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Aug 20

X-Corp #4 annotations

Posted on Friday, August 20, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

“A Carrot on a Stick”
by Tini Howard, Alberto Foche & Sunny Gho

COVER / PAGE 1: Selene and Mastermind. By the way, that mock-pharmaceutical branding is already starting to look a bit odd considering that it only took three issues before the series moved on to broadband.

PAGES 2-3. Mastermind covers for the failed launch.

“It looks like we’ve got some intruders on board.” This scene plays as if the failure of the demonstration is something to do with Noblesse intruders, but that’s not what happened in issue #3. In that issue, Madrox just made an error in his calculations. At first glance you might think that Madrox is simply lying to cover his tracks, but we’ll see the intruders later in the issue. But they have nothing to do with the previous issue and they contribute nothing to the plot. See also pages 6-8 below.

Mastermind is using his illusion-casting for PR exactly as foreshadowed in issue #2 – though surely this only works for people who are actually in the room. Does X-Corp not do streaming?

PAGE 4. Recap and credits.

PAGE 5. Flashback: Selene and Mastermind talk.

Nothing of note here.

PAGES 6-8. Selene rescues Monet from Sarah St John.

This scene picks up from the end of page 21 of the previous issue, with Sarah repeating the same line of dialogue. Sarah has just injected Monet with a power-suppressing drug.

In the previous issue, that scene continued onto page 22, where Sarah left the room just as Trinary and Sofia arrived, and showed them a hole in the ceiling where Monet had apparently left. This scene presumably takes place between pages 20-21 of the previous issue, but it doesn’t make any sense  – we see Sarah stagger out of the room when she was walking normally last time, and Selene and Monet are still talking for another page without ever doing anything to leave by the ceiling.

I’m completely baffled, to be honest with you. Either I’m fundamentally missing the point of this scene, or something has gone massively wrong with it.

Let’s be blunt: we’re three scenes into this book, and two of those three scenes just don’t fit properly with the previous issue. This is bad.

PAGES 9-10. Vulcan, Sunspot, Bishop and Neal Shaara round up the mercenaries.

We saw these guys powering up the Ionospheric Bandwidth Generator last issue.

According to Selene, the plan was to use the injection to remove Monet’s powers and then use her as a hostage to get the bulk of the mercenaries onto the X-Corp HQ. But Selene interrupted the plan and dispersed most of the soldiers. Which… hold on, what? The plan was to do this when exactly? Just as Warren was about to do the launch? They were going to rock up with a hostage in broad daylight and… seriously, then what?

Plus, how is this in any way a better plan than just getting Fenris to open the gate – which is what Kol does later in this very story?

PAGES 11-14. Warren calls a board meeting.

The general thrust of this is that Monet has outmanoeuvred Warren by running off and recruiting a bunch of board members of her choice. It’s not entirely clear to me how Monet had authority to co-opt the others onto the board, but not Trinary. Anyway, Warren is trying to impose a bit of coherent order on this group, but nobody is going for it.

Monet’s plan to get rid of Kol as an enemy is rather garbled. She starts off by saying that Kol is just a minority shareholder in the company he runs, in which case all she needs to do is buy them out. That’s fair enough, and it seems to be what the resolution on page 15 says too. But… if Kol is only a minority shareholder, why are the other shareholders meant to be so worried about appearing disloyal to him? And a few pages later her plan is to “Get his board to sell it out from under him.” But that’s a totally different thing – that’s getting the directors to sell the company’s assets to you.

Look, I’m not that bothered when you get this sort of handwaving jabber in Iron Man. Nobody expects the creators of that book to know the difference between a share purchase agreement and an asset purchase agreement, because Tony Stark losing and regaining his fortune twice a year is just a vehicle to advance the plot. But in this book it IS the plot, and the central premise is supposed to be that X-Corp has something to say about corporations.

It wouldn’t be that hard to fix this plot and even hit a few eat-the-rich buzzwords in the process, either. FOR EXAMPLE: “Kol owns the company but most of his shares are held through a complex web of nominees for tax reasons! He can’t admit to that without exposing all his incriminating dealings. So we go round the nominees and bribe them to sell to us instead.”

PAGE 15. Data page. The votes on the board motion. For what it’s worth, the narrative here confirms that Trinary is not a director and Warren was right.

PAGE 16. The end of the meeting.

Mastermind seems to think that the best PR is for X-Corp to play down the mutant angle. He’s probably right about that, but… well, they’re called X-Corp and they fly around in a sky island, so good luck with that one.

X-Corp’s bagel bush is presumably from the same source as the one in X-Factor.

PAGES 17-20. Warren and Monet fight.

This scene is stressing the parallels in both Warren and Monet having darker and more violent alternate personas (Archangel and Penance respectively). Warren gives a rather bizarre throwback speech that fighting is how mutants were trained to solve problems, but to be fair, that kind of was the genre convention for decades – and it was something that was being moved on from even by the time Monet was a trainee in Generation X. They had a glorified greenhouse to practice in, not a Danger Room.

Both of them claim in various ways to be embracing their alternate personas, at least as tools that they claim to be able to draw upon and control. Warren seems much more conscious that Archangel is dubious and to be kept under a tight leash; Monet presents Penance as part of her own personality. More oddly, Warren claims that both of them were changed – and their personalities became more intertwined – after they were resurrected (following their deaths in House of X). This might be simply one of the ways in which resurrected characters have been improved or refined, or it might be something to do with Onslaught’s influence on resurrected mutants, as explained in this week’s Way of X #5.

PAGE 21. Data page. A memo from Kol to his remaining allies.

“When Charles Xavier bought my life’s work from me, I realised immediately there was no price for which I would have sold it.” In issue #1, Kol had already concluded a contract to sell “my assets” to Xavier. (Meaning… what, exactly? His minority shareholding in Noblesse?) He was trying to get out of that contract, claiming that with hindsight he hadn’t been offered enough money. It’s not immediately clear whether this sentence in his memo is intended to mean simply that he realised after the sale that he’d made a mistake, or whether he’s insinuating that Xavier manipulated him telepathically. But Angel told us in issue #1 that several other people had turned Xavier down first, which suggests that Kol wasn’t being compelled.

PAGES 22-24. Kol and Sarah storm X-Corp.

Apparently Kol has nothing to lose so he’s just going to shoot things up. Okay, but what do Sarah and Fenris get out of this?

Madrox goes into a panic as in last issue about absorbing his dupes in order to get their research back. Surely they write some of this stuff down, though? They’re not really doing all the work in their heads?

PAGE 25. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: HOSTILE TAKEOVER.





Bring on the comments

  1. JD says:

    Well, the silver lining appears to be that, according to upcoming solicitations, there’s only one more issue to go.

  2. Mathias X says:

    I always wanted an X-Corp book, but for Morrison’s X-Corp — international X-Men “franchises” like he went on to do in Batman Inc. Not Warren Worthington pitching products, but an actual corporation of X-Men teams. Disappointed this was the book we got.

  3. Chris V says:

    I know. I was hoping this would be the book that really examined exactly how Krakoa had impacted/changed human society, using the Morrison X-Corp concept.

    When it wasn’t that, I hoped this would be Joe Casey’s WildCATs 3.0.

    Instead, we got another Tini Howard misfire.
    I expected it would end up quickly canceled.

  4. Moo says:

    Huh. I don’t recall Morrison’s X-Corporation being very corporate (or at all, really). To me, it seemed more like Justice League International but with X-Men characters.

  5. rybread says:

    Why did Madrox need to run up to the roof to confront Kol before he finished absorbing his dupes? Or at all?

  6. Chris V says:

    It wasn’t really a corporation. It was more like a NGO. It could be comparable to Batman Inc.
    Morrison’s X-Corporation was an outreach organization to actually do something to further human/mutant relations.
    They also investigated mutant right’s violations by world governments.

  7. The Other Michael says:

    Monet to Trinary: “We need to check out your criminal record…”

    When she’s just finished recruiting Selene and Mastermind. Literal evil mutants. One has a body count thousands of years long, the other was indirectly responsible for the Dark Phoenix Saga.

    This series is truly baffling.
    As noted above, it could have been a fascinating look at a mutant business in the corporate world with so many angles to play up.
    Instead… this.

  8. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Listen this book might be bad but CM Punk came back to wrestling so let’s focus on that.

  9. MasterMahan says:

    Who is this book for, anyway? Warren is written as a complete incompetent, Trinary is a sheet of cardboard, and the other members of X-Corp are smug selfish monsters. Even if the plotting wasn’t a mess, the villains weren’t pathetic, and the art didn’t make Selene and Monet look like twins… there’s no one to root for.

  10. Jeremy says:

    It’s hard not to feel like this is being approached as some kind of writing workshop as opposed to something that human beings are meant to read and understand. Reminds me of when Paul talked about Scott Lobdell referring to the whole Onslaught story as a “work in progress”. And he pointed out that no, it’s not a work in progress, it’s a published piece of work that people are paying to support and read. I’ll paraphrase him again by asking if the people creating it don’t appear to really care about the story or the characters, why should anyone else?

  11. Evilgus says:

    @Jeremy: interesting you describe this as a writing workshop, as that is how Howard often describes her work in interviews.

    Writers obviously need to learn their trade, and Marvel is looking for more diverse voices, but it shouldn’t blind them to when books such as this are very messy. Fallen Angels was swiftly cancelled for very similar reasons – it wasn’t working.

  12. Luis Dantas says:

    This book makes Penance appear to be so close to surface at all times that Monet almost looks like a carefully crafted disguise.

    From what I remember, she was not like that in Peter David’s X-Factor.

  13. Chris V says:

    Howard isn’t a novice writer anymore.
    She got her break in comics back in 2014.
    She worked her way up to Marvel and has written a number of books for Marvel. She may not be a seasoned pro, but she’s been writing long enough professionally that she should know her craft.
    Marvel apparently saw something in her ability, although I don’t see that talent.

    It’s good that Marvel wants more diverse writers, but that doesn’t mean they need to settle for mediocrity.
    This isn’t the 1970s. There are talented female comic book writers working in the field.
    Gail Simone doesn’t seem to have much work at the moment. A couple of years back, she was one of the top writers in comics.
    There’s no reason for Howard to have multiple books while Simone isn’t under contract with Marvel.
    Maybe Howard is willing to work for much less money than Simone, maybe Hickman’s recommendation is a major reason that Marvel is interested in Howard. I don’t know.

  14. The Other Michael says:

    I’m just cranky that Tini Howard gets so much leeway in the X-franchise, while Seanan McGuire, a vastly more skilled and experienced writer, doesn’t get invited to play in the sandbox.

  15. Rybread says:

    I don’t know how much the X-Men subreddit represents the overall community, but for what it’s worth both Howard and this book are very warmly received over there. The consensus was that this issue was “great”. And Excalibur seems to be the fan-favorite book over there as well.

    I don’t know what they’re seeing in Howard and it boggles my mind, but it’s not like they just blindly worship anything – they can’t stand Duggan and absolutely eviscerated Marauders. It may be that we’re in the minority regarding Howard.

  16. Chris V says:

    Maybe so. Still, Excalibur is the lowest-selling of the current X-books (this was a few months back after Marvel canceled Cable and X-Factor due to low sales).
    I don’t know what the sales figures are like on X-Corp though.

  17. Loz says:

    I do find it hilarious that Tini Howard thinks killing an X-Man is somehow a dramatic end to an issue in this era of the comics.

  18. Andy Walsh says:

    Also, could we stop killing Madrox just for shock value? Even if he’s the easiest character to bring back with or without resurrection protocols, I’m still getting tired of seeing him murdered every couple of months.

  19. Daibhid C says:

    I’ve been reading these but not commenting on them, since I get the UK reprint books, which are incredibly behind. But this seems to be an appropriate point to note that the X-Men reprint book started Excalibur this month. So that’s a decision someone made.

    (I get that the thinking is probably “Oh, we have to include the book set in Britain”, but from what Paul’s said, I get the impression that the last thing Marvel/Panini should want to do with Excalibur is draw the attention of people who actually know stuff about the UK because we live here.)

  20. Paul says:

    I think it would be tricky to avoid reprinting Excalibur, at least without doing some sort of recap somewhere. It’s essential to the plot of X of Swords.

  21. Heath Graham says:

    Yeah, this one is completely off the rails now. Won’t be sad to see it go. Which is a shame, I was excited when I head the title and concept. Huh, same with Excalibur when I think about it…

    @the other Michael: I would LOVE to see some X books by Seanan Maguire!

  22. Chris V says:

    I know it was just one issue but McGuire did write the X-Men: Black-Mystique one-shot.

    I guess Hickman was reading Benjamin Percy’s fiction, but hasn’t been reading Seanan McGuire.

  23. neutrino says:

    It looks like Howard is rewriting things to have story be a fight against Sarah and Noblesse that’s wrapped up by issue #5.


    I was rooting for Sarah St John. A nonpowered human going up against a mutant powerhouse like Monet.

    It seems mixed, with some disliking Excalibur and some liking Marauders. Even Excalibur fans usually say the pre-X of Swords issues were bad.

    @Chris V
    In June, Comichron has Excalibur at #51 in sales, Hellions at #58, X-Corp at #60, and SWORD at #64.

  24. Chris V says:

    Of course the two of best books remaining (Way of X is over) in the line are selling so low.
    I can’t believe SWORD is selling less than X-Corp.
    I guess that guarantees that SWORD will not be continuing after “Inferno”.

    The figures don’t really matter anymore as all of the books are coming to an end in the next few months.

  25. Luis Dantas says:

    Part of me wants to believe that S.W.O.R.D. is suffering from being involved in too many events.

    It would be nice to witness the time when books participate in events organically instead of as a gimmick to boost sales.

  26. Thom H. says:

    It’s also possible that there are just too many X-books at the moment. Marvel simultaneously launched a slew of new books after HoXPox *and* squandered all of the goodwill from that event by not directly following up on most of its mysteries. At least Excalibur seems like it “matters” because it was at the center of the biggest X-event since Hickman came aboard. Or that’s the story I’m telling myself because I cannot believe Excalibur is selling better than the superior-in-every-way Hellions.

  27. Chris V says:

    There definitely were too many X-books.
    Maybe the fact that it’s not called X-SWORD or X-Hellions hurt the books’ chances.

    It does seem that the initial launch of titles have managed to sustain readership over the second wave.
    It could be that readers started picking up those books in the immediate aftermath with the popularity of House/Powers and just decided to stick with them as Marvel rolled out more and more material.
    The fans figured out that the new titles were going to have little to do with Hickman’s plans from House/Powers, so they figured they wouldn’t be missing anything by not following even more titles.

    It’s too bad Marvel couldn’t capitalize on the Suicide Squad movie by billing Hellions as “Marvel’s answer to the Suicide Squad”. That could have increased the popularity of Hellions.

  28. Taibak says:

    Wait… there’s actually a character called ‘Sarah St. John’?

    If that’s what I think it is, that’s a *seriously* obscure reference.

  29. neutrino says:

    Logically, you’d expect SWORD to be involved in an alien invasion event.

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