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Dec 13

X-Force #3 annotations

Posted on Friday, December 13, 2019 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

COVER / PAGE 1. Marvel Girl wearing the Cerebro helmet.

PAGES 2-3. Flashback to the bad guys removing skin from Domino to graft onto their lab-grown Reavers.

This is an intentionally horrific sequence accompanied by the lead bad guy – still unnamed – explaining that humans succeed by recognising their limitations and designing tools to transcend them. It’s all part of the general Hickman-era theme of mutants versus post-humanity (natural evolution versus technological progress). As we’ll see later, the damage which Domino takes in this story also seems to play into a revamp (probably short-term) of the character.

PAGES 4-5. Recap page and credits. This is “The Skeleton Key” by Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara. The title refers back to the lead bad guy’s line in the previous scene that Domino is a “walking skeleton key that will help us pick the lock of evolution”. That seems to point to something a bit more ambitious than merely sneaking past Krakoa’s defences – perhaps something akin to Grant Morrison’s U-Men, who tried to upgrade themselves using stolen mutant body parts.

PAGES 6-8. Wolverine and Kid Omega rescue Domino and get attacked by a giant lab-grown meat monster.

“Murder No Man” is the second law of mutantdom, as per House of X #6. Since the discussion in that issue was specifically about the injustice of killing normal humans, who can’t be resurrected, it probably doesn’t apply to lab-grown creatures – and in any event, it’s “murder”, not “kill”, which might be taken as carrying a whole load of tacit exceptions like self-defence. Note Wolverine calls it, rather dismissively, a “commandment”, recognising that it’s more quasi-religious than anything else.

Kid Omega does call it a law but also describes it as “exactly why Krakoa will never work.” Leaving aside the fact that Kid Omega is being obnoxiously harsh here (partly as a response to what’s been done to Domino), this puts him in a very small list of characters who don’t seem to buy into the Krakoan dream. But the main point of difference between the two is that Kid Omega takes all this as a sign that humans are uniquely terrible, while Wolverine sees it as just the shared awfulness of mutants and humans alike.

PAGES 9-11. Beast and Marvel Girl discuss death.

This scene reads a little oddly in the grand scheme of things. Beast talks as if bringing Xavier back is specifically Jean’s plan, when surely it’s just what you’d expect given the set-up on Krakoa. More straightforwardly, Beast worries that mutants will become reckless without a fear of mortality; this ought to have been an issue already, but Xavier was a potential single point of failure in the whole system. So if they can show that resurrections can be carried out without him being involved at all, the mutants really should be able to hang around forever.

Jean gives us a not-desperately-interesting anecdote about how she doesn’t fear death because she used to play in cemeteries as a child. Her argument seems to be that the fear of death makes us selfish and stands in the way of co-operation. It’s all a bit strained – aren’t there plenty of other things (even plenty of fears) that make people selfish besides just the fear of death? At any rate, Jean is clearly the truest of true believers in the as-advertised Krakoan project.

PAGES 12-13. More of the fight with Kid Omega, Wolverine and the big monster.

Self-explanatory, really.

PAGES 14-15. Somebody murders the fifth assassin.

Healer is dutifully trying to save the final assassin’s life. After he wanders off, a shadowy big guy comes in and apparently smothers the guy to death. Subplot.

PAGE 16. Data page, explaining that the fifth assassin’s death was assumed to be of natural causes given how badly hurt he was to start with. Afterwards, the Krakoan medics attempt an autopsy and his body blows up.

Quite why Healer – who is just a guy with healing powers – would be doing autopsies might be open to question. The line about him being “fast-tracked for resurrection” also gives away that Xavier’s resurrection goes just fine, making it an odd pacing choice.

PAGES 17-18. Professor X makes his great return from the dead in a public appearance with Magneto in Washington Square Park.

Washington Square Park. The mutants seem to have turned the Washington Square Arch into a gate to Krakoa, which feels… arrogant?

Professor X. Presumably this is indeed Professor X, restored from back-up by another telepath (i.e. Jean), exactly as House of X told us to expect. Based on this scene alone, it might not be. He doesn’t use his powers in this issue. We don’t see him unmasked. There’s wiggle room here for a story in which he turns out to be an impostor wheeled out by the mutants for show. But the following data page seems clear that it’s Xavier. (Any lingering doubt will be removed when we see the next resurrection take place.)

As Magneto confirms later, the general line in this press conference is to deny the rumours that Xavier had ever been assassinated. It’s not clear how those rumours started, but presumably mutants off Krakoa mentioned it – the Marauders learned about it in their series – or perhaps one of the villains released word.

PAGE 19. Data page on “the Cerebro Sword”, a “mind blade” (as the small print has it). It’s a sword made by Magneto out of the remains of the previous Cerebro (destroyed by the assassin’s bullet in issue #1). It’s presented here as simply a symbol, but apparently it still holds data and works to some extent, which seems odd. It seems a strange choice that this apparently metaphorical sword is only described on a data page rather than shown to us. At any rate, it gets a whole page, so presumably it’s going to be important down the line.

PAGES 20-21. Wolverine, Domino and Kid Omega catch up on the plot.

Domino’s recap largely comes from the data page in issue #2.

PAGES 22-25. Professor X briefs his new X-Force, while the man with the peacock tattoo gives a similar briefing to his organisation, XENO.

The Pointe. We’ve seen it mentioned before, and it appears to be a place where Xavier can meet with his deniable-ops guys in relative secrecy. Other than Professor X and Magneto, those present are Domino, Kid Omega, Wolverine, Beast, Marvel Girl and Sage. Beast and Marvel Girl, as traditional Silver Age superheroes, are the most curious choices to be here – though it’s somewhat more in line with the more proactive/aggressive approach Jean was taking to world affairs in X-Men: Red.

Domino has some sort of plant growth over all of the parts of her body that had been stripped away, and her missing eye is now glowing yellow. It’s not clear whether this is permanent or just part of her recovery. There’s an echo of the original Cable to it.

Kid Omega seems to be checking his mobile phone, which surely wouldn’t go down well with the official Krakoan ruels on technology.

XENO are apparently an anti-mutant group aiming both to carry out experiments on mutants, and to promote anti-mutant disinformation. There’s mention of “an army of dummy accounts and chat groups online”, so it’s all very 2019. “Xeno” just means “foreign” or “other”.

The man with the tattoo seems to be telling us that the Krakoans managed to get Weapon X-style projects shut down as part of the price for Krakoan drugs – and this is where all of the laid-off anti-mutant science maniacs have wound up instead. The hulking henchman Finnegan can be seen in the crowd on the last page.

PAGES 26-27. Trailers. The Krakoan reads (you’ll never guess) “NEXT: XENO”.

Bring on the comments

  1. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    This was my favourite issue of the series so far. It balanced character interactions, plot progression and action scenes rather nicely. And while skinning Domino was horrible, in this issue it was mostly hidden just off-panel. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it a tasteful way of depicting skinning someone alive, but I didn’t feel it was shock value for shock value alone, like in the previous issue.

    Everything from the previous issues would point to the mystery murderer being a mind-controlled or otherwise compromised Colossus. It’s so clear I wonder what’s the point of even hiding it now, so maybe it’s a heavy-handed red herring. A heavy-finned red herring, if you will.

    Anyway, the book has improved markedly issue by issue. I’m actually pretty interested in where it goes from here now, after being very cold on it.

    But! And this is a big but. I get what the data pages can do for a book. Background information, worldbuilding, recaps, even filling in stuff that happens off-page between issues, like in Marauders. But in this issue Percy decided to relegate the Krakoans reaction to a resurrected Xavier to the data page and I think that’s a huge misstep. This stuff with Forge would have worked great on page.

    (Obviously it would have to be moved to after Magneto and Xavier speak to the journalists, so that the Xavier entrance could be kept in the book as is).

    So for me this decision was a misfire. But the rest of the issue – pretty good stuff.

  2. SanityOrMadness says:

    We saw Magneto make the “Cerebro Blade” last issue.

    But yes, some of the stuff chosen here to be related in text pages rather than actually depicted is… odd. Healer’s death and Xavier’s return to Krakoa (and, yes, presentation with TCB) are not things which were best done this way.

    Either they’re straining hard at the page count, or they have no idea what to do with the mandated data pages so they’re just using them as artless story pages.

  3. ASV says:

    Is this the first time that the “data” pages have just been narrative scenes in prose?

  4. Ben says:

    Okay issue.

    These data pages were awful though.

    Tell, don’t show.

  5. Evilgus says:

    Enjoyed this too… Including the theological discussion between Beast and Jean. This topic should be front and centre for many characters!

    But it does feel like X-Force, New Mutants and Excalibur are now hitting their stride. Maybe it’s just the readers needing to adjust to very different authorial tones, after HOXPOX?

    That said, characters dying off panel and swords being forged happening as data pages is a huge misstep. To my mind, if the data page should have been depicted as story on panel, then it’s got it wrong. It’s to add context, not be lazy or replace a page count.

  6. Chris V says:

    Benjamin Percy is a prose genre fiction writer, so maybe he feels more comfortable using that format.

  7. SanityOrMadness says:


    Again, the sword was created last issue when Magneto was talking to Jean about bringing Xavier back. It is the presentation TO Xavier we’re missing here.

  8. YLu says:

    “Her argument seems to be that the fear of death makes us selfish and stands in the way of co-operation. It’s all a bit strained – aren’t there plenty of other things (even plenty of fears) that make people selfish besides just the fear of death?”

    Sure, but she’s saying it’ll make people less selfish, not that it’ll make them perfect saints entirely lacking that trait.

    I dunno, it makes sense to me. When helping someone involves something as simple as opening a door, most people do it. When we don’t help when we can, it’s usually down to how much it would cost us, in terms of safety, time, or money, right? Money would still be a factor, but immortality greatly minimizes how much safety and time would ever be a factor, right?

  9. Dazzler says:

    @SanityorMadness: The data pages as a whole are just weak, cheap storytelling. Simply telling you what the story is. What percentage of data pages have seemed like quality storytelling? Seems weird to isolate one example at this point.

    The rest is wonderful storytelling. Simply wonderful.

  10. SanityOrMadness says:


    The data pages are good for non-essential added detail. Things you either can’t tell in comic form or would utterly grind the story to a halt for pages to convey. The details that would normally be skipped entirely or relegated to an Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe – floorplans, timelines, maps, some degree of backstory details and flavour text.

    What they should never, ever be is essential parts of the story rendered as prose rather than comic pages, which is what we get here.

    The text message conversation between the Red Queen and Bishop in the last Marauders issue was borderline, and I’d allow it only because ultimately it has no impact on the story (given that Bishop said “no” and you don’t even really need to know Pryde asked him).

    This doesn’t just step over that line, it pole vaults over it, does a 1080° spin and sets off pyrotechnics as it lands.

  11. Luis Dantas says:

    I am puzzled by that stuff with Cerebro, with claims that it can only have one working copy at any time, and now this thing about the Mind Sword.

    This does not sound like Cerebro at all, but rather something vaguely mystical. That may be intentional, given Krakoa’s apparent aversion to technology. Have we learned why that is so? I don’t remember.

    Which reminds me that I don’t think that we have seen Danger in Krakoa either. Maybe she and Warlock are being a couple somewhere else?

  12. YLu says:

    This discussion about the data pages reminds me of when the Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye comic did a short prose epilogue in the back of an issue, because writer James Roberts couldn’t fit everything he wanted to include in the allotted page count and it was the only way to get everything in there.

    There was significant disgruntlement from readers, to the point where he never did it again.

    I understand why people would take issue, but it’s not the sort of thing that bothers me. It’s not like it cuts into the page count of regular comic pages. The way I see it, if I’m genuinely into a story, I want more of it. If it’s a choice between getting more story, but in a different medium, and not getting more story at all, I know which I’m going to pick.

  13. MasterMahan says:

    We’ve seen the the Washington Square Arch gateway before – it was the one Mystique and Toad escaped through in House of X #1. And yes, hijacking a historic monument and turning into a mutants-only gate is a rather disrespectful move. Sometimes mutant unpopularity makes a lot of sense.

  14. Loz says:

    I don’t know whether Jean was able to bring Xavier back. We didn’t see the whole thing after all, and she did it differently to how Xavier did it himself. Possibly the reason the story is in text is to give Percy enough wiggle room. Possibly Jean did bring him back and Xavier is now realising he can’t be public when so much rests on him. Maybe he’s going to hide out in these quiet places and send Mimic or someone out to do things like PAs at the Washington Square Arch.

    To be so unprepared for an assault from humankind as this considering the whole reason for being in the middle of the ocean like this is to get further away from human aggression seems odd but, as ever, there’s no way to tell if this is a plot point or writer error.

  15. Dave says:

    “This does not sound like Cerebro at all, but rather something vaguely mystical.”
    Yep. It was shot/damaged, completely restructured by Magneto, and it still holds data and ‘works’. What? It should just be a piece of metal now.

  16. Dazzler says:

    @Sanity: Ok thanks for the answer. I haven’t flipped through this yet. I’ve seen many very lazy data pages that didn’t fall into the category of what you described, and I’m not surprised if this trend continues. I’d just go with no data pages at all because when you make them a staple you’re bound to have to really stretch to come up with how you fill them. I remain convinced it’s all very lazy.

  17. Dazzler says:

    “To be so unprepared for an assault from humankind as this considering the whole reason for being in the middle of the ocean like this is to get further away from human aggression seems odd but, as ever, there’s no way to tell if this is a plot point or writer error.”

    Krakoa was unprepared for anything when they announced their presence and declared themselves gods. Their security failed because villains had skin samples, they didn’t have any other telepaths trained to resurrect anyone, their mostly evil leadership council wasn’t yet fully formed, they sent Doug off into space despite all of this, etc. Plot point or writer error, the characters are just complete f’ing idiots.

  18. Col_Fury says:

    Now that we finally have an “X-Force” team, I think I see why a book called “X-Force” didn’t start with a team called “X-Force” in it. Xavier only started Krakoa’s version of the CIA (or however this book was advertised as) as a reaction to an assassination attempt. OK, fine… I guess. At least it only took three issues to get here. Also, it’s better than Ultimate Fantastic Four, where it took EIGHTEEN issues before the group finally started calling themselves the “Fantastic Four.” Anyway, I still think they should have started with the team already together, on a mission, and then filled in whatever explanation was needed in flashbacks. That’s probably just me being tired of “putting the team together” opening arcs, to be fair.

    Hopefully this is just a temporary healing process for Domino, and not her new permanent look. Yuck.

    It really does look like it was Colossus who killed that guy, doesn’t it? Hmn.

  19. ASV says:

    Had they done that, we might not have gotten the not-at-all cringeworthy line, “To me, my X-Force,” spoken to a group of X-Force people who were already right there.

  20. Dave says:

    “That’s probably just me being tired of “putting the team together” opening arcs, to be fair.”
    Can’t really fault that, but others, like me, might be equally tired of the ‘on a mission, with flashbacks’ scenario you mentioned. I guess the other main option was to have them establish in HoX that a team like this was pretty obviously required.

  21. Si says:

    I anticipate a scene where Magneto detects mutants by balancing that sword on his head. Maybe it’s like a compass.

    Also, in the 80s (I thin kin New Mutants), when Xavier was off in space after the time before last that he died and came back in a new body, Magento tried to rebuild the Cerebro helmet, as a helmet, he couldn’t do it.

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