Welcome back to Mutantversity, a class offered at the Krakoan Akademos Habitat. This isn’t a place to find big reviews of X-books, (that’s what our Review section is for!) but it’s a great way to keep up with one of the most complicated superhero series around. We’re going to dive into the deep end as we try to parse all the secrets of this new era of “X-Men” comics. As your designated X-Pert, I will do my best to help you work through everything Marvel’s Merry Mutants have to offer!
“Judgment Day” is the rare event that’s actually pretty good! The crossovers are good too.
X-Men vs Everyone
The biggest news this month is of course ‘Judgment Day,’ the mega event from “Immortal X-Men” writer Kieron Gillen. It’s a little hard to predict where this all going but in short: there’s been political upheaval with the Eternals. The duplicitous Druig, backed by the myopic Domo and the unstoppable Uranos, have taken it upon themselves to exterminate all mutants. Meanwhile, the Avengers have been camping out inside a dormant Celestial. After a lot of superhero fighting, the Celestial woke up as the Progenitor, and it had a message for all the citizens of Earth.
“You have 24 hours to justify yourselves. You will be judged individually. You will be judged as a collective. If there is more that is just than wicked, you will live. But if you are found lacking, there will be no tomorrow.”
The war and politicking aren’t groundbreakingly original, but Gillen turns a good phrase, and Valerio Schiti is killing it on art. And Marte Gracia colors transform Schiti’s work into something that feels totally X-Men! So if the story’s gotta be reheated leftovers, at least they’re good leftovers. (What gets better the next day? Chili? Pizza? Chinese takeout? This metaphor has probably taken us as far as it can go.)
Mr. Sinister has been central to the event. As of issue #3, he’s actually chilling with the Avengers, working with Iron Man on the Celestial technology. There’s a lot of history that touches on. When Gillen wrote X-Men in 2011, the team was based in San Francisco. There was a dormant Celestial standing over the city then, the Dreaming Celestial. Sinister first encountered Celestial technology when he met Apocalypse. You know that metal suit that Big A wears, with the tubs hanging off of it? That’s Celestial tech. In fact, a big part of why Apocalypse is so powerful is his long-term exposure to Celestial technology.
So when Sinister came across the Dreaming Celestial, he basically hacked it, to make a Sinister Celestial. It’s unclear what fate awaits Sinister in this story, but it seems like Gillen remembers the seed he planted a decade ago.
Mr. M in the Siege Perilous Desert
“Knights of X” has now concluded and I will miss it. But before we say goodbye, I need to shout out a smart development for continuity. This one is a bit complicated so I will lay out all the pieces.
The Siege Perilous first showed up in X Books in the 80s. The mysterious magical artifact manifested as an ornate mirror. If someone walked through the mirror, they would be reborn as an alternate version of themselves. So when Colossus walked through it, he woke up as a hip artist from New York. Psylocke (er, sort of both of them) woke up as a ninja assassin. Dazzler became a movie star. Havok became an evil Genoshan magister (because of course he did).
Mr. M was an X-character introduced in 2004. He was a Belgian guy named Absolon Zebardyn Mercator (good name) and he had seemingly limitless matter manipulation powers. Mr. M was one of the 198 mutants to retain their powers after M Day. But after his first appearance, he faded into the background. He was basically absent until Jonathan Hickman identified him on a list of Omega Mutants way back in HOXPOX. Since then he has remained in the background, definitely friendly towards Krakoa, but sort of aloof.
In “Knights of X” we finally get an answer. Sort of. Absolon Zebardyn Mercator IS the Siege Perilous. It makes a sort of messed up sense. Mr. M has been portrayed as virtually omnipotent, but he is interested in change; the Siege Perilous changes mutants into alternate selves.Continued below
But it’s also mysterious! Is Absolon Zebardyn Mercator immortal? We’ve seen that the Siege Perilous existed back in Medieval times. Is Absolon Zebardyn Mercator really Belgian? Which came first, the man or the mirror?
I like all of this ambiguity! The Siege Perilous has always been weird and mysterious, and so has Mr. M. By connecting these two loose threads, Tini Howard has created plenty of new hooks to tell stories about Mr. M, the Mirror Man. At the end of the story, Absolon Zebardyn Mercator has crumbled the mirror part of him into dust; an incredible wishing desert located in Otherworld. Surely this is just the beginning of his story.
Queer! X! Stuff!
OK, and also, “Knights of X” #5 was totally gay. Thank you Tini Howard! I love to see two ladies kicking ass and holding hands, and that’s exactly what we got with Betsy Braddock and Rachel Summers. I smiled. I felt appreciated. I took a picture of the panel and sent it to my gay X-Men loving friends (which is quite a few of them). But THEN they totally smooched! And the comic ends with the two of them riding off into the multiverse to go on more adventures.
That is so so so so great. “X-Men” has always been pretty queer, and there is plenty written about that already, but 2022 is the year that subtext is being explored as text. Mystique and Destiny have long been written as a couple, but they didn’t use the word “wife” to describe each other before Hickman’s “X-Men,” and they got their big romantic kiss just this year in “Immortal X-Men.” And X-Men power couples should be kissing all the time. “X-Men” is a kissing book.
This resolves years of subtext. When Chris Claremont and John Byrne introduced Rachel in 1981, she was styled as a contemporary lesbian punk. Her style got even gayer when Alan Davis started drawing her in “Excalibur.” In interviews, Claremont has said that in his ending for “X-Men” (if he was ever allowed to write an ending) Kitty Pryde is the first Queer Jewish Mutant to become president of the United States. Rachel is first lady! But in recent years, Rachel was in a relationship with dirtbag Shi’ar swordsman Korvus, and an unconvincing fling with Nightcrawler. Betsy and Rachel is a wonderful surprise; it was a long time coming!
How’s the new lineup?
We have a newly elected X-Men roster, and they are on their first mission! How do they hold up? Pretty well! Gerry Duggan and C.F. Villa treat us to one of the best Iceman stories since his coming out. Bobby has to block a huge cosmic explosion with a continent sized sheet of ice that fills the sky. It’s an incredibly creative use of superpowers, and one of the best feats of an Omega level mutant in a while. Plus, Bobby has to face off with the human press, and it takes him a second but he remembers he’s super charming. We don’t see how the wider world reacts to his interview, but I have to imagine lots of people liked it. He’s very likable!
How about everyone else? Jean is still leading the team like a boss. When is she going to get the codename Marvel Woman already? Firestar comes in for the assist, and it’s interesting to see her stumble through Krakoan etiquette. She is the non-Krakoan mutant people have wanted to see for a long time.
Forge is there too. He does some math while walking on a beach. Not very X-Men team-y. He’s useful, but if he is always going to have attention split, why put him on the team at all? Magik is never the focus of the story, but she’s constantly useful. She’s useful as a form of transportation, as a badass sword fighter, as an expert in sorcery, and as an intimidating presence. She’s also a little scamp, defacing the signs of protesting bigots. Throughout the whole mission, Synch is there as the ultimate support, backing everyone else up and helping to share the load.Continued below
Cyclops has a memorable showdown with a freaking Celestial, and while he doesn’t get to do much in the way of superheroes, he does get to be the heart of the team. It’s kind of a nice inversion with Jean as to their regular roles. Jean gets to be the field leader and tactician. Scott gets to think of the moral mission of the team, and how they are perceived.
Is there anyone else on the team? Anyone at all? Anyone? Oh yeah. Apparently Alex Summers is on the roster. Havok is useless.
War Crime Check-In
I really like Hank McCoy. I think Beast is one of the best X-Men; he’s at his best when he’s bouncing around and quoting Shakespeare in his warm professor mode. Man has Krakoa been rough on him. As part of X-Force, he ordered Omega Red to stop mutant traffickers operating around Russia. Not only did he accomplish this, he also brought the rescued mutants to Krakoa. But Beast could care less. He set the whole thing up as a publicity move. The fact that he hired a serial killer to colorfully kill people and got a rescue instead really irks him.
Not only that, but Sage and Beast witness Arkady breaking one of the Laws. He brought one of the traffickers to Krakoan soil to torture and murder him. Hank doesn’t seem perturbed in the least. How shitty is that? Beast is mad that people were saved, but doesn’t bat an eye at forbidden murder. I get that this is Beast’s heel turn but this feels over the top.
Still, I was intrigued by Sage’s solution to all of this. She takes Arkady to the Shadow Room, which is basically a holodeck. And she encourages him to play out all of his sick twisted urges in there, in simulation. This seems… unlikely to help. Omega Red is carrying around a dude’s finger and teeth. Something tells me that a hologram that you can’t carry around with you won’t be the same for him. Still, this is the most interesting Sage has been on Krakoa, and this is the Omega Red characterization I’ve been waiting for. Interesting to see how the two of them function in proper Krakoan society.
“AXE: Judgment Day” #1 – A weird first issue to a crossover. This feels a lot more like “Eternals” than it does “Immortal X-Men.”
“AXE: Judgment Day” #2 – That’s more like it! A strong statement of purpose for this sprawling Event story.
“AXE: Judgment Day” #3 – We are in full crossover nonsense mode now, but it’s a lot of fun flying at you.
“AXE: Death to Mutants” #1 – I don’t know why this mini exists, but it’s a half decent introduction to the “Eternals” cast and conflict.
“Immortal X-Men” #5 – Long have I waited for a good story about Exodus. And today, we have a great one!
“Legion of X” #4 – Well, it didn’t take long for this book to collapse under its own weight. At least some of the pieces of it are interesting.
“X-Men Red” #5 – It is safe to say that this is the best X-series coming out at the moment, and that’s a pretty competitive contest!
“X-Men” #13 – Honestly, a gigantic event is a great way to test out a new team. The new X-Men lineup start to establish their report.
“X-Men” #14 – It’s a story called ‘Eight Minutes Till Death!,’ and it delivers. very cool very big superhero action of the best sort.
“Marauders” #5 – The fighting was not interesting enough to justify so many pages of it. The time travel undermined a lot of drama and urgency.
“Knights of X” #5 – A fabulous conclusion to a fun miniseries that exceeded my expectations in every way.
“X-Force” #31 – It’s hard not to enjoy a half decent Kraven vs Deadpool story, but this issue actually had some pretty cool intrigue with Beast and Omega Red of all people!
“X-Men Green” #1 – I would like more One-Shots focusing on characters who otherwise wouldn’t be in a team or star in a book. This felt special.