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Aug 6

Empyre: X-Men #2 annotations

Posted on Thursday, August 6, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

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

“Growing Strong”
by Gerry Duggan, Ben Percy, Leah Williams & Lucas Werneck

So far as the writing is concerned, Empyre: X-Men is basically a jam session for the writers of the regular X-books. So this isn’t a particularly serious book – as if that wasn’t obvious from the mutants vs zombies vs plants vs old women set-up – and we can take this one pretty quickly.

PAGE 1 / COVER. Angel and Magik face off against a Cotati.

PAGES 2-3. Recap and credits.

PAGES 4-13. Lots of fighting, the boys get ensorcelled, and Hordeculture join forces with the X-Men.

Sven. Hordeculture’s yoga and water aerobics instructor from the local YMCA was mentioned in X-Men #3 too. Hordeculture hold him in high regard. Maybe we’ll meet him one day.

Burke Williams is a Californian spa chain.

Hordeculture’s phermone spray is… off-gimmick? They’re botanists, not all-purpose mad scientists.

“Magik is gonna become the number one cause of death for women with pre-existing conditions over the age of 65.” Hordeculture are normal humans, so she’s really not meant to kill them. Mind you, her line to M on the next page kind of suggests that she’s serious.

“Hands, touching hands, reaching out, touching me, touching you…” The bridge into the chorus from Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”. A top ten hit in America in 1969, and in the UK in 1971.

“None of you better want to make out.” Callback to New Mutants #5, where Magik offered that as an option to the Shi’ar Death Commandos. Evidently she draws the line at zombies.

“We should call in Sunfire to blast this place from orbit.” Not sure Sunfire would be the first name that sprang to mind for somebody to scour a city, but he’s probably powerful enough to be it. We’re seen very little of him in the Krakoan era, but he did have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo in X-Force #1.

“The X-Men killed a billion broccolis once.” Presumably the D’bari, also sometimes known as the Asparagus People – though they were killed in X-Men vol 1 #135 by Dark Phoenix, rather than the X-Men.

“May I ask why I can’t read your mind?” Hordeculture’s minds were also shielded from Emma Frost in X-Men #3.

“Isn’t your power to think clearly?” Not really, no. M’s wide range of powers does include high intelligence, but it’s not this specific.

Limbo. It’s been a while since Magik’s called in the troops from Limbo. Apparently we’re going through a phase where Limbo is nicely under control.

PAGES 14-17. Explodey Boy stops the Cotati from blowing up their ship.

PAGES 18-19. Everyone tries to fight the growing seedpod.

M, Madrox and Hordeculture members Lily and Edith get stuck on the other side of the barrier here, which effectively happens off panel, and really isn’t at all well conveyed for an important plot point. Magik helpfully points it out again on page 25.

PAGES 20-22. Black Tom Cassidy is called in.

Black Tom Cassidy is a regular in X-Force, where his bond with the vegetation of Krakoa (and its effect on his mental health) is thoroughly established. His trick here of linking to the Krakoan fragments still on Angel’s costume is new, but not particularly out of line with what he’s done before.

PAGES 23-29. More battling.

Black walnut trees. The factoid about black walnut trees releasing toxic chemicals to stop competitors from getting a foothold is true. The technical term is allelopathy, and it’s not unique to black walnut trees, though they are particularly associated with it.

“I forgot about the draw! Krakoa feeds on psychic energy!” I’m not sure I understand what Magik means by “draw”. But I guess the idea is that the Cotati seedpod is able to harm M because she’s a psychic… and Krakoa’s a plant too… and it feeds on mutant energy, which is kind of the same… no, it doesn’t really make sense, does it?

Magik appears in her Soulsword armour for the first time in years here. The significance isn’t immediately obvious.

PAGES 30-32. Magik calls in the psychics of Krakoa to help.

I suppose the idea is that she’s going to try and overload the Cotati thing with the psychic energy that she infers it took from M? None of this is really all that clear. Anyway, there’s a bunch of randoms in this scene, most of them wearing X-Men uniforms (which is odd, since most inhabitants of Krakoa have worn their own costumes or just regular clothes). The recognisable characters are:

  • Pixie, on page 30 with the purple hair. We last saw her in Cable #1.
  • On page 31 panel 3, that looks to be Bling seen from behind.
  • On the final splash page, in the front row, from left to right… Three of the Stepford Cuckoos – notably, not the other two, and not Emma Frost.
  • Exodus, a genuine A-lister in power if not in anything else.
  • Kid Omega from X-Force.
  • Lady Mastermind, who arrived on Krakoa in Giant-Size X-Men: Nightcrawler #1.
  • The original Mastermind, making his first appearance of the Krakoan era. Mastermind died from the Legacy Virus in Uncanny X-Men Annual #17 way back in 1993 – evidently he’s been resurrected.
  • In the back row, Amahl Farouk! This guy is an A-list villain, though there’s been a degree of ambiguity as to whether he actually is the Shadow King, or is merely possessed by the Shadow King. This is his first appearance of the Krakoan era, but he’s shown up as a vessel for the Shadow King before in modern stories, and as far as we know, he was alive already – he was last seen in a cameo in Uncanny Avengers vol 3 #5.
  • Mr Sinister, obviously.
  • The woman in black is presumably Selene, also previously established as being on Krakoa.

PAGES 33-34. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: PSYCHIC SHOWDOWN.

Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    So, Farouk is a mutant?

    Shadow King was established to be something other than a mutant by Claremont, so I can’t see the Shadow King being on Krakoa.
    If he was, there would certainly have to be a bigger deal about the Shadow King being part of Krakoa.
    He isn’t some minor background villain.

  2. Paul says:

    Farouk was identified as a mutant in his debut in X-Men #117 – and the original point of the character was that he was the first evil mutant that Charles Xavier had met. Later stories have been a bit vague about whether he actually is the Shadow King, or whether he’s simply a host for the Shadow King.

  3. SanityOrMadness says:

    Paul> Limbo. It’s been a while since Magik’s called in the troops from Limbo. Apparently we’re going through a phase where Limbo is nicely under control.

    Which is odd, since Belasco was ruling it in the just-cancelled Ghost Rider series…

  4. Chris V says:

    In X-Men #117, it was assumed that Farouk and Shadow King were the same, and that was what Xavier meant by meeting his first “evil mutant”.
    Then, in X-Men: True Friends, Claremont revealed that the Shadow King was a parasitic entity which existed since the beginning of time, and was not a mutant.
    So, Farouk and the Shadow King couldn’t be the same being, and Farouk must have just been a host.

    I guess that retcon would imply that Farouk was a mutant though, based on X-Men #117.

  5. Michael says:

    Was X-men: True Friends even considered canon? It wasn’t published when it was supposed to be, and I’m pretty sure it was set up for the Mutant Wars, although I’m just guessing.

    About Limbo, it’s had all kinds of time travel shenanigans so any discrepancies re: Belasco are easy to handwave away.

  6. Chris V says:

    It is considered canon, but it is a continuity implant due to its delay in publication.

  7. Luis Dantas says:

    Even by the rather generous parameters of Krakoan citizenship policy, accepting the Shadow King into their society would require some significant spotlight – if it can happen at all, which I doubt.

    Until further clarification, I have to assume that Farouk is a mutant, but not the Shadow King, who only used him as a host.

    Probably a better supported take on their relationship than the alternative.

  8. Other Michael says:

    This storyline is absolutely bonkers.

    And that final page made me going “Are you fucking kidding me?” when I saw Shadow King, until it was pointed out that it was “just” Farouk, who I don’t think has EVER been established as a character in his own right outside of being possessed by the Shadow King (assuming the SK was in charge when Xavier met him…)

    The way the X-books just randomly bring back characters without any fanfare or weight to them is a little grating. I mean sure, you don’t need to reintroduce EVERYONE, but when someone like Farouk winds up as a crowdfiller, it kinda undermines the impact of bringing them back.

  9. Luis Dantas says:

    I for one can’t think of any reading of the histories as published that allows for the Shadow King not being in charge when Xavier first met Farouk (in the flashback in Uncanny X-Men #117).

    The first Shadow King storyline back in 1987 or so, in the late #20s and early #30s issues of the first series of the New Mutants book, is very specific. Whoever he is, he was in charge of Farouk’s body when he met Xavier.

    However, I can definitely agree with the complaint of underselling of the significance events. Hickman’s setup was very ambitious and eventful, but it also left a lot of symultaneous and very significant unanswered questions hanging to dry.

    The inner council alone is difficult to ignore in and of itself. You could write a whole series out of the attempts to reconcile their points of view enough to have them agreeing to vote on something. But somehow that has not really happened, save for some slow and very limited build in Marauders.

    I guess I am a bit disappointed that we have not seen Krakoan society at least show some clear cracks from its own weight. There is a significant number of rather influential and ambitious people in Krakoa, but they might as well not be there for all the plot that we have seen in almost two years. That is an unconfortable situation.

    BTW, I loved the description of Exodus above. He is one of those characters that don’t bring much to the plot, but logically should.

  10. Daniel says:

    If that is truly Shadow King, no. Just no.

    Also, what about Selene? No idea why anyone would want her crazy ass on the island. For all the trouble Apocalypse and Sinister have been, they actually kind of fit with the Krakoan concept, at least in terms of mutual interest. But freaking Selene? I’m starting to think if Hitler was a mutant, he’d be there too.

  11. Chris V says:

    We still don’t really know the purpose of Krakoa.
    If it’s a matter of keeping crazy, killer mutants away from humans in order to try to improve relations with humans, of course you want Selene kept on an island with all the other mutants.

  12. Chris V says:

    Although, now that I think about it, I have no idea how this works with Selene getting nominated to the Trump administration in current issues of Captain America.
    I forgot about that.

  13. Luis Dantas says:

    She was? That sort of makes sense, in a regrettably nihilistic yet realistic sort of way.

  14. Mark Coale says:

    For those not sport(s) inclined, Sweet Caroline is a popular post-game song for the Boston Red Sox and of late, Arsenal football club. (Pethaps other teams too)

  15. neutrino says:

    Someone said that the storyline with Selene in Captain America is really slow running (started in 2018) and Krakoa hasn’t happened yet.

  16. neutrino says:

    Magik’s plan seems to be to give the part of Krakoa on Genosha enough psychic power so that it can overwhelm the seed pod. Possibly the Krakoan organic defense system was trying to draw power from Monet, which nearly killed her.

  17. Daniel says:

    Selene in the Trump administration? Is that an actual storyline? I’m not a Trump supporter but I really wish some modern comics writers would just calm the fuck down.

  18. Chris V says:

    Baron Von Strucker is also in the Trump administration in current issues of Cap.
    Von Strucker is considered a patriot now because he opposed Hydra in Secret Empire.

    The story-line is that a secret organization known as the Power Elite is really running the Trump administration, and he has certain people in his administration because they are part of the Power Elite.
    General Thunderbolt Ross was another member.
    I think those are the three representatives of the Power Elite who hold cabinet positions.

  19. Paul says:

    The Power Elite arc has been running since July 2018, and involves things like Steve Rogers spending an extended time in jail and abandoning the Captain America identity (again). The issue where he takes it up again was due out this month, I think. The whole thing has basically been ignored by other titles, even Avengers, where Cap is appearing as if nothing was happening. So… any discrepancy about Selene is the least of that arc’s problems, to be honest.

    There’s a similar issue with Coates’ Black Panther arc, the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda, which has droned on for something approaching two years and should have taken Black Panther off the board for a long period, but was just ignored by every other title (except for Shuri, which expressly takes place during Black Panther’s absence – as I recall, with a bit of squinting you can figure our where IEofW takes place relative to the rest of the Marvel Universe thanks to a guest appearance by the Champions in one issue of Shuri).

  20. Chris V says:

    I can just see Congress’ vote to approve Selene for office. “OK, she’s a 10,000 year old psychic vampire, but on the plus side, we can probably get the mutant vote if we approve this nomination.”

    Most of Marvel’s titles seem to exist in their own seperate universes anymore.
    How does Krakoa work with what’s been happening in Immortal Hulk?
    What about the machine revolution in Iron Man 2020? That hasn’t been mentioned in any other titles, and it seems like it’d be a big deal.

  21. alsoMike says:

    Isn’t Farouk/Shadow King’s appearance in
    Astonishing X-Men Vol 4 #12 from 2018 instead of the 2016s issue of Uncanny Avengers?
    He was the main baddie of that title and unless I’m mistaken it’s where he debuted the spider legs look.
    He did sort of die at the end of that too.
    I agree with commenters that his return is something that should be addressed somewhere but seeing as it’s tied in to the Xavier/X/Fantomex body stuff I doubt it will ever be touched upon.

    And that description of Exodus is so spot on!

  22. alsoMike says:

    Gah, I meant Farouk’s LAST appearance.

  23. Evilgus says:

    I quite enjoyed Charles Soiled Astonishing X-Men run… It gave all the cast several solid ‘moments’, brought Professor X back and made the Shadow King suitably creepy. It deliberately left plenty of story hooks for future writers too. Shame the work around Prof X/Fantomex/even Proteus has been largely ignored. Such is modern comics!

  24. Evilgus says:

    … Charles SOULE. Darn predictive text!

  25. Chris V says:

    The ending of Soule’s Astonishing X-Men is apparently meant to lead in to Hickman’s run though.
    When X says, “I have a new dream now.”; that is meant to be a reference to him now deciding to embrace Moira’s plan.

  26. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Is it? I mean, it would fit nicely – better if Hickman or anybody opted to mention anything from that run – but did Soule or someone else confirm that this was meant as such?

    (I’m asking because, well, there was basically zero build-up to HoXPoX so I always thought that the other writers weren’t privy to what Hickman was planning).

  27. Chris V says:

    I remember reading an interview with Hickman mentioning that fact.

    Maybe Soule didn’t really know the details, exactly. His own plan could have been for the resurrected X to be more sinister, and editorial may have wanted Soule to add that last line.
    Then that sentence could work with what Hickman was planning.

  28. Tom Galloway says:

    Correction: Sweet Caroline isn’t a post-game song for the Red Sox. It’s played at home games in the middle of the eighth inning. A nice story is that just before the first home Red Sox game after the Boston Marathon bombing, the Sox got a phone call from Caroline’s original singer, Neil Diamond; “Hi, I’m Neil Diamond. I’m right outside the ballpark, and if you like, I can sing Sweet Caroline live for you today.” Of course, they took him up on it.

    Something no one’s mentioned yet. So, Mastermind is resurrected and on Krakoa. That should make for an interesting meeting between him, Jean, Scott, and Logan…(In addition to apparently being buddy buddy with every mutant who ever made a serious effort to kill them, there are some resurrections and incorporations into the one happy mutant family like Mastermind and Thunderbird who really should have some major individual impacts on characters that we’re just not being shown).

  29. Taibak says:

    And the post-game song for the Red Sox is “Dirty Water” by the Standells.

    None of whom had even been to Boston.

  30. Loz says:

    Maybe the Farouk not being the same as the Shadow King is taking the POV of the Legion TV show?

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