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Jun 3

X-Force #20 annotations

Posted on Thursday, June 3, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-FORCE vol 6 #20
“The Secret Garden”
by Benjamin Percy, Joshua Cassara & Guru-eFX

PAGE 1 / COVER. X-Force work security at the Hellfire Gala, which apparently means skintight tuxedos. Quentin has a psionic velvet rope. The invitation in the foreground is the same as the one shown as a data page in Marauders #21.

PAGES 2-4. Kid Omega greets guests.

This is an expanded version of a scene from Marauders #21. In this version, Iron Man gets a bit more space in which to explain why he isn’t wearing the Krakoan flower or using their portal – basically, he knows a tracking device when he sees one, and he quite understandably doesn’t trust the Krakoans an inch. This being X-Force, the book will go on to confirm that he’s absolutely right.

Iron Man is a fairly logical choice to be the superhero who pointedly refuses to play along – he’s a scientist, he’s hyper-intelligent, and he’s stroppier than Reed Richards. But it might also be significant that Krakoa has always been about organic tech as an alternative to human technology (presumably because of fears of AI). Iron Man is perhaps the least Krakoan superhero imaginable.

Clearly visible among the guests on page one are some of the other Avengers (Hulk, Ghost Rider and Captain Marvel) plus the Thing; others are too sketchy to identify, and there are a whole bunch of people in generic white dresses who could be anyone.

PAGES 5-6. Sage checks in on Wolverine.

Wolverine is taking delivery of a pile of “logic diamonds” from the Shi’ar. This is presumably the gift that Emma was offered in Marauders #21 by a Shi’ar dignitary, which she didn’t remember asking for – it all sounds as if this is heading somewhere.

Logic diamonds are used as data storage for Cerebro, as first mentioned in Powers of X #5. As Forge pointed out in that issue, the memory demands of Cerebro exceed anything that could be done with Earth technology. Apparently, Christian Frost is going to take these things to “the cradles” – i.e., to Cerebro.

So a bunch of Shi’ar logic diamonds of dubious provenance are about to be connected to Cerebro, from the sound of it. That sounds like it’ll end well.

PAGES 7-8. Domino encounters the Terra Verde diplomats.

These guys are basically mind-controlled zombies, and we can see part of the “telefloronic” Terra Verden technology on them in close-up.

This picks up on the storyline from issues #6, #9 and #10. In short, Terra Verde had a rival version of organic technology, which didn’t quite work. Nonetheless, the Beast decided that it was a threat to Krakoan dominance, and needed to be got rid of. If they got it to work, it would provide a non-mutant alternative to Krakoa’s medicine supplies, and destroy Krakoa’s leverage. Unfortunately, Beast’s attempts to manipulate the technology for its own end went badly wrong, and led to the telefloronics running wild and taking over the whole country. (From the sound of it, they thoughtfully stopped at the border, which is nice.)

Issue #10 ended with X-Force defeating the telefloronics, and Jean saying that “Maybe they [the people of Terra Verde] can be free now, though something tells me Beast would prefer to make the nation into an extended republic of Krakoa. But that’s out of my hands now.”

Evidently, Beast has done exactly that and essentially annexed the country. This is straining credibility even on the current moral framework for the Beast, and that’s even before you bear in mind that Sage is involved. The previous arc did leave it open as to how badly damaged the Terra Verde people were, so I suppose you might make a case that they couldn’t be fully restored, but if that’s the idea, it’s not an argument that Beast makes in this issue.

PAGE 9. Domino enters the main hall.

To be honest, this doesn’t actually look all that busy for a reception…? At any rate, among the recognisable characters (and ignoring some Madrox duplicates serving as waiters) are:

  • Forearm, up in the top left and apparently DJing or something.
  • Mister Sinister, on the balcony.
  • The Black Panther is to the left on the ground; no idea who the partly-obscured woman next to him is, though I suppose it might be another member of the Wakandan royal family.
  • Storm, in the foreground.
  • Captain America, obviously.
  • The Thing
  • Doctor Doom, talking with Doctor Strange
  • Above them, presumably Cannonball and Cypher (judging from the goggles and the Warlock arm)
  • Prestige, in the spiky red costume which echoes her Excalibur outfit; she has her Warwolf pup Amazing Baby with her
  • Mystique
  • Penance, in the spiky hat
  • Wiz Kid, in the wheelchair with the jet pack – I assume that’s Shuri he’s talking to.
  • Below them, Cyclops, Synch (in the rainbow outfit) and a woman with her back to us.
  • Thor
  • The Hulk (Jennifer Walters). Judging from the published costume designs, I think the woman with wings who she’s talking to is a miscoloured Gloriana (Meggan Braddock).
  • Colossus, with Kayla, his girlfriend from the Savage Land scenes in earlier issues. She still doesn’t have a surname.
  • Sunfire, wearing his traditional mask as part of his outfit.
  • In the bottom right, walking towards us, is Wolverine (Laura) – note the yellow triangles on the dress that echo the original yellow Wolverine costume.

PAGE 10. Recap and credits. The title, “The Secret Garden”, obviously alludes to Beast’s surreptitious control of Terra Verde – and seriously, if these people just stand around smiling while they wait for instructions, how has nobody else noticed this yet?

PAGE 11-13. Beast starts introducing the Terra Verde delegation to people.

The idea is that they’ll sing the praises of Krakoa from the perspective of a state that formerly rejected Krakoa (which indeed Terra Verde did, changing its mind shortly before issue #6). Professor X and Emma Frost are obviously suspicious about these Stepford ambassadors, not to mention that they’re telepaths and must realise immediately that these people are not right.

I’m not going to bother to identify the assorted celebrities making cameos in “Hellfire Gala” stories, not least because they’re a weirdly US-centric lot – frankly, with the exception of Eminem, Marvel are pushing a point by calling these people “world famous”. I mean, I’ve heard of Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel, but it’s not like we actually get the shows over here. And what I do know about these names doesn’t exactly suggest unimaginable glamour – ooh, it’s the American equivalent of Graham Norton, a lesser member of the Black Eyes Peas and a bloke who does podcasts I’ve never listened to. I get what they’re trying to do here, and I know the US has stricter rules about image rights that limit how you can go about this, but… yeah.

PAGE 14. Data page. This is ridiculous, to be honest, unless we’re being asked to believe that the Beast is having a psychological breakdown with delusions of grandeur. There are at least three very obvious problems with this argument for why his surveillance state is perfectly acceptable: (1) he isn’t God; (2) plenty of people do not find the idea of being watched by an omnipotent being reassuring in the slightest; and (3) the people of Terra Verde are not being lovingly shepherded, they’re (by all appearances) zombies. It’s one thing to have Beast argue that the interests of the state justify a moral grey area, and to rationalise away his failures in the name of the greater good. But this is just mad.

PAGES 15-20. Deadpool shows up at the party.

Speaks for itself, really. Presumably Deadpool’s going to contribute something to the plot in a later chapter, since in itself this is just a pointless fight. The data page at the end of the issue suggests he’s here in part to try and force himself onto the team.

PAGE 21. Emma confronts Sage.

Emma’s argument is pragmatic rather than moral – we can’t do this because it might get out, and parading these guys around is so blatant that people will figure it out. But it’s a perfectly good argument in its own right, and the one more likely to carry weight with Sage and Beast. Besides, Emma is never one to explicitly invoke moral principles when practical arguments will do – after all, there’s not much point arguing about the morality of a scheme that won’t work anyway.

Naturally, the Beast’s hubris is catching up with him again, and he’s lost control of the telefloronics… again. We’ll pick up on this thread later in the month in Wolverine #13.

PAGE 22. Data page with the quote from Deadpool already mentioned.

PAGE 23. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: SLAUGHTERHOUSE.




Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    You make good arguments about why Iron Man was chosen for that role.
    I think the other one is that Tony Stark would do the same thing.
    This is the guy who wanted to register all the superheroes, so that the government could keep watch of them.

    So, the Beast is absolutely irreparable and unredeemable at this point.
    He probably passed that threshold a while ago, but this is the level of Iron Man during Civil War and Carol Danvers during Civil War II.
    Meaning at some point, Marvel will hand wave it all aside and pretend that writers did not forever tarnish the character.

  2. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Well, the option for a resurrection from an earlier backup has been dangled in front of the readers back in HoXPoX. And X-Force already had a plotline with Domino being resurrected with slightly edited memories. At this point I’d be surprised if Percy wasn’t going for a hard reset on Beast, most likely forcing an earlier version of him to confront with what he’s been up to since.

    In a way it could be an echo of Beast forcing Revolution Cyclops to look his teenage self in the visor.

  3. Si says:

    I don’t know how likely it is at this point, but I’d still like it if it’s revealed that they accidentally downloaded Dark Beast’s mind when he was resurrected some time. Personally I prefer the Avengers-era funloving bouncing Beast to the cold intellectual he became, and if he’s reset to something in between I’d be happy.

    It’s funny to me that the Shiar, an intergalactic future civilisation, transport their logic diamonds by piling them into a big box all willy-nilly like a bucket of coal.

  4. Chris V says:

    Didn’t their economy collapse? It’s the best they could manage.

    I don’t know if it’s anything to do with Dark Beast, but there’s the matter of Sinister having years to tamper with his DNA samples.
    Xavier thought he mind-wiped Sinister, so Sinister would think he was collecting the mutant DNA for his own interests.
    We know that the mind-wiped Sinister was killed and replaced, so the Sinister in charge of cataloguing the mutant DNA knew he was following an order from Xavier and Magneto.
    It seems like there is still some reveal as to what exactly Sinister would do having all that DNA to play with, knowing that Xavier and Magneto would need it some day.

  5. ASV says:

    Why do the diamonds need to be delivered by a seagoing ship?

  6. Jerry Ray says:

    God, yes, I want the 70s Avengers ape-like, Stars and Garters, party animal, George Perez Beast back. The cat-man Beast was terrible. The token scientist Beast was terrible. Amoral, stodgy, delusional Beast is the worst of all – it boggles my mind that a series of writers thought this was a good direction for the character.

  7. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Cat-Bear scientist Beast is best Beast.

    They really have an easy out with his current evil persona.

    Just say his current mutant form has a less empathetic brain and revert him back to gorilla or cat body from orc body.

  8. Col_Fury says:

    Here’s another plea for the return of 70s-era fun-loving Beast.

  9. JD says:

    Well, this is the logical conclusion of how Beast has been used in X-FORCE, and at least it seems to be a storyline coming up to a head soon, so fair enough.

    I’m amused that once again Percy is basically writing his two titles as the same one during crossovers, here with WOLVERINE as an extra issue of X-FORCE (after doing the reverse in X OF SWORDS).

  10. MasterMahan says:

    Hey, remember when Beast looking brutish and ape-like was supposed to be ironic? This is such an unappealing take on the character. The Marvel Universe is crawling with amoral scientists who could be filling this role. This is so over-the-top, it makes Jean look bad for seeing where one of her oldest friends is and not staging a damn intervention.

    My favorite Beast was the gentle, loquacious ’90s version, but ’70s class clown would be great. Pretty much any Hank but this one.

  11. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Chronologically speaking, I think Kieron Gillen’s SWORD miniseries (2009) might have been the last time we got a fun, kind Beast. I re-read that mini recently, it was a great take on the character. Though the art made him look goat-like if anything.

  12. Col_Fury says:

    re: MasterMahan

    “Pretty much any Hank but this one”
    YES! This exactly. But ’70s “freinds-with-Wonder Man” Hank is best.

    I really hope this is where this is heading…

  13. Evilgus says:

    I agree there’s plenty of get out of jail free cards for Beast – it’s Dark Beast’s mind, it’s a result of his evolution…

    Could Beast not be resurrected in an earlier form he preferred? Or even as a human again…? Or I guess that’s against the evolution ethos.

    I appreciate that Sage gets more focus this issue. Always on the outside looking in! I do like that every character trends to get a moment in this book – very unlike Marauders. Bishop and Pyro barely get a look in.

  14. Jeremy says:

    I don’t know…where can you really go and what can you really do with the “70s class clown” Beast? Then he’s just a bit team player and doesn’t really have anything to do. And we already have that with Iceman.

    That said, page 14 makes him an outright villain, and I’m sure that’s the point. Dark Beast theories are fun, but I assume he’s headed to Sabertooth territory, only to be brought back in the 11th life reset of everything.

    Here’s hoping we get the 90’s design with the Gillen take on the character when it happens.

  15. Loz says:

    I was going to say that he was like this in Hickman’s New Avengers but he wasn’t, as most of them just sat around and wrung their hands about the destruction of the universe while Iron Man, Namor and Reed did most of the work.

    It’s sloppy that he didn’t seem to have a plan in place in case one of the telepaths decided ‘privacy be damned’ and look at what he was doing.

  16. David says:

    Jeremy- in the 70s and 80s, it was more common for characters to mainly just serve a role in the ensemble- Nightcrawler brought some levity and sweetness to Claremont’s X-men without particularly being the star of many big stories. I think the right writer could do good work with a fun, un-corrupted take on Hank, even if that take has less direction.

  17. Col_Fury says:

    My first introduction to the Beast was when he was an Avenger, and he was swinging by the X-Mansion to check in on the X-Men, but it turned out they were hypnotized by Mesmero and working in a circus. Maybe I’m biased, but I’m surprised he hasn’t re-joined the Avengers since he left.

    But, we did get that Avengers Two: Wonder Man & Beast mini, which was fun.

    I just want to see Beast and Wonder Man go day drinking. Is that too much to ask? 🙂

  18. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Pacifist Wonder Man and morally compromised jerk Beast meeting would be a fun scene to see.

  19. Allan M says:

    It never really went anywhere, but I always liked the idea of New Defenders-era Beast, where he has the class clown persona but is also taking on the role of team leader, which is a contrast since superhero team leaders are generally Very Serious People with Cyclops as the prime example. “Potentially interesting idea that ultimately goes nowhere” kinda sums up New Defenders, really.

    Busiek and Perez wanted Beast back in the Avengers in the late 90s and were given a hard no. Busiek being Busiek, he makes this canon by having a moment where people in an Avengers Day parade hold up a banner that says that Beast belongs in the Avengers, and Wolverine, seeing this on TV, turns to the camera and says “Forget it bub, he’s ours.”

  20. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    @Uncanny X-Ben
    I swear there was a story somewhere in the past decade where pacifist-at-the-time Wonder Man (is he still? does he appear anywhere? I lost track of him when he was inside Rogue) met already-compromised-but-not-yet-genocidal-war-criminak Beast.

    I don’t recall it amounting to much. And for the life of me I don’t remember what title this was in.

  21. Allan M says:

    I’m betting it was Uncanny Avengers v2 #28 by Zub, the first part of a story called Stars and Garters, has a lengthy Beast/Wonder Man sequence where they talk about their lives and mistakes they’ve made, have a team-up, and resolve to be better people going forward. It’s kind of the last gasp of anyone trying to course-correct Beast’s slide into villainy.

    Wonder Man remains alive and well. He’s one of the featured players in Empyre: Avengers, where his being a pacifist is still a plot point. And then he shows up for the big fight in Empyre #6 and he’s punching aliens, so, uh, I guess he’s flexibly pacifist?

  22. Person of Con says:

    Another candidate for the pacifist-WM/Morally compromised Beast story is the 2013 A+X #12 story written by Christos Gage (which I know only because I read it very recently). In a funny way, their positions are kind of reversed from the 2013 to 2017. In 2013, the worst Beast did was bring forward the time-travelling X-kids; Wonder Man just attempted to attack the Avengers his friends (both Bendis storylines!). By 2017, Hank just sided with the genocidally shrugging Inhumans over the X-Men, and Simon’s big deal was going pacifist. It’s like they were on opposite moral arcs.

  23. Chris V says:

    To be fair, the Inhumans were supposed to be the “good guys” during that abomination called I vs. X.
    Apparently, the X-Men were too stupid to simply go ask the Inhumans about their unintended genocide, and the Inhumans were too egocentric to figure out why the mutants were so upset with them.
    At the end, all that happened was that a mutant finally told the Royal Family about what was happening, and Medusa was shocked. So, she ended the whole mess.
    (Which, I’m pretty sure the mutants did make the Royal Family aware of the Terrigen cloud at the beginning of the series….)

    It’s simply amazing that either the Inhumans or X-Men were able to recover from such horrid writing.

    Then, Beast did side with the fascists during Secret Empire though.

  24. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    The Inhumans knew the cloud was killing mutants. They didn’t know it was about to disperse throughout the atmosphere and kill all the mutants. Medusa was fine with a little genocide, she only balked at worldwide mutant genocide.

    I don’t know how the Inhumans were supposed to be the good guys there.

    To be fair to Beast, most mutants went along with Hydra during Secret Empire. The X-Men didn’t have a tie-in so the mutant sideplot was presented in little bits here and there. One book implied Emma was mind controlling… At least the leadership of the mutant nation (so maybe Beast as well?) if not all the mutant population. She was supposedly evil at the time, since it was after IvX.

    I find it hilarious Emma killed thousands of Inhumans at the end of IvX and basically nobody minded. ‘They were Inhumans, nobody cares’. She got sidelined for a few years and now it’s as if it never happened… Which is probably the Best way

  25. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    …to approach bad stories. Curse my phone.

  26. Chris V says:

    How were the Inhumans supposed to be good guys? Ask Marvel.

    Beast’s role was that he thought he could work with the Inhumans and find a cure, so that mutants wouldn’t die.
    When it seemed like they weren’t going to find a cure in time, he counselled that mutants should leave the planet, rather than go to war with the Inhumans.
    Regardless of how messed up I vs. X was, I wouldn’t say this was an indicator of Beast becoming amoral (later just immoral).

    I’m pretty sure that Beast was not one of the mutants mind-controlled by Emma.
    At the end of Secret Empire, when the US government (post-Hydra) was going to take back “New Tian”, Emma said that the mutants could declare war for independence.
    Beast told Emma not to do that.
    He then channeled his inner-Moira by saying that “mutants will always face subjugation”.

    Such a horrible period of time for Marvel Comics!

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