RSS Feed
Oct 14

Hellions #5 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

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

“X of Swords, part 6”
by Zeb Wells, Carmen Carnero & David Curiel

COVER / PAGE 1. Just a group shot of the team, with Psylocke holding swords.

PAGE 2. The now-usual epigraph from Nightcrawler. Here, he seems to be warning against using mutant powers for battle because (I suppose) mutants need to nurture something so personal to them. It sounds as thought he’s cautioning against the way some of the Hellions have turned out, and doesn’t feel like a ringing endorsement of the team.

PAGES 3-5. Flashback: Empath is resurrected.

Empath was killed by Greycrow in issue #2, for using his powers on a teammate. (Greycrow specifically warned Empath that he’d do so in issue #1.) His resurrection is a flashback because Krakoa’s resurrection facilities are currently offline following X of Swords: Creation. He was indeed killed on a mission to Nebraska, and his backed-up memories only go up to the start (so he doesn’t remember how he died).

Professor X tries to do the familiar nation-building ritual of welcoming back the resurrected mutant and recognising them as the real person, a routine which we first saw in House of X #5 and which has been repeated in a few scenes since. This is why Empath is expecting “the crowd of fawning idiots”. Note that the only two people on hand for Empath’s resurrection are Professor X and Hope, who are both telepaths, and presumably able to resist Empath’s powers.

Empath is traditionally sadistic, but he isn’t usually quite as obnoxious as he is here – in the past he’s at least been capable of superficial charm.

PAGES 6-7: Recap. I’m not sure it’s that unsurprising that none of the Hellions were chosen by Saturnyne as champions for Krakoa – she chose Gorgon and Apocalypse, after all.

PAGES 8-11: The Quiet Council discuss Mr Sinister’s plan to subvert the scheme.

Basically, Saturnyne has forced Krakoa and Arakko to settle their differences by some sort of mystic contest where they each send ten champions with special swords to fight it out by proxy. Sinister’s proposal is that which everyone else is gathering their own swords, the Hellions should try to get to Arakko and sabotage the other side’s team. In theory this is actually quite a sensible idea, considering the stakes, and you can see why it appeals to someone like Emma.. In practice, trying to break the rules of magical tournaments rarely goes well in stories.

The Quiet Council, on this occasion, are Professor X, Magneto, Mister Sinister, Exodus, Mystique, Kate Pryde, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw and Nightcrawler. Apocalypse is apparently missing because he’s still in the infirmary following Creation (or maybe off looking for his sword, but we’re told he was “mortally wounded”). Storm is presumably off in Wakanda where we saw her in Marauders last week. Jean Grey is on the SWORD orbital platform in a subplot that we’ll pick up in Cable. The absence of these three characters tips the balance of power, allowing Sinister’s proposal to pass on a 5-4 majority – Storm and Jean would almost certainly have sided with the other conventional heroes on the Council and voted against, while Apocalypse also seems willing to play by the rules of mysticism (for the most part).

“Apocalypse mortally wounded, the External Gate sealed, and Rockslide’s mutilation…” All in X of Swords: Creation.

Exodus, who has been something of a background character on the Council so far, proposes that Sinister should lead this insanely dangerous mission in person. Exodus is a Very Serious kind of character and doubtless finds Sinister deeply offensive, but he’s biding his time and picking his fights.

“I heard about his little trip to Otherworld.” Havok was among the X-Men who went to Otherworld in X of Swords: Creation.

“Following your daughter around…” Magneto’s daughter is Polaris; she and Havok were a long running couple for many, many years. That didn’t seem to be high up Havok’s reasons for going, though, so most likely Sinister is just winding up Magneto because he can’t resist. It won’t work out well for him.

“My boy.” Sinister is referring to the fact that Havok is meant to be on his team, but Havok also spent some time at Sinister’s orphange in Nebraska as a child.

PAGE 12. Data page about Dryador. This continues the series of background pages about the realms of Otherworld that have appeared throughout the crossover, and which seem to have no particular connection to the stories in which they appear. Dryador is the realm that we saw getting conquered at the start of X of Swords: Creation. Apparently it used to be an oceanic realm before the Horsemen got their hands on it. “Del Di Lorr” was spelled slightly differently – “Del Di’Lorr” – in Creation.

PAGES 13-14. Psylocke briefs the Hellions on their mission.

Intriguingly, this has one of the most direct exchanges yet questioning how (or even if) resurrection works. The Orphan-Maker, who has at least the mind of a child, can’t understand how resurrection works. Nanny gives him the don’t-worry-about-it version which is basically the X-books’ official line: they made a new body for Empath and put his soul in that. But Greycrow basically says that the previous Empath is really dead, and this new one is just a copy that everyone pretends is Empath because no one can tell the difference.

I very much doubt that we’re ultimately going to be invited to believe that that’s how resurrection works. It doesn’t really fit with the plot device of “no resurrection while in Otherworld”. But it’s apparently what Greycrow thinks, which suggests that he doesn’t place much stock in resurrection as a way of returning from death. Interestingly, that didn’t stop him approving the cloning of the legacy Marauders in the previous issue. (It’s possible Greycrow is simply winding up Orphan-Maker, but he doesn’t seem like the sort of character who’d get much out of that.)

PAGES 15-16. Sinister argues with his own clone about which of them is going on the mission.

This scene is fun.

“We enter through the Avalon gate, gain the favour of King Jamie, pass under the Starlight Citadel, trek through Dryador and enter Arakko.” The Avalon gate is the gate from Earth to Avalon that Apocalypse created in the first arc of Excalibur. “King Jamie” is Jamie Braddock, who was put on the throne of Avalon in the same storyline. The Starlight Citadel is Saturnyne’s base in the centre of Otherworld, and Sinister’s route is basically in line with the map of Otherworld in Creation.

PAGE 17. Data page on Avalon, which (unusually) is actually relevant to the issue.

“Long under the personal protection of the wizard Merlyn…” This was the Avalon status quo in older Captain Britain stories. We’ve been told that Merlyn and his daughter Roma are now ruling different worlds in Otherworld.

Tir na nÓg is the realm of the Celtic gods.

The Green Chapel is a location from the story of Gawain and the Green Knight.

“In recent history, the witch Morgan Le Fay laid claim to the throne and swore that the King’s absence was of his own doing.” This was the status quo as at the start of Excalibur #1.

“But no sooner had she claimed the throne than she made war against the Lady Opal Luna Saturnyne…” In Excalibur #1, Morgan seemed pretty insistent that Saturnyne’s forces were the aggressors and that she was trying to keep Camelot safe.

“After a battle lit by dragonfire … Morgan Le Fay was defeated…” This paragraph is recapping Excalibur #6. It doesn’t mention that Morgan is still a prisoner of Jamie (and by extension Apocalypse).

PAGES 18-21. Mr Sinister and the Hellions travel to Avalon to speak to Jamie.

The original Avalon Gate was next to the Excalibur Lighthouse in England. This one seems to be on Krakoa proper. Maybe Krakoa can open a gate from any the island to anywhere that a portal exists.

Princess Silkmane. The horse is new. Presumably Jamie has given it the name; we’re told later that he stole it from Saturnyne.

“I will allow you one visit to Bar Sinister, where you’ll be provided with a black market clone of your choosing.” I’m not clear how this really helps Jamie. The problem with resurrection (according to Creation) is that if a mutant dies in Otherworld, their soul is irretrievably lost and only a randomised alternate version can be retrieved for use in a resurrection. How does a spare body address that?

PAGES 22-26. The White Priestesses show up.

The guards here (including the men) are Priestesses of the White, the Saturnyne cultists who serve as her main enforcers in Excalibur.

It’s not immediately obvious to me why Sinister needs Empath to do this; isn’t this within Psylocke’s abilities too, or even Sinister’s own?

PAGE 27: Trailers. The Krakoan text reads NEXT: WARLOCK.

Bring on the comments

  1. Gareth says:

    Do we have any idea exactly who it is at Marvel that finds all the Otherworld/Saturnyne/Roma etc so endlessly fascinating? My default setting is now to just ignore anything that has anything to do with it (and I was enjoying both Hellions and X-Factor up to all this crossover gubbins).

  2. Diana says:

    One assumes it’s either Hickman or Howard, no? Excalibur’s been doing this since the relaunch.

  3. Chris V says:

    I’m guessing this is Tini Howard’s interest.


    I wonder if Greycrow’s views are just based on the fact that all the Marauders have been cloned over and over.
    Cerebro must have recorded the memories of Greycrow after he was cloned by Sinister, so he must remember what it was like to be cloned multiple times.

    Not that he’s opposed to the idea of cloning, per se, only that he doubts what Xavier is telling Krakoa.

    I blame Nightcrawler also. He sort of maliciously made sure to tell Greycrow that he wasn’t worth killing because he was simply a “copy of a copy”.
    That might have messed with Greycrow’s mind.

  4. Drew says:

    Best issue of an X-book this year, and it’s not even close. God, but Zeb Wells was born to write (this version of) Mr. Sinister.

    I especially loved Xavier’s “I sense… a visitor.” On the first reading I took that at face value, but on reread it’s obvious he’s just pawning Empath off on Hope. Delightful.

  5. Anthony says:

    Odd that Empath’s eyes glow red when he was resurrected. Pretty sure that was supposed to indicated Cyclops’ powers returning in House of X 5 not some weird side effect of Professor X giving you the memory upload.

  6. Taibak says:

    So… I’m only following this from a distance and not actually reading this, but this really doesn’t seem like the Otherworld I know. I mean, Saturnyne is manipulative, but this whole sword-related quest thing just seems indirect for her. And shouldn’t Roma be in charge?

    And just how lucid is Jamie Braddock anyway? The usually written is that his grasp on reality is non-existent. And that’s on a good day.

  7. DFE says:

    “Do we have any idea exactly who it is at Marvel that finds all the Otherworld/Saturnyne/Roma etc so endlessly fascinating? My default setting is now to just ignore anything that has anything to do with it (and I was enjoying both Hellions and X-Factor up to all this crossover gubbins).”

    I’m enjoying X of Swords well, and I enjoyed 90s Excalibur and the Captain Britan and MI-13 book, but Howard’s Excalibur is close to maddening for this reason. All of the Alan Moore/Claremont background for the Otherworld stuff is 35-45 years old by now and nobody has ever taken the time to refresh it into a more modern and digestible context. A friend of mine recently asked me, “I like X of Swords so far, where can I learn more about the Otherworld?” And what do I tell him to do, go start on late 70s Captain Britain and work your way through 80s Claremont X-Men and Excalibur?

  8. Allan M says:

    @ Taibak. Per the current run of Excalibur, Saturnyne took over as Omniversal Majestrix and ruler of the Starlight Citadel after the destruction of the Captain Britain Corps late in Hickman’s Avengers run. She pretty clearly dies with them in New Avengers #30 (and Roma, too, I think), so this must be post-Secret Wars, off-panel.

    Per the data page in X-Factor #4, Merlyn and Roma then grew to be at odds and set up their own fiefdoms within Otherworld. So Saturnyne is the overall ruler of Otherworld with ten subordinate kingdoms, which are mostly new additions. Why she’s doing the whole battle royale thing is ambiguous at present, though she’s on the covers of upcoming crossover issues so there might actually be an explanation in the offing. Maybe.

    As for Jamie, he’s been relatively lucid since his resurrection. An amoral hedonist, but coherent. You can’t get this from the annotations since it’s visual, but he’s wearing a toga and a laurel in his hair. He’s being played as an omnipotent Caligula. That’s the current take.

  9. Paul says:

    Anthony: Traditionally Empath’s eyes are also meant to glow when he uses his powers, though it’s often forgotten.

  10. Adam says:

    Enjoyable issue.

    It doesn’t matter at all, but at the end of that (great) Mr. Sinister scene, one says, “The winner gets the cape.”

    But then the Sinister who leads the mission has the cape. I would have thought the winner was the Sinister staying behind.

  11. Alex Hill says:

    DFE: Kieron Gillen did modernise Otherworld a bit in his Journey to Mystery run, with the Manchester Gods and the rise of the industrial revolution. Which, umm, seems to have been completely ignored in Excalibur from what I’ve read.

  12. Nathan Mahney says:

    “This scene is fun.”

    I guess this varies depending on how much you can stomach the current version of Mr. Sinister. So far, he’s the one aspect of the current x-books that I don’t love.

  13. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    @Alex Hill
    Gillen also reversed that modernisation – at the end of his run Loki convinces the Manchester Gods to sacrifice themselves and their work to stop Surtur.

  14. Zoomy says:

    I’m with Nathan – I can’t stand Comedy Sinister.

  15. Chris V says:

    I don’t think they have the character written quite right.
    I think it’s supposed to be neo-Victorian decadent Sinister from the Gillen days.
    I find he’s written more like the Joker though.

    I love Gillen’s interpretation of Sinister.

  16. sagatwarrior says:

    Hopefully, when this crossover ends, Paul can sort everything out and explain whether this story line fits into the greater Hickman overarching story.

  17. Chris V says:

    Dammit, Jim, he’s a lawyer not a magician!

  18. Ben says:

    Dropped this after the first issue.

    This was okay.

    At least the actual team and storylines are involved.

    It’s a bit hard to care about this though, in that I can’t actually believe they’re going to succeed at their quest since it would totally derail the crossover.

    Mark me down as not being a huge fan of the Gillen version of Sinister.

    He was already camp, but now he feels like a joke.

    Note- I took it that Sinister was offering Braddock a good old fashion secret clone of himself, not anything to do with the resurrection process.

  19. Karl_H says:

    Hmm… Empath’s memory reset got me thinking. Presumably Rockslide’s most recent Cerebro scan would have happened prior to going into Otherworld, so no matter what kind of multiversal scramble happened to his soul, it shouldn’t have affected his actual memories. Kind of hard to say, since they’ve been so vague about how he was affected, though.

  20. Paul says:

    That’s addressed in X of Swords: Creation. The magic of Otherworld corrupts the back-up when they try to access it. That’s why everything goes offline.

  21. alsoMike says:

    The whole backup soul thing is still very vague. I get that the corruption is magic but it doesn’t seem to make any sense that a place of death would in any sense be relevant to backups made before. What’s the connecting part that the corruption happens through? It’s not the body, cus it’s a new one. If it truly is the gathering of some released soul then that makes sense but If I remember correctly it’s always just been talk of backups. Are the backups retroactively affected by things happening to the free “soul”? It’s not been explained in a satisfactory way in my opinion. And it’s one of those things where we don’t know if we’re meant to take things at face value (and it doesn’t make sense) or expect more story to explore it further along.
    If anyone understands this stuff, feel free to explain, lol.

    I did find Greycrow having a different opinion on it very fascinating for the reasons that Chris V mentions above. Greycrow is either the original who has a million Clones or he is the millionth clone, and if Krakoan propaganda (or before that, Kurt’s religion) has one idea of what a soul is and how to restore it in Clones, he definitely does not have that soul. Makes sense that he’d have a differing view on things.

    Count me among those who are unsure about Sinister’s current Persona, but I will admit it’s a lot of fun.

  22. Thom H. says:

    “it doesn’t seem to make any sense that a place of death would in any sense be relevant to backups made before”

    Exactly this. The only way to make sense of the corruption (that I can figure) is if a) a backup of Rockslide was made while he was in Otherworld and b) it overwrote all of his other backups.

    But we’ve already been told that backups only occur at intervals and only within a certain range of Xavier. If I’ve got that right, the likelihood that Rockslide was backed up during his brief time in a far-away land is very slim. Not impossible, but not likely enough to make it a certainty that it would happen to anyone else.

    Further, even if it were a certainty, then just back up anyone who’s going to Otherworld right before they go, and don’t make any other backups of them until they return.

    I know the real explanation is “it’s comics logic!” but the pile-up of vague and nonsensical explanations on Krakoa is starting to bug me (obviously).

  23. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I mean, in this case the answer is literally ‘a wizard did it’. Or at least ‘it’s magic’.

  24. Thom H. says:

    I understand that’s the explanation they’re aiming at, but “magic has no rules” magic is the most irritating kind. The least they could do is provide a convincing reason things are working as they are.

  25. Jerry Ray says:

    Does it strike anybody else as weird that one of the big features of the HoX/PoX era was “we’re taking death off the board as a plot device,” and now in the first big event under that system, they’ve handwaved a situation where death is back on the board?

    Every time the “but you’ll die for real!” comes up in these stories, it sort of makes me roll my eyes.

  26. Luis Dantas says:

    I found it weird that they introduced the ressurrection proccess in the first place. It just could not be a permanent feature of the setup if the X-Men are to be published for many years ahead or remain a part of the Marvel Universe. It dominates the plot way too much.

    That said, this is a odd plot to present an exception, because it does not require such an exception. You could just claim that time is of the essence and the sword wielders can’t afford to fail lest some sort of serious disaster happen.

    So maybe this will become a significant plot point, and expose some sort of limitation or drawback of the Five’s protocols. Or maybe we will lose someone for good. Losing Cypher, for instance, would create a significant challenge for the stability of Krakoa’s society, since it would make negotiations with Krakoa significantly more difficult.

  27. Chris V says:

    It makes me think that it was a leftover from Hickman’s Eternals pitch.
    The Eternals are, well, eternal.
    So, he came up with a plot device which would make the mutants eternal now.

    Yeah, it’s become sort of an annoyance though.
    What was the first major event after “Dawn of X” started? Professor X gets killed. Resurrection can’t exist without him!
    Oh, nevermind, they easily solved that dilemma.

    Then, Kitty dies. Except, they can’t resurrect her! That went in for a couple of months, and then they did manage to resurrect her too.

    Now, with the first big event during “Dawn of X” a plot point is to removed resurrection.
    It’s already overused, and it was just introduced.

  28. MWayne says:

    I wouldn’t view the resurrection stories as an overused plot point. HOXPOX set up a number of things to serve as the new status quo. Many of those things have not been developed very much since then. Resurrection, however, raised a number of questions, and the stories so far have done a good job of answering those questions and developing what it means for the X-Men to have resurrection available. As opposed to other elements of the new status quo, for which there have been complaints that there has been no development, the resurrection element is actually being very well-developed.

  29. Thom H. says:

    Yeah, resurrection has become endlessly complicated in the year or so since it’s been introduced, which must be the intention. As someone else on this site has mentioned, why else make it so complicated in the first place? The process takes 6 people to complete, and that’s before you count the legwork it takes X-Factor to confirm that the person’s dead in the first place. It has so *many* potential points of failure that it has to fall apart, a metaphor for the mutants’ plans in general.

  30. Chris V says:

    It’s not the resurrection which is overused.
    It is this creating a false sense of peril by using a scenario where, suddenly, death is (briefly) a threat again; only to quickly solve the problem and move onwards.
    This is the third time that has been used as a plot-point within one year.

    I’m sure the end point resurrrction is leading towards is Sinister creating the Chimeras in this life.

    I’m not sure why resurrection was necessary for mutants.
    Moira introduced the cloning procedure in her last life due to mutants not breeding fast enough to provide soldiers in Apocalypse’s war with the machines and humanity.
    They started out using multiple clones of individuals as a warrior caste.
    Then, Sinister began creating the Chimeras.

    My guess is that Moira (in this life) needs almost every mutant alive on Krakoa for the purpose of Krakoa becoming a world-mind.

  31. Thom H. says:

    Right, but if resurrection protocols are always *almost* failing, it gives us the sense that they’re bound to truly fail sometime soon. The fragile nature of the process is the point. It depends on a telepath/Cerebro, it doesn’t work the right way for everyone, it’s vulnerable to magic, etc. Mutants thought they could finally triumph over all the people who wanted them dead only to (eventually) realize that they’ll never truly be free from harm.

  32. Luis Dantas says:

    There are also ethical and ecological issues that derive from them. The queue issues have been mentioned, but there are others.

    How are Krakoans going to balance the desire of people to have offspring with the need to having sustainable population levels? How old are the clones going to be, who gets to decide, and what exceptions will be decided on and how?

    Will people be allowed to be biologically 25 at the time of ressurrection? What if someone requests to return as an infant or as a senior? Do relatives and members of the Council have a say on that matter?

    Come to think of it, what if the offspring of Krakoa mutants turns out to be a non-mutant?

    Also – and this could be an interesting plot point – what exactly happens if the Five at some point discover or guess that Moira might be a mutant and attempt to bring her back? Given the nature of her power, will it vanish, be restored in full or changed in some other way?

  33. Chris V says:

    As far as population, that is why Krakoa is trying to spread.
    They want to reclaim Arakko. They are opening portals to other places. We know from past lives that mutants are going to start spreading out in to space. They’ll set up a colony in the Shi’ar galaxy.

    As far as Moira, I’m sure that Xavier would veto that happening.
    Xavier and Magneto have prevented them from bringing back Destiny.
    I don’t think that the Five have the authority to clone anyone without the ruling council’s permission.
    There is a queue put in place for resurrection, as to which individuals take priority and who should be resurrected next. I’m sure it could never happen.
    I’m not sure how they’d ever figure out that Moira was a mutant anyway.

  34. Luis Dantas says:

    There isn’t a whole lot that the impressive array of mutant powers available to Krakoa truly can’t do. There are people who can teleport to other solar systems, who can travel through time and dimensions, and, yes, who have buddies in perhaps the leading known alien interestellar culture.

    I don’t think that it is quite out of question that someone might learn that Moira is a mutant at some point. Have Charles fall ill and require invasive telepathic probing from one of the other telepaths, as happened before during the Morrison run. Create a situation where it is absolutely necessary to scan Krakoa and surroudings for all lifeforms, thereby discovering Moira’s current habitat. Put both Magneto and Charles away for some reason and have the remaining Council members decide that it is time to bring back, say, Blindfold or even Destiny herself. Have Magik enter her Limbo, which has been established from very early on to hold pockets of access to alternate futures and find some version of Charles, Magneto or Moira herself in there that saw things go very wrong and wants to correct them. Have Lilandra visit and bring with her this latest model of mutant detector that, what do you know, seems to believe that there is someone at that remote location in Krakoa that surely can’t be inhabited.

    Heck, have Moira herself grow unbalanced from all the stress and isolation and decide that she can’t hide herself anymore. Stranger things have happened. Very often, as a matter of fact.

Leave a Reply