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Aug 5

Giant-Size X-Men: Fantomex #1 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, August 5, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

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

“The World”
by Jonathan Hickman and Rob Reis

FANTOMEX. This is the first time we’ve seen Fantomex in the Hickman era, with a caveat that I’ll come to. Fantomex is a flamboyant super-soldier, artificially developed by the Weapon Plus project within The World, a sealed environment in which time moves faster or slower, depending on the operators’ preferences. He debuted in New X-Men #128 (2002) and became a regular in various second-tier X-books.

Fantomex was last seen in Charles Soule’s Astonishing X-Men run, where he allowed Professor X to take over his body in order to be reborn; his mind shown as being on the astral plane. This plotline, in which Professor X was acting distinctly out of character and looked very different, was completely dropped at the start of Jonathan Hickman’s run. In interviews, Hickman has indicated that Professor X was still technically in Fantomex’s body at the start of his run, but that this was all sorted out when he was resurrected into a cloned body following his assassination in X-Force #1. That begs the question of why Fantomex is back again – perhaps the X-Men restored him too, despite his professed wish to remain on the astral plane. (Fantomex was billed as a mutant in X-Force vol 4, the Si Spurrier run, so he should qualify for resurrection.)

The name “Fantomex” is a reference to the French pulp antihero Fantômas, created by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre.

PAGE 1 / COVER. Fantomex poses with his guns, with a group of AIM members in front.

PAGES 2-3. A baby is grown in an AIM laboratory.

Advanced Idea Mechanics. These characters are not explicitly identified as AIM, nor are they wearing the signature outfits, but the phrase “Advanced Ideas” does come up. This would be a proto version of the organisation, since we see in the next scene that we’re pre-Howling Commandos at this point. That doesn’t necessarily place us pre-World War II, but it probably does. In their more familiar incarnation, AIM is basically an organisation of amoral scientists who want to conquer the world in order for it to be run by, well, scientists. A lot of their schemes are mad science of its own sake. They’re science untrammelled by ethics, basically.

For some reason, AIM are trying to make clones who differ from each other only by one chromosome (why that helps them with experiments is anyone’s guess). Inexplicably, two of them are simply identical – the obvious explanation would be that the modification just didn’t work, but the scientist here seems to assume that by a sheer fluke, the replacement gene was the same as the original.

The obvious implication is that these two babies become Fantomax and his brother, but that’s not stated in terms. It’s not entirely clear which of these two babies becomes Fantomax, but you’d normally assume it’s the one seen in the last panel (given the transition into Fantomex in the first panel of the following scene). If so, it’s interesting that they mark him with a diamond on his forehead – normally the symbol associated with Mr Sinister.

AIM were not running the World in Grant Morrison’s stories, but it was said to be based on technology stolen from them.

PAGES 4-5. Cast and credits. Even though other characters appear in this story, only Fantomex is shown – reflecting his usual distance and lack of genuine interest in the other characters around him.

“Charlie and the Baby Factory”. Referencing Roald Dahl’s “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory” (1964), obviously. But according to New X-Men #144, Fantomex’s “real name” – or at least his designation within the World – was “Charlie Cluster-7.”

PAGES 6-10. Fantomex makes his first invasion into the World to see his brother.

The Howling Commandos. The basic structure of this issue is that every ten years or so (maybe on his personal timeline, rather than the outside world), Fantomex ropes in a bunch of dupes in a supposed attack on the World which is really just a diversion to let him get in to see his brother. First up are the Howling Commandos, stars of their own war comic in the 1960s, and most of whom were later brought into modern continuity as members of SHIELD. Left to right, on page 6, they are:

  • The guy in the bowler hat is Dum Dum Dugan, obviously.
  • The guy in the wide brimmed hat is Reb Ralston.
  • Kneeling down in front of him is Gabe Jones.
  • The generic-looking guy beside them is probably Izzy Cohen.
  • Nick Fury, obviously.
  • The handsome-looking guy kneeling down on the right is Dino Manelli.
  • The guy in the Scottish hat is Percy Pinkerton (who didn’t join the team until Sgt Fury & His Howling Commandos #8, so we’re somewhere after that).

Flemish is a dialect of Dutch spoken in the Flemish parts of Belgium, so Izzy and Nick are both right.

“In the middle of monarchy land without a single star or stripe in sight.” New X-Men #143 established the World as being in England.

The little boy. As we’ll see later on, this boy will grow up to be Weapon XV, also known as “Ultimaton”, the confused anti-mutant super-soldier from the “Assault on Weapon Plus” arc (New X-Men #142-145). He’s presumably the other little boy from the prologue. Since then, Ultimaton has shown up in various issues of Uncanny X-Force in 2011-12, and the second volume of Wolverine & The X-Men in 2014. He was last seen in a cameo in Uncanny X-Men vol 4 #16, part of the “Inhumans vs X-Men” crossover – at that point, he was allied with Fantomex and helping to shield the X-Men within the World.

Presumably time has been running more slowly inside the World while Fantomex has been outside, hence their different ages.

PAGES 11-15. The next suckers in line are the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club.

The Hellfire Club. The Inner Circle members are Donald Pierce, Jason Wyngarde (Mastermind) and Sebastian Shaw. Wyngarde was only ever a probationary member of the group for a short period leading up to the Dark Phoenix Saga, so that’s our timeframe. The “another decade” references throughout this story don’t really add up in terms of Marvel’s timeline, unless they’re talking about Fantomex’s subjective time, or perhaps Ultimaton’s.

The woman in black in the opening panel is Tessa, the future Sage. Note that Emma Frost is a member of the Hellfire Club at this point in continuity, but she does not appear. Nor is there any sign of Harry Leland, though, so maybe they just didn’t get everyone in.

Fantomex asks for Club privileges. He uses them again later in the issue, though that’s not exactly made clear.

PAGE 16. Fantomex just skips a decade

Honouring Ultimaton’s wishes.

PAGES 17-20. Fantomex enlists Z-list heroes the Humonganauts.

For some reason, Fantomex is prompted to return – but he never gets to offer his explanation because the Humonganauts have other questions. These guys are (obviously) new, but don’t get too attached. The main point, presumably, is that Fantomex treats these obvious losers with exactly the same mock respect that he showed to genuinely A-listers like the Howling Commandos and the Inner Circle.

“Organisms! Sterile environment breached! World under threat!” This is what the guard devices shouted in New X-Men #144.

Ultimaton seems very clear and in control here. This is in stark contrast to his behaviour in “Assault on Weapon Plus”. On the other hand, his costume is drifting towards his Weapon XV look.

PAGES 21-25. Fantomex, Wolverine and Cyclops break into the World.

This is the edited highlights of the first half of “Assault on Weapon Plus”. Page 21 takes place in the Hellfire Club’s strip club, though that isn’t mentioned directly in this issue. It’s an abridged version of a scene from New X-Men #142. Almost all the dialogue is taken from the original. There are three new lines:

  • Fantomex’s “Only one of these idiots has a healing factor”.
  • Fantomex’s “Some drinker”.
  • Wolverine’s “So what’s the name of this place again?”, which is a segue into the next scene – originally, the issue ended before that line.

Cyclops is drinking because this is the period where Jean has just found out about his affair with Emma. Obviously, the implication of this story is that as far as Fantomex was concerned, Cyclops and Wolverine were just the latest cannon fodder to serve as a distraction for him to get into the World.

The rest of this section comprises edited highlights from New X-Men #143 and #144. Of particular note, all references to Fantomex’s talking vehicle E.V.A. – which was part of him – have been removed. E.V.A. doesn’t appear anywhere in this issue. In the original story, after the line “Here, my mother was mated with machines and I was bred, gentlemen”, Fantomex immediately goes on to tell E.V.A. to stay outside until she’s needed. His line “Let us now return to the womb” is new.

Wolverine’s line “You ever walk in a place and just have an immediate desire to tear it down” is new. His line “everything smells wrong” has been taken from a later scene, and he didn’t originally mention AIM. Fantomex’s reply about “the smell of old sins revisited” is also new.

Hickman omits Fantomex’s explanation for Weapon XV’s behaviour. In the original story, Fantomex claimed that Weapon XV had snapped after seeing the World for what it was – “a factory farm” – and losing all sense of meaning.

Weapon XV’s speech at the end also differs from the original. In that story, he has narrative captions which read “Look. I have broken the World. But do I build a new prison here in the ruins, or dare go beyond? I will ask…” Then he says the line “Are you real?” Hickman converts the whole thing into a speech – though it does actually make more sense for Weapon XV to ask aloud the question that he was thinking about – and inserts the lines about remembering Fantomex. You can shoehorn this between panels of New X-Men #144 but it’s definitely a rewrite.

PAGES 26-29. Fantomex welcomes the X-Men to the World.

The X-Men are Cypher, M and Storm, none of whom are actually named.

“I’m dying.” Referring to Storm’s infection by the Children of the Vault in Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey & Emma Frost #1. The Children of the Vault’s premise is very, very similar to the World – both are closed environments where people develop at incredible speed through to time dilation.

“AIM has reasserted control of access…” Last we saw the World, it was basically under Fantomex’s control. But he’s been away a while. It’s unclear what Ultimaton’s status is at this point, but parallels with the rest of the issue would obviously imply that Fantomex is going to go after him.

Presumably, the cliffhanger ending picks up in next month’s Giant-Size X-Men: Storm #1.

PAGES 30-31. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: STORM.

Bring on the comments

  1. Taibak says:

    Erm…. Do they actually say that things age faster in the World because of time dilation?

    Because that’s kinda backwards….

  2. Josie says:

    Did . . . did Hickman completely misunderstand Fantomex? He’s not a character with a long super secret history throughout the Marvel U just like Wolverine.

    At the time he appeared in New X-Men, he fed the X-Men a tale about his backstory and escapades that was intentionally false, because he, like Weapon XII, had literally just escaped from the World.

    Rick Remender coyly followed up on the intentional ambiguity when he showed Fantomex at home with his “mother,” who wonders aloud at whether she’s actually real, at which point Fantomex tells her not to broach such ideas.

  3. Ben says:

    As a big Fantomex guy I was looking forward to this.

    We get a bunch of retcons and nothing that touches on how he’s even alive at again nor that he’s exactly the kind of being that Hickman’s run seems to be about.

    And the Storm plot moves another inch further.

    I’m basically Charlie Brown at this point.

  4. Paul says:

    The train crash happens shortly before New X-Men #128. Later in that issue, Fantomex shows up at the X-Corporation London office pursued by Weapon Plus soldiers. In issue #130, Jean briefly catches a glimpse of Fantomex’s mind, sees a second containment pod in the train crash, and concludes that Fantomex must have escaped in the same crash. In response, Fantomex immediately puts his psi-blocker back in place, and tells Jean that she’s right – though he’s hardly a reliable source.

    However… as Jean points out immediately afterwards, Fantomex already had his elaborate mountain hideaway, with his “mother” inside. The X-Men visit it in issue #129. It doesn’t make any sense for Fantomex to escape the train, travel to the mountains, set up his home, return to London and meet up with X-Corporation, all while the rescue effort from the train crash is still ongoing.

    That leaves two possibilities: (1) Fantomex didn’t escape in the train crash, the second pod belonged to someone else, and he was happy to go with whatever Jean said, or (2) he did escape in the train crash, but it wasn’t the first time. Either is consistent with what Hickman is doing here. At any rate, Morrison’s original story clearly signals that Fantomex’s “just escaped in the train crash” story is not complete.

  5. Josie says:

    I don’t have the issues on me on the moment, so let’s accept the premise for now that Hickman’s story isn’t inconsistent.

    That said, do we really need another character who secretly and shadily existed and operated in the fringes of the X-Men’s history for nearly a century but only made himself known very recently? Does that strike anyone as a worthwhile idea at this point?

  6. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Only if it’s Forget-Me-Not.

  7. CJ says:

    (Paul: “Fantomex” is typo’d as “Fantomax” in the “Advanced Idea Mechanics” section.)

    The art shows Cyclops firing his optic blasts in the New X-Men part of the comic; that must be an error since he didn’t use them till NXM #150.

    I mean, I like Fantomex too, but I thought this was a wasted opportunity to see his connection with X inhabiting his mind, which would blend nicely into this new era. That’s an obvious gap to fill.

    The omission of E.V.A is odd too. Did her humanoid form from the end of Uncanny X-Force ever make another appearance (besides “Here Comes Tomorrow”)? The next time I remember seeing it was in Si Spurrier’s X-Force where she was corrupted and in his mind.

    I really hope this is resolved next month, as now we have two groups of X-Men stuck in weird reality-bending worlds. Presumably Storm and Cypher are too important to go missing for long.

  8. CJ says:

    That being said, I love Rod Reis’s art, and unmasked Ultimaton looked great. I like the idea of a connection between XIII and XV.

  9. FUBAR007 says:

    I think, at this point, trying to reconcile the continuity is pointless. Doing so requires too much contorted No-Prizing and between-panel headcanon to make it work.

    For now, the history is whatever Hickman says it is for the purposes of his story.

  10. Karl_H says:

    What are the odds of 13 coming up twice if you roll the dice one billion times? Is that a zen koan?

  11. Chris V says:

    EVA is a techno-organic being, so I would assume EVA’s being omitted from Fantomex’ story is probably something purposeful by Hickman.
    This whole comic may be a hint that Krakoa’s rulers are messing with the characters’ memories when they clone them.
    I guess we have to assume that Fantomex has been cloned.

  12. Thom H. says:

    Fantomex would have to be cloned if he has a body now. Didn’t Xavier/X use up Fantomex’s old body by getting shot in the head?

    Also, is EVA technorganic? She’s an external nervous system, and she’s sometimes a space ship, but couldn’t she be the same kind of organic-based “technology” that Krakoa is producing right now?

    I guess what I’m asking is: has it been established what kind of “technology” EVA is? If so, does she have mechanical parts?

  13. Chris V says:

    Wasn’t she created by the Weapon Plus program as part of Fantomex’ enhanced body?
    If so, I’m assuming she’s techno-organic.

  14. wwk5d says:

    “The name “Fantomex” is a reference to the French pulp antihero Fantômas”

    I thought it was just a bad Phantom X pun. I guess it’s both?

  15. Si says:

    I like the name “Fantomax” better myself.

  16. Thom H. says:

    “I’m assuming she’s techno-organic.”

    I think that’s a fair assumption. What I’m asking is what kind of “techno-organic” she is. There’s the bad kind (mechanical / machine) and the good kind (biological / plant / animal).

    Humans use the bad kind to out-evolve mutants and destroy the world by making a pact with the Phalanx. Mutants (e.g., Forge) use the good kind on Krakoa to replace the bad kind.

    EVA could be the bad kind — built entirely by AIM with machine parts and inserted into Fantomex — or she could be the good kind –literally part of Fantomex’s body and his mutation, just a by-product of accelerating time in The World and creating advanced mutants.

    I’m not sure we know the answer since there are lots of holes in Fantomex’s history. But I’m also not as current on my X-Men trivia as I probably should be.

  17. Chris V says:

    Well, he was part of the Weapon Plus program created to kill off mutants, so I’m assuming it’s the bad kind.
    I’m guessing there’s no way to know for sure.

    The fact that Hickman seems to have deleted EVA from Fantomex’ history (in some form) would imply that there’s a reason. That would be the best reason I could see for Hickman ignoring one of the most memorable aspects of Fantomex.
    However, who really knows what Hickman is doing.

  18. Adam K says:

    These Giant Size issues really aren’t working for me.

    Hickman and the artist may find working in the Marvel Method to be an enjoyable experience, but the result have been some incredibly decompressed comics that are just complete fluff.

    The Dauterman issue I get, because the structure was tied to the Silent Issue homage, but the rest? Nothing really happens and you can tell Hickman wrote a one sentence plot based on the hint of an idea that will maybe be fully explored down the line.

    The difference between these and HoX/PoX is pretty striking. Those books were packed with ideas and they felt more rewarding/challenging as a result. And of course, I had more hope back then that they would be explored/resolved in a timely manner.

    This issue came the closest. I like Fantomex and I feel like an overly convoluted back story has been pretty much his whole deal since Day 1, so I was on board with adding yet another layer for about half the issue.

    But then it just kinda ends. It doesn’t address anything that has happened post Morrison, for good or ill, so no luck there if you want to find out how he came back to life.

    I also don’t understand how this Ultimaton retcon really works? It sure looked like Wolverine killed him in Planet X, then Remender portrayed him as a loyal robot with wires coming out of his head.

    This could all be explained, if Hickman would take the time to do so. One more flashback would have done it. Hell, throw in one text page (which I actually enjoy although I recognize it as a cheat) if you can’t find a better way to incorporate it in the story.

    And the next issue is supposed to be focused on Storm so do we think we’ll get any resolution to Fantomex’s story in THAT issue? I hope so, but it seems unlikely and then wouldn’t make structural sense. So when then? 2 years down the line?

    Pick up the pace and this could have been satisfying.

  19. Scott B says:

    I’m putting this issue down to an elaborate misdirection by Fantomex because so little of it makes any sense.

  20. sagatwarrior says:

    This is Marvel! They never resolve dangling plotline. I’m still trying to figure out who is inside Penance (when she was going by the name ‘Hollow’) a couple of years ago.

  21. David says:

    The thing about EVA is that, in NXM #130, Fantomex said “she’s my mutation.” Maybe that’s not true, but he’s said it before.

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