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Jul 25

Empyre: X-Men #1 annotations

Posted on Saturday, July 25, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

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

EMPYRE is the big crossover event of spring summer 2020. It’s principally an Avengers / Fantastic Four story, so the X-Men are on the margins. This is a four issue tie-in series. X-Men #10 and #11 are also Empyre tie-ins, and X-Men #10 was originally supposed to have come out first, but, well, times change.

For the purposes of this series (at least so far), all you really need to know about Empyre is that a race of alien plants called the Cotati are invading Earth. The Cotati come from the Kree’s back story in 1970s Avengers stories, and traditionally they were cosmic peace types, so something is obviously up – but that’s probably not this book’s concern.

The fact that the Cotati are plant people might potentially play into the X-Men’s current reliance on Krakoan plant-based technology, but you surely didn’t need me to point that out.

COVER / PAGE 1. Angel, Magik and Penance, surrounded by ominous plants. The Krakoan text above the X-Men logo reads “EMPYRE”, obviously enough.

PAGE 1. The Scarlet Witch visits Dr Strange.

Wanda is asking the Marvel Universe’s Sorcerer Supreme if he can help her alter history to erase M-Day, the event in House of M #7 where she used her reality-altering powers to depower almost all the world’s mutants. Strange is not being quite accurate when he says that she erased a million mutants from existence; they remained alive but depowered. Strange’s rather garbled reasoning seems to boil down to this: Wanda’s powers are too tied up with the nature of reality for her to alter her own personal history, and certainly not when the consequences would be on that sort of scale.

PAGES 2-3. Wanda begins her quest.

Genosha. Unfortunately, as we’ll see, Strange’s advice to Wanda is that instead of trying to undo M-Day, she should atone for it by doing something positive which outweighs it. Wanda’s solution – evidently put in train before the emergence of Krakoa – is to try and resurrect the millions of Genoshan mutants who were slaughtered by Sentinels in New X-Men #115.

Genosha was the previous mutant island kingdom, the one nobody on Krakoa likes to talk about much because it ended in absolute disaster. Far from creating a safe haven for mutants, it just gathered them all together in an easy target. People allude to this from time to time, but it’s rarely addressed head on.

The statue in the background depicts Magneto and Professor X, and was first seen in New X-Men #132. It was originally a memorial to Magneto, constructed from the remains of a giant Sentinel when he was believed to have died in the slaughter; Xavier was added to it by Polaris when she rebuilt it in Uncanny X-Men #442.

The rest of Wanda’s magical quest seems to be generic stuff.

PAGES 4-5. Wanda tries to revive the dead.

You’ll never guess, but it goes wrong.

PAGES 6-15. The Cotati arrive on Genosha and meet the zombies.

This is all rather silly, in a good way. It’s plants and zombies, for heavens sake.

Wakanda is the homeland of the Black Panther, serving here mainly as an excuse for the Cotati to have some vague reason to focus on this part of the planet.

“There’s also a shocking amount of ash in the soil.” Because of the slaughter, presumably.

Vibranium is a standard feature of Black Panther stories, and serves as the plot justification for Wakanda’s remarkable security and prosperity. It’s also an obvious reason for the Cotati to be interested in it. The Wakandans do indeed have a “ritualised animal religion” based on a panther god.

PAGE 16. Intentionally ridiculous “data page”. This book know how seriously to take an invasion of killer plants.

The small print reads “Again the pretender” and “meat is murder”. The vegetarian slogan is pretty self-explanatory. Several Hickman stories have had references to Wanda as “the pretender”, presumably because she used to be a mutant, but was retconned into having a different origin (mainly because Marvel wanted to detach here from the X-Men mythos for movie-related reasons).

PAGE 17. Credits. No story title. The creators are Jonathan Hickman, Tini Howard & Matteo Buffagni.

PAGES 18-21. Magik lures Angel and M away from their pharmaceutical licensing meeting.

“They might never escape that kind of predatory employment.” Naturally, all jobs are optional and fulfilling on the Krakoan utopia. Warren is also repeating the highly dubious claim that mutant nature is in some way different from “human nature”, something that Krakoa-era mutants keep insisting to be true, despite a conspicuous absence of any evidence for it.

Noblesse Pharamceuticals. There actually is a “Noblesse Pharma”, but it seems to be a pharmacy in Bucharest. So probably a coincidence.

Serval Industries, on the other hand, does have an X-Men connection – it was the corporation that sponsored a version of X-Factor, as seen in All-New X-Factor in 2014.

“Did Sunspot tell you he had all this X-Corp stuff figured out and then bail for space?” We were told in New Mutants #2 that Sunspot was in charge of X-Corp, though what exactly it did, and how exactly he was involved with it, was always a bit vague. Since Sunspot moved to the Shi’ar Empire a few issues later, Angel and M have apparently taken over as the businessmen (presumably alongside Emma Frost, who’s supposed to represent the legitimate side of the Krakoan pharmaceutical trade). Angel has some actual business experience, and M is… well, she’s from a rich background, and I guess Hickman figures that’ll do to fit in.

Magik has less than no interest in monitoring this meeting, and you have to wonder why Xavier thought she was a sensible person to send for the job.

PAGES 22-24. The Krakoans discuss trouble with the Genoshan gate.

Black Tom is linked to the vegetation of Krakoa, as seen in various issues of X-Force. I think this is the first time he’s identified the gates as his, though. He does make the reasonable point that the X-Men are planting Krakoan extensions all over the place, and not really in a position to look after all of them. Magik makes a similar complaint in the next scene (“I feel we spend a lot of time teleporting around to fix the gates”).

“We canna lose ye again, Professor!” Referring to his assassination in X-Force #1. Xavier never suggested he was going to go to Genosha in person. Black Tom’s agitation is consistent with his depiction in X-Force, where extended exposure to Krakoa seems to be driving him mad.

“We simply don’t have enough good mutants, Angel.” Interesting. There are an awful lot of mutants on Krakoa, but Xavier seems privately willing to admit that the talent pool of people for the really important jobs is quite thin. That might explain how a lunatic like Black Tom ended up with the security job. Or, of course, Xavier is just manipulatively telling Warren what he’d like to hear.

At any rate, this is also the reason why Angel’s only allowed to take one other mutant to Krakoa to join him, Magik and M – and why he ends up choosing the Multiple Man, who probably wouldn’t have been his first choice otherwise.

PAGES 25-32. Big fight on Genosha.

Predictably, Multiple Man gets the gate working again just as everyone realises that this might not be a good idea with a horde of mutant zombies shambling towards it. I’m honestly not sure what’s meant to be happening with the slime that appears on Multiple Man’s hands – the visual storytelling is hopelessly unclear at that point and on the next page. I guess it’s meant to be Hordeculture firing through the gate?

Hordeculture are four old women who are genius botanists; they previously appeared in X-Men #3, which is a bit of a divisive issue depending on whether you find them funny or not. That issue already established that Hordeculture had worked out how to hack the gates for their own use. Their names are Lily Leymus, Augusta Bromes, Edith Scutch and Opal Vetiver. For all the surface ridiculousness, they’re fundamentally traditional mad scientist villains (plantlife edition).

PAGE 33. Another “data” page.

PAGES 34-35. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: ZOMBIE HORDES.

Bring on the comments

  1. JD says:

    Wait, didn’t Magneto sink the entirety of Genosha into the ocean in 2016’s Uncanny X-Men v4 #5 ? Has there been any mention of it being brought back to the surface since ?

  2. Paul says:

    Genosha showed up again in X-Men Red. The sinking thing has simply been ignored without explanation. But that’s the status quo Hickman inherited.

  3. Evilgus says:

    For a really quite weighty story about genocide and the subsequent impact on the mutant population, Genosha keeps being returned to for (inevitably) diminishing returns. Just how often are the ghosts resurrected there? Claremont’s short lived Excalibur series, Necrosha, that X-Men Chaos War things..?

    My heart sank when I saw Howard was scripting this. It’s as much of a muddle as her current Excalibur.

  4. Michael says:

    I quite enjoyed it, but it’s because it’s so ridiculously silly. I’m hoping Hickman didn’t introduce Hordeculture back in X-men 3 just for this gag though (of Plants vs Zombies vs Old Ladies). It might get old fast.

  5. Daniel T says:

    I liked it too. I appreciate the “If we have to do a big event tie-in, let’s have fun with it” attitude, yet still is taken seriously enough to move along the main X-plot.

  6. Daniel says:

    Enough with freaking Genosha and crazy Wanda already. This stuff is really the new Phoenix / Summers DNA.

  7. Michael says:

    Wanda is literally the fucking worst.
    (Okay, so are Hank Pym and Hank McCoy.)
    To bring back 16 million dead people as mutant zombies, and not -tell- anyone is right up there with No More Mutants for epic fuck-ups. Every time someone fixes her, someone else breaks her.

    I wonder how this will play out, since it’s clearly not an element that can be allowed to stick for too long.

  8. Allan M says:

    Wanda seems fine in Empyre: Avengers #1, where she’s fighting off the invading Cotati. Which means that a month prior to Empyre, she resurrected 16 million mutant zombies, got captured by them, escaped somehow, and then either doesn’t remember this, or just didn’t tell the X-Men.

    My guess is that she has told the Avengers, they’ve mystically sealed the zombies inside Genosha (as they did with Bloodwraith back when), while working on an long-term solution. But the Avengers’ chairman, Black Panther, has elected to keep this from the Krakoans, since he doesn’t trust them and knows they’d react badly to Wanda meddling in mutant affairs again.

    Unrelated: Xavier’s bit about “we don’t have enough good mutants” hints at the implicit caste system of Krakoa, where all the teams are stacked with X-Men with one token former “evil” mutant (Pyro, Black Tom, Daken, Gorgon, Apocalypse). For all of Xavier’s big talk about unity, the only Krakoan organizations that aren’t totally dominated by X-Men are the Quiet Council and the Hellfire Company. At some point, I do wonder if Exodus will become annoyed that the Acolytes are second-class citizens.

  9. Chris V says:

    Plus, Xavier explicitly stated that he had given membership on the Quiet Council to certain problem mutants that he didn’t trust, so that he could keep watch on them.
    This would certainly apply to Sinister, Mystique, and Exodus. Also maybe Apocalypse and Shaw.
    I think that the Quiet Council really has very little power, overall, and it’s the ruling triumvirate (Xavier, Magneto, Apocalypse) which really has full control. With only two of those three even knowing about Moira.

    I think a few of those “token” evil mutants on the team, Pyro and Black Tom namely, were chosen because they are seen as redeemable too.

    Nice reading, Allan M. So many readers seem to be so distracted by the amount of “bad guy” mutants living on Krakoa, that they miss the little detail that it seems that Xavier, Magneto, Emma, and the X-Men are still running the show.

  10. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    This was a fun, dumb (in a good way), throwaway tie-in.

    Which would be enough for an issue, maybe two, but this is supposed to be four, right? It’s definitely not enough for four issues, so I hope there’ll be something more to it later.

    There’s one bit that reads weird – Explodey Boy is completely coherent in the introductory sequence, but everything after that is cookie-cutter mindless zombie hordes. And zero power use despite Explodey Boy showing that the zombies retain their mutant powers.

    So on the one hand – the fights should be much more interesting than ‘we’re mowing down thousands of mindless zombies’. And on the other hand, if the mutant zombies are coherent, there should be some attempt on the X-Men side to help them. If they ever find out they’re coherent, since, well.. they’re not in any instance other than the introductory sequence.

    I just don’t get what the Genoshan zombies are supposed to be like.

  11. Scott Brewer says:

    Can we please have Wanda and Pietro back as Magneto’s kids now that the X-Men aren’t being downplayed anymore? That was the best of their many retcons.

  12. Thom H. says:

    At this point, Wanda and Pietro aren’t even mutants anymore, right? Or has that been changed again?

    In any case, they should definitely be mutants, and they should definitely be Magneto’s children. Why mess up those classic stories?

    And Wanda’s powers need to be contained to a set of identifiable rules. She’s basically as powerful as Legion or Nate Grey except — oops — her “spells” never turn out quite right. Reality-warping characters are fun for short periods, but don’t work in the long-term.

    More to the point, down-shifting her powers would discourage writers from abusing her even further. Such a waste of a great character. I personally blame John Byrne and his West Coast Avengers run for starting the whole mess that she became.

  13. Karl_H says:

    This is just… incoherent. Wanda’s been at this for a year but showed no signs of it in any other appearances? All those zombie mutants on Genosha for a month and no one (not even Xavier) ever noticed? How long has Krakoa been in business? At least more than a month by this point. How does a “bring back every mutant eventually” project lose track of Genosha?

    That’s not even getting into some really unclear storytelling in the art, or stuff like Magneto’s “Xavier said only take one more citizen on this mission” (he didn’t) (and why?), and the baffling switch to a close-up of Monet’s face while chatting with Warren as they fly to the gate, and speaking of the gate why is it there, why is it necessary to fix it since apparently no one has checked in on Genosha for a month, and then the icing on the cake is the return of those HIGH-larious Golden Girl villains, oh lordy.

  14. Taibak says:

    Problem is, Wanda’s powers have basically never had a coherent set of rules. Stan Lee said she just caused disasters to happen when she pointed at things. By the time Steve Englehart wrote her, her powers allowed her to manipulate probability and she was dabbling in witchcraft on the side. Kurt Busiek had her manipulating chaos magic. Bendis turned her into someone who can warp reality.

    Really, the Phoenix comparison is an apt one. She’s so badly defined, just like the Phoenix Force, that she can do whatever writers need for the plot. Unfortunately for us, that makes her too useful for writers looking for easy solutions.

  15. Si says:

    Wanda’s pretty much a magician lately. Then there’s Wiccan, who’s increasingly hanging out with the Stranges and Hellstroms. It’s all very confusing.

  16. Thom H. says:

    “Problem is, Wanda’s powers have basically never had a coherent set of rules.”

    Yeah, by giving main female characters poorly defined “soft” powers at the start, Stan & Jack really left the door open for power inflation.

    In some cases (e.g., Invisible Woman) that worked out really well. In others, some corrections needed (or still need) to be made.

    I always liked the idea that Wanda’s abilities were enough *like* magic that studying magic helped her gain control of her probability-altering powers.

  17. Taibak says:

    Thom: I don’t think that applied to the Invisible Woman at all. Initially, Stan just gave her the power to turn invisible. That’s it. He added the force fields because he thought invisibility wasn’t good enough compared to the other three. Once that happened, the power creep came from later writers who realized just what she could do with the force fields.

    And, FWIW, the Scarlet Witch was the only one of Stan’s major female characters that had that problem. He was pretty clear about what Marvel Girl, Black Widow, Medusa, and the Wasp could do. Maybe you could make a case for the Enchantress, but there you could argue that everything she did was covered under ‘powerful sorceress’. With Wanda, on the other hand, he either didn’t have a clear idea for the character or he and Kirby weren’t on the same page and was trying to make his ideas fit what Kirby was drawing.

  18. Thom H. says:

    “Once that happened, the power creep came from later writers who realized just what she could do with the force fields.”

    Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Stan & Jack gave female characters (at least most of the major ones) poorly defined, intangible, “soft” powers, leaving the door open for later writers to expand on them.

    Obviously, that doesn’t really apply to Medusa and Wasp, who have physical powers. But Invisible Girl, Marvel Girl, and Scarlet Witch all suffered from underdeveloped powers originally. Like you say, Sue didn’t even get force fields until later, just like Jean didn’t get telepathy until later.

    Invisible Girl/Woman grew into hers in the 80s in a fairly organic way. Scarlet Witch has undergone a radical power-up in the last 15 or so years, to her detriment. And who knows what levels Jean’s powers are at. It seems to depend on who’s writing her at the moment. But she’s certainly gone through some massive power-ups that needed downward correction in her time.

    Anyway, I think our opinions overlap, but maybe we disagree on some of the details?

  19. Bloodredcookie says:

    I notice that Madrox doesn’t have the M tattoo in this issue. Did he loose it or did the artist just forget?

  20. Loz says:

    Am I misunderstanding or is this comic suggesting that AvX and all subsequent Marvel history has taken part in the last year? Even for sliding Marvel timescales that seems unlikely.

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