RSS Feed
Mar 31

X-Men #19 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-MEN vol 5 #19
“Out of the Vault”
by Jonathan Hickman, Mahmud Asrar & Sunny Gho

COVER / PAGE 1. The Children of the Vault, being dramatic.

PAGE 2. Data page.

It’s been a while since we’ve had an issue which is quite so keen on the graphics. It’s perhaps not immediately obvious on this page, but the timeline runs from the top of the page to the bottom, so Synch is kind-of being presented as the central rock in this group.

PAGES 3-4. Wolverine, Synch and Darwin survive the explosion.

This is the aftermath of the explosion from the previous issue (this being a rare two-parter in Hickman’s X-Men). The narrator is Synch, as clarified later. The reasons for that become apparent at the end of the issue, as he’s presumably the only one of the trio to retain memories of this after the event.

The scale of the Vault, both in terms of the size of the city and the amount of time these three spend in it (thanks to its time dilation) is left vague, presumably to give it a sense of being impossible to grasp. We established last issue that despite the size of this city, there are only a comparatively small number of Children actually living in it, which makes it somewhat more plausible that the three interlopers can sneak around in there for so long.

Quite why the Children are building such a huge city isn’t directly addressed. However, issue #5 presents the Children of the Vault as counterparts of the Children of Tomorrow from Hickman’s Ultimates run, and their City spread across Europe once released into the outside world. Perhaps this is the Children of the Vault developing the technology.

PAGE 5. Recap and credits. The title, “Out of the Vault”, completes a trilogy with issue #5’s “Into the Vault” and last issue’s “Inside the Vault” – though in terms of the actual content, last issue was really more of the entrance, and it’s this issue that has the time spent inside.

PAGE 6. Data page. This is largely self-explanatory.

Horadar, from whom Synch picks up teleportation powers, is new. The new Children in this issue keep the established use of Spanish codenames; “Horadar” apparently means “to pierce” or “to bore”, in the tunnelling sense, which I suppose loosely fits with the teleportation powers.

The “City brain” is the computer that we saw Serafina talking to in issue #5. It’s not immediately clear to me what the entry for “Time debt inversion” is meant to refer to.

We’re told that the passage of time relative to the outside world is not consistent, contributing to the ungraspable nature of the whole thing. (In other words, we can’t try and work it out based on the passage of time in the real world.)

PAGES 7-8. The mutants explore the City.

Basically showing us some of the elements from the preceding data page. Synch claims to that they “gained a surface understanding of the Vault” after going through six of the Vault’s cycles – that would be two years, subjectively.

PAGE 9. Data page. Again, this pretty much speaks for itself. The lines are showing splitting apart before the entry for the recon team “fractur[ing]”, and they don’t come together again for the entry about them “reform[ing]”. Nonetheless, there’s a definite sense here that desperation is starting to set in.

Of the four Children whose DNA Synch takes, Fuego is the guy with the fire head. Horadar was mentioned on the preceding data page, and Diamante and Madre are new. Diamente, of course, is “Diamond”. We see him in stasis on page 12; he’s the guy with the strange brain dome on his head, and Synch calls him a “living repository of Vault history.” Madre is “Mother”, for reasons which will become obvious on the next page.

PAGES 10-11. The mutants escape Madre and fake death.

Synch’s narration plays up the parallels between Krakoa and the Vault – “where, like our mutant Arbor Magna…”

The plan to fake their death is basically to set off an explosion and cut off Darwin’s forearm so that they can leave it in the wreckage. He’ll grow it back, and hopefully the Children will believe everyone died. The reason why this turns out to be a bad idea is explained later: it gives the Children a DNA sample from Darwin, from which the City concludes that they need his powers in order to evolve to a fourth incarnation that can out-compete mutants.

PAGES 12-13. Synch copies Diamante’s powers and knowledge.

Synch compares this to Prometheus stealing fire from the gods and giving it as a gift to humankind (here, mutantkind). This didn’t work out so well for Prometheus, and nor will it for synch.

The idea here is that Diamente’s power is his complete knowledge of the Vault’s history, and so Synch can copy it and learn about their history. Obviously, he learns rather more detail than the recap we see here.

The X-Men’s encounter with the first-generation Children was in the “Supernovas” arc that began in  X-Men vol 2 #188, during the Mike Carey run. They also show up later in his run.

The second generation Children, we’re told, was the City’s next attempt, and they got captured and killed by Orchis (along with a whole bunch of actual mutants). It’s not clear whether all of these second-generation Children got captured by Orchis, or just a small group. At any rate, we saw Serafina being freed by the X-Men and escaping in issue #1. She claimed in that issue that she “emerged before I was fully cooked”, and that she “had to” because “There are wild gods loose in the world”. Synch’s recap simply says that the second-gen Children were “produced and let loose on the world”, without addressing Serafina’s comments. This change of generation also apparently explains Serafina’s colour inversion.

The third generation were going to be the final generation of Children – until Darwin’s DNA came along.

PAGES 14-15. The mutants go after the City itself and lose.

Synch suggests here that it took quite a long time before Wolverine would let him call her Laura – though surely not this far into events. The idea here – as clarified on the next page – is that Laura and Darwin are captured, and only Synch escapes. The art doesn’t really convey that, since the final panel looks more like Synch is the one in a cell.

PAGE 16. Another data page. All, again, pretty straightforward. Darwin’s line ends not because he’s dead as such, but because he’s trapped in continuous experiments by the Children and no longer has any agency.

Synch’s brief escape from the Vault’s temporal bubble seems to be a necessary plot point to allow the other two to spend a century or more in captivity, without him dying of old age. It’s not entirely clear, though, why he doesn’t just tunnel out of the Vault entirely and call in the X-Men for help – certainly if he’s willing to wait a week before going back in.

PAGES 17-20. Synch rescues Wolverine.

From the look of it, he uses his accumulated skills to build some sort of improvised device that lets him fight past the guards. His narration has two main points worth noting. First, he’s now taking the very mutant-nationalist line that as a child, before his powers emerged, he was “posing as human”. These are the trends in Krakoan thought that aren’t so far removed from the superiority complex of the Children of the Vault.

Second, he’s inverting an old trope about being willing to die for someone you love. Since mutants can’t die in the Krakoan era – not as long as the Five are still around to revive them, at any rate – such concepts don’t make sense to them. The next best alternative is an act of unbelievable endurance, which is what we’re seeing here.

PAGE 21. Another data page. Basically, on encountering the Krakoans, the City has decided it needs a fourth generation of Children, and Darwin is just ideal for getting them there.

Unusually, Merbavon – the “Child disruptor” from whom Synch copies the field disruptor – doesn’t seem to have a Spanish name.

PAGES 22-24. Synch escapes the Vault while Laura holds the Children at bay.

Again, while the Children are completely unsympathetic here, there are definite parallels in their insistence that they’re the future of the planet. They even have an X design on their vault door.

PAGES 25-27. Synch and Wolverine are resurrected.

The idea is presumably that Synch made it far enough out of the Vault before being killed that Professor X was able to take a back-up from him using Cerebro. As a result, he remembers the insane amount of time he spent there. Laura, who died in the Vault, wasn’t backed up, and so has no memories of any of that. From her point of view, she barely knows him. Synch seems remarkably relaxed about that, presumably because he accepts this as the real Laura – though the loss of the majority of her lifespan in memory surely stretches the boundaries of belief that it’s the “same” person being resurrected. Nonetheless, we can take it as read at this stage that the magic/reality-warping aspects of resurrection are intended to be taken at face value, and that the people restored are “real”, whatever real means.

Along similar lines, note that the resurrected Laura already has her adamantium claws, which seems to confirm that characters like her and Wolverine are restored in that form. Presumably this is something to do with Proteus’s reality-warping contribution to the exercise, and some sort of need (or desire) to replicate the previous body in certain core ways.

Unusually, this issue has no trailer page, presumably because it used up its page budget on timelines.


Bring on the comments

  1. Luis Dantas says:

    Good use of Synch and Darwin.

    But could they not give Laura a better name than freaking “Wolverine”, for crying out loud?

  2. Chris V says:

    I want to say that events are finally starting to move in an exciting direction….Children of the Vault, next issue features Nimrod…
    However, the big event we’re moving towards is the Hellfire Gala this Summer.

    Meanwhile, as much as the idea makes me lose all enthusiasm, the Arrako plot has been completely absent for months now.
    So, I have little hope that we’ll see any interesting fallout happening anytime soon.

  3. SanityOrMadness says:

    To me, this issue felt like something that makes sense at first glance, then the brick logic comes and whacks you on the head. Synch’s temporary escape is at the top of the list. Also, Darwin being treated like his power is just a healing factor, when it is literally “do whatever it takes to survive” – there’s been at least two occasions (first in World War Hulk: X-Men vs. the Hulk, second in X-Factor referencing the first) where that has translated to “teleport out of harm’s way”, so I don’t buy that they would have him trapped for 10000 near-deaths.

    Also, the ending with a 500-year old Synch and a 20ish year old (in maturity – whatever that translates to with cloning/etc) X-23verine where he’s supposedly in love with her and knows her better than she knows herself, and she barely knows him from Adam X is creepy in ways I’m not convinced Hickman even realises.

  4. Luis Dantas says:

    This may be the story that so far most lampshades how difficult it may be to deal with the ressurrection procedure’s known side effects.

    Synch now remembers a life from which he is, for all effects and purposes, the sole remaining survivor. Even Laura and Darwin will simply not have experienced that life. The loneliness must be crippling.

    This is an extreme example, but other revivees will suffer lesser yet cumulative similar effects, as many of their most significant actions are simply not part of their memories anymore. That has to be somewhat disorienting, frustrating, awkward.

  5. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    This was Tell, Don’t Show Hickman at his worst.

    Imagine if this and the previous issue had actually been spent telling the story of Wolverine and Synch in the Vault falling in love instead of telling us that it happened.

    Or maybe showing Synch’s personality and going into his history to the reintroduce him the the audience because he was dead for 20 years.

    Nope, data pages and narration over vague generic action scenes.

    Reddit tells me I’m in the minority and this was the greatest live story ever told.

    And yes, any relationship between Synch and Laura now would be incredibly creepy.

    I also hate how Darwin’s powers were portrayed in this.

    It seems like they’re filing away all the interesting snags of mutant powers and just leaving everyone massively powerful, like removing Synch’s limitation on only copying mutant powers.

    Also… where’s Arakko?

  6. The Other Michael says:

    And yet “X-Men who have entire excess lifetimes of memories” could be a support group unto itself.

    Hell, that’s just a comic book trope in general. Or a movie trope. Groundhog Day anyone?

    But it’s still creepy. “Hey, remember that time we…” “Nope.” “Remember when you told me…” “Nope.” “I know how you like to be touched becau–” “HELL NO.”

  7. Chris V says:

    Man, you guys just don’t understand the genius of Jonathan Hickman, do you?
    You might have heard of something called “Choose your own adventure” books?
    Well, Hickman has created the “Write your own adventure” comic series!

    Wasn’t it great how the citizens of Arakko colonized outer space on behalf of mutantkind?
    When the Arakko non-entities were introduced, I hated the idea…until I came up with the idea that they could up the frontier of space on behalf of mutants.
    I thought that was a pretty great story.

    Now, you might wish Hickman had used space in this two-part story to tell a compelling story of relations and characterization.
    Well, I say you are spoiled!
    Hickman did his job…now it’s your job to tell the story you wanted to see! You expect Hickman to do everything?
    I say he has done enough!

    I can’t wait to see which story Hickman is going to help me tell next month, true believer.

  8. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    While I love the movie Groundhog day is insanely creepy if you think about it.

    Though to be fair it only works out between Murray and MacDowell after he stops trying to manipulate her into a relationship and he learns to not be a douche.

  9. Chris V says:

    That’s the point of the film. He is living out different philosophical schools in order to find purpose in his life with each cycle.
    It’s only when he discovers how to be a fully-rounded human that the curse is broken.

    It’s funny that we are talking about this when that’s exactly what was happening with Moira at the start of Hickman’s run.
    She’s lived over one-thousand years and has been learning how to (attempt to) manipulate Xavier and Magneto.

  10. K says:

    Si Spurrier had an independent comic, Numbercruncher, which was pretty much taking this trope of “a one-sided love story over infinite lifetimes” to its logical conclusion and exploring how messed up it would actually be.

    The ending was a little too pat, but everything else is more or less about exactly the creepiness that everyone here is talking about.

  11. Jei says:

    A number of points to make:

    1) I forget where exactly it’s stated, but Forge keeps a liquid pool of adamantium to re-apply for the mutants associated with it, which is why/how Logan always has metal claws no matter the resurrection.

    2) Yeah, Synch likely could just escape at that one point, but “heroism” and that’s completely in-character for him given how he died the first time.

    3) I think/expect the likely situation in the Synch/Laura romance is like “Groundhog Day/Futurama/Star Vs. The Forces of Evil” in using his past experience/understanding of Laura to be a mature support system if/when she feels like she can’t connect with people (note: before going into the vault, she was nervous about doing this mission without Logan until he gave her a pep talk) and those calling it “creepy” because of the “age difference” seem to forget/ignore Logan is already centuries-old and frequently hooking up with women a fraction of his age (Mystique is close in age and only Remus is old enough to be a cougar to him) yet people never seem creeped out by those implications, funny that. Also, it’s not like Laura doesn’t know the implications of the resurrection protocols, (same as why he’s “remarkably relaxed” at the end,) so while she doesn’t remember what happened there, it can lead to her being curious enough to eventually learn about it from him and build off that (also reminds me of “Justice League” where John Stewart learns of his future son with Hawkgirl, initially rejects the idea to “not be a pawn of fate,” but signs point that he naturally gets back with her.) I can definitely see Laura in the same position, Synch patiently understanding and then eventually building into a “real-time” romance especially as they weren’t shown kissing, which suggests Hickman’ll build toward it for a proper pay-off. So I’m still giving it the benefit of the doubt as I like the potential here and especially because it’s a non-stereotypical IR couple down to the *white* woman being associated with power and violence for once.

    4) While the trio likely couldn’t have known (and/or were desperate enough to try anyway,) this isn’t the first time villains have exploited the mutants leaving their DNA lying around to turn against them as Quire’s constant deaths lead to a psychic weapon used against them and Domino had her skin flayed as a “key” for XENO to invade Krakoa. ComicsExplained pointed out that the resurrections aren’t the conflict-killer readers expected and here’s reasons why.

    5) Someone on CBR mentioned that the resurrected are real/the original down to the soul as Death is apparently “starved” from all the mutant souls not sticking around in the afterlife even more so than before.

    And I think that’s all I needed to say here.

  12. Andrew says:

    I’m exciting for the return of Nimrod. The plot line Hickman introduced about the rise of Nimrod and the Sentinels in House of X/Powers of X and that’s been sitting in the background for the last year is fascinating. I can’t wait to see where it goes (and presumably whatever is coming regarding the Phalanx.

  13. Luis Dantas says:

    Wolverine is long-lived (as are to a far greater degree Apocalypse and Selene, as well as Mystique to a perhaps lesser one) but his life experience is hardly comparable to Synch’s, not only because he is only a loner half of the time but also because he keeps frequent contact with a cast of ever growing dozens of people he has a largely untold story with. Besides, Synch will have to get used to avoid discussing most of his life, while Wolverine keeps learning from others more about his own.

    The closest to Synch’s current predicament is probably Jean and Scott’s time in alternate bodies in an alternate future, which IIRC also involves Rachel, Cable and Apocalypse. But they can at least share some of those memories and discuss them with each other.

    Nate Grey, once known as X-Man, and other people from the Age of Apocalypse continuity might perhaps be comparable as well.

  14. Drew says:

    Been a while since I read Carey’s run, but didn’t Serafina do something thematically similar to Cannonball? Trap him in an illusion where they fell in love and had a bunch of kids and grew old together?

    Those Children of the Vault are really murder on fake relationships.

  15. Chris V says:

    Did Carey do that with the Children? I read Carey’s run, but have no memory of that story.
    If so, that’s funny. It must be a plot that Carey is interested in exploring. He used almost that exact plot during his run on Hellblazer.

    The thing is, when does anyone expect to see Synch used again?
    Maybe a year from now, we might see Hickman follow up on this idea.

  16. Thom H. says:

    I liked the rhythm of timeline/narration echoing the story back and forth. I thought it was an effective way to represent the time dilation the characters were experiencing.

    I also like how giving the Children different generations allowed Hickman and Asrar to update their looks. Like a little Children of the Vault fashion show.

    @Drew: Yes, Serafina did exactly that to Cannonball, right after she fixed Aurora’s multiple personalities and reset/upgraded Aurora and Northstar’s powers.

    Like others mentioned above, this issue’s story doesn’t track for me. Knowing how powerful just Serafina is, I don’t believe Wolverine, Synch, and Darwin would have survived as long as they did in the Vault.

    But the structure of the issue was nice, as usual for a Hickman comic.

  17. Evilgus says:

    Poor Synch seemed messed up even before going into the Vault. Now even more so. Would have been nice for the readers to have him more foregrounded before this current turn. And I do hope we see follow up, given Hickman’s apparent affection for Gen X cast.

    “And yet “X-Men who have entire excess lifetimes of memories” could be a support group unto ”

    Weirdly this seems to disproportionately affect the black characters. Bishop, Frenzy, now Synch… They get their moment, but it becomes a ‘never-was’.

  18. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Storm got a year on a parallel Earth with Forge right before the showdown with Adversary and a completely separate year on a parallel Earth with Wolverine some time before Death of Wolverine.

    What are the odds? 😉

  19. Dave says:

    “It’s perhaps not immediately obvious on this page”
    Yep, I didn’t work it out ’til the second one, and I’m still not entirely sure which parts of the text happen entirely off-panel.

    I don’t know why this was 2 issues, as all the story was in this issue.

    Is working out a mutant’s powers just from having a DNA sample something anyone has been able to do before? Unless the arm continued to evolve itself after separation, I’d have thought the children would just know that it had an X gene, being as that can cause basically any kind of power.
    Then the text mentions “genome integration” – I’m assuming this DOESN’T mean future children having an X gene, since that would make them mutants, but I don’t know how that works then.

    “Darwin’s line ends not because he’s dead as such, but because he’s trapped in continuous experiments by the Children and no longer has any agency.”
    The text says something about a final atomisation. I don’t get how that works either. If it’s his power reconstituting himself it should continue doing so. I suppose they could just turn on a power inhibitor or something.

  20. Jon R says:

    I think there’s a few separate things with age and relationships conflated in parts, so I’d like to call them out. All of the following is my own feelings on seeing tropes played out, YMMV.

    First is just “You are older than I am by centuries”. How icky that is can vary a lot. The big issues (IMO) are either the immortal/long-lived one having embraced an outlook that the younger romantic interest can’t understand, or the long-lived one having had some personal history with the romantic interest’s past that makes it iffy. “I knew your parents when they were your age” or even “Oh yes, I saw you born.”

    For outlook.. well, it varies. A lot of the time the immortal character has a lot of experience, but it doesn’t really age them past their apparent years. Yes, they’ve been in more relationships, they’ve known loss, but they generally react like a 30 year old who’s Seen Things, not a 200 year old who’s experiences have made them into something their 30 year old partner can never understand. That may or may not be realistic, but it means that things don’t feel that objectionable in and of themselves.

    On the other hand you have Mystique, who can more often absolutely feel like she’s older than she looks and has a different outlook from having seen things pass her by. Or Apocalypse especially. Them getting together with a fresh-faced 20-30 year old would feel much weirder.

    Then you have the separate thing with Immortal/Older person having specific knowledge of their younger interest, while the younger person doesn’t have that in return. Like Synch now, or in things like Groundhog Day. That’s different than just a generic immortal situation. The elder specifically knows deeply personal stuff that the younger person never told them. It’s not the elder’s fault — they got told it by a version of their romantic interest in good faith (well, maybe not always in the case of Groundhog Day). They’re not in the wrong for knowing it. But… to the romantic interest here and now, it’ll often be pretty creepy that someone knows this deeply personal information.

    It’s easy for the person in Synch’s position to then act like the elder. The one who knows and helps despite what they’re told or not. The one who has your hidden secrets, how you’ll react to things before you do, the one who knows the heights of what you could be and can encourage you to them. The person who knows not only your fears, but also knows after decades of working through them why they’re exist, when you’re still working on that. That can sound nice for support, but it can get deeply creepy for someone to have that much power over you. It might not be their fault they know these things, but it can mean that they just end up constantly leading and showing you things, because anything you might think to show them.. they already know.

    Though to the counter, who’s to say Synch’s knowledge is right? He might think that Laura hates black licorice because she told him about it 50 years from now, but the memory was clouded by time and she actually *loves* black licorice, she just pretends to hate it because someone made a bad joke about it.

    It means that Synch doesn’t actually know Laura. He knows *a* Laura, but with long decades under different circumstances. Circumstances that limited the two of them and Darwin to not seeing other people, not having opportunities to grow in certain ways. That Laura could never be a mentor, or stop being a fighter, or relax and find things she enjoyed in the world, because it was hide and fight or die. So he’s got a whole lot of information about her that can intimidate her, make things weird, and yet also isn’t necessarily accurate. His knowledge and image of her both constrains their relationship, and also might go completely at odds with reality next week when she gets roped into streaming with Doug and finds out that she utterly loves it and makes it her life’s goal.

    Well, maybe not.

    But that’s the tension he’d have going on now, between knowing too much, and not knowing if it actually applies. It doesn’t make a relationship impossible, but it certainly makes it difficult, and Laura’s got all the reasons in the world to not want to get into that.

  21. Jon R says:

    Eek, that was longer and more rambly than I meant.

  22. Chris V says:

    I think it’s more playing up the issue of sadness.
    Imagine you had a close relationship with someone for fifty years; suddenly they got amnesia and no longer remembered you.
    It would be tragic for Synch.
    Of course he would want to continue that relationship, but the other person now barely knows him.

  23. Josie says:

    Hickman has this weird thing with skipping over doing the work of actually building a relationship between characters. He did this in Avengers with Cannonball and Smasher. All of a sudden, time jump forward and they’re in a relationship.

  24. Josie says:

    Btw question for Paul.

    I’ve been going back through the archives and you used to post really quick thoughts about non-X-Men comics (for some reason you kept reading Captain America throughout the entire Jurgens run and even Austen’s run, for reasons I’ll never understand).

    Anyway I was just curious what you’ve been reading that isn’t an X-Men comic and if you’d share your (brief, if preferable) thoughts on them.

  25. Oscar Owens says:

    this issue is what i wanted last issue!

    I really really enoyed this one- Hickman really had a good feel fro Synch’s voice. The art was great too.

    The only thing i was put off by really was the lack of children – it really didnt sit with the previous stories about the children from Careys run. (the arc where rogue and magneto go to India with some students and come into conflict withthe CoV)

    hopefully we see more of Sync and Laura.

    I kept thinking they should have cut off Sync’s arm, not Darwins.

    I also did get a slightly confused when they were captured – it looked like Synch was captured too, but the text tells us he wasn’t.

  26. Luis Dantas says:

    Having access to Synch’s DNA when it is established in this same story that he has access to the Children’s powers would perhaps be even more of a boon for them than having Darwin’s.

  27. Chris V says:

    They’re trying to unlock the secret to evolution, in order to evolve in to a fourth generation, when they believed the Children had reached an evolutionary end.

    Synch’s DNA wouldn’t help them.

  28. Karl_H says:

    The problem I have with this trope is (a) there’s no real-life touchstone for being stuck in a particular situation for 500 years — at best you have people in isolation for decades; and (b) the effects on personality for even those relatively shorter real-life periods is far more dramatic than in these fictional characters who endure far worse. Doctor Who in particular was fairly cavalier about doing this to characters.

    Ewing did something like this to Star-Lord recently, but he did it explicitly to change the character. I wonder if Synch’s experience will ever be referenced again.

  29. Dave says:

    What difference does it make in a story about superpowered evolution if there isn’t a real-life equivalent?
    Is it looking for these equivalents that has so many people looking for Synch to be a creepy older guy now, where it seems to me like the obvious reaction should be some sympathy for what he’s lost?

  30. MasterMahan says:

    Nah, Synch’s DNA would also have been bad. Imagine every Child had the powers of all of them.

    Really, the blame is on Cyclops, strategic genius, for sending the evolving guy to a city of superbeings obsessed with evolution.

  31. wwk5d says:

    “Hickman has this weird thing with skipping over doing the work of actually building a relationship between characters. He did this in Avengers with Cannonball and Smasher. All of a sudden, time jump forward and they’re in a relationship.”

    Didn’t he also do something similar with Havok and the Wasp as well?

  32. Omar Karindu says:

    Didn’t he also do something similar with Havok and the Wasp as well?

    That was Rick Remender in his interminable Kang/Apocalypse Twins story from Uncanny Avengers.

  33. Adam says:

    Unless such a story is clearly written with that subject as a theme, I really don’t think there is any real conversation worth having about the morality of a 500-year-old vampire dating a 21-year-old sorority sister.

  34. Alan L. says:

    I agree with Uncanny X-Ben’s assessment of this issue. There are lots of things I would like to have seen in this issue that would have made it into a drama of any kind: the actual struggles of the trio in the vault as they experienced them. The moments between Laura and Synch where we the audience could realize they were getting emotionally close to each other, before it was simply told to us that it had transpired. The instances the trio spent learning about the individual characters of the Children of the Vault. I always thought it was Mike Carey’s implication that the Vault Children we saw were a sort of advance party, and that within the vault there were other characters that might emerge. If memory serves me right, there were other Children that emerged during Rogue and Magneto’s later battle with the Children. Sadly, this Vault story posits there only being a tiny few outside of who we’ve already seen, all of them getting replicated again and again in different costumes/appearances. I would have liked to learn about details of the functioning of the vault as the trio learns about them. I would like to have seen the trio deal with the anxiety and strain of getting old in the Vault. How do they feel about their mission? How do they feel about Cyclops for sending them on it? How do they feel about…any of this? Initially they seem to relish killing the Children (maybe that is more in the art than in the script?). What happens when this novelty wears off?

    But we got none of this. Instead we have this endless narration, telling us in a bland, bland voice (Hickman’s, because I really don’t feel any of Synch’s personality in this narrative––this is just the softer version of Hickman’s bro-ey Sunspot narration, modulated to seem dryer and non-comedic) everything that already happened. Because none of it takes place in the present, I never felt as if there were much in the way of stakes, and I never felt the need to get emotionally involved in what I was reading. Hickman is famous for his big outlines, but I think when he breaks the pieces of those outlines down into single-issue scripts, he often ends up with just another outline, rather than a collection of dramatic scenes. In fact, many of the issues of this comic in particular come across in exactly this way, like the one where Exodus tells us the story of how Magneto defeated the Cotati. These are narrative recitatif, not drama, not scenes, and as such, they elide almost all the meaty material that has been developed as methods of storytelling since the time of Beowulf. There’s no character development, and no atmosphere. there’s no texture to the drama, no style in which the scenes are presented––because the scenes are just being described to us, not played out for us to see. At the end of this, I don’t know Synch any better than when I started it. I don’t know Laura any better. I don’t even remember what happened to Darwin, and I can’t recall any lines he even said. It’s remarkable to me Hickman would pull these characters out of their limbo of being off-page and then give them nothing to say or do of much interest, but I think even Synch, who narrates the story, doesn’t come across as an individual; instead, he seems like an ant in an antfarm, without any individuality, any thoughts or feelings that are his own. I suppose you could say his love for Laura is real, but I don’t ever––ever––get to feel it in this story. I don’t get to feel the Children of the Vault are any sort of threat (Mike Carey could somehow do this with his eyes closed, it seems). I never got a sense any of their characters mattered at all, either––even Serafina, who is the most developed character amongst them, is totally anonymous within Hickman’s story.

    I felt as if I were reading another outline, rather than a story. But this is Hickman’s boilerplate approach in a lot of ways. And I think one of the biggest missed opportunities here––something even Hickman should have been able to handle––is that this is the first time we, the readers, have been inside the Vault. That should have made me sit up and pay close attention. There should have been some atmosphere there, some sense of surprise or interest. It seemed like the lightcycle maze in Tron––featureless, clinical…but without individualized, particular atmosphere. I don’t think the Vault ended up seeming scary, or surprising, or dense, or regimented, or arid, or uncanny. It only seemed generic. The ultimate reveal of the city in the Vault is…what? That they steal Darwin and can use him to evolve themselves better? Couldn’t we get some visual element of the story that makes this idea seem important? That page of the children “evolving” was laughable. Did it tell us something really important about the Children and the Vault that we hadn’t already understood to be the case? There seems to be no imagination on display in this issue. True, Mahmud Asrar is partially responsible for this lackluster visualization––his character drawings and action are both cool, but the city looks creatively impoverished under his pencil––but Hickman needed to have an idea of what this was meant to be. Per example, the city Paul Smith drew in the old X-men vs. Alpha Flight miniseries not only looked incredible, but there was a purpose to it looking the way it did; a meaning to the city and its’ design that Chris Claremont provided in the script––you can read the dialogue and extract that meaning (from what I’ve read of Age of Apocalypse, you might be able to say the same about large swaths of that world, too). Nothing like that happens here. And so, even though this story had the potential to be pretty cool––it’s our first time in the Vault, after all––what we get is a real failure to imagine anything noteworthy. What’s more, when I think about where this storyline has been going, we got, as a result of the initial assault on the Vault, the story where Storm had to go into The World with Fantomex to be able to heal from the Vault’s attack. The World is very much the kind of microcosm the Vault is supposed to be, and it’s interesting that these two secret cities are part of the same storyline and yet not more closely connected by the narrative. It would have been really interesting if Hickman had thought to contrast the interior of The World to that of the City in the Vault. But it doesn’t really happen. The ideas may have connected together in Hickman’s mind when he was outlining this material, but he hasn’t included anything in his script which draws the concepts of the two cities closer together. The cities don’t contrast one another, they aren’t moving in any meaningful parallel. There isn’t anything to “get” by comparing them, because Hickman has don’t nothing at all to compare the two spaces in his text. So this is where it’s most revealed how Hickman the writer lets down Hickman the plotter. This has happened a lot in his run on the X-titles. He has delivered a lot of ideas that other writers could make hay with, I think (though I haven’t really seen those hypothetical writers appear yet), but his own stories end up not really exploiting his best ideas, and they are so often bereft of the writerly resources that make a story involving.

    As far as the shopworn excuse that this is all building to something bigger and better: besides having heard that since the start of Hickman’s run, I think those who assert that defense have a different idea from me what Hickman’s job actually is. I think he should be making these stories he’s telling right now engaging, before I evaluate anything he might do with the title in the future. And so far his X-men stories have been filled with big promises, left largely unfulfilled, and stories where the interesting material is left unexploited. Issues like this one are a far cry from being engaging or involving.

  35. Chris V says:

    I don’t understand how readers can still be giving the benefit of the doubt to Hickman’s performance on the X-Men title.
    We are approaching two years worth of X-Men issues, and we have seen Moira for a total of one panel since Powers of X ended.
    I really feel like absolutely nothing has happened to move Hickman’s story forward since the end of Powers of X.

    Even the introduction of Arakko has failed to serve any purpose after four months. (Not that I want to read about Arakko.)
    There’s a huge population, but they certainly aren’t treated like living, autonomous beings.

    People argue that Hickman’s X-Men is simply to introduce plot ideas for other writers to utilize.
    I can’t think of any of the other X-writers picking up any ideas from Hickman’s X-Men.
    It feels more as if the other writers are actually going out of their way to try to ignore as much of Hickman’s ideas as possible.

    Even if the sole purpose of the X-Men title at this point is to introduce possible future ideas for the Krakoa era, there are too many of these ideas left unused at this point, unless the Krakoa era is going to exist for a decade.
    Also, if this is the case, Hickman could still put more effort in to actually telling a story, instead of charging money for what does read like an outline.

  36. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I think of Hickman’s X-Men as an artisinal porridge. It sounds ambitious when described, but tastes just bland with every spoonful.

    Also I just don’t like porridge.

    Anyway, a Synch/Laura pairing sounds like fanfic – not least because they’ve never appeared in a comic together before this story started in ‘Into the Vault’. I like Laura, I barely know Synch – I’ve only read bits of Gen X – but I’m not against the idea of such a romantic story being told… If only someone would actually tell it.

    The comparison to Cannonball and Smasher is spot-on – Smasher was such a non-entity in Hickman’s Avengers, but suddenly here was a long-standing, well-defined character like Sam apparently happily married and raising a child with a character I can’t tell a single thing about. Even after other writers included her in their stories (very sporadically and in the background) I still can’t tell anything about her other then she’s nominally badass and is the straight woman to Sam&Roberto’s hijinks. I think.

    There’s something very weird about a Claremontian creation – who were all so full of emotions and tangled in relationship webs – married to a Hickmanian blank slate.

  37. Thom H. says:

    “As far as the shopworn excuse that this is all building to something bigger and better: besides having heard that since the start of Hickman’s run, I think those who assert that defense have a different idea from me what Hickman’s job actually is.”

    I think the problem is seeing it as “buildup” instead of “setup.” I completely agree that there is no narrative tension in Hickman’s stories in X-Men. They’re all structure and no story. They do not have any sense of building to something, either from issue to issue or even within a single issue. But they do slot pieces in place for later: Arakko, Children of the Vault, Nimrod, Mystique, mutant religion, something about the Shi’ar IIRC?

    It seems pretty obvious that the promise of HoXPoX was put on pause while other writers noodle around in the new status quo and Hickman arranges his toys to prepare for the final gigantic set piece that will finish out his run.

    Would it have been more satisfying if we got some nod to narrative progression and/or tension during this time? Yes. Was it a good idea to pretend like this obviously set-up-to-fail new status quo was going to last forever? No. But here we are. Bad editorial and writing decisions have led us to feeling frustrated instead of excited or anticipatory.

    As for other writers picking up Hickman’s pieces and doing a better job with them, I see that in spades. A few examples:

    X-Factor: all about the resurrection protocols from numerous angles

    Hellions: what do you do with the villains you’ve invited to live with you?

    Marauders: Krakoa’s trade and PR relationships with the outside world

    I’m not saying any of the above are perfectly rounding out Hickman’s brave new X-world, but they’re certainly trying within their limited scopes. I’m sure many of the toys Hickman intends to use later are off limits to the rest of the writing team.

  38. Chris V says:

    Thom-I didn’t mean that writers weren’t interested in using Hickman’s ideas, just ideas from X-Men.
    All those ideas you listed were from House/Powers.
    You may be completely correct though. Hickman may want to follow up on most of these dangling plots himself, and they may be off limits to the other writers.
    I have just heard some fans speculate that was the purpose of the X-Men series, and that definitely does not seem to be happening.
    Your theory about Hickman’s purpose for X-Men seems much more credible.

    I wonder how Hickman will find time to tie all these ideas together before his run ends.
    I can see Hickman’s finale being a six-issue series that is nothing except time-lines and data pages.

  39. Thom H. says:

    Oops — sorry about that. I didn’t realize people were saying that X-men the series was being used as a jumping off point for other books. Hickman’s ideas in the main book do seem to be self-contained for the most part. Way of X is the only exception I can think of off the top of my head since it’s ostensibly fleshing out Nightcrawler’s mutant religion.

  40. Alan L. says:

    “I think the problem is seeing it as “buildup” instead of “setup.” I completely agree that there is no narrative tension in Hickman’s stories in X-Men. They’re all structure and no story. They do not have any sense of building to something, either from issue to issue or even within a single issue. But they do slot pieces in place for later: Arakko, Children of the Vault, Nimrod, Mystique, mutant religion, something about the Shi’ar IIRC?”

    This, though, is a huge part of the problem for me. The stories being told now are not interesting. The material Hickman may or may not be seeding for later is just floating in stasis, not evolving. I don’t see a profound difference between “buildup” and “setup” in this case.

    By comparison, Claremont’s Nimrod was around for quite a while before becoming a threat. He had a bizarre story about living as a human being, with a roommate and a job, but that story evolved to the point that Nimrod became a threat to the X-men––at which we got two stories in which Nimrod became an increasing threat. We kept checking in on Nimrod all through this period, and the potential danger he represented kept increasing before the story began. Rachel Summers’ story where she tries to kill Selene was preceded by two stories in which Selene hunted down Rachel, trying to kill her––and in those stories, Rachel’s ability to fight back against Selene grows in steps, so that in the third story, when she’s trying to kill Selene, she’s gone from being Selene’s victim to being master of her powers and identity, herself now the hunter, Selene now her prey. The fight between Rachel and Selene is setup in their first encounter, but before the last encounter it is developed, evolved, and made to seem part of a story, rather than just an isolated event. Her rivalry with Selene helped us get the measure of Rachel Summers, the superhero; we saw her faults and fears, as well as her growing strength, and we were then able to read her experience in the X-men from the framing context of this evolving story that encapsulated her presence in the Uncanny X-men title. That development strengthened her story, and made other stories more meaningful, because we as readers were always checking in with Rachel, trying to see what was happening with her––and the writer, some Claremont guy, I dunno, was able to feed Rachel’s character evolution back into other X-men stories, making them richer in turn. For instance, the angst of Rachel’s wraparound story plays heavily into the X-men vs. Alpha Flight miniseries; Rachel attacks Alpha Flight, and because we know her character’s struggles from earlier stories, we know why she so abruptly and vengefully throws herself into this battle.

    What we have from Hickman is markedly different. We have all these hanging plots, places where the story arrives at and then just gets put into limbo before it maybe will show up later. Don’t know if people still remember that Broo ate the Brood King Egg in this X-men series, and is now allegedly King of the Brood? Of course, Hickman is storing that up for later, but in the meantime, we’ve not checked back with Broo about this incident. Is Broo still on Krakoa? What are the new complications for him to deal with in being King of the Brood? None of these story details matter to Hickman. This is literally just a backup army he has in reserve, so that the tide of some absurdly large battle in a later part of the series can be turned by Broo calling in the cavalry at some opportune moment. I think many readers will look at that as something Hickman seeded in advance and then deployed in an allegedly cool way, but what did Hickman do with this plot line in between his introducing it and his supposedly “paying it off?” Nothing. It’s not just romantic character development Hickman shies away from; it’s any story development at all. That’s part of what makes his X-men title so frustrating; it’s constantly seeding storylines that don’t end up as storylines. Moira not showing up means Hickman is setting up her reveal for later, and I’m sure people will admire the heck out of that revelation when it comes. But in the meantime, the lack of development of that storyline means not that what suspense was initially attached to it will stick in place; rather, that suspense will dither away as Moira fades into the rear-view mirror. If Hickman had a way of re-centering that storyline midway through his run, we might be able to maintain our suspense; but because Moira never figures in any of these other stories, her connection to the story at large is dissipating rather than being some kind of stored-up value. By giving us only the establishment of a story element, and then eventually its’ payoff, Hickman is depriving us of any meaning that story element may have of its’ own. It’s like we’re having a one-night stand with these story elements, instead of a continued affair––and that makes it all just a lot less meaningful.

    In the case where Hickman does insert a “part 2 of 3” into one of these side stories––the Children of the Vault is the example, because we have that diversion with Storm going into The World––he forgets to make the second part relate to the other parts of the story, or develop any element of that previous story. Storm’s voyage to The World is a distraction from meaning rather than a development of one––and with the similarities between The World and The Vault, there were plenty of opportunities to make that story seem like progress towards the end of this larger chronicle. But Hickman didn’t make use of the Storm story for that effect. He set up the chance to make the story more meaningful, and he dropped the ball.

    The difference I do see here is between those who dislike Hickman’s writing on this one title and those of us who see it as indicative of the larger failures of Hickman the whole writer. He is like a coach whose locker-room plans for victory sound amazing, but he ultimately undoes his own designs because his ground-game is so wretched and underdeveloped. I have the strong feeling that the payoff at the end of Hickman’s run will end up seeming rather soulless and unrewarding, because he hasn’t taken the time to develop his ideas in these intermittent stories.

  41. Thom H. says:

    “I don’t see a profound difference between ‘buildup’ and ‘setup’ in this case.”

    I think we’re in 100% agreement, actually. Claremont = build up of plot and character by incrementally increasing tension and/or motivation over time. Hickman = set up of pieces for a future story with no regard for narrative tension. You described the distinction I was trying to make better than I did.

    The other part of what I was trying to say amounts to “Marvel lied to us about the new status quo.” It’s clearly set up to fail. And it’s clearly not the continuation of Hickman’s big story. Once I realized that, I was able to ease into Hickman’s antiseptic storytelling a little more. It helped to see the enterprise for what it is, rather than what I wanted it to be (and what it was promised to be). I thought that distinction might help other people, too, but I might be wrong.

  42. Thom H. says:

    To be clear, I don’t think Hickman’s work on X-Men (the series) is especially good. And I do think that some bits of his big finale will necessarily feel hollow, as you describe above. But it’s bound to be beautifully drawn, and some parts of it will probably be fun or surprising. So I’m holding out for that.

  43. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    It would be very funny and following the X-Men traditions if Hickman had a disagreement with editorial and left Marvel next year, leading them to scramble and come up with some kind of payoff for all this since no one knows what his actual plan is.

    X-Men: Fall of X (the fall actually refers to the season), coming in September 2022, will reveal the whole nation of Krakoa to have been a trap set for all mutantkind by, um, *fishes a name out of a hat* the nefarious duo of a reborn Red Onslaught and Ozymandias. Moira X was a hypnotic suggestion all along. Lockheed turns out to be a traitor. Mystique, to the surprise of all present, does not. The X-Men move back to the mansion, but the school is now run by… Candra?! Hope you survive the experience!

  44. neutrino says:


    1) We’ve seen the adamantium pool, but Laura emerged from her pod already with adamantium claws. Does Krakoa apply it while they’re still in the egg?

    2) The first time he died, Synch was trying to save innocent students and had no choice but to sacrifice himself. Here, the better choice would have been to contact Xavier and mount an immediate rescue operation with the X-Men.

    3) Logan is about 150 years old, and after that was revealed some people did think it was creepy when he hit on Jean

  45. Loz says:

    Having recently reread Hickman’s Avengers run in a very short period of times it is clear that Hickman can’t do characters developing. He’s good at picking a voice for them and sticking to it but no one changes in front of us in the comics, instead it all happens off page and we come back to find they’ve changed. In the first half of the run he introduces new and very powerful characters and in the second half he jumps around in time to avoid showing us characters changing, just characters changed.

    This issue is the equivalent of the issue where Namor talks about his experiences, or where Doctor Strange says what happened to him. It’s perhaps key in that that we never actually find out how Doctor Doom beat the Beyonders, it just fades to white and… then he has.

    So I think that my favourite titles in this are ones like Marauders and X-Factor which are acknowledging the different status quo and getting on with their own stories, but whenever this finishes there will either be some sort of Thanos snap or a load of dangling plot threads which sensible writers will probably choose to ignore completely.

  46. Loz says:

    I’m predict it now- If Hickman gets to the end of whatever story he’s telling the last scene is completely non-mutant human Moira McTaggart meeting Charles Xavier in an echo of HoxPox issue 2 and everything is back to normal.

  47. neutrino says:

    A couple of things,

    Synch is supposed to shave his head, but he’s bald throughout.
    Without duplicating Laura and Darwin, how did he survive crossing the temporal barrier to escape the first time? When he did, why not contact the X-Men for an immediate rescue of Laura and Darwin?

    Is the stasis system Synch perfected supposed to keep captured Children in suspended animation so he can use their power? That’s kind of creepy.

    Unfortunately, the Children have gone from a group that terrorized Sabertooth and could beat the X-Men (at first level) to mooks that can’t remove three mutants from their own stronghold even at third level.

  48. Adam says:

    “ It seems pretty obvious that the promise of HoXPoX was put on pause while other writers noodle around in the new status quo.”

    Hickman has explicitly stated this.

Leave a Reply