities. While Xorn is described as an optimist and is, according to Nick Fury 'The softer side of the regime', his brother Zorn has a much harsher, pessimistic attitude. This is likewise reflected in their powers, as Xorn's head contains a star (like Kuan-Yin Xorn), while Zorn's mind is a black hole (like Shen Xorn). Xorn frequently sends teams of mutants and other superpowered individuals out on mercy missions, such as saving a group of children from a ring of child traffickers and bringing them to the safety of Tian.
The pair were originally ordinary humans living in the Southeast Asian Republic (SEAR) who were, like many others, given an experimental serum (known as the Source) which resulted in them aquiring superpowers. At the same time, the government had creatted a serum which would depower any mutant who was exposed to it. The brothers then went on to lead a rebellion against their creators, and founded Tian, twin cities which float in the air above their original homeland.
Following this revolution, Tian became a safehaven for any mutants or persecuted individuals who were willing to accpet the brothers' leadership. At this time, the Oracle, a floating head made of green energy, appeared to individuals around the world, offering them a place in the city. Nick Fury sent Hawkeye, together with Ultimate X (a mutant team constisting of Karen Grant (Jean Grey), Liz Allen, and Derek Morgan) to obtain a sample of the depowering virus creatted by the former regime. The mission is successful, although Ultimate X appear to turn their backs on the American government, becoming the first group to accept the brother's invitation. This was later revealed to be a ruse, and the team are in fact acting as spys for Fury. However, while Fury believes that the real Karen is still in America, and that the version in Tian is merely an astral projection, Xorn believes that the opposite is true.
Meanwhile, a group of former x-men, led by Kitty Pryde, consider joining Tian, having barely survived a mass-attack from an army of Nimrod Sentinals.
In Other Media
Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Xorn appears in the first installment of this video game as an alternative costume for Magneto.