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May 26

X-Men #20 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-MEN vol 5 #20
“Lost Love”
by Jonathan Hickman, Francesco Mobili & Sunny Gho

COVER / PAGE 1: The face of a damaged Nimrod.

PAGE 2. “The Oracle”

This is Mystique’s underground home, which we last saw in issue #6. The floating mask with the energy effect, which we also saw in that issue, belongs to her late wife Destiny. As shown in that issue and Powers of X #6 (among others), Professor X and Magneto signed Mystique up for the Krakoan project on the promise that Destiny would be resurrected. But Destiny can’t be resurrected because of the rule against reviving precognitives: first, she would be able to detect Moira MacTaggert hiding on the island; and second, she would apparently see something pretty alarming about how things turned out. And so Professor X and Magneto have been stringing Mystique along.

Issue #6 included a flashback in which Destiny essentially predicted all this to Mystique. It ends with Destiny telling Mystique to bring her back – “And if you cannot… if they will not… then burn that place to the ground.”

The floating mask appears to be simply a shrine, rather than something that allows Mystique to commune with Destiny’s spirit.

PAGES 3-6. Mystique visits Forge.

Mystique is asking for a devastating weapon, and we’re presumably meant to wonder at first whether this is intended for Krakoa. But we establish soon enough that she actually wants it to destroy the Orchis space station (from House of X), where the Nimrod AI is though to be on the verge of manifesting. This continues a recurring theme in Hickman’s stories of drawing out parallels between Krakoa and Orchis.

Forge‘s argument for the moral acceptability of what he does boils down to saying that technology is inherently neutral, and it’s all about the people using it; weapons, he suggests, are no more inherently dangerous than any other technology. This is very much not the mindset that’s driving Professor X, Magneto and Moira; based on Moira’s knowledge from her previous lives, they apparently believe that all artificial intelligence is inherently dangerous and must be suppressed.

Despite this, Forge identifies the “worst weapon I ever built” as “a gun that turned us into them” – i.e., the Neutralizer which temporarily removed Storm’s powers, as seen first in Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #184. It’s worth noting that the Neutralizer wasn’t designed specifically to remove mutant powers – it was a reverse-engineered copy of Rom’s weapon, originally intended for use against the Dire Wraiths. So it is, ultimately, an illustration of the morality of the weapon depending upon who’s using it.

Forge presumably asks Mystique for more details because his mutant power is intuitive invention; he’s not aware, at least consciously, of the thought processes involved. It makes sense that he would need a clearly defined goal.

PAGES 7-8. Mystique in the House of M.

Professor X and Magneto explicitly promise that Destiny will be fast-tracked for resurrection if she succeeds in her mission, which is “preventing Nimrod from coming online”. It’s not clear what they would have done if she’d succeeded; the calculation may well have been that she’d get killed in the process and could be conveniently revived without memory of the promise.

The secret gate to the Orchis Forge space station was planted by Mystique behind the scenes in House of X #4, as shown in flashback in X-Men #6.

PAGE 9. Recap.

PAGES 10-12. Alia Gregor revives her husband Erasmus Mendel as Nimrod.

The two characters watching from the balcony are Omega Sentinel (Karima Shapandar) and Orchis’ director Killian Devo.

As in X-Men #6, the parallels between the Orchis Forge and Krakoa are very obvious. Alia has created her own version of Krakoa’s resurrection, albeit with a technological body rather than a biological one. But the basic idea is the same – create a new body and restore the deceased from back-up. On top of that, Alia (like Mystique) is driven by an overriding desire to bring her spouse back to life, rather than showing any particular interest here in Orchis’ anti-mutant agenda. Presumably Orchis sees this whole exercise as having anti-mutant applications, or else they wouldn’t be funding it, but it’s certainly not at the forefront of Alia’s mind, and all the emphasis is on making her a parallel to Mystique.

Hence Mystique’s reaction in the final panel of page 12. (That’s her with the bag.) The parallels can’t be lost on her. For added parallels, we even had a scene with the Krakoan Forge earlier in the issue.

PAGES 13-18. Mystique is exposed, and Nimrod stops the bomb.

The technobabble here is on the heavy side. But the basic idea is clear enough: Nimrod can split into two bodies, one to pursue Mystique and one to deal with the bomb. He can contain the bomb, but that body gets destroyed in the process. And for convoluted reasons that boil down to plot convenience, if one of the bodies is destroyed too soon after his revival, the memories are lost. So Erasmus heroically sacrifices himself again to save his wife – just like he did in House of X #3, despite being a villain – and Alia loses him for good.

As in House of X, there’s a very strong suggestion here that Professor X and Magneto are actually accelerating the very disaster that they claim to be trying to avert. It was the rise of Krakoa that prompted Orchis to accelerate their plans in House of X. It was the X-Men’s failed assault on the Orchis Forge that led to Alia accelerating her Nimrod research in order to bring back her husband. And if Mystique had left him alone, they’d have had a Nimrod with a human mind and apparently a degree of decency – instead, they’ve got the AI Nimrod that they always feared, whose first and defining memory is of a mutant assassination attempt. Everything they’ve done has been counter-productive.

PAGES 19-20. Omega Sentinel and Karima Shapandar.

Devo mentions some equivalent tragedy having befallen himself in the past; I don’t think we’ve heard about this before. (We’ve been told that Devo was blind at birth, so it can’t be to do with that.)

Devo is correct that the gate was planted before he arrived on the station (in X-Men #1).

He clearly has a point that the Krakoans’ desperate attempts to get rid of Nimrod suggest that the fear and hatred has become mutual – but the obvious difference is that the Krakoans are specifically alarmed about Orchis and its activities, rather than humans in general. That said, the Krakoans have been developing an increasingly mutant-nationalist bent throughout the Hickman era, and are increasingly prone to talking about the humans as their inferiors.

PAGES 21-22. Mystique’s resurrection.

She didn’t complete the mission, so Destiny doesn’t get revived. It has to be said that even if you accept that Xavier has a legitimate motivation for trying to stall on her resurrection, he’s being incredibly callous here.

PAGE 23. Moira’s lair.

The narration is Destiny’s prophecy from the flashback in X-Men #6.

Moira is reading from Destiny’s Libris Veritorum, the books of prophecy which she wrote after her powers emerged at age 13. She wrote one volume a month for thirteen months before stopping. The books were a major plot point in the early-2000s X-Treme X-Men series, and are shown here as they were depicted in X-Treme X-Men #1, complete with the cover layout, the month, and the spelling of her name as “Irenie Adler”. Note that there ought to be 13 volumes, but the art only shows nine. It’s possible that the other four are obscured behind other books, of course.

PAGE 24. A trailer for this autumn’s “Inferno” storyline, named after the late-80s crossover, but apparently here referencing Destiny’s command to burn Krakoa to the ground. The Krakoan, obviously, just says INFERNO.

PAGE 25. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: TO THE STARS.

Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    Also of relevance, in Life Nine Apocalypse says, “I now know we were never going to stop the machines…The question I have is why it is always aimed at us mutants?”.

    A bizarre question for Apocalypse to ask. Why do machines target mutants? It seems self-evident that humans program them to target mutants, right?
    So, Apocalypse can’t be that dense.
    There is surely a point being made by Hickman.

  2. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Surely. 🙂

    ‘He can’t be that dense, this must be a point’
    ‘He can’t be that cruel, this must be intended’
    ‘They can’t be written that badly, they must be mind-controlled’. (Remember that one?)

    We’ve been playing this game for close to two years now. I’d argue that at this point it doesn’t matter if the bad writing is plot relevant, there’s no payoff that will make it worth it.

  3. Asteele says:

    It’s been two years so the “dominion” in question, basially has to be connected to a version of Moira. There not going to introduce a brand new villian 25 issues in. My guess is Moria ascended at some point, but still “died” in the sense that the timeline was rebooted, and while the ascended moria survived there is a way that mutants can still destroy her, so she kills the mutants every timeline before that happens.

  4. MasterMahan says:

    @thekelvingreen Has there been any acknowledgement of the 101 other AIs running around the Marvel Universe? Are the Krakoans bothered about Machine Man or the Vision?

    Krakoa’s turned Wanda into an Antichrist figure, so they probably have strong opinions on the being that married her and gave her kids. And there was the time Machine Man ended up part Sentinel.

  5. @MasterMahan, I picked those two examples because they were the ones that sprang to mind, but yeah, you make good points there!

  6. Luis Dantas says:

    Dealing with high concept is fine and dandy, but it may have created a superficial appearance of a level of depth that is probably not amenable to proper development in a few thousand sequential panels.

    Nor is Marvel in the business of promoting high level discussion, let alone useful conclusions for those. Quite literally, that is not what it is being paid for. Not any more than readers are duty bound to follow any storylines to the end.

    Hickman is not very likely to have an endgame for his run that will make a convincing argument about any of the themes that he brings to the table. Nor is he expected to. He is an entertainer, not a consultant for matters related to those themes.

    If we can find excitement and joy discussing those themes, so much the better. And I am as guilty of wanting to see things develop on panel in ways that reinforce my views and expectations as anyone can be. All the same, there is no mistaking Hickman’s Krakoa setup with any form of serious environment for discussion. It is an entertainment tool, not a debate plataform.

  7. Chris V says:

    I think it’s fun to attempt to guess the secrets and put the puzzle pieces together before the ending.
    That’s really the only aspect that has kept my interest in the current X-line.

    Hickman left House/Powers open-ended, but it was basically “to be continued”.
    What has followed, so far, outside of this current issue of X-Men, hasn’t been the true next chapter of Hickman’s story. He still has a continuation of where he left off in House/Powers to write. It seems that he is returning to write the next chapter in that story with “Inferno”.

    Hickman’s first duty is to entertain, but a huge part of entertainment is to tell a compelling story.

    There is definitely an ulterior motive to Krakoa that hasn’t been revealed yet.
    Moira’s plan goes deeper than simply an utopia for mutants.

    I do expect that life six is going to be important for events in life ten.
    Moira is trying to create a future for mutants. Life six was the longest that Moira lived (almost until the end times), and she saw how post-humanity nearly (?) became immortal.
    I think her long-term plan is to find actual immortality for mutants, and not just resurrection.

    Krakoa=eventual Worldmind.
    Cerebro=for mutants what the Phalanx represented to the Dominion.
    References were made throughout HOX/POX mentioning Titans, strongholds, and dominion in relation to the mutants. Very interesting word choices on Hickman’s part, considering the revelations in life six.

    There’s also another issue that hasn’t been addressed yet, which is what Moira plans to do if her plans succeed. If mutants win in this life, and then she has a heart attack, everything is back to the start again.
    Moira needs a plan that would allow her to live forever too.

  8. MasterMahan says:

    @thekelvingreen: Krakoa isn’t entirely wrong to be suspicious of new AIs in the Marvel Universe. They tend to stick to their moral alignments – established ‘good’ AI tend to stay good – but no one seems to have much control over how they turn out. Even another AI like Ultron can’t make a kid that doesn’t immediately turn on him, and he’s tried four times now.

    And I imagine the Krakoans know they can only go so far. They could get away with destroying the Right AI without anyone noticing. Destroying the Vision or capturing Wanda for a trial would probably mean war with dozens of non-mutant superhumans and a space empire.

  9. Loz says:

    Moira will probably become the last villain when it’s time to wrap the last Krakoa era up. Hickman did it with either Cap or Iron Man depending on your point of view in his Avengers run. Despite the several decades of continuity which may, or may not, matter in the current run, Moira, as written by Hickman in HoX/PoX has seen change and evolution only as a bad thing. Every different attempt to sort things out has ended badly for her, just at different speeds. So I reckon she’s brought the mutants together to influence them towards thinking they’re the master-race, they have another island full of cannon-fodder orcs for the enslavement of the planet, with them in control the humans won’t be able to create A.I., wipe out mutant kind and join the Techarchy. Xavier will turn against her, Moira will die and blip off to her next incarnation but this universe will keep going without her (as, it will turn out, did the other universes as well) and everyone will go back to Graymalkin Lane.

  10. Chris V says:

    I’ve argued before, and this is a common pet theme for Hickman across many series, his point wasn’t that either Cap or Iron Man were the villain in Avengers.
    It was that both allowed their own ideologies to divide them, so that instead of both sides working together towards stopping the larger threat, we saw the two of them continue their ongoing feud as existence itself ended around them.

    In fact, we see this theme hinted at many times during House/Powers as far as mutants and humans.
    We saw it more explicitly pointed to during life nine by Nimrod.

  11. Karl_H says:

    “I was speculating that the Dominion may have first become aware of something important in relation to Earth/Moira once her powers first manifested.”

    See there’s the trouble with entities ‘existing outside of time and space’ — if we’re being asked to imagine such entities, to think about what it means to exist as they do, ultimately it makes no sense to have them discover anything, or react to it, because both of those implicitly involve the flow of time. It’s not impossible to write a story about them, but it’s very tricky. Is that what Hickman has in mind? I don’t know, but he’s the one who brought it up, so I hope he has a good plan.

  12. Chris V says:

    Unless it’s that they are so above most everything in the cosmos that humanity would be like grains of sand are to us. Beneath our notice, most of the time.

    Hickman was dealing with some ideas using cosmic evolution. I noticed some influence of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Russian cosmism in House/Powers. These use the idea that evolution is purposeful and moving towards a certain end.
    In Hickman’s cosmology that purposeful evolution seems to be moving towards the Dominion, which takes the place of God in the cosmology of De Chardin or Russian cosmism.
    So, the only interest of the Dominion would be, apparently, steering evolution towards itself. Something Moira is attempting to subvert through stopping the rise of machine intelligence.

    Basically, the Librarian tells Moira that if post-humanity will make the Dominion aware of Moira, and then the Dominion will see Moira as an annoyance. Worth the time of the Dominion to then target.
    Once the Dominion is made aware of Moira, then it could mess with Moira in all of her lives, those she’s already lived and those yet to live (because it exists outside of space and time).

    If Moira dies and it causes reality to blink off and then time restarts again, that could easily catch the attention of a being like the Dominion though.
    It wouldn’t care about Moira until the point her mutant power materializes though, because before that point in her timeline, Moira is still an insignificant speck.

  13. Chris V says:

    the Librarian tells Moira that if post-humanity *achieves Ascension, they will make the Dominion aware of Moira,

  14. Dave says:

    But then they DIDN’T achieve ascension. So they should still be unaware of her. And that was after Moira had already reset the universe 5 times.
    If the machine gods do know what’s happening, somehow, then one of their key goals should be to make it so that Moira doesn’t die for a long time. Life 7 didn’t seem like it did them any favours in that regard, and could be taken as evidence that they’re NOT having much influence over Sentinel type machines. I suppose both sides have, or should have learned that direct confrontation is a bad idea. Maybe that’s something to do with why they don’t just obliterate Orchis.

  15. Chris V says:

    You’re right, Dave.
    That’s why Moira says her enemy is time. The longer she lives without accomplishing her goals, the more likely it is that post-humanity is going to evolve and win.

    OK, scratch the idea that the Dominion somehow became aware of Moira.
    I do think there are enough hints that the Dominion is influencing machine evolution though, and that is the reason that the machines “are always aimed at mutants” (as Apocalypse queried).

    I guess it’s just a matter of evolution.
    Mutants are the next stage in biological evolution.
    They are competition with machine evolution.
    They are naturally standing in the way of the true future, so they must be eliminated.

  16. Joseph S. says:

    “ Moira, as written by Hickman in HoX/PoX has seen change and evolution only as a bad thing.”

    I disagree. She tells Charles that in all her lives he never changes, and that this is not a compliment.

  17. Cecil James says:

    JH needs to ressurect more mutants and give them back their mutant powers such as Rusty Collins El Aguila aka Alejandro Montoya Samuel Pare aka Squid Boy Silas King aka Solarr Noah Crichton aka Hydro Christian and his sister Christine Cord aka Radian and Tattoo Christopher Bradley aka Kilowatt formerly Bolt among others.

  18. Chris V says:

    Yeah. Where is El Aguila? How can a mutant nation be taken seriously without Mexico’s greatest superhero?

    Was Solarr a mutant? I seem to remember something about him originally getting his powers from peyote.

  19. Karl_H says:

    Maybe the Dominion exists outside of normal time and space (and can see the entirety of a timeline at a glance) but has its own internal causality stream (so that it can detect ‘things happening’ and react to them.

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