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Jun 13

X-Men #21 annotations

Posted on Sunday, June 13, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-MEN vol 5 #21
“The Beginning”
by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Russell Dauterman, Lucas Werneck, Sara Pichelli, Frank Martin, Matthew Wilson, Sunny Gho & Nolan Woodward

PAGE 1 / COVER. Simply a generic image of some of the cast members of the X-books during the first phase of the Hickman run, with Krakoan vines arranged in a (largely obscured) X-pattern.

PAGE 2. Tribute to the late John Paul Leon.

PAGES 3-7. Professor X and Magneto talk to Namor.

Namor seems to have no desire to be here, which begs the question of why he showed up. Presumably, for all his disdain, he thinks that what the Krakoans are up to is at least sufficiently important to be worth keeping an eye on first hand. At the same time, while the Krakoans are succeeding in their immediate goals, he seems to have no real confidence in the goals themselves.

Professor X and Magneto have colour co-ordinated costumes, down to the customised Cerebro helmet. They’re very clearly positioned as a pair here. They remain keen to get Namor on side, as they have been from the dawn of the Krakoan era. Professor X’s first attempt to recruit him was in Powers of X #5, where Xavier similarly framed the pitch as “come home”. But despite some short stints with the X-Men, Namor has never identified particularly as a mutant, and certainly not primarily as one; he’s an Atlantean first and foremost. At any rate, in that issue Namor suggested that he didn’t think Xavier truly believed in his new posture of mutant superiority, and told him “don’t come back until you really mean it.” Clearly he remains unconvinced – but equally clearly, he has no interest in a mutant-centric agenda. He goes out of his way to claim that he’s superior to everyone, mutant or otherwise.

Magneto offers Namor a seat on the Quiet Council (which has two vacancies following the departure of Apocalypse and Jean Grey at the end of “X of Swords”). It’s maybe worth noting here that there’s no sign of the Krakoans transitioning beyond the Quiet Council into something more, well, democratic. Krakoa remains a profoundly undemocratic society, albeit one with multiple perspectives represented on its council.

Namor conspicuously flounces off to talk with other  regular superheroes on rejecting Krakoa – more specifically, other members of the Illuminati from the Brian Bendis Avengers run. Incidentally, this gives the art a chance to show that everyone else is wearing the Krakoan tracking flowers, except for Iron Man, who made a big thing about refusing to wear them for privacy reasons. Namor, likewise, is not wearing one.

PAGE 8. Recap and credits. This is the final issue of volume 5, and the final issue to be written by Hickman; Gerry Duggan takes over as the regular writer with volume 6. Hence the “End of an Era”, “not the end but the beginning” stuff.

PAGES 9-14. The new X-Men are announced.

What do you know, it’s the same people it was in the press release.

Despite the way it was described in earlier issues, this isn’t really an election at all so much as a telepathic consensus-based decision-making procedure. It rather points up the fact that the Krakoans have it in their power to approach matters in a more democratic way, and that the Quiet Council is deliberately designed in the way it is. Dr Strange helpfully spells out for us that this consensus process is meant to result in an X-Men team that truly reflects what mutants want their nation to be. (Overwhelmingly American, apparently.)

In fact, the result is quite a traditional group: mainstays Cyclops, Jean Grey and Rogue; Magneto’s daughter Polaris; Sunfire, not a core X-Man but a long-time ally; Wolverine (Laura), who’s perhaps more approachable to the average Krakoan than Logan; and Synch, the only really surprising choice. Do the Krakoans know about what he went through in the Vault? We’re told nobody’s hiding anything here, but is that really the sort of thing that the general Krakoan public is being made aware of? Or is it just that his power-copying schtick appeals to mutant nationalism?

Incidentally, despite the references to this exercise including all mutants, the many, many mutants of Arakko seem to be entirely absent from the procedure. There’s no mention of them, and it’s unimaginable that they wouldn’t vote for at least some of their champions. This may be why Jean begins her address with “Mutants of Earth” – it sounds like it’s all-encompassing, but it’s actually also a restriction, excluding the mutants who originated somewhere else.

Page 11 has two cutaway panels showing mutants participating in the election. The first shows Peeper and Risque from S.W.O.R.D.. The other shows Rain Boy, Cosmar and Anole from New Mutants.

The woman talking about “No hidden agendas or manipulation” appears to be Sersi, presumably here as a representative of the Eternals.

The reaction shots from the five elected members (Cyclops and Jean apparently just deemed themselves to be team members) show them with their established supporting cast:

  • Rogue is with her husband Gambit; her Excalibur teammates Jubilee and Rictor are also in the panel.
  • Sunfire has no friends and is hanging out alone on the fringes of the party. (And he won a popularity contest… how exactly?)
  • Laura is alone as well, but not to quite the same extent; she’s being a little more playful in what she’s doing, and Cannonball and Sunspot are congratulating her from a distance.
  • Synch celebrates with Mondo and Skin, his former teammates in Generation X. The standoffish M doesn’t join in.
  • Polaris seems quietly proud of her achievement; her teammates in X-Factor are surrounding her.

PAGES 15-16. Data page – the Red Diamond.

It’s been a while since we’ve had one of Sinister’s blind-item columns.

  • Sinister Secret #51: Well, the obvious masked member of the Quiet Council is Professor X. The implication seems to be that Xavier’s Krakoan persona is at least partly an act, but is now taking over. What Sinister means by “not being able to let things go” is not so clear.
  • Sinister Secret #52: This sounds a lot like Mystique, who has wanted the return of her wife Destiny ever since she arrived on Krakoa, and is being strung along. The “diamonds” likely refer to the Shi’ar logic diamonds from Marauders #21 and X-Force #21, which Emma didn’t remember asking for. Those diamonds are used by Cerebro to store backed-up mutants. A plausible scenario is that Mystique impersonated Emma to get her hands on the diamonds, and has some sort of plan to use them to copy Destiny’s mind.
  • Sinister Secret #53: This just acknowledges that we haven’t heard anything about how Apocalypse (“fittest-of-all”) is settling in with his wife Genesis on Amenth. The word “external” refers to Apocalypse’s status as one of the immortal mutant Externals.
  • Sinister Secret #54: The island is Krakoa; its “favourite boy” is its translator Cypher. The “seducer” is Bei, who married him in X of Swords. The point here seems to be that Krakoa knows an awful lot about everything that’s happening on the island. No matter where you are, Krakoa is watching you. Nobody seems terribly bothered about any of this, which is… weird.
  • Sinister Secret #55: The obvious two ruling councils are the Quiet Council on Krakoa, and its Arakkan counterpart, the Great Ring. The third, I suspect, is their counterpart in Orchis, which has repeatedly been presented as another sort of mirror Krakoa.
  • Sinister Secret #56: They’re going to fill the two vacant seats on the Quiet Council. Thanks, Sinister.
  • Sinister Secret #57: This refers to Betsy Braddock and Kwannon; apparently we’re going with the idea that Kwannon was trapped within Betsy’s body for a time before her resurrection (even though originally it was more of a mind swap). The “demanding queen” is Saturnyne, and Betsy was “shattered” in X of Swords (as part of magical weirdness). Kwannon, as Psylocke, is being blackmailed into working for Sinister in Hellions; he has a copy of her daughter’s mind. Sinister rightly suspects that Psylocke is on the verge of turning on him anyway.
  • Sinister Secret #58: The Vescora are the rampaging alien horde from “X of Swords”, who were packed off to Blighstpoke in the epilogue to X of Swords: Destruction. Blightspoke is a dimension of fragments from ruined worlds, where the Vescora will hopefully find some sorts of treasures. Some of these retrievals are evidently making it onto the black market, in the form of Otherworld’s “Crooked Market” domain; its ruler Mad Jim Jaspers is taking everything for himself for now.
  • Sinister Secret #59: This is very cryptic. The suggestion seems to be that Sinister (or someone) would normally be murdering someone to take their place, but resurrection rules out doing that the normal way. So some sort of workaround is going to be needed.
  • A reprise of the Inferno tease, which Hellions also seems to be building towards, with repeated mentions of the potential return of Madelyne Pryor.
  • Sinister Secret #60: A version of Sinister returned from Amenth, having apparently survived his encounter with the Locus Vile after all, in the latest Hellions.

PAGES 17-18. “Exodus.

Apparently this is everyone heading outside for the fireworks. The random celebrity cameos are just a distraction.

The two people from the hidden city are new, as is the “Kara Kutuça”, which contains something that Emma wants. “Kara Kutuça” appears to be Turkish for “black box”.

PAGES 19-21. Cyclops’ monologue.

The man Cyclops is talking to is, apparently, Kevin Feige.

Scott’s monologue is accompanied by a seemingly unrelated sequence of X-Force’s Kid Omega ushering people in the direction of the fireworks, I guess. It doesn’t really seem to connect with anything that Scott is saying.

Basically, Scott restates the traditional Xavier’s Dream formulation of the X-Men’s agenda with the caveat that, as a practical agenda for what is achievable, it doesn’t survive contact with reality. The “everyone’s fundamentally  the same” trope of the dream is restated as a reason not to deify Xavier. Scott’s suggestion that his own dreams are at least as valid as Xavier’s seems to tie in with the fact that his new X-Men appear to serve as a competing power base on Krakoa. And given the general mutant-nationalist vibe of all things Krakoan, it’s somewhat notable to see Cyclops reiterating that point at all: “There is no real difference between any of us. No matter how much we believe the lie that there is.” He then proceeds immediately to describe himself as “a man – a mutant”. None of this is on message for Krakoa, and while part of the point is to restate that these elements of X-Men-ness are still present on the inside, it does feel like there’s more going on.

PAGES 22-26. The fireworks.

This leads into an announcement which is, presumably, something to do with Mars – the red planet seen in the closing panels. The X-Men have had a present on Mars since House of X but nothing has really been done with it yet. Presumably we’re coming to the details in Planet-Size X-Men #1 later this month.

Incidentally, this may explain why the credits pages for “Hellfire Gala” issues have a whacking great red circle on them.

PAGE 27. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: NEW START.


Bring on the comments

  1. GN says:

    ChrisV > I do think you are right about Arakko’s mutants, since so many of them are Omega-class. Krakoa are moving their Omega-class mutants to Mars. So, that would make sense.

    I don’t think that the Krakoan Omega mutants are moving to Mars permanently. Most of them are tied up in books (Jean is leading X-Men, Iceman is in Marauders, Monarch is in Excalibur, Kid Omega is in X-Force, Magneto will be in The Trial of Magneto, …). They will probably terraform Mars and plant Arakko there, and then return to Krakoa. The prophecy states that the red land will see the two islands split forever. Krakoa remains on Earth as a mutant nation under the Quiet Council and Arakko becomes a mutant planet under the Great Ring.

  2. Thom H. says:

    “Synch *and* Rogue on a team?”

    Right, but doesn’t Rogue knock people out when she takes their powers? Or has that changed?

    In any case, having Synch duplicate powers frees up Rogue to be the team powerhouse.

  3. Chris V says:

    GN-The problem with that interpretation of the prophecy is that the two beings never merged yet.
    So, they’re split forever on Mars before they had a chance to merge.

  4. Chris V says:

    Although, if the plan is to create a singularity on Mars, it’d be best to not use a number of the most popular mutant characters.
    So, I guess it makes sense that the Krakoan Omega-class mutants won’t remain on Mars.
    It would be quite funny if Moira decided to use the Arakkoans for her own end goal. If they were just fodder for her to make mutants immortal.

  5. Cesar says:

    I think a potential fourth secret council is the Illuminati, which make sense given Hickman’s previous run on Avengers (the sinister secret seems to imply two is definitely too small a guess, so I’m guessing there’s even more than three)

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