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Apr 29

Giant-Size X-Men

Posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

Completing our look at the Krakoa-era X-books that have actually finished stories so far, we have the first two Giant-Size X-Men one-shots.

Giant-Size is an odd format. The name refers back to the issue that launched the new X-Men back in 1975, and which was meant to be the first of a quarterly series that never happened. (Issue #2 was a reprint, and then they just cancelled the thing.) Here, though, it’s a series of one-shot Hickman stories. Except… well, X-Men is already mostly a series of one-shot Hickman stories.

So what is this, then? What distinguishes it from just an extra issue of X-Men? It’s not that they’re peripheral to the plot. Both the issues that have appeared so far contain at least one thing that’s very important indeed to the wider storyline (the final reveal in the Jean/Emma issue; the Cypher subplot in the Nightcrawler issue). So it’s pretty clear that they’re required reading for the X-Men series.

They’re longer stories than the regular issues, by about eight pages or so. And they feel like stories that have been given a little more room to breathe, rather than single issue stories that have been artificially stretched out, or indeed two-parters that have been hopelessly compressed. That’s not a huge difference, though. After all, the Jean/Emma issue is a homage to the silent issue of Morrison and Quitely’s New X-Men, which was a regular issue of the series (albeit part of the no-dialogue gimmick month).

Mainly, the answer seems to be that these issues are showcases for the artist, in a way that the regular titles aren’t. That’s particularly obvious with the Jean/Emma issue; since it’s silent, the emphasis shifts firmly to Russell Dauterman’s art and away from the complex plot-building that tends to feature in Hickman’s stories. Repeating the basic plot of the original issue, Jean and Emma embark on a “psychic rescue” inside Storm’s mind in order to find out what’s going on with her. The result is an extended piece of dream logic, where the silence plays into the distancing effect. It doesn’t make sense exactly – we’ve seen tons of stories where people embark on psychic missions without being silent – but Morrison and Quitely’s original story was one of the more successful takes on the theme, making it serve the story rather than play as a gimmick. The very fact that it’s being reprised without the context of a theme month shows how well it worked.

And this sort of issue needs the extra space, too – partly because it doesn’t have expository dialogue to fall back on, but mostly because these things need to take their time and preserve the mood. Some of Dauterman’s issue is very dreamy indeed (elephants with butterfly wings), and a muted twilight palette serves it well – particularly for the shock contrast when we get the techno images at the end.

It’s still an issue that works best when read alongside the original, so that you can compare how certain scenes are paralleled – and how the repeated moments play out differently. A large part of the point of this issue is that Emma and Jean’s relationship has changed since the time of the original story, so that despite Emma’s sardonic air, the two of them are working together properly. It’s a shame they didn’t spell that out more explicitly in the issue itself, since the original issue was many years ago now – if you don’t already know what’s going on here, there’s not much in the issue itself to explain it. Without that dimension, it would still be pretty, but rather slight.

The Nightcrawler issue is not so successful. A collaboration with Alan Davis, it’s meant to be broadly a ghost story, with weird ghost figures in the abandoned mansion. That doesn’t come across so well, not least because the whole thing has a brightly lit look to it. It’s not particularly a Nightcrawler story either – he’s simply the highest profile character in the team that are sent to investigate. But Magik and Cypher are there too, so it’s not like he’s been put in charge of a bunch of ingenues.

It’s a pleasure to see Davis draw Nightcrawler again, of course. Davis’s Excalibur run is one of the best in X-books history, and reminders are always welcome. But pretty much any character could have been plugged into Kurt’s role here – it doesn’t really fit in with the doubts he’s been raising over in X-Men, while it’s Cypher who actually does the heavy lifting to advance the plot. And the resolution of the mystery turns out to involve the improbable scenario of a bunch of little Sidri joining together to somehow or other make a perfect replica of Rachel Summers.

Now, that’s where the wider plot needs to go – alien race, hive mind, Powers of X. If you’re been following the Hickman run from the start, you’ll get why this stuff could matter. But it feels like a story that started from a one-line contribution to the bigger picture (“the Sidri need to be living in the abandoned X-Men Mansion”) and worked back from there. The ghost story angle doesn’t play into that destination, and so it comes across as something that’s being done to fill the pages until it’s time to tick the box and satisfy the remit.

It’s not a bad issue, just an underwhelming one that never quite gets into top gear. And the most obviously significant revelation is actually confined to a subplot, which doesn’t help. Lovely to look at, but not all that memorable.

So after two issues, it’s mixed. These stories do seem to bring another voice to bear on Hickman’s world, and they’re visually impressive. But the ambition of the silent issue isn’t really matched in the haunted mansion issue, which has a story that wouldn’t have been out of place in X-Men Unlimited. Time will tell which of these was the outlier.

Bring on the comments

  1. SanityOrMadness says:

    Paul> But it feels like a story that started from a one-line contribution to the bigger picture (“the Sidri need to be living in the abandoned X-Men Mansion”) and worked back from there.

    Reportedly, that’s not a million miles from what happened (although no doubt the Cypher/Warlock thing was also in the synopsis). It was done fully in the old “Marvel Method”, and Davis also contributed most of the scripting. Hickman just supplied the premise and did an editing pass.

  2. Eric says:

    I haven’t quite gotten up to these issues yet; although thanks to the combination of Marvel having all the Dawn of X books on sale AND a BOGO code on comixology at the same time, I actually have all the Dawn of X issues and am catching up on them.

    My reaction, about 2/3 of the way through it, is I’ll keep buying them when they wind up on sale at a dollar each… but other than possibly Marauders, there’s nothing I’m interested in paying full price for.

    It probably doesn’t help that I’m dead certain Moira’s “possible eleventh life” will be used to reset large chunks of the run when all is said and done.

  3. Nu-D says:

    Deuterman’s art is lovely, but the issue just highlighted for me how amazing Quitely’s art can be. He’s a master of body language. Take the famous “we ought to talk” panel, for instance.

    In Quitely’s panel, Jean has walked past Logan and Scott and is looking ahead. She has her shoulders back, striding confidently. She has brushed past them. She is telling the men, politely, come with me while I tell you what is going on. She doesn’t need to wait to see if they’ll take her suggestion that they “ought to talk,” because she knows they’ll follow her lead. This is the behavior of a veteran, a senior X-Man with the respect of her colleagues. And she’s right. Scott and Logan have turned their heads to follow her. They’re standing with their feet together, waiting helplessly to learn from Jean what’s going on. They know she’s in charge here, because she’s the senior member with the most information.

    In Deuterman’s panel Jean has paused and is looking at Logan. Her shoulders are more forward. She is asking the the men to listen, suggesting, not commanding. This is the behavior of someone unsure whether then men will listen or respect her view. She’s waiting to see how they react to her suggestion, rather than confidently assuming they’ll follow. Meanwhile, Scott and Logan are standing with their feet apart, flanking the door and facing her. They’re confronting her for information, demanding a report. They’re in charge and she has to answer to them.

    Emma’s interesting. In Quitely’s panel, she’s clearly acknowledging Jean is in the lead here. She’s hanging back, not engaging. She’s closing the door behind Jean, and watching to follow Jean’s lead. That makes sense, since she was useless on the mission, and doesn’t have the trust of the X-Men and particularly Jean.

    In the other panel, she’s standing at the strange, oblique angle. And she’s standing, not moving or entering. She’s also right on Jean’s heels. Did Jean just phase through her? Push by her? How did they get there? Emma’s positioning and Jean’s motion don’t add up.

    Quitely is masterful with body language. Think of the cover of All-Star Superman, where ‘s he’s sitting gazing over the horizon. Superman is nearly invulnerable, so it make sense that even while on sentry duty, he’d physically be at ease, sitting as though he was watching a sunset. There are so many other perfect examples.

    Deuterman’s figures and colors are pretty, and his psychedelic mindscapes are creative. I’ll grant him that. But few artists capture the attitudes and moods of the characters like Quitely can.

  4. YLu says:

    I assumed the Sidri only looked like Rachel because of Lady Mastermind’s powers.

    Hickman said these were originally going to be annuals. So to the question of what’s their point, they have the same point as the typical Marvel annual: None.

    Though I’ve been enjoying them nonetheless.


    Not just the Nightcrawler issue. All of them were done old school “Marvel style” and apparently even started with Hickman asking the artist what they wanted to draw. Though in the case of the other issues, the artist presumably won’t be doing much actual scripting.

  5. Thom H. says:

    I’m actually more of a fan of Hickman’s ultra-dense writing style a la HoXPoX. One of the reasons the DoX X-Men has been so hit or miss for me is that most issues are oblique hints at future developments. These pseudo-annuals seem very much in the same vein only with prettier art.

    In fact, the extra length and artist-driven narratives make them seem even slighter than a regular issue of X-Men. At least old-school annuals used to tell a story from beginning to end. Here we’re just getting more out-of-the-blue plot points that are going to be picked up…who knows where or when.

    On a separate note, I love the art analysis, Nu-D. Spot on!

  6. Evilgus says:

    Loved the Nightcrawler annual for Alan Davis art. But wasn’t clear to me why the Sidri/Mastermind represented classic hound Rachel…? I suppose it at least acknowledges there’s room for Rachel’s convoluted history under the new regime.

    That’s an excellent explanation as to why Quietly is so good! I’m going to go back to his art with a fresh pair of eyes. It also explains why some artists who draw beautifully still lack that certain connection. Accurate body language is so subtle and unappreciated. As is Quitely!

  7. Evilgus says:

    Argh, I’m annoyed at my spell check auto changing “Quitely”… Bah! 🙂

  8. MasterMahan says:

    @Nu-D: Wow, that is some excellent analysis. You’re right, when I think of the Quitely art that sticks in my mind, body language is a major component of it. That side-by-side comparison of Superman and Clark Kent, for example. Superman stands up ramrod straight while Clark slouches forward, managing to look fat and awkward. It truly sells that people could see look at one and not see the other.

  9. wwk5d says:

    While I appreciate how much thought, time, details, and effort Quitely puts into his artwork, there is a certain rubbery texture to his characters that I find extremely off-putting. Plus his character’s faces all look like they got hit in the face with a shovel.

  10. Voord 99 says:

    Has Marvel ever done Giant-Size Giant-Man? Seems obvious.

  11. Thom H. says:

    “Plus his character’s faces all look like they got hit in the face with a shovel.”

    I love Quitely’s work, and I fully agree with this statement. You can see him struggle throughout his New X-Men work to make Jean and Emma as attractive as they’re usually portrayed. Both good and bad in my opinion. It helps to pull the focus away from their looks and places it more directly on other attributes (e.g., behaviors, emotional states). It also throws me out of the story sometimes as I wonder “what happened to Jean’s face?”

  12. Chad Bearden says:

    Quitely’s faces take me out of the stories no more than other distinctive artists do, such as Romita Jr. or Allred, whose faces can also feel a bit samey. Their art is dynamic enough to more than make up for it in other ways.

  13. Voord 99 says:

    I have a suspicion that one’s reactions to Quiteley’s faces may be affected by whether one was exposed to Dudley Watkins characters as a child. If I’m remembering correctly, Quiteley has specifically talked about the influence that The Broons had on him, and I think anyone can see Desperate Dan in a lot of Quiteley’s chins.

  14. Josie says:

    What is the significance of Doug and Warlock being separate? Is Warlock not supposed to be separate from Doug? Is he supposed to be dead? Is he supposed to be just an arm? And if this is such an important twist, why haven’t we gotten a scene with anyone asking Doug what’s going on with his arm?

  15. Paul says:

    Cypher has been implying that he simply has a techno-organic arm, and everyone else seems to have thought so too. Until Magik sees him in Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler, she didn’t know that Warlock was there either. So Cypher (who is absolutely central to the X-Men’s dealings with Krakoa) is intentionally keeping secrets and working his own scheme for whatever reason.

  16. Chris V says:

    We saw a scene in House or Powers where Doug Ramsey seems to infect Krakoa with the techno-organic virus. It probably plays in to that somehow too.

  17. Ben says:

    But we also already knew Doug had an arm, Warlock was hiding on him, and they’re both being real shifty from a scene in (I believe) X-Men.

    So the only tiny advancement of the story in this is that Magick finds out.

    And no, I don’t think anyone has ever mentioned Doug having a Phalanx arm at all up until this point.

    Or about Warlock, who wasn’t supposed to be dead or anything I don’t think.

    It’s odd storytelling.

  18. Alan L says:

    These issues really show me Hickman failing to measure out the effects of his writing in the calculated way he generally likes to present as a part of his “brand.” Sure, these giant–sized editions were meant to be art–centric, but how good a decision was that when the rest of Hickman’s status quo is plotted to the hilt, and purposely freighted with extra significance in the process? The results in these issues come off, as Thom H. says, far slighter than the standard Hickman issue. And I think, just as Quitely delivers a more sophisticated visual treatment than Dauterman does, Morrison’s issue has more purpose and depth than Hickman’s imitation. The reason Jean and Emma are going into Cassandra Nova’s mind in the Morrison issue is to figure out the key mystery of the larger plot that’s been unfolding over several issues. Who is Cassandra Nova? Why does she hate the X-men? And Morrison’s motivation to show Emma struggling in the mindscape and Jean leading the way is to further develop the characterization he’s been giving Emma, Jean and Scott––the rivalry between Jean and Emma, the way in which both Scott and Emma are increasingly growing intimidated by Jean…the strident way Jean herself hardly seems to care about their feelings of antipathy towards her. Every character is moving towards something––not physically, but in terms of a trajectory of development that we’ve been following for several issues. The revelation at the end of the story––that Xavier tried to strangle Cassandra Nova in the womb, hits like a thunderclap, because it re–jiggers what we have believed about Charles Xavier up until that point. The self–sacrificing visionary now seems to be a jealous, potentially homicidal schemer and manipulator. It isn’t the first time this more sinister direction is implied for Xavier, but it is the most obvious proof up to that time that Professor X is a lot more dangerous than meets the eye, even to his friends and allies––the most obvious such proof by miles at that time in publication history. So the mystery that is revealed by the silent mental journey is more than worth the effort for the reader. The plot––which, incidentally is wound up very tightly with the characterization Morrison is going for (a trick Hickman would do well to try one of these days)––is advanced precipitously, and the story arcs which follow this one flow out of the revelations distributed at the end of this issue.

    By comparison, the first Giant–sized issue of the new Dawn of X run advances very little, and seems to lead to nothing much. Storm being infected with a virus by the Children of the Vault just seems like another minor complication in the current status quo––no more meaningful than Broo eating the Brood King Egg. We have no information about any of these developments before they happen, so they don’t mean anything much to us. It sounds menacing? Storm might die, I guess (but I doubt it; and even if she does, does that matter anymore?) And the climactic revelation of the new issue–that Storm is infected––doesn’t have the weight that a character–motivated reveal would have. We don’t think of Storm any differently as a result. When we learn Professor X tried to kill Cassandra Nova in the womb, we already know how dangerous and angry Cassandra Nova is, because we’ve seen what she’s done. So the revelation of her motivations means a lot, and advances both general plot and characterization for most of the main characters.

    As to the journey of Jean and Emma, in the Morrison issue this was charged with a certain frisson because Jean was in the process of alienating Scott and intimidating Emma, and Scott and Emma were being drawn closer because of it. No one trusted Emma, and Emma herself was in a very negative place after the Genoshan massacre. Her own purchase in this world was unstable; she was being revealed to be weaker than she had ever previously seemed. Jean lorded this over her during the excursion, and Emma clearly resented being made to feel small. We could see her alienation and the revelation of her vulnerability driving her towards Scott. But nothing like that is happening in the Giant–sized issue. The relationship between Jean and Emma in the current books remains undefined. Hickman has them play weird verbal sparring–matches whenever he pairs them up in the occasional scene, but we don’t get a sense of what that means. How do they look at one another now? Unfortunately, this Giant–sized issue offers no answers. The duo hardly relate to one another in their exploration of Storm’s mind. They seem to be more cooperative than in the Morrison issue––but that cooperation is to me more redolent of the way members of a D&D party put aside their quirky character comments to dutifully explore the deserted castle keep or wizard’s layer the dungeonmaster has laid out for them. Somewhere in that abandoned ruin lays the McGuffin which will tell them where to go on the next leg of their campaign. And that’s exactly how this issue unfolds; there’s a thing in Storm’s mind. We hardly got a hint of this in the issue where they attacked the Vault––no real foreshadowing to speak of––and the thing that’s there in Storm’s mind is only important because it connects in a vague, thematic way back to Powers of X, and the idea of post-humanism writ large. At the end of the issue they learn that a) the thing is there in Storm’s mind, and b) it’s going to kill her. This means c) they must talk. So we can’t set aside the fact that the “shushing” in Morrison’s issue was meant to be making fun of Bill Jemas’ insistence on a nearly dialogue-less issue, and so Jean’s demand to talk at the end of the silent ordeal was Morrison’s own plea against his boss’ absurdly restrictive edict. That Hickman has mimicked the “shushing” and the “must talk” dialogue down to the very panel without any trace of such irony might bother some. I see it as another instance which underlines the lack of sophistication in Hickman’s nuts-and-bolts writing of any given issue––his entropic plots are very tight, but his technique once the narrative is committed to paper lacks what is needed to bring his big ideas with any grace, charm, or sophistication. In this case, he mimics what’s come before him without really understanding why it’s there. And he does so all the while ignoring the most salient parts of the “silent issue” experiment––the fact that Morrison is able to keep characters developing and plot leaping forward, even without the benefit of dialogue, and that he has the wit and the command to mock the edict that silenced his issue in the meantime. I think it should be a little worrying to people who expect Hickman’s run to climax in a way which ties everything together, and which provides both an emotional and an intellectual resolution, that these issues display writing with the grand ambition to mimic and deconstruct famous issues by previous writers without the benefit of understanding how those issues work or what range of effects they convey––to say nothing of the lack of a convincing sense of humor on display in any of these Hickman issues. To do a bit like this without a sense of good humor is deadly, and I really don’t like the results. Claremont was a humorless writer after a fashion, but he had a more breathless sense of fun and adventure which papered over the conspicuous way in which Claremont took his writing really seriously. Claremont was preoccupied with his ideas, but he was always thinking of how they would land with the audience; he wrote facing us, the readers. I often feel as if Hickman writes facing away from us, like someone looking at something else in the distance, off to the side, and all the while talking to you out the side of their mouth and expecting you to follow their drift. I don’t feel that Hickman intends to meet and engage us, exactly; it seems to me he expects the reader to do the lion’s share of the work putting his ideas together and forever justifying their ill–fitting form of delivery. In this issue he expects us to be impressed with the way he has reproduced a classic issue within the context of his new status quo––but he seems unaware that the trick has failed, and that his new issue mimics the form of the previous one, but has not managed to duplicate the quality of content therein.

    As others have said here, I think the Nightcrawler issue is even more slight; Nightcrawler has no specific reason for being in the issue and he uncovers nothing of import. I like Regan Wyngarde a lot (from other posts people might know I was a big fan of the Mike Carey run on X-men and X-men Legacy, where Lady Mastermind was a lot of fun), but I honestly didn’t know she wasn’t already on Krakoa at this point. I don’t remember her having any interaction with Kurt which would make Kurt finding her somewhat meaningful. Didn’t he maybe kick her once in Messiah Complex? That’s the extent of the connection between the two of them, such as I’ve seen. This issue should have been “Giant–Sized X-men: Cypher,” anyway; he’s the key figure around which the story works, and he’s the only character here which Hickman seems interested in writing.

    I guess there’s supposed to be a Fantomex issue due eventually in this line-up? One of the things that bothers me about these giant-sized books is how they are not seeded or foreshadowed at all in the other books in the line. They come from nothing, but we are meant to read them as if they are part of the big tapestry of Hickman–flavored ultrastory. I’m sure that the feeling that disconnects them from the prime narrative comes from the way in which these books are brought into being as much as anything, but I feel by this point I’ve been trained by Hickman in the most Pavlovian of ways to anticipate that, no matter how awkward, meaningless–seeming, poorly–conceived, or disjointed his next literary maneuver will be, I must stay alert; because ultimately, it will absolutely mean something. Probably it will mean the most important thing in the end. So I suppose I have to keep reading them, collecting breadcrumbs of story development in anticipation of a grand payoff, somewhere down the line. In the meantime, the books––and these giant–sized books, especially––are bad. They’re very hollow, mimicking better books from the past, and in and of themselves lacking in story interest and in human feeling. And plot and character––the main things we follow in these serialized stories––are hidden or obscured. Is Professor X brainwashing the X-men? What’s the deal with the Children of the Vault/Apocalypse/the Brood King Egg/the other island/the Summers/Grey/Howlett love triangle/Emma and Scott/Emma and Jean/Kitty not being able to get through the gates/Krakoa eating a couple of mutants a year or whatever? What’s happened to the human villains? To Sabretooth? To Moira? To Professor X? To the Phalanx? Warlock? Cypher? Hordeculture (I grit my teeth as I type their stupid name)? Everything is held off until later, with the littlest of bits of any revelations doled out piecemeal, and the whole theory of what’s happening and who means what to whom in this new order is throttled, held hostage to the big reveals, somewhere later on down the line. But what about the books we’re reading right now? Shouldn’t they be worthwhile, in and of themselves? Shouldn’t we know some things in them, like why certain characters end up on one mission as opposed to others, or how the characters think or feel about the “adventures” they’re having? Shouldn’t we know at least what the characters *think* of what they’re experiencing, rather than have it all held off for the future? Especially with an expanded page count, I feel, you could wade into some of this. But there is precious little there.

  19. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    ‘it is the most obvious proof up to that time that Professor X is a lot more dangerous than meets the eye, even to his friends and allies––the most obvious such proof by miles at that time in publication history.’

    …well, yes and no. However stupid Onslaught was, the conceit was he was as much part Xavier’s as Magneto’s ‘darkest impulses’. Xavier wiping Magneto’s mind – destroying the person, even though he didn’t end his life – also comes to mind.

    Oh, and he felt bad once and his repressed dark urges took over, enslaving whole sentient races and destroying planets, but it was in another dimension in a miniseries, so it doesn’t get brought up over and over again like the Phoenix eating a star or Cyclops not doing anything wrong but being branded a terrorist anyway.

    …and also licensing issues I guess. This was X-Men and the Micronauts (co-written by Claremont, so it had the x-writer stamp of approval, one would assume), and since the Micronauts aren’t with Marvel, this isn’t on Unlimited and probably hasn’t been reprinted in ages, if it ever was? I only know of it from summaries, which is a shame, because it sounds properly bonkers.

    But yeah, technically Xavier was a space tyrant and a genocidal maniac over 15 years before Morrison’s run, except he did it while sleepwalking.

  20. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    And as for Giant Size Jean & Emma – I’m mixed on this issue. I think sometimes an homage can just be an homage without having to be as weighty and important as the original thing. And I like Dauterman’s art – on a purely aesthetic level I much prefer him to Quitely, whose rubber people I often find off-putting.
    And there is a kernel of character work here, though maybe not in the issue itself, but rather in the contrast between Jean & Emma’s relationship in the Morrison issue and here.

    On the other hand, well, I agree with everything else. It’s slight, it comes from nowhere, it doesn’t feel important. And I wouldn’t mind if it was a single issue of the X-Men, since that title is, well, basically like that in almost every issue anyway. But it’s a whole mini-project, these Giant-Sizes, and the first two don’t do much to make me want to read the rest.

  21. Josie says:

    “Cypher has been implying that he simply has a techno-organic arm, and everyone else seems to have thought so too.”

    But . . . was this supposed to be a surprise to readers? I mean, what else were we supposed to think of Doug having an arm that looks exactly like the texture of Warlock? The scene in this one-shot was played as a huge development, except I can’t imagine anyone reading this didn’t already assume it was the case.

  22. Nu-D says:

    Good analysis, Alan. But more paragraph breaks, please!

    I never really bought into the idea that Xavier killing Nova in the womb revealed anything about his character. I have a hard time making moral judgments about the actions of a fetus. Even if we’re to assume it was a conscious act, it was portrayed as self-defense. So the whole premise in terms of his character fell a bit flat for me.

  23. Thom H. says:

    I think the trick with Doug’s arm is that *readers* strongly suspect that it’s Warlock glommed onto Doug’s body. But the characters in the book don’t seem to suspect the same thing. So we know something the other characters don’t (except Illyana now).

    Which makes a certain sense because Doug has variously been merged with, infected by, and resurrected via the transmode virus since nearly the beginning of his career with the New Mutants. So in-story, no one should suspect this new manifestation of Doug’s enmeshment with techno-organic whatever. They’re used to seeing bits of circuitry appearing on Cypher for years now.

    The “revelation” that the arm might really be a fully functional and separately conscious Warlock confirms what readers may have suspected all along (at least if those readers know that Warlock is currently meant to be alive). And it flags the fact that no one in-story knows or suspects it.

    So the question becomes: is knowledge of Warlock’s presence being suppressed by the same force that is making everyone act strangely? If that force is Krakoa (or Krakoa controlled by the Phalanx) then it would make sense – Warlock, Krakoa, and Doug are all effectively one entity at this point, or at least trending in that direction.

    This is all a generous reading of the situation taken at face value. Filtered through the reasonable doubts that Hickman hasn’t done his homework (i.e., doesn’t know Warlock is widely known to be alive) and/or that Hickman can’t write in recognizable character voices (i.e., there is no mind-control element to the story), then this subplot becomes pretty garbled. But that can be said for basically everything in this run so far, so we’ll have to wait and see.

  24. Thom H. says:

    Excellent points, Alan L. Hickman’s rivalry between mutants and Children of the Vault has no teeth for the reasons you cite (e.g., no foreshadowing, no real stakes for the characters involved).

    The Children of the Vault have posed no obvious threat so far in this story aside from infecting Storm with…something. And I’m not really clear on whether mutants at large even know that post-humanity is the ultimate threat to their existence. Has Moira (through Xavier and Magneto) shared that information with the other characters? Does the Quiet Council know? Do the combat captains?

    Or are Cyclops, et al., carrying out missions against the Mother Mold and the Children of the Vault simply because they’ve been told to and those are historically on their (long) list of enemies?

  25. Evilgus says:

    Another great analysis of what made Morrison’s quiet issue so powerful in comparison to Hickman’s. We’ve noted that Quietly’s art and body language enhanced the plot – but there’s so much subtle register, as you draw out, in how Jean interacts with and powers over Emma. And the final reveal was like a spade to the face, at the time (before we went full Xavier-is-evil with Deadly Genesis, which is hard to row back from).

    In the end, Morrison’s story is rooted in character behaviour driving plot. Hickman’s is a very pretty journey, but with no furthering of the Jean-Emma dynamic and with no emotional stakes. After all, Storm herself has been very peripheral in the series thus far.

    Genuine question: can Hickman write good female characters? Or are all his characters just slightly wooden?

  26. Chris V says:

    Krzysiek-The Micronauts story was something of a sequel to Uncanny X-Men #105. That was the first time we saw that there was a dark side to Xavier.
    Bill Mantlo apparently gave the idea to Claremont, and he used it when he needed a fill-in story during the original Phoenix Saga.
    Mantlo must have really liked the idea, as he brought the plot idea back for the Micronauts cross-over.

    No, it has never been reprinted. It was actually really boring. It was a real slog trying to read through the four issues.
    While Claremont was written as co-writer, I think it was mostly all Mantlo doing the writing. There was very little of Claremont’s style to the writing.

  27. Chris V says:

    Thom-I do wonder if Moira’s plan may not involve the techno-organic virus.
    Maybe her end goal is to have mutants achieve Ascension and become truly immortal.

    Moira must realize that the biggest limitation on her plan is that she is eventually going to die.
    Even if she creates a mutant utopia in this life, eventually she will age and die, negating all her work.
    Her end game must involve her becoming immortal.
    She realizes that the Phalanx can grant her immortality from her prior life.

  28. Chris V says:

    Evilgus-I’d say most of his characters are pretty wooden. Many act more like archetypes than actual characters.
    However, I do think he may be particularly bad at writing females. I can’t really think of any female characters that Hickman writes as authentic.

    I have zero recollection of how Hickman wrote Invisible Woman during his FF run.
    I think that Hickman wrote Reed, Ben, and Johnny as memorable (although fairly one-dimensional, outside Ben) characters, but his Sue was very unmemorable.

    Meanwhile, in X-Men, we have Jean dressing in a mini-skirt and calling herself “Marvel Girl”.
    He does a much better job writing Emma, because he can write her as an eccentric character. He can write characters better when he can write them as flamboyant and eccentric; rather than needing to treat them as serious, realistic, multi-dimensional characters.
    Then, they all start to sound like cardboard cut-outs.

  29. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I was going to say that Hickman’s Valeria was memorable, but then she’s probably covered by the eccentric clause.

  30. SanityOrMadness says:

    Of course, one thing about the Cypher/Warlock revelation is that it was spoiled by the HoX #1 Directors’ Cut script (Oddly enough, right under a redacted line. Idly, I wonder if they redacted the wrong line…)

    Thom H.> Filtered through the reasonable doubts that Hickman hasn’t done his homework (i.e., doesn’t know Warlock is widely known to be alive)

    Is he? I mean, Rosenberg left 4/5ths of Warlock mindwiped and merged with a Madrox dupe. (With the remaining fifth something-something Strong Guy corpse). Finding out he’s not just fine, but hiding out on Dough should be a bit of a surprise.

  31. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Then again Rosenberg’s run immediately became a sort of murky, ‘has any of it really happened’ territory. Almost all of the deaths depicted in it were immediately reversed, and since Hickman wasn’t interested in mentioning, um… anything from previous runs past Genosha’s destruction, really*, there wasn’t any connective tissue between the books. Basically, Rosenberg’s run immediately became what most of continuity becomes after several years anyway – ‘stuff that happened only if the current plotline needs it to have happened’.

    *- Genosha’s destruction, Emma getting rid of Shaw and Rahne dying (implied since New Mutants opens with a flashback to her resurrection). I’m honestly grasping at straws if there are any other direct mentions or connections to stuff from this century (in Hickman’s scripts, not generally in all DoX books). Well, I guess he also used characters created after 2000 – Vulcan, Broo, even Trinary – though without making any mention of any stories they were in.

  32. Thom H. says:

    Oh, good call. I completely forgot all of the Warlock stuff that happened under Rosenberg.

    I don’t think that changes my larger point, though. Either Hickman isn’t following up on previous continuity (bad writing) or something is suppressing other characters’ curiosity about the current Douglock situation (actually kind of interesting).

  33. neutrino says:

    Warlock was supposedly killed in Uncanny #22.

    Cyclops and the others seem to accept Professor X saying that the Children of the Vault are mutants’ greatest threat.

  34. Nu-D says:

    Warlock died in New Mutants (1sr series) #96. That’s where it should have ended. He was never much of a character, and without Senkiewicz’ unique style, he was just in the way.

    Anyhow, I don’t see discontinuity as “bad writing.” I’ve given up on trying to treat the whole publication history as a single long_form narration. I’m much more interested in seeing discrete stories with a beginning, middle and end, exploring the characters and themes of the X-Men. If the current story doesn’t quite jive with some prior story, well, so what? If it’s good, it’s good.

  35. Si says:

    Remember that storyline in one of the more recent New Mutants revivals where it turned out Cypher conquered the future world by making everyone wear bits of Warlock, and he could make them a hive mind under his control?

  36. Luke H says:

    I’m always in for a chance to see Davis return to any of the Excalibur characters. It was also neat to see him render Doug again as well. Interesting to see Mark Farmer absent and Davis self inking. I don’t know that I can ever recall seeing that before at least in recent history. Anyone know if this is something new or have I just missed? On one hand I I didn’t care for it as much missing the slickness of Farmer’s work but on the other it added a sense of freshness that 30 years of their work together lacks at this point. The solo Davis Excalibur run is my all time favorite in comics period.

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