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Nov 25

X-Men #15 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, November 25, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-MEN vol 5 #15
“X of Swords, Chapter 20”
by Jonathan Hickman, Mahmud Asrar & Sunny Gho

COVER / PAGE 1: Apocalypse’s bloodstained sword, reflecting the Annihilation mask.

PAGES 2-5. Cyclops and Marvel Girl prepare to address the Quiet Council.

Krakoa is presented at its most utopian here, to hammer home the point that Cyclops sees it as a home worth fighting for. He says that he “dreamed” of a home like this but “never thought” they would have it – implicitly referencing “Xavier’s dream” of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants, which the X-Men used to go on about all the time. Of course, Krakoa is only very debatably an example of that dream, since it’s a separatist project – it’s only coexistence when viewed on the global level. But as Cyclops says, what good did that version of the X-Men’s dream ever do them? They never made any obvious progress towards achieving it.

The Quiet Council. As before, the Council members seated here are (clockwise from top) Professor X, Magneto, Mister Sinister, Exodus, Mystique, Kate Pryde, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw and Nightcrawler. The three vacant seats belong to Apocalypse and Storm (who are in Otherworld) and to Marvel Girl herself. Krakoa is, as ever, present in the background, but without Cypher to translate for him.

“One hour ago, our son, Nathan, cried out for us to save him.” In Cable #6. Cable didn’t exactly do this, though – he reported that they were losing, talked about how he wasn’t ready, and warned them to prepare for invasion. But he didn’t actually call on them to come and rescue him.

The basic tension of this scene is that Cyclops wants to do the traditionally heroic thing of racing to save his son, while the Quiet Council are more focussed on the bigger picture and the preservation of Krakoa. And there’s a contradiction of sorts between that motivation and Scott’s talk about preserving what’s been built. What he’s interested in preserving, presumably, is not the mutant nation of Krakoa, but simply the home of his family.

PAGES 6-7. Recap and credits.

PAGES 8-9. Apocalypse and Genesis/Annihilation begin their fight.

Saturnyne is accompanied by Shogo (who always becomes a dragon while in Otherworld, as seen in Excalibur), Ryl (the fish woman) and Quaddeus Quo (the minotaur, who’s apparently leaking information to Mojo). She never clearly states the rules of this contest, but she strongly implies that you lose by death or submission, which turns out to be correct.

The Annihilation mask is obviously a corrupting influence on Genesis with a mind of its own, and so it makes sense that Apocalypse tries (successfully) to prompt her to take it off. While Genesis gives a vaguely snarky reason for doing so, we know she’s strong willed enough to keep Annihilation’s influence somewhat under control, so it’s reasonably plausible that on some level she’s quite keen to have the opportunity. Certainly the mask itself tries to reject the invitation out of hand.

PAGES 10-17. Cyclops and Marvel Girl address the Quiet Council.

“Our connection was severed before we could find out everything.” By Saturnyne, again in Cable #6.

Cyclops basically relays the information that Cable managed to pass on to him. Shaw is being incredibly tactless and unsympathetic, but in a sense he has a point – to the people he’s addressing, the fate of all Krakoa is quite legitimately a bigger deal than the fate of Cable.

At any rate, Cyclops’ plan is basically to abort the contest, rescue the Krakoan contingent from Otherworld, and blow up the gates behind them. In previous issues, Krakoa has objected strenuously to any suggestion of closing the gates, but for some reason nobody makes that point here. Exodus and Magneto make the pragmatic point that this seems to be a plan that leaves the island defenceless if it doesn’t work.

The Avalon gate is the gate from the Excalibur lighthouse to the realm of Avalon (as opposed to the External Gate which leads direct to Otherworld proper).

“Beast recently stole the technology from Hordeculture to hijack gate control…” In Empyre: X-Men.

Marvel Girl, Nightcrawler and Kate Pryde are the three Council members who volunteer to join the mission. They are, of course, all mainstay X-Men of a traditionally heroic bent. (Xavier, Magneto, Emma and Mystique have all been X-Men too at one time or other, but they’re all more morally flexible or big-picture types.)

The Council promptly pass a vote expelling anyone who leaves to join the mission – on the logic that their seat has to be quickly filled if the mission goes wrong, presumably. The resolution passes by 6-4, with Professor X and Magneto voting in favour. The four no votes come from the three members who wanted to leave, plus Emma – perhaps because she’s less invested in the Krakoan project than Xavier and Magneto, or simply unaware of all the things that make it so important to them.

Following that vote, Nightcrawler is persuaded to stay, and Kate realises that she can’t go because (as seen in various issues of Marauders) she can’t go through the gates – although more of that in a moment. So only Jean actually quits the Council, presumably to be replaced by another classic X-Man in due course.

“You really shouldn’t lie to Katherine…” Emma thinks that Cyclops is lying to Kate about using the gates, to make her stay behind – presumably in order to maintain a trustworthy presence of actual heroes on the Quiet Council. And indeed, in X of Swords: Destruction, Cyclops doesn’t use the gates – he returns to the SWORD space station and gets Magik to open a portal from there. (Emma’s line indicates that this was his plan even before the Council vote to close the gates behind him.)

Emma Frost offers to go – though not very insistently – and Cyclops publicly gives the same reason for declining as he did for Kurt and Kate. Privately, he doesn’t think she would ever sacrifice herself for this, and perhaps he’s right; it’s a mission that only makes sense from a traditionally (and irrationally) heroic standpoint. Self-interest and general pragmatism would both lead Emma to be more concerned about Krakoa as a whole. She does send the Stepford Cuckoos to help, even so.

PAGE 18. Apocalypse and Genesis fight.

This is accompanied by captions continuing Cyclops’ speech, so presumably we’re supposed to see a parallel in Apocalypse’s refusal to accept Genesis’ corruption by Annihilation.

PAGE 19. Cyclops reminds the Quiet Council of the X-Men’s role.

The significance of this scene becomes more apparent on the upcoming data pages, which establish that the X-Men ceased to formally exist as a team when Krakoa was founded. What Cyclops is doing here, then, is re-establishing the team as a rival and less morally compromised power on Krakoa. Xavier and Magneto both seem rather pleased about this – perhaps it suits them to have the X-Men out there given the sort of compromises that the Quiet Conucil involves.

PAGES 20-21. Data pages. This is a report on Krakoan governmental structures prepared at the outset of independence.

Two main points emerge. The first is that the Quiet Council was hoped to contain competing ideologies (naturally) with limited recourse to violence. There’s a reference to a “FORCE protocol”, which is presumably X-Force – though if so, it’s a bit of a stretch for this document to be prepared in the week following Krakoan independence; X-Force weren’t approved by the Quiet Council until X-Force #4.

Second, the X-Men were formally closed down, apparently to avoid them being a rival power base. A footnote acknowledges that people will keep using the term even if it’s not official, so the policy is to promote other names rather than actively suppress the “X-Men” term. But the practical point is that for the whole of the Hickman era, there has been no X-Men team – just agents of Krakoa who some people still call the X-Men. And that does indeed accord with what we’ve seen.

PAGES 22-25. Apocalypse defeats Genesis.

Sort of. His sword is shattered, but he manages to grab hers and wound her. But the practical effect seems to be to weaken her to the point where the Annihilation mask can take control again. As it points out, Genesis has neither died nor submitted. There’s a bit of a storytelling disconnect between this cliffhanger and the start of the next chapter, unfortunately – apparently, what’s meant to happen next is that Genesis/Annihilation abandons the contest and just calls on the forces of Amenth to wage war. Presumably the idea is that she’s not willing to continue with a contest that nearly got her host killed, now that (for the first time) she’s in danger of losing.

PAGE 26. A quote from Apocalypse, which is straightforward.

PAGE 27. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: ALL IN.

Bring on the comments

  1. Ryan T says:

    I thought this issue was generally pretty compelling and went a long way toward saving the story by giving us some of the interesting Krakoan political intrigue that is the main thing I really enjoy about this status quo.

    It was a rare issue of the crossover that didn’t feel like it was just an issue of Excalibur with a subplot from whatever book it actually was.

  2. Dave says:

    I didn’t really follow the gates thing – they’re just turned off? Can’t Jean + Cuckoos just call back and ask for them to be reactivated if necessary? They’re stuck whatever the outcome? Huh?
    Also, in Creation/part one, Cyclops and Jean DID use a gate as the first step of getting to the SWORD station.

    “Go on…Finish it.” Could be taken as conceding. Which it turns out is how Saturnyne took it. Annihilation says IT hasn’t conceded, but it was Genesis who fought.

  3. K says:

    Presumably if they needed to close the gates at all, then there aren’t going to be any survivors left on the other side soon after.

    And they used a teleporter to get to the station, not a gate.

  4. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Cyclops ignoring the Council and reestablishing the X-Men is very neat.

    It would be so much better if we had this information beforehand. That the X-Men were oficially disbanded. Technically, sure, we didn’t see the X-Men do anything in the past year. Except, you know, the characters who usually are the X-Men were starring in a book called the X-Men, or Empyre: X-Men, or even Giant-Size X-Men.

    So that already rings a bit hollow. And there was a line in Marauders #2 or #3, somewhere at the beginning, where Kate said she called her group Marauders to avoid making trouble for the X-Men, which, you know, implies there were some X-Men around.

    God. It really is a nice moment – Cyclops speaking up for heroism to this realpolitik ruling body. It would be so much better if it was actually set up properly. For a master planner this is incredibly poor planning. (That’s a dig at Hickman, not Cyclops).

  5. Dave says:

    “And they used a teleporter to get to the station, not a gate.”

    They gated to the teleporter. You can see Cable’s head emerging.

  6. Chris V says:

    I don’t know. It makes the X-Men sound like the Avengers or an ethnic group.
    Of course there were no longer an official X-Men because their purpose had been usurped by Xavier’s new goals.
    The X-Men was simply a code-name for Xavier’s outreach team for his dream of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants. They were the students of Xavier willing to fight for a world that feared and hated them, in the hope of a better future.

    At best, it seems like they would just be another clique established on Krakoa, similar to the MLF or as simply an honourary name like the “New Mutants”.

  7. Rob says:

    For me, this whole moment fell flat because it comes out of nowhere. After 19 chapters of the “not the X-Men” sitting on their thumbs doing nothing while a scratch team competed in pointless contests, Cyclops simply decides to go fight? And faces no real obstacles to do so? It would only be more obviously deus ex machina if it weren’t for the fact that every plot development in this story has been equally arbitrary.

    Plus, as Paul notes, why is Krakoa suddenly silent on the issue of closing the gates? (Is it that Cypher isn’t there to translate the proceedings? If so, weak…)

    If the council was so worried about losing people to the forces of Arrako/Amenth, why did it allow such a large fighting force — what looks like every other named character on the island — go to the battle?

    Ultimately, the final act of the story boils down to “the day was saved not by any characters who were set up in the earlier 20 chapters of story, and not by cleverly finding a solution to a problem, but by both sides flinging faceless hordes at each other until Saturnyne said it was over.”

    This is deeply unimpressive after 11 chapters of characters who turn out not to matter chasing down macguffins that turn out to matter even less, then 9 chapters of arbitrary “battles” whose dramatic stakes were inscrutable.

  8. Joseph S. says:

    The issue set up to be a final fight ends up being mostly a Quiet Council meeting, and it’s all the better for it. All the focus on Apocalypse previously makes a lot more sense now, structurally, especially because his battle with Genesis doesn’t actually get much page time here. If this issue doesn’t satisfy Hickman’s detractors, I don’t know what else to say.

    This and Excalibur both really make a strong moral critique of the kind of calculative utilitarian thinking that can so easily slip into rationalizing evil actions. Which I would say has one of the dominant villain tropes of contemporary culture, ala Breaking Bad. In X-Men (Cyclops/X) and Excalibur (Jubilee/Greens) the characters themselves point out the necessity thinking and acting on both scales. This is good political intrigue as we can reasonably agree with both sides and still see the inevitable conflict and politicking.

    I also think suppressing the X-Men is a strong idea narratively, but also something worth actually considering on the meta-level. Perhaps X-MEN was not always the best name…

  9. SanityOrMadness says:

    The thing is, is Cyclops really the guy to stand up and say “we need to be heroes”? Maybe pre-Twelve Cyclops, but post-Morrison and especially since M-Day, he’s been the guy with dirty hands.

  10. Jon R says:

    I liked this a good deal, but definitely agreed that the point would have been stronger if we’d established the X-Men being defunct before now. Not only would it have made the plot point better, it would have been an interesting thing for people to have been talking about the past year.

    It’s also curious that they didn’t also vote that any of the captains that went out to fight would also be stripped of their title for the same reason the council members would be. With the powers they’d given to the captain-commander (or whatever Cyclops’ title was) for the purposes of fighting, maybe they couldn’t? But it’d be nice to mention that. I’d hope that it’d be a plot point they’ll address later, but I don’t have optimism there.

  11. Dave says:

    They probably don’t see replacing Jean on the council as nearly as big of a deal as replacing their main guy in the field.

  12. Matt C. says:

    Completely agree that the “restarting the X-Men” after the idea being suppressed is a cool one, but it would’ve worked a LOT better if this had actually been an ongoing storyline and not dumped on us in a data page after it actually happened.

    As for replacing Cyclops, it’s probably not as big of a deal because they’re not political figures – if they die and get resurrected and are now useless as generals, no one is going to recommend keeping them in charge, whereas a council member might want to be kept on a seat as a puppet, etc.

  13. Si says:

    I’m extrapolating a great deal, but I love the idea of the X-Men reforming because the new mutant nation isn’t doing anything superhero-y, and ending up as a small core of semi-exiled (or completely exiled) mutants caught between two worlds – the increasingly strange and more-than-a-little threatening Krakoa nation, and the human world which is now informed on mutant identity by Krakoa. That is a status quo that is far more interesting to me than endless titles about beautiful people having sex and/or board meetings. It’s also very different to the endangered species nonsense of the previous couple of decades.

    By the way, why can’t Krakoa speak English? Couldn’t it at the very least be able to communicate by shaping beans into letters?

  14. Chris V says:

    I’m not sure if I like the idea of an idealized X-Men fighting against the methods of Krakoa.
    It seems like an exact copy of Hickman’s Avengers. Tony Stark knows that the end times are coming and is willing to do anything necessary to save his world.
    Captain America retains his ideals and feels there must be a better way, so goes against the Illuminati.
    Sound familiar?

    Will we see Cyclops and Magneto fighting to the death as the Phalanx eliminate all life on the planet?

    I don’t really see a positive direction coming from the reforming of the X-Men.
    I see it as either Hickman rewriting his run on Avengers again.
    Or, it will just be something that is talked about in the background….”Isn’t it so cool that the X-Men are back?”…while everything basically continues on as before.

  15. Chris V says:

    The idea of the X-Men reaching out to humanity, trying to steer closer to Xavier’s original vision (while still being part and parcel of Krakoa), instead of Krakoa only interacting with other nations on the stage of power politics struggles, would be a decent idea.

    A more street-level title dealing with how aspects of Krakoa are changing human society is greatly needed, but maybe Marvel isn’t willing to go too far in that direction since this is supposed to be taking place in the wider Marvel Universe, and there seems to be a major disconnect there.

    The X-Men could be more involved in more typical superheroic actions, like fighting former non-mutant X-Men villains. Perhaps for public relations also.

  16. Si says:

    Ah, I didn’t read more than an issue or two of his Avengers stuff. I know Cyclops had a splinter X-Men team recently though, so I figured it would be something like that but with something to actually push against.

  17. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Chris V: ‘Of course there were no longer an official X-Men because their purpose had been usurped by Xavier’s new goals.’

    Come on. If I read 20 issues of ‘Spider-Man’ starring Peter Parker in his Spider-Man suit, fighting various bad guys, would I not be entitled to a certain feeling of confusion if the hero declared in issue 21 ‘I will become Spider-Man again’?

  18. K says:

    You know, if X-Men #1 had started with “we’re phasing out the X-Men now”…

    Nobody would have believed it for a second. And it would have undermined the whole reboot as something that’s about to be undone.

    And the concluding chapter shows that it was never that clear-cut. The Council thought they were doing one thing, but obviously the X-Men never went anywhere. Everyone was ready to jump in and do the usual thing without hesitation.

    The surprise in this issue was not that Krakoa did something, but how out of touch Krakoa was with what was happening its people. In fact, if there’s going to be a “shut down the X-Men” moment, it’s going to be AFTER this story, not before.

  19. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    It didn’t have to be a bold declaration on the cover of issue one. It didn’t even have to be a definite ‘the X-Men are no more’ statement. But yes, a mention that they’re ‘phasing out’ the X-Men would have provided at least some set up for this issue. It could have easily been thrown in when Magneto, Xavier and Apocalypse had their luncheon with the… whoever they were supposed to be, the G8, the Davos conference, whatever.

    We had Cyclops chafing a bit under the Council in Hellions, over Havok – but that’s as far as any set up goes, at least as far as I remember. And that wasn’t over heroics, so it might as well have been coincidental.

    Let me put this another way. Tini Howard gets a lot of shit for her chaotic, hard to follow plotting – some of it from me. But the restoration of the Captain Britain Corps is a culmination of most everything Excalibur has been about up to now. In contrast, the restoration of the X-Men has to tell the reader on the following page that it is the restoration of the X-Men.

  20. Alan L says:

    They did have a really good moment to phase out the X-men, on the page, for us all to read, and that was at during HoX/PoX. After the death of Cyclops and his crew. That could have been the X-men’s final mission, and when they were all reborn it could have been couched in the idea that they were all “free” of being the X-men. Then this “X-men” title, which has sort of been about what Cyclops does most of the time without an X-men team to lead (he goes on field trips with his alternate-dimension children, he bodyguards for Xavier and Magento at Davos, etc.) could really just have been Cyclops roaming around purposeless for a long time. Then, as Krzysiek Ceran so insightfully points out, Cyclops’ command decision to re-form the X-men at this moment of crisis would have some teeth, in the sense of building a story.

    Having read the other two issues out this week, I have the feeling that the series at its original length would probably have played a whole lot better; I don’t really hate these last three issues, nor do I hate the tournament ones that preceded them. It’s all the gathering swords issues that screw the pacing of this this all to hell; that, and the ones where they re-iterate the same boring story of Arrako with tiny deviations.

    But many people have pointed out a lot of inconsistencies in the writing, and I think this is part and parcel of having really too complicated a story to actually tell. There is so much otherworld stuff to freight in this story, and then the whole history of Arrako, with its quasi-parallel to Krakoa, and then there’s the Captain Britain/Saturnyne/Betsy/Brian story, and the tarot, the collecting of the swords, the pre-duel environment drama, the duels themselves, the giant final battle, with all its twists and turns…and on top of that, at the end we get this “re-form the X-men” story, which really takes up most of this issue. I think it’s hard to get the details right with so many balls you’re juggling.

    Still, some stupid stuff always gets in there. I laughed when the enormous Apocalypse is drawn somehow ducking under his far smaller wife’s attack. Apocalypse is very fast, here, for some reason, in spite of looking like his every step is heavy. It just seemed like such an out-of-character fight move.

    I also didn’t like the turn-down for Emma Frost. She’s not been resurrected at all yet, so we can assume she’s the same person she’s been, yes (in fact, it really seems as if they’re all supposed to be the real people they were before after resurrection, but that’s not germane because Emma hasn’t died and been resurrected)? Cyclops implies that Emma wouldn’t risk her life for a fool’s errand. Yet for most of the last 20 years of publishing Emma’s been on an X-men team or another, in some cases leading the team into battle against impossible odds, risking certain death, etc., again and again, for love, for valor, for all that stuff. She basically became the kind of selfless superhero the rest of the X-men are. I guess she’s regressed a bit in recent years? I haven’t read most of the Charles Soule stuff or the Rosenberg material. I thought Bendis had no idea what to do with her, and it was hard to read her character in that era. But it just seems weird of Cyclops to dismiss her like that, and for her to agree with him…honestly, this seems like the kind of ending fight she would show up for. Magneto, too. He, after all, was just toasting the tree-people for Krakoa just a few issues prior. It’s so out-of-character for them that they wouldn’t charge into battle. Now, if we had been told, very specifically, earlier on, that the X-men were disbanded, and there would be no conspicuous heroics that weren’t sanctioned by the Quiet Council, then it would really help to hammer home the conflict here, and make it a little clearer what was going on. If somebody had taken some unsanctioned action, and the Quiet Council punished them for it––someone other than Sabertooth, for whom that is just second nature (and he was on a sanctioned mission)––then there would be some actual stakes to Cyclops saying “I’m gonna do X-men stuff again.” And we’d get real stakes for Magneto and Emma Frost to stay on the sidelines. But as it is, I don’t quite buy it, because none of it was set up with that intent.

    It’s typical of Hickman that this stuff makes sense looking at it from about 30,000 feet up, but when you get on the ground, in the thick of the story, a lot of of the pieces don’t actually fit together. What you especially lose, for all his planning, is foreshadowing, the grounding of huge later plot developments in previous story beats. And I think you miss the craft that would streamline some of these beats into a more coherent storyline. Instead of Havok and Polaris getting the X-men into the duel agreement, for instance, it really ought to have been Scott and Jean. That would have upped the stakes on Scott deciding to break the rules, making for a more tense story. As it is, Havok and Polaris are gone for the rest of the story (and I’m sorry, the fact that in the issue of Hellions just immediately before this story started, Havok had his mouth fused shut by the Goblyn Queen, and then he took a knife or a shard of glass or something and cut it open again so he could talk and kiss her, lipless and gushing blood from the gaping maw he just carved in his own face, it just makes me feel weird about him playing the traditional hero right away in the beginning of this miniseries––just a weird tonal clash for me; like maybe I want him to get a spa day in between confrontations? He seems like he must be really on the edge). Also, I think the clarity of the Saturnyne storyline is severely marred by us not really knowing the stakes of anything. In fact, one of the key elements of that storyline should be the part where Wovlerine is insisting to Brian Braddock that he just needs to take one for the team and get together with Saturnyne and this would all be over. But as usual, we don’t get enough established beforehand and we don’t get it set up properly for that confrontation to have any real weight behind it. We don’t get why Saturnyne is doing any of this until literally the last issue of the series. But we also don’t really get any hints of what she plans to do. There’s no grounding of the emotional weight of what Saturnyne wants––we never see her express her emotion until the last few pages of the crossover, so we don’t really get enough of a hint to guess why she’s planning what she’s planning. We’re told she has something in mind, but all the information we’re getting seems to be getting distributed either right before or just after we need to know it, so it’s very hard to get invested in the Saturnyne agenda. And yet it drives the whole entire crossover. None of these things is enough to derail everything, but when an event runs this slowly and jerkily, I feel these problems become generally more pronounced. The parts where everything in the story appears to be working right read fewer and further-between.

  21. Alan L says:

    Let me walk through my HoX/PoX theory and make it a little more explicit. Let’s say instead of having Cyclops assemble a team of “good mutants, all” for the mission against the Master Mold space station back in HoX/PoX, Xavier and Magneto go to Cyclops and they’re like, “we’re starting this new nation, where everyone can live with their heads held high, etc., etc., but we need your X-men to do one last thing, which will help us all be safe.” So it’s the last X-men mission. And then they all die horrifically, the way they do in the story, but it’s also compounded by the fact that we’re literally seeing the X-men as an idea end on the page. Then we see Xavier shedding his tears over it, and then he says something like “there are no more X-men,” or, “it’s the end of my dream,” or something like that (implying, in my reading of it, that it’s Moira’s ideas he’s following from here on out, instead of his own dreams he had back in the 60s). We’re totally shocked. Then in the next issue, they all get resurrected, and we get from Xavier, something essentially saying “this is how I win now.” He does say something to that effect, I think, but I for one would have really appreciated this being underlined as a massive change to the status quo. The X-men are done, and resurrection, with its promise of immortality, has taken its place, along with the diffuse response of a government to attack, etc. It would have gone a long way for me in establishing what we were leaving behind in the new era and what we were picking up as a result of these massive changes to the X-men’s status quo. So much of the early HoX/PoX and Dawn of X stuff was couched for readers here (me included) in this idea that the resurrected mutants were “pod people” of some kind. This idea has not really panned out (unless Hickman is still holding on to this idea for later). It would have been meaningful if Hickman had actually disbanded the X-men on the page at that point, giving even the dumb readers, like me, a clear indication of what was changing and how.

    Then, Dawn of X could have begun with X-men #1, much as it did, with Cyclops facing the dawn of a new era as a newly resurrected man, and everything Cyclops was doing in those first few issues would have been freighted with a little more significance, because they would have been contextualized as things Cyclops was doing in lieu of running an X-men team. He looks around at Krakoa and he’s kind of like, “I really dig this. Gonna go on a picnic with Rachel and Nathan.” He does the security detail for Davos (that “story” should have been earlier on, to my mind). He’s kind of just bumming around in those early issues, and if the X-men are disbanded, that suddenly makes more sense, because it means that these early issues of X-men are about Cyclops coming to terms with having the dream of peace and stability he always wanted, but having not much to do in days of peace. There are also moments earlier on in the series when Cyclops is called before the Quiet Council, and he stands in the center, where Sabertooth stood, and the angle of the drawing is looking down at him, and he looks small, like a potential victim. He’s apologizing for something, or admitting a mistake. There’s a sense that he’s being judged by the council, and that he might be set up in the story to be the next victim of Krakoa after Sabertooth. And if that is actually foreshadowing, then this scene in this issue, where Cyclops stands before the council and tells them he’s going to do X-men stuff in deliberate defiance of their decision, gains a lot more stakes and weight. It sets up a new X-men with a purpose and a mission, and a readymade foil/antagonist in the Quiet Council. Good settings for potential drama, and the possibility for us of getting a new set of questions about “what exactly are the X-men for?” and stuff like that. What did Xavier want them for? What has Cyclops made of them that is different. Whose team is it, really, and why do they do what they do? It could be a really cool book.

    But none of this was done in the actual writing of the comic books, so I think we can’t assume any of it is intended by these writers.

  22. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Regarding Emma and whether she’s regressed in recent years – well, it’s muddled. Under Bendis she was part of the ‘mutant revolution’ which didn’t go anywhere, but in the eyes of the ‘proper X-Men’ made her untrustworthy again.

    Later on is when things take a turn for the villainous – after Secret Wars, during the whole Terrigen Cloud debacle, Emma pushed for confrontation with the Inhumans. The confrontation happened, the Inhumans finally destroyed their murdercloud, but Emma wanted revenge for Cyclops and turned into the final boss of Inhumans vs X-Men, deploying Inhuman-hunting Sentinels and using them to actually kill… probably a few thousand nameless Inhumans?

    But they were Inhumans, so in the long run, nobody cared.

    Afterwards she was treated as a villain, but she was scheming to help mutants in various, sometimes ill-thought-out ways – that’s basically what she was busy with in X-Men Blue and later still, in Rosenberg’s Uncanny, which brings us to HoXPoX.

    Oh, and she dethroned Sebastian Shaw and became the Black King of the Hellfire Club in X-Men Black: Emma Frost, which came out in the same pre-Hickman period and could very, very charitably be read as preparation for HoXPoX. The fact that she got rid of Shaw is one of the very few pre-HoXPoX things Hickman actually referred to in HoXPoX, anyway.

  23. Chris V says:

    Why does this “we’re going to restart the X-Men” concept remind me of X-Files: The Movie?

    Alan L-I don’t believe that Hickman sees this new direction as Xavier giving up on his dream, so much as modifying it.
    Even Cyclops points out in his speech this issue that this is the closest that mutants are ever going to achieve Xavier’s dream.
    The idea behind Krakoa is that humans and mutants can coexist together on Earth.
    It was the piece of the puzzle that Moira was missing in lives eight and nine, when she relied on Magneto and Apocalypse. Xavier’s dream was needed to show that humans didn’t need to be conquered or fought against in a war for survival.

    It was sort of put on the page, where Scott was named as head of Krakoa’s military.
    He was no longer leading the X-Men, he was now the captain-general (or whatever).
    I’m still not sure what the purpose of the X-Men will be in this new set-up, unless it’s to present a kindler, gentler side of mutants to humanity.
    Maybe to be the conscience of the Ruling Triumvirate.
    The Marauders are going around the world to rescue mutants in need of sanctuary. The Quiet Council is in charge of interacting with the humans on behalf of Krakoa.
    Plus, I thought X-Corps was supposed to deal with some of the same sorts of things that the X-Men used to do, as far as the human world (although that book disappeared, but maybe Hickman still has plans for it).

    I always got the idea that Marvel were trying to distance this relaunch from the X-Men proper, so that if the fans hated what Hickman was doing with the concept (as some long-time fans definitely seem to, and understandably), Marvel could relaunch the titles again and say, “That wasn’t the X-Men you were reading. It was the same characters, but they weren’t the X-Men.” Marvel could hedge their bets and appease fans.

  24. Damon says:

    Thank you Krzysiek for the recap, I dropped X-Men after a few Bendis issues and came back for HoX/PoX, that’s all new to me.

  25. Chris V says:

    Maybe something could have been on the page though to make it explicit.
    Like Scott, Jean, and Logan question Xavier about the X-Men when they are given new positions on Krakoa (well, Wolverine didn’t get one).
    Xavier could reply, “You are no longer children. The X-Men were a child’s version of my dream. We are all adults now, and this is how my dream looks to an adult.”
    You could show they confused and maybe concerned about this new direction, but saying they have always trusted Xavier.
    It would have gone a long way to humanize these characters and dealt with complaints from fans that Hickman’s run felt like it was an alternate-reality.

    Unfortunately, Hickman likes to write mysterious characters who don’t act as recognizable human beings most of the time, so that was all skipped.

    Maybe we might see flashback scenes now though, showing how some of these characters reacted to hearing about Xavier founding Krakoa.

  26. Adam says:

    Everyone seems agreed on the big mistake with this chapter. Co-signed.

    But I didn’t actually read this issue as re-establishing an actual team of X-Men, so much as just re-affirming that the spirit of the X-Men lives on.

    “This may be Krakoa, but by god we’ll always be X-Men.”

    I don’t expect there to be an actual, formal team going forward. December may prove me wrong.

  27. Luis Dantas says:

    @Si, Krakoa should be capable of shaping letters and numbers, yes. But is it even capable of learning English?

    We don’t really have much of a notion of how intelligent Krakoa is. And it may have too alien a mind or simply be uninterested in learning any “meat-beings language”.

    Yet another possibility is that the fine control necessary to spell letters is too difficult or boring for it to use for any length of time.

  28. Rob says:

    Isn’t Krakoa able to communicate in English through Mondo? Even though it’s uncomfortable, in the absence of Cypher, wouldn’t it prefer to speak through him than be left out of decisions that affect it?

  29. ASV says:

    What this really highlights for me isn’t the possibility of an isolationist/globalist split, but the split between Krakoa being a nation for all mutants and all the stories we’ve seen so far being the stories of people we think of as “X-Men.” Cyclops and his crew aren’t doing what they’re doing because of any kind of rejection of Krakoa’s direction on Earth – it’s specifically to rescue their friends, despite the danger that action poses to Krakoa at large. Seems like the kind of thing that Krakoa’s ~200K undifferentiated residents might not be happy about, idk.

  30. Chris V says:

    Yes, based on promo art for what is upcoming during Reign of X, I wonder if the big story featuring the “return of the X-Men” will be a team risking everything to go in to the Vault and rescue the mutants they left behind.

    That’s why I must wonder what is the purpose of the name “X-Men” being used in this plot, and if this doesn’t mean more at a meta-level than at the fictional.

    I’m concerned about where this “Reign of X” direction is headed…It seems like a major civil war or something along those lines is being planned.
    Apocalypse has gone rogue during the X of Swords event, willing to threaten Krakoa to get his goal.
    Krakoa, itself, seems like even it is no longer dependable.
    Sinister murdered fellow mutants to hide his personal schemes from Krakoa.
    Kate and Storm are going to be out for revenge against Shaw for his selfish actions.
    Mystique is still plotting against the island because they denied her what she was promised.
    Now, the X-Men team are rebelling.
    That’s not really a direction I wanted to see when Hickman’s run started. It was too obvious.
    How can Krakoa remain together as a collective when there are so many competing egos, ideologies, and individual agendas?

  31. SanityOrMadness says:

    Alan L> Still, some stupid stuff always gets in there. I laughed when the enormous Apocalypse is drawn somehow ducking under his far smaller wife’s attack. Apocalypse is very fast, here, for some reason, in spite of looking like his every step is heavy. It just seemed like such an out-of-character fight move.

    Funny thing is, under the Simonsons he *was* a fast, shapeshifting opponent. It was Whilce Portacio who turned him into a lumbering brute, and it stuck.

  32. Adam says:

    Regarding “Reign of X…”

    Without Jean or Apocalypse, the Quiet Council now has 10 (X) members.

  33. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    …they won’t ever let that go now, will they?

    I’m waiting for the inevitable X Commandments of Nightcrawler’s mutant religion.

  34. Chris V says:

    You have to wonder what will happen losing such an important character as Apocalypse.
    Is someone going to rise up to take his place?
    Apocalypse seemed very important to Moira’s plans.

  35. Ben says:

    I haven’t read every issue…

    Have we ever even seen the thousands of regular mutants on the island besides a few kids?

  36. neutrino says:

    @Chris V

    In PoX #5, Xavier specifically tells the world “That dream was a lie”.
    How is Krakoa that different from Faraway in life 5, and how does it stop the rise of post-humanity?

  37. Thom H. says:

    I assumed that Faraway was different from Krakoa in a couple of ways:

    — Krakoa is uniting all mutants, but Faraway was a utopian society of “good” mutants only. Apocalypse in particular seems key to Moira’s current plan.

    — Faraway was effectively isolated from the rest of the world, but Krakoa is specifically generating goods to trade with other nations (the flowers). This is probably stunting the growth of post-humanity in some way.

    I assume that in this life, mutants aren’t just separating themselves from humans but are actively working against them. It’s not a modified version of Xavier’s dream (separate but equal) but a complete reversal of it (mutant superiority). I haven’t reread HoXPoX in a while, so I could be wrong.

  38. Chris V says:

    Thom pretty well answered. I’ll just expound with my thoughts:

    Yes, Faraway was the idea that if mutants went away and lived on an island alone, then humanity would just leave them in peace.
    Instead, the Sentinels still attacked the island and destroyed Faraway.

    Krakoa is directly involved with the human world.
    The flowers they are trading with the rest of the world should build goodwill with humanity.
    Instead of wanting to wipe out mutants, most of humanity will see the benefits of allowing Krakoa to exist. Their drugs cure most diseases, fix problems with chemicals in the brain, and extend lifespans.
    Meanwhile, they are also policing the planet. When humans begins to develop tech that could lead to the creation of post-humanity, Krakoa is willing to forcefully put a stop to it.

    Krakoa is meant to be a synthesis of the ideologies of Xavier, Magneto, and Apocalypse (Moira’s three alpha males).
    Apocalypse’s vision was to declare a war of survival with humanity to try to drive humans to extinction.
    Magneto’s vision was to use force to conquer humanity and rule them as gods.
    Xavier’s vision was that humans and mutants could coexist together and that mutants could help humanity.

    I don’t see how Krakoa is different than Magneto’s vision, as it seems very much like his goals as outlined in God Loves, Man Kills.
    However, I guess it’s based on how Hickman sees the ideologies of the three rulers.

  39. neutrino says:

    @Thom H
    There wasn’t anything about it only being “good” mutants; it said Moira had radicalized Xavier.
    Post-humanity arises from genetic engineering and bionics which would be hard to stop with drugs without being detected and starting a war.

    @Chris V
    They’re trading with the outside world, but the mutant supremacy attitude, such as Magneto proclaiming humanity had new gods and declaring their intent to dominate the world economically, leads to fear and resentment, as seen by ORCHIS and Xeno and Russia. Canonically, Krakoa is only going after technologies that could lead to a Nimrod or direct competitors. Going after all transhuman technologies would be too hard to cover up and would be seen as an act of war by humanity.

  40. Thom H. says:

    “There wasn’t anything about it only being ‘good’ mutants; it said Moira had radicalized Xavier.”

    True. I admit I’m extrapolating from scant evidence. Moira V only gets one page, after all (I looked it up this time). But that page doesn’t include any “evil” mutants that I can see (and it includes old Milligan / Allred “X-Force” characters, so there was room).

    It’s also before Moira abandons her plans with Xavier to court Magneto and Apocalypse in turn, which is a clear progression of Moira’s own radicalization. So I feel fairly confident that everyone is still drawing distinctions between “good” and “evil” mutants at the time of Faraway.

    “Post-humanity arises from genetic engineering and bionics which would be hard to stop with drugs without being detected and starting a war.”

    Again, I admit that I’m reaching based on the evidence we have, but I think we can agree that the new “mutant supremacy” philosophy of Krakoa and that nation’s sudden generosity toward humanity are at odds with one another.

    At best those flowers are placating humans to stunt their own research into biological and mechanical solutions for disease. At worst, they’re actively poisoning humans or rewriting their DNA, which definitely could be detected, but maybe not until it’s too late. All conjecture, but my point is: there’s got to be something up with those flowers aside from the obvious economic and political benefits. Why else make their gift to humanity so biological?

  41. Chris V says:

    I’m not sure what else Krakoa has to offer the outside world other than biological.
    I think that Krakoa is also pursuing other bio-tech areas of research to share with humanity, so that humans will depend more on Krakoa.

    Nimrod has been pointed to as a critical juncture point in Moira’s past lives. “First, there is always a Nimrod.” So, destroying the Nimrod will slow down the path of human advancement towards the machines gaining ascendancy.

    As I pointed out before, it seems that Moira and Krakoa are in a race against time to become a world-mind for the planet before post-humanity can do the same.
    The development of technology just needs to be slowed down long enough for mutants to outpace the rise of post-humanity, and then they can contact the Phalanx first.

    Thom, you have to remember this is taking place in the Marvel Universe.
    Apparently, the cast of Spider Man is taking these drugs….J. Jonah Jameson, Mary Jane….

  42. Thom H. says:

    With all of the mutant powers (and increasingly combined mutant powers) on Krakoa, I’m sure they could have found something else to offer human nations. They can resurrect people from the dead, after all, so I’m sure they could find a self-sustaining, natural energy source to replace fossil fuels. Or granted the world teleportation as a new mode of travel. Instead, they gave humans something to put in their bodies. I still think that has to be significant.

    Sure, it’s the Marvel universe, but similarly extreme things have happened in the X-books in the past. Morrison had the Beast declare that Homo Sapiens was slowly going extinct during his run, which was then quietly swept under the carpet. Something similar could happen here.

  43. Chris V says:

    I think it’s the idea of what drives human evolution, in Hickman’s eyes, and that is the fear of death.
    Krakoa’s drugs are to extend lifespans (less fear of dying), curing most diseases (less fear of death), and to deal with chemical imbalances in the brain (placating humans).

    I think the drugs are all about making humans more complacent and docile. Slowing down the drives which are leading humans to want to compete with mutants and creating post-humanity as the next stage in human evolution in the process.

    Also, humanity will become more and more dependent on Krakoa with time.
    The idea of sending Sentinels to raze Krakoa won’t be a popular decision when it would cut off the drug supply

    As I said, it’s all about time…the more time Krakoa can gain for Moira’s plan, the better chance that mutants will win.

  44. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    @Thom H:it very much wasn’t quietly swept under the carpet, unless you say that M-Day and the decade of stories about mutants as an endangered species was a quiet, discreet solution. 😀

  45. Thom H. says:

    Right, I remember all that, but did M-Day address baseline humans (Homo sapiens) going extinct? If I recall correctly, Beast said they had 6 generations left at some point in Morrison’s run. Which didn’t seem to cause much stir in other Marvel books at the time, and as far as I know was never mentioned again. Unless it was specifically undone by Wanda’s spell or something that came after. I didn’t read a lot of the Utopia-era stories.

  46. Chris V says:

    Morrison’s point was that mutants were truly the next stage in human evolution, so therefore, eventually more and more mutants would be born, until normal humans were bred out of the genetic pool.

    M-Day did reverse that, because now mutants were simply a minority, and Homo Sapien Sapiens was going to continue to be the majority.

  47. Thom H. says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Kryzsiek and Chris V. It didn’t occur to me to look at M-Day that way, but it makes sense.

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