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Jan 14

X-Force #5 annotations

Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

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

COVER / PAGE 1. Forge stands with an arsenal of organic tech. By the way, note that while Krakoa’s general aesthetic is plants, these things look to be meat and bone.

PAGES 2-3. Over their radio link, Domino tells Wolverine that she’s coming for him.

The top half of him, anyway. This is all self-explanatory – “You came for me in Korea” refers back to earlier issues of this storyline.

PAGES 4-5. Recap and credits. This is “Necessary Force” by Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara.

PAGES 6-7. Needing another way to the fight, Domino gets Black Tom to ask Gateway.

This is the limitation of the gates: somebody needs to plant one at the other end in the first place, and (we now know) they can be destroyed.

Gateway. It’s the first time we’ve seen the X-Men’s back-up teleporter Gateway in this series, but he’s previously appeared in X-Men and Marauders. This is the first time he’s been shown as living on Krakoa, I think – perhaps he’s just visiting, though he’s always been a solitary character, so you’d have thought the appeal of a mutant nation would be pretty limited to him. Even here he seems inclined to sit alone on the top of a mountain.

Black Tom Cassidy. It’s not entirely clear if this is Tom himself that we see on panel, or a kind of projection he’s sending through Krakoa. It feeds into the following data page, which tells us that Tom’s sense of identity is being undermined through his connection with Krakoa. On the one hand, he clearly identifies himself here as Black Tom; on the other, he also refers to himself in the third person.

For reasons which aren’t altogether clear (beyond the fact that it leads into the data pages), Domino specifically asks for Black Tom to contact Gateway, rather than using one of Krakoa’s many telepaths. Given that Gateway is on the island and a known ally of the X-Men, it doesn’t seem all that much of a hunch for Domino to suggest asking him for help. It’s literally his job.

PAGE 8. A data page, “The Uncertainty of Black Tom Cassidy.” This is essentially a prose piece about Tom’s “chief security advisor” role leading him to start losing his identity into the island. Our attention is drawn to the fact that he has the ability to control parts of the landscape, speak through the wind and the insects, and (to some extent) travel around Krakoa by being absorbed into the island itself. What’s conspicuously missing from any of this discussion is the personality of Krakoa itself, which Tom is apparently still unable to communicate with – but we know from Cypher’s experiences that Krakoa is there.

“His old pal Cain Marko”. Black Tom and the Juggernaut were partners for many, many years, usually with Tom as the brains of the operation.

As in the previous scene, Tom seems to slip in and out of talking about himself in the third person. Relatively unexplored so far is what Tom’s motivations are for taking this role, bearing in mind that although he’s a mutant, he’s never been all that engaged in mutant politics. It comes across here as more of a sacrifice of identity than an opportunity.

PAGE 9. Forge joins Domino.

Domino. She mentions that her luck power has been “watered down” lately. That probably explains how she managed to get stuck in such a disastrous trap in the opening of issue #1. But the cause of it is doubtless something we’ll come back to.

Forge. Forge’s suit of organic armour appears to be insectoid rather than plantlike.

PAGES 10-21. Big fight. Wolverine is reunited with his legs.

Wolverine is, implausibly, still fighting (and jumping at people) without a lower half. You’d have thought even he would bleed out and lose consciousness pretty quickly from this, but hey, the Ultimate Universe did something similar in Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk, so why not?

“The law of the Quiet Council.” Beast is referring to the law against murdering humans. It’s debatable whether that would cover this situation anyway, given the element of self-defence, but regardless, Beast makes clear that official X-Force missions are exempt. In other words, X-Force have a license to kill. That said, Beast still pushes everyone to comply the law for both practical and moral reasons. The practical reason is that they need to capture people for interrogation, since none of Xavier’s attackers survived; recall that somebody killed the last one when he was in Krakoa’s hospital, and we still don’t know who that was.

“The words of Napoleon Bonaparte…” This is a quote often attributed to Napoleon but there doesn’t seem to be any actual source for it identified anywhere. Usually the words “spirit” and “sword” are the other way round in the first sentence, but that doesn’t really affect the meaning. Some versions have “mind” instead of “spirit” (both of which would be possible translations of the French word ésprit).

Domino, who is usually quite a happy go lucky character, is saying things like “I want you to swallow my pain” and coming up with justifications for murdering the prisoners despite Beast’s reasoning. It’s an understandable reaction given that she was essentially tortured in the earlier issues, and she does have some basis for arguing that Xeno’s soldiers don’t appear to be real people. But this one is very emphatic that he is a real person, and also insists that he has no knowledge of anything to do with Domino’s torture. He’s presumably pretty low down the pecking order, so this is plausible enough.

PAGE 22. Back on Krakoa, Wolverine and Domino enjoy the sunset.

Wolverine is drinking whisky to get over the experience, and Kid Omega is naturally being quickly revived.

PAGES 23-24. Beast interrogates prisoner Bill.

Note that Bill is actually brought to Krakoa, despite being a human. At any rate, Bill insists that he is just a mercenary and Beast takes some persuading about that. It’s not obvious why, since it’s Bill’s employers that would need to be political. At any rate, Bill makes the reasonable point that if the mutants are going to position themselves at the top of the economic tree, they can expect some hostile attention from people with motivations beyond simple bigotry.

Bill confirms that his group were working with the peacock-tattoo guy from XENO.

PAGE 25. A data page on “the MERCs.” Essentially, we’re told that Bill was part of MERC, a top-secret paramilitary unit formed by bored soldiers who have nothing to do now that Krakoa’s emergence has led to a global decline in war. Two reasons are given for that decline: the humans are feeling more of a sense of unity (presumably in comparison with the mutants), and/or people are disengaging from existing wars in order to ready themselves for the anticipated showdown over Krakoa. Both could be true, and both broadly mirror the XENO origin story of decommissioned anti-mutant organisations.

There are some issues here about consistency with the rest of the line. X-Men is telling us that Krakoa has only been around for a month or so, and even if you buy the idea that the military has less to do, have they really got that bored so quickly that they had time to go off and start MERC? Admittedly, a similar point could be made about XENO.

Oh, and hyphens are rendered as dashes throughout the text (“de-escalation”, “top-secret”, “high-dollar”, “large-scale”), which is a pretty basic proof-reading error.

PAGES 26-27. Trailers and adverts. The Krakoan reads NEXT: LO A BEAST IS BORN. That was the name of the Beast story in Amazing Adventures #12 (the first issue of his short-lived 1970s solo run).

Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    I thought that Gateway was unable to move away from Uluru.
    Has that dangling plot thread from the Claremont days been resolved?
    Have other writers contradicted this idea?

  2. Paul Fr says:

    Wolverine still seems to still have the super healing factor in this current relaunch, so I’m not surprised half of him can keep fighting. I mean if he could keep conscious and slashing away at a Mothermold in such close proximity to the sun that Kurt fried to ash instantly.

  3. ASV says:

    Speaking of back-up transportation, has Manifold, a Hickman character, been mentioned anywhere yet? How about Lila Cheney?

  4. Si says:

    Poor Gateway. You could take almost any script from a comic he’s in, do a Find and Replace with his name and Magic Teleportation Amulet, and there would be absolutely no problems with the story. He’s an object rather than a person. Not something you want to do with an Aboriginal character.

  5. Paul says:

    Gateway left Australia back in the 90s when he was in the cast of Generation X. I tend to agree that he’s barely a functional character in most appearances.

    We haven’t seen either Manifold or Lila Cheney in the Hickman-era X-books. Lila hasn’t lived on Earth for some time and if she’s even aware of Xavier’s announcement, she may have no interest. Manifold is a supporting character in BLACK PANTHER, so either he’s unavailable for use, or he’ll show up when the plot thread about Wakanda keeping its distance comes to fruition.

  6. SanityOrMadness says:

    Chris V> I thought that Gateway was unable to move away from Uluru. Has that dangling plot thread from the Claremont days been resolved? Have other writers contradicted this idea?

    He was hanging about the Massachusetts Academy a fair amount in Generation X.

    Plus, I’m pretty sure he was killed off as part of the teleporter cull in the run up to Second Coming, so this is presumably him restored-from-backup anyway.

    ASV> Speaking of back-up transportation, has Manifold, a Hickman character, been mentioned anywhere yet?

    He was stranded in the future along with Black Panther in the latter’s series. Not sure how (or if) that was resolved.

    Si> Poor Gateway. You could take almost any script from a comic he’s in, do a Find and Replace with his name and Magic Teleportation Amulet, and there would be absolutely no problems with the story. He’s an object rather than a person. Not something you want to do with an Aboriginal character.

    Well, this one has him apparently get angry and kill some of the mercenaries, so it goes beyond that. But he’s a problematic character to use from that POV – to change that, you’d need to give him a complete personality transplant (see: AOA Gateway).

    It is curious that he’s the only long-range teleporter who’s been shown on/around Krakoa so far though (the only other teleporter at all I’ve noticed being core X-Man Nightcrawler).

  7. Alan L says:

    Ariel, who was resurrected back in Mike Carey’s X-men Legacy run, should be around. She helped the X-men during the era they lived in San Francisco, and the all–party scene on Krakoa seems right up her alley.

  8. Dazzler says:

    I don’t think it’s more unusual for Black Tom to take this role than it is for almost any character who has the option of living in society choosing to live on this jungle island with very little to actually do. More so than the average character I can accept the idea that he was motivated to join on, because at least he’s been given something to do and some authority.

  9. YLu says:

    Of all the Dawn of X books, I feel this one might be doing the best job with the infographic pages. In some of the other titles there’s a sense of, “Well, we need one more page so… a family tree? Sure, why not?” Whereas here they always make me feel like I’m genuinely getting more story.

  10. Alan L says:

    I do think the infographic pages here are adding to the story––but I’d rather something like this infographic page be drawn. Seeing Black Tom’s physical relationship to the island, seeing his attitude towards it on his face…there’s no reason why we couldn’t see this. And if these feelings of Black Tom’s were revealed in-story it might be both a very good way to toggle the pacing and mood of the story in an interesting way, and also give us a character moment with one of the characters that are allegedly part of the main cast. Instead, the infographic page is distantiating––preventing us from identifying with Black Tom and his issues––and I think it should have been saved for HoX/PoX and other events related to the larger X-men narrative, and not forced in as a feature in every book.

  11. Chris V says:

    I always like Gateway. I think the problem is that he’s one of those mysterious Claremont creations that Claremont intended to return to and flesh out, with some big reveals.
    However, he left the book before he got around to revealing anything with him.

    (No, revealing that he was Bishop’s ancestor in X-Treme X-Men does not count.)

    Instead of trying to flesh out his character, later writers just kept him a cipher who served the plot.

    Claremont made me take an interest in Gateway with all the hints.
    I guess, at this point, Manifold has taken on any of the interest that a reader might have had in Gateway.

  12. Mikey says:

    The infographic pages in Fallen Angels are truly dire. Just nonsense.

  13. Michael says:

    Ariel’s teleportation is limited, and she requires doors to make it work properly, so she’s a bad teleporter to access in a crisis.

    The Vanisher might still be “offline” after the attack earlier in the series–I don’t recall if he was killed outright or not.

    Magik is, of course, off-world.

    Lila Cheney is also a less-than-ideal choice due to her teleportation being restricted to interstellar distances. She has to take the long way to get anywhere.

    Nightcrawler, of course, is limited to more short-range distances so isn’t all that helpful for moving across the world.

    Blink is… last I saw, still hanging with the Exiles, I think?

    Pixie should have been available, but maybe they didn’t want to risk her?

    Gateway’s problem is that Claremont established him as this silent, solitary type and the characterization stuck so he’s never developed anything resembling a distinctive, lasting personality, motivation, or backstory. So he inevitably becomes either “Yo, we need a portal” or mysterious Aboriginal mentor depending on the needs. I’d love to see a qualified writer actually do something with him.

    So Krakoa has healers, right? Like, at least a few. Healer (once they resurrect him), Elixir, Triage… how come no one was able to fix Domino, and instead she’s running around with these bizarre bio-organic-plant-matter bits and pieces? It’s just such a strange look for her of all characters.

  14. Dimitri says:

    Isn’t the Blink in Exiles the AOA Blink? Has the status of 616 Blink changed since Necrosha?

  15. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Exile Blink is AOA Blink. The 616 Blink… hasn’t been seen since Kyle and Yost’s New Mutants run, I think.

    As of the last issue or two, my favourite data pages are the X-Desk memos in Marauders. Duggan used them to create an Everett Ross-type character that I actually begun to hope will one day make an on-page appearance in the story.

  16. David says:

    Blink-616 is alive and well! She survived Necrosha, she was purged of Selene’s influence in an anthology book, she became a satellite member of the New Mutants during the post-Zeb Wells run, and she’s appeared since in Secret Empire. Sadly, she hasn’t been shown on Krakoa yet. But I bet she will be before long.

  17. David says:

    Mikey- you could say the same about everything else in Fallen Angels.

  18. ASV says:

    The Fallen Angels data pages do the great service of sparing us from the Fallen Angels art for a bit.

  19. Alan L says:

    “Ariel’s teleportation is limited, and she requires doors to make it work properly, so she’s a bad teleporter to access in a crisis.”

    Possibly. They used her in the midst of crisis in Second Coming, and the facility they were going into had doors in it. Though maybe Krakoa doesn’t have any? I’m not sure I’ve seen any doors on Krakoa yet. How does Ariel get anywhere, then?

  20. Si says:

    Is Ariel from the Monsters Inc planet?

  21. Allan M says:

    There aren’t a lot of doors on Krakoa that we’ve seen, but there are a few in New Mutants #1, pages #11-13. The wide shot of the Sextant makes it look like none of the houses have doors, but all the closer-in views make it clear that yes, they have double doors. So in theory Ariel can teleport people from that one specific area of Krakoa.

  22. Alan L says:

    Then they can use Ariel and her Monsters Inc powers to do this port. Problem solved! But I guess they solved it already with Gateway.

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