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May 20

Way of X #2 annotations

Posted on Thursday, May 20, 2021 by Paul in x-axis

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

“Let Us Prey”
by Si Spurrier, Bob Quinn & Java Tartaglia

COVER / PAGE 1. The swashbuckling Nightcrawler in Kurt’s mindscape battle an attacking Kraken.

PAGE 2. David and Kurt.

Legion. The name “Legion” comes originally from New Mutants vol 1 #26-27, and used to be David’s codename. He started rejecting it in Spurrier’s X-Men Legacy vol 2. Strictly speaking, in the original story, “Legion” was a collective name for all of David’s multiple personalities.

The Patchwork Man. David is aware of the Patchwork Man, and evidently assumes that his father is jumping to conclusions in blaming him; he sees Xavier as completely distrustful and unsupportive, which is pretty much fair (and stands in stark contrast to his more paternal role with the rest of the X-Men).

PAGES 3-4. David enters Kurt’s mindscape.

While the focus of this series has been on Kurt’s religious and philosophical bent, his mindscape still reflects the swashbuckling bent which is traditionally a core part of his character – though note that alongside the pirate Kurts, the ship also has a clown Kurt, and a priest Kurt kneeling in prayer.

David removes some sort of object which has somehow-or-other been placed in Kurt’s subconscious (or, possibly, is just a symptom of someone having been interfering). It’s not at all clear at this point who installed this or what it was doing, but Kurt infers later on – reasonably enough – that it was placed by Orchis as part of their plan to spread anomie. In his case it doesn’t take the form of selfishness, but of a feeling of disconnection from a society without boundaries, as we saw in the previous issue.

PAGE 5. Recap and credits.

PAGES 6-9. The Green Lagoon.

Dazzler. For those keeping track of intertitle continuity, Dazzler tells us that the Hellfire Gala is tonight. She’s drinking viognier, which is white wine.

Fabian Cortez was “fired”, “replaced” and “humiliated” in S.W.O.R.D. #5, and what he says about that is pretty fair. “That idiotic space station” is S.W.O.R.D., and his claim that he was “basically the only thing holding it together” is nonsense – he had a non-job and was only kept around because he had useful powers. In terms of “I saved them all”, he did make a useful contribution in powering up Sunfire to fight Knull in S.W.O.R.D. #2, but that’s about it. Fabian is still wearing his S.W.O.R.D. logo, and unsurprisingly has nobody else on Krakoa to hang out with.

Dr Nemesis recalls Cortez as “the fanatic who worshipped Magneto” and had “insane quasi-religious ambitions”, obviously fitting with the religious theme of the book. Cortez doesn’t exactly deny this – he’s more concerned to deny that he harmed any mutants, and claims that he only hurt humans (who, he says, are not “people”). However, none of this is correct. Cortez did indeed found the Acolytes, a Magneto-worshipping cult, but he was always presented more as a cynical manipulator than a true believer; Exodus was the genuine fanatic. Nor is it true that he never harmed mutants – Cortez was a member of the Upstarts, who had an entire game about killing mutants for points. In fact, his criminal activities have been overwhelmingly directed against other mutants.

Dr Nemesis did indeed spent some time working on Legion’s personalities during the Utopia era, as seen in both New Mutants and X-Men Legacy at the time. Despite the way he presents it here, it went rather badly wrong, and resulted in Legion creating the “Age of X” pocket universe in self-defence.

Loa and Pixie return from the previous issue. Mercury, who Loa is clearly smitten by, was one of the X-Men’s students from the 2000s, from books like New X-Men; she hasn’t done much in a while.

Lost appeared prominently last issue, where we established that her powers cause nausea in most people around her. However, it seems to be only the appearance of the Patchwork Man over Cortez’s shoulder that really triggers problems here. The Patchwork Man was also present when this happened last issue, though he wasn’t visible until the following page.

PAGES 10-12. Nightcrawler, Pixie and Dr Nemesis find David’s brain.

Rub’ al-Khali is the name of the desert in the Arabian Peninsula. It straddles several countries.

David’s Scottish accent seems to have started as an error, the idea being that he grew up on Muir Isle. The problem is that he didn’t – he grew up in Israel and was only brought to Muir Isle after he had been comatose for several years.

Blindfold, as I mentioned last time, was a friend of David’s in Spurrier’s X-Men Legacy series. We’re reminded again that she’s dead and hasn’t been brought back, despite the fact that a lot of other people who died at around the same time have been resurrected. The real reason, of course, is that she’s a precognitive, and they aren’t allowed on Krakoa. David seemed to have figured this out last issue.

PAGE 13. Data page. An internal Orchis memo.

Essentially, what’s happened here is that Orchis have somehow got their hands on David or his disembodied brain, and have kicked out the main personality so that the personalities that can remain – an entire community of mutants, each with their own powers – can be used as a sort of Krakoa simulator. This gets explained more fully in the next scene. After all, Legion is a Krakoa in microcosm. Orchis has developed some sort of implant that caused a prompt collapse in Legion society, and the obvious fear is that it’ll work similarly on Krakoa.

Legacy House evidently supplied the brain to Orchis. They’re villains from Wolverine, who specialise in black market superhero memorabilia. While we’ve seen that they have some genuinely impressive stuff (and know it), they also have plenty of material of purely collectible value.

“Gyrich and his flunkies in Second Petal”. Gyrich is Henry Peter Gyrich, currently running Alpha Flight. The Orchis org chart last issue showed his Second Petal division as “Infrastructure / Influence.”

Sixth Petal were redacted on the org chart, and are evidently super duper top secret.

PAGES 14-17. Nightcrawler kills David, freeing the way for resurrection.

This is, of course, a very different scenario than Pixie’s wilful self-destruction last issue; Kurt regrets this, but can accept it as a practical way for David to be resurrected. Kurt attempts to start praying before pulling the trigger, but then abandons it. Given the availability of resurrection, it’s not like David’s request is suicidal. Note that this time it’s Pixie who seems troubled by what’s happening, perhaps because this time everyone else is taking it seriously.

“I don’t even know how these buggers got me.” Nor do we, beyond the mention of Legacy House earlier. At the end of Spurrier’s last X-Men Legacy run, Legion attempts to erase himself from history, as he says here. It evidently didn’t take, since other characters continued to mention him occasionally. He showed up again without explanation in Peter Milligan’s Legion miniseries, and then served as a villain during “X-Men Disassembled” and “Age of X-Man”. How he got reset to his previously dominant personality is unclear.

David remembers hearing Ruth’s voice – “one word, whispered in the dark”. That’s significant, because he clearly ended up in Orchis after the “Age of X-Man” arc. So this incident with Ruth must also take place at that point in history… but Ruth was dead by then. Is her persona still floating around somewhere? In X-Men Legacy, she was the one person who he allowed to remember his existence, so they’re linked in some form.

David thinks that Ruth’s “inevitable” comment has something to do with the inevitable collapse of Krakoan society. This seems quite likely, given the reasons why precognitives are not allowed on Krakoa.

Anomie is indeed a sociological concept, first coined by Émile Durkheim (1858-1917). This is straying some way out of my area, mind you. Durkheim’s definition of anomie was somewhat imprecise, but the etymology is broadly “normlessness” – i.e., a society lacking shared norms about how one should act and what one should find desirable. Or, potentially, a society in a state of transition between two different worldviews. However, the term also seems to cover a mismatch between the norms of an individual (or smaller group) and the norms of society as a whole. Or a psychological disillusionment with society based on the above. It’s all a bit hazy. One of Durkheim’s preoccupations was the social role of religion in avoiding anomie, which fits nicely for this book.

“The derangement of the infinite” is a paraphrase of Durkheim, who actually referred to anomie as “a derangement” and as a “malady of the infinite”. What he meant – as best as I understand it – is that in the absence of social norms we are faced with apparently open-ended desires, which can never be fulfilled, and which only make us unhappy in the long run. A lack of boundaries ultimately just leads to a sense of meaninglessness. You can’t have a functioning society without a degree of shared social values, because the shared values are society. And so on. That’s what Nemesis has in mind when he refers to a society without limits – a lack of social direction.

The Orchis interloper seems to be just repeating “Me before we”, presumably indicating that it’s helping to reinforce a move away from collective social norms to un-anchored individualism.

PAGE 18. Data page. Kurt writes about these events after the fact, describing his killing of David as breaking “thoughtless conditioning”. It’s not clear whether we’re to take this as him moving away from his religious views or simply coming to the view that his values have to be applied differently in the context of resurrection, and the rules he grew up with no longer accurately give effect to the underlying principles.

PAGES 19-24. Legion is resurrected.

This is apparently a very big deal for the people of Krakoa; if nothing else, an Omega mutant is being re-established. Given that Dazzler told us earlier that the Hellfire Gala was that night, the Five have created his new body very quickly indeed. Kurt’s narration tells us that the Five did this on their own initiative. Xavier certainly doesn’t seem happy about it.

And this is potentially very important, because Legion has all sorts of powers, including precognition. We saw his precognition personality in X-Men: Legacy vol 2 #1-5, where it took the form of an evil version of Professor X. This may well be what Xavier has in mind when he says that with one lapse, David “could tear down everything we’ve built.” Unfortunately for him, David is able to reinstall his own mind.

Following Kurt’s pep talk, David now adopts the name Legion.

The Patchwork Man, according to Legion, is Onslaught – not exactly a character many people would have expected to see this book bring back. Onslaught, insofar as he ever made any sense, was a combination of the evil side of Professor X and aspects of Magneto’s personality – he is, in that sense, “patchwork”. The shape in the clouds is Onslaught’s stylised helmet.

PAGE 25. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: THE JOY OF X.

Bring on the comments

  1. Douglas says:

    This one was my favorite single X-issue in a while–smart, weird, sometimes even thrilling, and building on the past in ways that make scary sense and that I didn’t see coming anyway. Extra points for dismissing the “Legion is the Patchwork Man” thing on the first page.

    And that “Orchis interloper” sure looks like the miniature Nimrod from the X+1000 scenes in Powers of X!

  2. Chris V says:

    Well, it is the 25th anniversary of the Onslaught event. One of the books has to do something.

    This book certainly went in unexpected directions.

    I thought this interpretation of Professor X was Onslaught. heh

    Onslaught was mentioned in one of Moira’s journal entries.

    The interesting thing about Onslaught is that Lobdell’s original idea for the character plays well with Hickman’s direction.
    Although it was completely missed in the debacle that ended up on the page, the original intent was that Onslaught was going to force Professor X’s dream upon the world.
    The only way (or so the broken and despondent mind of Charles Xavier had come to believe) to achieve peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants was to create a collective consciousness, eliminating free will.
    Onslaught would control the minds of all humans and mutants.

  3. Ben Johnston says:

    Thanks for writing these up every week, Paul. They’re clearly a tremendous amount of work, and they add significantly to my enjoyment of the issues. Frankly, I probably wouldn’t still be buying the entire line without these posts.

  4. Joseph S. says:

    It’s so good to have Spurrier back on an x-book again. I’m glad he’s getting to play on the Krakoa sandbox. Feels like just the right amount of surprises and long overdue.

  5. Allan M says:

    I appreciate that it feels like Spurrier knows he’s writing a book with a mostly obscure cast and probably doesn’t have a ton of issues before this gets cancelled, so he’s going in at speed. The Legion, Orchis, and Onslaught stuff are interesting, but Kurt abandoning his prayer to execute Legion’s brain is the key moment to me, where something fundamental about his morality and beliefs is changing and it’s not treated in the cold, antiseptic way that Hickman does. Is this the first time Kurt’s used a gun on-panel? Seems rare, at least.

  6. Si says:

    It probably is the first time Kurt has used a gun. I’m not even sure how he could hold one with his fingers being what they are.

  7. Onslaught? It’s fine. Treat him like every other villain on Krakoa and give him a job running a bar or emptying bins or something.

  8. Luis Dantas says:

    Now, _that_ would be social inclusion, Kevin.

  9. Rob says:

    Does anyone know how a guy raised by a demon sorceress ended up being such a devout Catholic?

  10. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Teenage rebellion that took hold and never let go?

  11. Luis Dantas says:

    It is not at all unusual for the offspring of unethical people to realize that they must rebel, Rob.

    It is even a tradition of sorts in comics – Orion of the New Gods, Janus the son of Dracula, even Shang Chi.

    On another note, it is so liberating to finally see someone say out loud that they don’t trust Magneto and even Xavier. _Someone_ had to do that at some point.

    Spurrier is good with characterization as well as dialogue. Me like! I did not expect to find Legion an engaging character, but now I do.

  12. Taibak says:

    Wasn’t Nightcrawler’s Catholicism covered in Excalibur -1?

  13. Luis Dantas says:

    I don’t think that it was, @Taibak. That issue was all about Margali and Jimaine, although Kurt was strongly involved as well with a focus on this trapeze work.

    To the best of my understanding, the first clear indication that Kurt had any significant feelings towards either Catholicism or Priesthood came after the end of the original Excalibur run in the issues after the Six Month Gap.

    Sure, mid-1982’s Uncanny #159 established that he could improvise a wooden cross in order to repel Dracula because he was a believer in Christianity in a way that applied to neither Kitty nor Wolverine, but that same issue also had Kitty’s Star of David burn Dracula on touch, so it is really not very clear by that point how much of a believer he is, nor that he is specifically a Catholic.

    Before that, Uncanny Annual #4 (1980 or so) had Margali creating Dante-styled scenarios for Kurt and the X-Men (and Doctor Strange) to deal with, and I suppose that suggests that Margali knew or believed that Kurt would be responsive to Christian concepts and imagery, but that is as far as it goes.

    There was, of course, a subplot about his training to become a priest after the Six Month Gap. An infamously ill handled one that ended up with he never having truly attempted to become a priest after all.

    So the current status quo is (I believe) that he has feelings for Catholicism and once believed himself to have been ordained a priest, but really did not.

    Still, as this series well reminds us, he is indeed one of the kindly ones and has very consistently been shown as such going back to early Claremont (but not from the first). It is an interesting use of the character and has been handled well so far – even if I don’t think Hickman introduced this trait all that well in House of X nor developed it very much either. There was X-Men #7, but that was sort of businesslike.

  14. Chris V says:

    Regardless of the pop culture stereotypes, the majority of Romani people do tend to be Christians, with a large percentage in any countries where they live being Catholics.
    He may have been introduced to Catholicism by other people where his family lived.

    That could work well with the Annual, in that his mother would know to torture Kurt with the iconography of Dante’s Inferno due to her disappointment that Kurt chose Catholic belief over her sorcery.

  15. Allan M says:

    Kurt’s established as specifically Catholic back in Uncanny #165. Wolverine stumbles onto him giving a prayer, and it’s the end of a standard Catholic prayer, in Latin. He says at the time that he doesn’t go to church often, but draws comfort from prayer. When Wolverine responds that he doesn’t believe in anything beyond the material world, Kurt says that he feels sorry that Wolverine must feel so profoundly alone. So there’s real belief there on Kurt’s part.

    Later, after confronting the Beyonder in Secret Wars II, he goes to St. Anne’s Church and talks to Father Bowen for solace (Catholic, first introduced Marvel Team-Up #100 which is the first appearance of Karma). Kurt entering the priesthood was a hell of a leap, but I guess that’s what happens in big time jumps.

  16. Taibak says:

    Then it’s possible that his interest in the priesthood was imported from the cartoon. He was portrayed as a monk in that series.

    Otherwise, I’d just point out that the majority of Bavarians are Catholics so it’s not much of a stretch.

  17. neutrino says:

    I hope Orchis isn’t going to turn into the usual hate-filled anti-mutant fanatics instead of the shades of gray they had in HoX/PoX.

  18. Chris V says:

    They were never “shades of gray”.
    Made up of…ex-members of AIM, Hydra, HAMMER…
    Building a Nimrod.
    Omega Sentinel and Henry Peter Gyrich as members.

    They were used to critique Krakoa, using compare/contrast. We weren’t supposed to sympathize with Orchis, but we were supposed to question the methodology of Krakoa.
    Krakoa was portrayed with “shades of gray” in HOX/POX.

    Remember, we were already shown in Moira’s third and fourth lives that mutants tried to live peacefully with humans, and in both instances, Sentinels were still sent to kill the mutants.
    The idea that mutantkind had the right to self-determination and to found their own island-nation should never have been debatable.
    The fact that the Orchis Protocols were awaiting this eventuality to activate, regardless of whether the mutants were benevolent or antagonistic, is alarming and aggressive.

  19. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    ‘Omega Sentinel and Henry Peter Gyrich as members’.

    Wasn’t Gyrich a shades of grey guy, though? I didn’t read that Avengers run, but he was a stick-in-the-mud official who wanted the government to control the Avengers – but he wasn’t a supervillain, right? The worst Gyrich I recall from older stories was in Kieron Gillen’s SWORD, where he rounded up all the aliens to deport them from Earth – he was using state oppresion and brute force, but his aim was deportation, not elimination.

    I’m reading through the Claremont run and I was surprised that shortly after being introduced as part of Project Wideawake, Gyrich is actually one of the moderate voices in governmental meetings, arguing against pushing Magneto to the brink and such. Val Cooper seems to be more hawkish than Gyrich in those early scenes.

    And as for Omega Sentinel, is she’s the standard 616 Karima and not the Life 9 or whichever Karima-pulled-through-the-black-hole, then she was a hero (and was de-cyborged) before Hickman… I don’t know, couldn’t be bothered to read her wiki page.

  20. Chris V says:

    I always think of Gyrich as representative of the nameless-faceless bureaucracy.
    Someone who follows orders and doesn’t question the rules.
    I remember that he was also a member of the Commission on Superhuman Activities, which attempted to force Steve Rogers to work for the Reagan administration, leading to him giving up the Captain America identity.
    Maybe I’m wrong. I always saw him that way.

    I can’t see Hickman using Omega Sentinel (and giving her the exact same design) as from earlier lives of Moira unless it was meant to be ominous.
    Here is an anti-mutant organization building a Nimrod and they have Omega Sentinel as a member. I think we’re supposed to see it as life nine events starting again.

    Yes, last we saw of Karima, she wasn’t a cyborg anymore. That opens the question as to what it means that she is now a nano-Sentinel again.
    She referred to the computers on the Forge as her “brothers and sisters”.

  21. Luis Dantas says:

    The main role of Karisma’s presence among Orchis members so far (and it is a crucial one IMO) may well be bringing a measure of uncertainty and nuance to what could otherwise appear to be a black and white situation.

    Karisma was once a member of the X-Men. Her history is one of being made a weapon, than recovering, than relapsing again. More explicitly than almost any other member or former member she is a living reminder that foes and allies are built to a considerable extent by circunstance as opposed to inherent rights or differences of moral achievement.

    Her very presence leads to difficult questions, particularly when compounded with the callousness that Krakoa has been showing to people such as the Fantastic Four, Juggernaut and Mystique. Back in HoX Nightcrawler has explicitly shown an unwillingness to fight against her, and that is a clear sign that he is still on control of his own judgement and goals as opposed to blindly following Magneto and Xavier. That is a significant and IMO necessary plot point.

  22. neutrino says:

    Mutant Force was actually a group organized as a pseudo Brotherhood of Evil Mutants by Magneto in Captain America Annual #4. Orlando has a thing for it because he thinks Kirby is endorsing “respecting and listening to cultural boundaries and lived experience.” Actually Kirby is refuting it.

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