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Jan 2

X-Men #4 annotations

Posted on Thursday, January 2, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

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

PAGE 1-2 / COVER & RECAP. Professor X, Magneto and Apocalypse, apparently walking out of a Davos meeting (attended by rather more people than we see in the story itself).

PAGES 3-4. Professor X, Magneto, Apocalypse, Cyclops and Gorgon arrive at Davos.

Davos. Davos is a ski resort in Switzerland, best known for hosting the annual World Economic Forum meeting (which is what people normally mean by “Davos”). The World Economic Forum itself actually consists of corporations, but the annual meeting is routinely attended by politicians, celebrities and the like. This is, pretty obviously, a show of power by the mutants; they’re going through the motions of being normal global citizens, but at the end of the day, it’s Apocalypse in a suit.

The timeline here is a little odd, since the journalist introducing this scene says that the meeting occurs only a month after the revelation of Krakoa. But that happened at the start of House of X, which itself is supposed to take a month. He must mean that Krakoa was unveiled in the previous calendar month (which would place House of X in December, since Davos is always in January).

PAGE 5. Credits. This is “Global Economics” by Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu. It seems a good time to remind ourselves that the small print on the credits pages of X-Men reads “Mutants of the world unite”, in reference to the Communist Manifesto.

PAGES 6-7. Cyclops and Gorgon deal with the security, while the Autumn Council members are shown into their dinner meeting.

Gorgon. This is the most we’ve seen of Gorgon so far in the Hickman run, though his role as a captain of Krakoa has been mentioned before. We’ll get more about his attitude to Krakoa later. Gorgon’s main mutant power is to turn anyone who makes eye contact with him to stone (hence his amusement that the security guard looks at him and worries most about the blade). Like Cyclops, his glasses control that. Gorgon is also missing the guard’s point (perhaps on purpose), which was about the impression given by the swords, rather than the actual level of danger they pose. Or maybe he’s just not used to being somewhere where his reputation does not precede him.

PAGE 8. A data page with the dinner menu and a list of attendees. The menu is just a menu (though brioche tressee de metz is a bread, not a dessert). As for the other attendees…

  • Hodari, the Wakandan attaché, is a minor character from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Black Panther. He’s a tribal elder and council member, and basically the sort of Wakandan government character you might expect to find in a place like this. As we see in the next scene, his basic attitude is that Krakoa may have a big impact, but lots of things do, and the system always adapts.
  • Ma Mingyu, the Chinese “ambassador” (by which Hickman presumably just means representative), was the Chinese representative who met with Magneto in House of X #1.
  • Reilly Marshall, the US ambassador, was also in House of X #1. In that issue, the Stepford Cuckoos could identify that he had affiliations with SHIELD and STRIKE, but he also had some other allegiance which they couldn’t read. Presumably that remains the case. As I’ve observed before, the US’s attitude to the emergence of Krakoa remains obscure.
  • The four “international guests” – Brazilian academic Federico João de Cézare, Italian businesswoman Daniela Gentile, Swiss businessman Ludovic von Bergen and Indian businesswoman Banhi Gahlot – all seem to be new characters.

PAGES 9-19. The Autumn Council explain their position over dinner, while Cyclops and Gorgon deal with Reilly Marshall’s hidden strike force.

Apocalypse. He insists that von Bergen calls him Apocalypse, even though in Excalibur he insists on being called something else (represented by a symbol). Apparently this is because “My other names are not fit for you to utter.”

He also claims responsibility for the end of the Bronze Age; in Marvel Universe terms, it’s certainly plausible that he could have had a part to play in that, since (as Magneto says) it’s all a bit of a blank.

Marshall’s strike team. And they do seem to be specifically Marshall’s – none of the others appear to know anything about this, and both Mingyu and Hodari roll their eyes at the American stupidity. Obviously there’s an unresolved question here of how far Marshall is representing US government interests or those of his unspecified hidden affiliation. The soldiers have some sort of psychic shielding, but it’s uncomfortable enough for Xavier to sense them when one of the soldiers has a scratch and briefly displaces the shield.

Magneto. Magneto gives us a lengthy speech about economics, which he presents as the Krakoan position – Xavier and Apocalypse don’t demur from this but don’t positively endorse it either. Broadly speaking, what Magneto offers is a fairly standard left-wing critique of capitalism coupled with an assertion that Krakoa will engage in it as a transitional phase, in which it will beat the capitalists at their own game and thereby bring about a new hegemony based on its own true social values. This all might sound quite familiar to the Chinese representative.

Leaving aside his economic views, Magneto’s whole approach seems to assume that while humans have screwed up civilisation time and again, mutants are for some reason different. But they’re fundamentally still human beings with superpowers, so… why are mutants different? Isn’t this just another version of human society? The Italian businesswoman has a point in telling him that he’s posturing; and at the very least, there’s an irony in Magneto claiming that he’s changed because in the past he would have tried a show of strength. From the Krakoans’ point of view, the whole purpose of this meeting is a show of strength.

Magneto’s factoid about lead mining in the medieval period may be exaggerated, but it’s true that there was a decline in lead mining with less efficient methods being used. His quote is indeed from “The Island” by Aldous Huxley, the utopian counterpart to his better-known dystopian novel “Brave New World”.

Wakanda. We are reminded again that the Wakandans, although not hostile to Krakoa, have refused to enter into the trade deal which Krakoa is offering. This should probably be seen as a warning sign that something is up, since Wakanda generally tends to be written as a bastion of wisdom and moral probity. If they’re not touching Krakoa, they’re probably suspicious of something. And since they’re the cleverest guys in the room, they probably have good reason. Talking of which…

Krakoan drugs. Two of the guests – von Bergen and Mingyu – query whether it’s really necessary to take Krakoan drugs quite so often as the Krakoans claim. By all appearances this is a genuine query – indeed, Magneto doesn’t suggest that it’s a bad faith question, but goes into what looks like a prepared response about a non-obvious reason. Again, this all seems a little bit suspect; is there some other reason why Xavier wants everyone taking this stuff?

That said… let’s acknowledge that however you look at it, the economic might of Krakoa requires some serious suspension of disbelief. The place has a grand total of three exports – its three “human drugs” – and while the antibiotics and the “diseases of the mind” pill presumably have instantly verifiable effects, how has anyone been able to test the one about extending lifespan for five years? None of these are essential products to maintain an existing quality of life. None of this stuff seems to have gone through any sort of conventional pre-sale approval process (which admittedly would take years and ruin the plot), and it’s being marketed by a hermit kingdom with the likes of Apocalypse on its ruling body. And all this, in a world where people are sceptical about vaccination…

PAGE 20. Data page on the Krakoan captains – essentially, the individuals in charge of Krakoan defence.

  • Cyclops is described as representing the X-Men, which is a little odd since we’ve not seen much sign of there being a stable X-Men team on Krakoa. What exactly constitutes the “X-Men” here, if it’s something distinct from the whole Krakoan institution?
  • Magik represents the Sextant, which has previously been used as an alternate name for the habitat where the various trainee groups (from various generations) live.
  • Bishop joined Hellfire Trading over in Marauders.
  • Gorgon is now acting as the bodyguard for Professor X, Apocalypse and Magneto in response to the assassination attempt in X-Force #1. Apparently there was no particular plan in going out without protection before that – they were just a bit naive.

PAGE 21. Gorgon lets the soldiers live.

Well, kind of. He mutilates them pretty badly, but he sticks to the letter of the “murder no man” law – not because it’s a moral code but because he seems to see it as sending an even more damning message of contempt to the human race. There’s something to that – on page 23 Magneto says that “We even made it a law” as if something a basic as outlawing murder was some sort of generous indulgence to the human race.

PAGES 22-25. Professor X and Magneto expose Marshall.

Note that Xavier assumes that Marshall (or his mystery allies) were responsible for the assassination attempt in X-Force #1, and he denies that. But Marshall is ostensibly representing the US government here. Is Xavier talking about his true affiliation, or is he accusing the US government of the attack? If the latter, he seems to be wrong – X-Force establishes that the attack was the work of XENO, and that XENO is made up of people from shadow agencies that were shut down. (Since we don’t know who Marshall is connected with, it’s perfectly possible that he genuinely had nothing to do with XENO’s attack.)

Xavier removes his helmet for the first time since the Hickman run began (and we can see that there’s nothing odd about his appearance). Interestingly, he removes the mask in order to give a speech insisting that he does still believe in his dream, even though it might not look it – and puts it back on more or less as he goes back to making veiled threats on behalf of Krakoa.

PAGES 26-27. The trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: SERAFINA.

Bring on the comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Great issue. Hell of a lot of fun. The image of Apocalypse wearing a dinner suit will never get old.

  2. Ben says:

    To me this is just more of the same wheel spinning, repeating a similar scene from the very beginning of this whole arc.

  3. Michael says:

    Apocalypse’s new Krakoan name is clearly for mutants only, since humans don’t know the language and he probably considers them unworthy anyway.

    In a world where people are willing to line up for a mutant “cure” and will even deploy legislation for it at the drop of a hat, as recently as last year, it -is- strange that everyone wants these weird mutant drugs now.

    Though since the implication is that seeding humanity with these drugs will somehow stave off the inevitable sentinapocalypse, maybe there’s psychic coercion or something else at play.

  4. Benji says:

    What if humans taking these drugs are more likely to have mutant offspring? That could be a reason for handing them out relatively easily, as well as working towards getting enough mutants to create that colony thing that can attract the phalanx. I’ve just got my hands on the HoX trade so I’m about to read it but obviously I’m well behind on this!!

  5. MasterMahan says:

    I had a different read on Xavier telling Marshall “That’s all it took for you to send someone to Krakoa to kill me”. “You” isn’t referring to Marshall or his allies, but humanity. That’s certainly how Magneto interprets it.

    I do doubt Marshall is connected to XENO. XENO seems competent enough that they’d see sending two dozen guys with guns against Magneto and Apocalype as the exercise in futility it is.

  6. ASV says:

    I feel like I can understand all of Hickman’s tics except the helmet thing. Xavier taking it off for half a minute, only to reveal nothing and then put it back on, doesn’t help me in this regard.

  7. Allan M. says:

    Apocalypse personally claiming to have ended the Bronze Age was hilarious comic book nonsense. Reminded me of the Ostrander Spectre issue which answered the age-old question: “What was Eclipso doing during the Old and New Testaments?”

    I wonder if the Cerebro helmet is also Xavier’s main link to Moira. This is the first time he’s taken it off, and it’s to diverge from the orthodoxy of Moira’s dream (Krakoa) and reaffirm his own. And then snaps back into evangelist mode once it’s back on. I wonder if he didn’t want Moira to know he’s not actually 100% on board with this, and she’d know if he was wearing the helmet. Or maybe it’s just symbolic.

    As for the drugs, I think it’s an inevitable reveal that, as Benji and Michael said, taking them is raising the odds of having mutant children, which is why Magneto’s answer is advising regular dosage. That’s the long-term plan to deal with post-humanity: outbreed them. What strikes me is that a good chunk of the Marvel genius crew are currently unavailable to figure this out – Beast is with Krakoa, Pym is Ultron/dead, Stark is having a breakdown, Banner has his own agenda, Cho’s stretched thin between two super teams. So it’s down to Reed, Doom, and T’Challa, and given Wakanda’s caginess around Krakoa and their overall advanced science, I suspect they know (or are still testing) about the mutant drugs’ true purpose. Or maybe the younger kids – Moon Girl/Valeria/RiRi/Nadia/Cho?/Shuri will crack the problem.

  8. CJ says:

    Despite all the lecturing, I really enjoyed this issue. I’ve enjoyed this more than all the other X-Men issues so far (which isn’t much praise after stuff like #2). Magneto helping Cyclops remotely was a nice touch.

    The Hickman era is most interesting to me when mutants interact with humans, and Xavier’s speech and unmasking was awesomely creepy (“I love you” vs “I’m giving you drugs to infiltrate your society” vs “You killed me last month”). This is what I hoped to see more of after HoX/PoX.

  9. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Honestly, it’s the first issue of this X-Men series that I’ve enjoyed. Mostly because it plays to Hickman’s strenghts – posturing protagonists, hinting at large scale ramifications, plots and counter-plots by nebulous forces. It’s not my favourite type of story (I enjoy plots and counter-plots more when they’re less nebulous), but it’s much, much better than Hickman’s attempts at slice-of-life family scenes and levity.

    It’s also the best of the four Yu issues. I don’t agree with every choice he made here, but a lot of them land and make this collection of talking heads at least somewhat visually interesting.

    (For an example of a choice I don’t agree with – there’s a very weird closeup on Magneto in the exchange with the Wakandan representative, with the ‘Ms Frost will be disappointed’ line; apart from that it’s mostly Apocalypse that fills out the panels so, but here it’s Magneto, but the situation doesn’t call for it – he’s not threatening here, it’s not a part of dialogue that demands such amplification).

  10. Evilgus says:

    Strongest issue yet. Feels like a proper continuation from HOXPOX, same sense of unease, and bizarre seeing Xavier, Magneto AND Apocalypse on the same side (but still subtlely different) parleying with humans!

    For all that was a talking heads issue, enjoyed it. Again we see a minor character spotlight (Gorgon). But I remain not a fan of Yu’s scratchy art.

  11. JD DeMotte says:

    Good, issue, but I mostly walked away wanting to be able to have that meal. Yu draws a good steak and I’d totally let Hickman plan my hypothetical wedding menu.

  12. FUBAR007 says:

    To stipulate up front, I’m mostly enjoying Hickman’s run so far, so the following is an observation rather than a complaint.

    But, at a conceptual and thematic level, this isn’t X-Men; it’s Inhumans. Indeed, the most interesting iteration of Inhumans I’ve read. Nevertheless, the parallels between Krakoa and Attilan keep jumping out at me in bright, blazing neon. Black Bolt’s historical role has been split between Xavier and Cyclops. Magneto has acted as Xavier’s representative similarly to how Medusa used to for Black Bolt. Apocalypse, Sinister, et al fill Maximus’s niche. And, both franchises even have a character named Gorgon!

  13. Dazzler says:

    Yes, clearly this is Inhumans. They could and should have just done all of this with them and let the X-Men be the X-Men.

  14. Chris V says:

    On the opposite side, this issue was a callback to Chris Claremont’s “God Loves, Man Kills” story, in its portrayal of Magneto.

    He basically said that mutants would out-compete the humans. The mutants would then take over the world. Then, the mutants would rule over the humans as benevolent philosopher-kings (ala Plato).
    As long as the humans keep in check and don’t harm any mutants, they will be left alone.
    The mutants will then use their powers to take care of the humans’ every need, and the humans will come to learn to love the mutants.

    Granted, Magneto was still portrayed as an anti-hero in that story.
    His goals were still something opposed by Xavier and the X-Men.

    Still, read within that context, you can see how this story does still fit with the X-Men.

  15. K says:

    The good issues of this comic have characters setting themselves up for falls because of believable hubris that is at least grounded in competent shows of force, like here.

    The bad issues of this comic have characters setting themselves for falls because of sheer idiocy, like giving someone a grenade as a gift.

    (As for getting lulled into complacency by some old ladies, I’ll say that’s in character.)

  16. Zachary Q Adams says:

    I love gazpacho and watermelons, and I can do habanero on a very occasional basis, but I cannot imagine anyone who would ever be trusted with a diplomatic menu ever saying “let’s put watermelon in our gazpacho, then infuse the soup with habanero”. It seems like a terrible choice for a diplomatic menu especially (unless it’s a deliberate power play), as you’re basically putting food that might be physically painful to people with a low tolerance for hardcore chiles in front of people who are expected to maintain decorum in the face of an assassination attempt.

  17. Evilgus says:

    @FUBAR007, Dazzler: yes, it’s essentially Inhumans. But I think the reason this works but the Inhumans never quite did, is that we have a large, sprawling, recognisable cast that allows us to see how this society fits together – not just a ruling royal family and then faceless minions. And we’ve been emotionally invested in the mutants’ journey to this point and are aware of the high stakes (from Moira’s future lives).

    It’s peculiar that the Inhumans/X-Men inversion that Marvel has been attempting for years has reached this conclusion.

  18. Dazzler says:

    I definitely think this “works” (AKA is selling right now) mostly because they applied the Inhumans concept to much more popular and recognizable characters. Just like the recent Inhumans push failed because they applied the traditional mutant concept to characters nobody cares about.

  19. neutrino says:

    Someone pointed out that the initials of the mutant drugs, LIM, also refer to a protein domain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LIM_domain) that is linked to cancer.

  20. YLu says:

    Didn’t Hickman say he pitched to Marvel that the core concept of X-Men wasn’t timeless the way “with great power comes great responsibility” is and that unless it changed, the books would face obsolescence? That the books were surviving off of readers’ attachment to the characters and that’s not sufficient in the long term?

    From that lens, you could argue the failure of the Inhumans push — which tried to apply the X-Men premise to other characters — provides evidence for that argument.

  21. neutrino says:

    CBR pointed out that his eyes are blue here, but brown in the scene with Moira in HoX/PoX where he reads her mind. Just a mistake or something else? Neither this body or the assassinated one in X-Force #1 look like Fantomex’s. https://www.cbr.com/x-men-charles-xavier-head-without-cerebro/

  22. Col_Fury says:

    Yeah, the Fantomex body thing hasn’t been mentioned anywhere, as far as I can see. I wonder if they’re just quietly forgetting about it, because they knew Xavier would be killed and resurrected early on, so why dwell on it?

    …I may be being charitable…

    Fun issue!

  23. neutrino says:

    So has there been confirmation that HoX/PoX/DoX is in the same shared universe with the other Marvel titles? Contagion had a line about the X-Men going crazy. The Black Panther was talking to Storm and said she had experienced oppression in the form of “Genosha, Sentinels, Krakoa”, which doesn’t sound like the current version, and she doesn’t seem to be treating him like the leader of an enemy nation. There are mentions of Krakoa, but any definite statement about mutants setting up their own state? Annihilation:Scourge is supposed to have a scene with the Starjammers and the Shiar Imperial Guard (among others) coming to the rescue, but not the X-Men.

  24. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Invaders also had a line about ‘the Krakoa situation’. It was also referenced in Immortal Hulk. And Zdarsky is writing an X-Men/Fantastic Four miniseries that is supposed to be about the X-Men trying to get Franklin to come to Krakoa – first issue comes out… next month, I think?

    Honestly, at this point it would make less sense if it turned out HoXPoXDoX is set in an alternate universe.

    Also, HoXPoXDoX remains funny to write or say out loud. 🙂

  25. @Allan M.
    “Apocalypse personally claiming to have ended the Bronze Age was hilarious comic book nonsense.”

    Only a little bit. I’ve read quite a bit about that period, when sea-raiders attacked and destroyed most of the great Bronze Age cities of the Mediterranean and led to a collapse of the existing civilisation as survivers moved away from coastal cities into relatively small habitations. It’s exactly the kind of thing Apocalypse might have been involved in, in MU terms.

  26. Col_Fury says:

    Also, Krakoa and Mr. Sinister appeared in the recent INCOMING! one-shot. With a surprise guest cameo by Longshot!

  27. neutrino says:

    @Krzysiek Ceran: That’s my point. The most we have are oblique references like that. Nothing like the Avengers discussing the Beast joining Krakoa or Storm and the Black Panther in a Romeo and Juliet situation. The X-Men/Fantastic Four miniseries is part of Wave 2 of Dawn of X and isn’t by the regular FF team. You’d think the regular title would at least have a guest appearance to increase sales.

    @Col_Fury: That’s another odd occurrence. The Sinister story is separated from the others. There’s the Champions one, which has the senator on the news mentioning “new nations coming into being”, then it cuts to Sinister on Krakoa watching a different newscast. Wouldn’t a new mutant nation be worth mentioning specifically? It ends with Sinister deciding to try to get Franklin’s DNA and cuts to the FF. Their story references the AI rebellion in Iron Man but not Krakoa’s attempt to recruit Franklin. Why the mental gymnastics? Remember, PoX made it look like its story a thousand years into the future was Moira’s ninth life with mutants keeping the last of Homo sapiens in a preserve, but instead it turned out to be mutants held in Moira’s sixth life.

  28. YLu says:

    @neutrino

    Those weren’t different newscasts. The channel just switched from live coverage of a press conference back to the anchor at his desk.

    Anyway, the biggest evidence that the X-books aren’t an alternate reality right now might be, of all things, the latest Gwenpool miniseries. Krakoa and the X-Men, in their current status quo, make a significant on-panel appearance at the end of that story.

  29. neutrino says:

    It was also the section with Hulkling and Wiccan, not the Champions. But the point remains, why have the gymnastics of the anchor say that he meant Krakoa, instead of just saying it in the previous section?

    The meta-gimmick of Gwenpool is that she’s a person in the real world going to a comic book reality. The last scene was her apparently retconning herself into a mutant and appearing on Krakoa. Was it mentioned before that scene? Even when Ms. Marvel was speculating that Gwenpool was a mutant?

    ” This should probably be seen as a warning sign that something is up, since Wakanda generally tends to be written as a bastion of wisdom and moral probity.” Almost always if the writer is white. Christopher Priest and even Ta-Nahesi Coates have shown flaws in it.

  30. YLu says:

    So you’re saying Gwenpool switched to a separate reality track at the end of that series without realizing it? Actually, when I phrase it like that, it doesn’t sound out of the realm of possibility, haha.

    What about the History of the Marvel Universe mini-series, where Galactus is re-counting the… history of the Marvel universe, though? He brings up the mutants founding Krakoa as part of that history.

  31. neutrino says:

    I haven’t read the History. It could have been Waid just using what he thought was the history without getting the memo about references to it. Coates mentions Krakoa in Black Panther, but it doesn’t match what happens in HoX/PoX. It’s odd that the best example comes from the end of the universe.

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