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Oct 8

New Mutants #22 annotations

Posted on Friday, October 8, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

NEW MUTANTS vol 4 #22
“Shadows & Mirrors”
by Vita Ayala & Rod Reis

COVER / PAGE 1: The Shadow King in profile, with the New Mutants fighting inside his mind.

PAGES 2-4. Inside the Shadow King’s illusion, the New Mutants make a last stand to defend Krakoa.

The horde of attackers include:

  • Some good old fashioned Sentinels
  • Former X-Man Omega Sentinel, currently allied with Orchis as seen in House of X and X-Men. I’ll come back to her.
  • Nimrod
  • Belasco
  • S’ym, Magik’s former sidekick demon turned insurgent, and one of the main villains from the original Inferno.
  • The Brood
  • The First Horsemen, who aren’t actually enemies of Krakoa any more.
  • AIM
  • Some people from Orchis, including the helicopter in the top right and the evolved apes in the middle of the page.

Some of these guys are interesting. Many of them are the usual suspects, or people that the New Mutants or Shadow King would naturally be aware of from living on Krakoa. But what’s Omega Sentinel doing there? Nobody’s ever come back from Orchis’s space station with an account of what happened there. So why has Shadow King included an X-Man, albeit an obscure one, in this scenario? It could just be an error, but…

PAGE 5. Recap and credits.

PAGES 6-9. Lost Club visit Scout.

This is all fairly self-explanatory, and a reconciliation between Gabby and her friends at the end of this storyline. Their efforts to help her and get the Five to resurrect her were seen in the previous two issues.

The “Scarlet Witch thing” is the investigation into the death of the Scarlet Witch as seen in X-Men: Trial of Magneto #1-2. As Gabby says, Laura and Daken (principally Daken) are both caught up in that investigation.

PAGES 10-12. The Shadow King “negotiates” with the New Mutants.

The Cairo marketplace is his original home, and he seems to have chosen it simply as a place that is homely and reassuring (for him, but he may not be too conscious of the difference). This is his soft sell phase.

The Shadow King says that “as per your own request, you’re my guests.” We didn’t actually see what happened when the New Mutants arrived – the previous issue ended with them on their way to see him, and Shadow King awaiting their arrival.

The character who says she “can’t think of a single reason I would allow myself to fall under your thrall again” – not identifiable from the art – is almost certainly Karma, who was possessed by him circa New Mutants vol 1 #30. That’s also what she’s alluding to in page 10 panel 3. The line might conceivably belong to Wolfsbane, who was being manipulated by the Shadow King in this series.

Magik’s line of dialogue in page 10 panel 5 doesn’t make any sense to me and feels like a non sequitur.

The Shadow King’s basic pitch is that nations always rise and fall, that Krakoa will be no different, and that he worries that mutants are getting complacent so that they won’t be ready to survive the inevitable. This doesn’t entirely make sense as he describes it – he’s comparing the fall of Constantinople over many centuries with the collapse of a newly-minted Krakoa. Somewhat more realistic is his stance that he thought Apocalypse would handle this problem, but he moved into the gap once Apocalypse departed for Amenth (at the end of “X of Swords”).

By way of context, we were told in issue #19 that the “Shadow King” on Krakoa is the mutant host Amahl Farouk with a reduced influence from the Shadow King psychic entity that normally possesses him. The implication, then, is that Farouk genuinely means well, but that the Shadow King may be twisting the way he goes about it.

Ironically, Shadow King says that Xavier and Magneto believe “that they have discovered the secret to an indestructible nation.” In fact, House of X and Powers of X made clear that Moira has warned them that they always lose, and we’ve seen that they’re heavily preoccupied with trying to get rid of Orchis as an existential threat. So they believe no such thing. Either Shadow King doesn’t know that, or he’s playing along with Krakoa as the New Mutants see it.

PAGE 13. Data page. A prose piece about Farouk as a child persona trapped within the Shadow King. This seems to be a description of Charles Xavier’s first encounter with Farouk, in flashback in X-Men vol 1 #117. The “girl” pickpocket is the young Ororo. There seems to be a suggestion that Farouk’s own mind was entirely dormant until this encounter with Xavier, after which he had some more awareness.

PAGES 14-15. Scout and Lost Club set off after the New Mutants.

All self-explanatory.

PAGES 16-17. The Shadow King continues his pitch.

The New Mutants’ argument is that all Farouk is doing is harming children to prepare them for something that might never happen. Farouk disagrees, but interestingly, his specific response is “Without need for rest, the machines will hunt us to extinction.” This is very much Moira’s central concern, and the one that Xavier and Magneto are supposedly motivated by. Does he know more about all that than he’s letting on? He does point out that he “know[s] the truth of countless dimensions”, probably alluding to the fact that the Shadow King is meant to have multiversal aspects. In other words, even if he hasn’t seen Moira’s specific past lives, he may well have a similar perspective about how things tend to turn out.

At any rate, Farouk then shifts into a rather more conventional villain analysis that the mutants have to be predators in order to avoid being the prey. This earns him a lecture about how anti-mutant sentiment would be justified if the mutants acted like that, and the usual blather about mutants being a higher order of being who in some vague and unspecified way are able to transcend human categories. It’s hard to tell how much we’re meant to accept that stuff at face value and how much Farouk’s riposte about youthful idealism is meant to be semi-legitimate.

PAGES 18-20. Back to the warfare illusions.

Gorgeous art, but it speaks for itself in plot terms.

PAGE 21. Data page. The thrust is that he’s running them through the scenario multiple times in the hope of getting them to the realisation he was after. Curiously, the last one mentions a brief interruption by an anomaly, which doesn’t seem to feed into the rest of the issue. Presumably we’ll get back to it next issue.

PAGES 22-24. Lost Club arrive.

And they find the New Mutants unconscious and under Farouk’s power.

PAGE 25. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: FALL OF THE SHADOW CHILDREN.

Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    The Shadow King entity did possess Moira during the end of Claremont’s run. I would assume that he picked up on at least some of the truth about Moira from that time.

  2. Daly says:

    Jean was still connected to Prof X in House of X during the orchis invasion…allowing her & the Krakoan Xmen to see Cyclops being killed by Omega Sentinel

  3. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    This feels like it’s been going on forever and it’s definitely stretching until the relaunch.

    They’ve accomplished nothing for like 12 issues.

    And yes as usual I can’t tell if we’re supposed to take the dreck the cast spouts at face value or see it as foolish self important garbage.

  4. Emil Sinclair says:

    Wild; besides Hellions and SWORD, which are uncommonly good, New Mutants under Ayala has been one of the best books out of Dawn of X.

  5. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I’ve lost all patience with it, to the point of being leary of starting an Alaya book in the future.

  6. Ben Johnston says:

    I do hope we get an explanation at some point about what’s going on with Omega Sentinel.

    I’ve been thinking about how I would rank the Krakoa-era books, and I think overall I’d go like this:

    1. Hellions
    2. Children of the Atom
    3. Way of X
    4. S.W.O.R.D.
    5. HoX/PoX
    6. X-Factor
    7. first half of Marauders
    8. X-Men (Duggan run)
    9. X-Men (Hickman run)
    10. Cable
    11. New Mutants (Brisson run)
    12. Wolverine
    13. X-Force
    14. New Mutants (Ayala run)
    15. Excalibur
    16. second half of Marauders
    17. Fallen Angels
    18. X-Corp

  7. Chris V says:

    If you are counting House/Powers, that is so far above anything else published during the Krakoa period.
    Only Chris Claremont’s original run and the Grant Morrison run would rank higher than House/Powers out of the entirety of X-Men history. It was special.

    Then, I’d easily give Hellions, Way of X, and SWORD the top three spots for ongoing series.

    Hickman’s X-Men had its standout moments, but was overall pretty much a failure.
    X-Factor definitely had potential, but never fully achieved that next level.
    Everything else, I consider to be mostly forgettable or middling, with a few books being outright poor*.

    *The bottom of the barrel being Fallen Angels, Excalibur, X-Corp, Wolverine, and Cable. Children of the Atom I found pointless.

  8. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    HoXPoX doesn’t even count for me, it was a bunch of set up and exposition as opposed to a story.

    And now a lot of that set up is probably entirely pointless.

  9. Luis Dantas says:

    I may be biased, but it seems to me that Hickman created a novel (if logically flawed) setup and more character-oriented writers made good use of it.

    “Inferno” #1 shows that Hickman can write exciting stories within his own setup. But it may have been a mistake to leave it hanging for so long and leave the flaws apparent and unhandled. Moving the plot forward without pause would probably have been better.

    Now I find myself wondering if it would be workable to follow HoX/PoX directly with some form of Inferno and retrofit character-oriented books such as Children of X, X-Factor and SWORD in a continuity insert bubble between the two.

    I’m inclined to doubt it, but I would like to conclude otherwise. So-called ongoings typically last about 18 issues now and continuity is rather loose anyway (by my understanding Magneto is currently going through three different plots that don’t really mesh well with each other), so maybe that can work.

  10. CJ says:

    The first Hickman-era books shipped around October 2019; two years later, ignoring the pandemic:

    -Hellions
    -Way of X
    -early Marauders
    -Mystique issue of X-Men, Darwin/Synch/Wolverine arc in X-Men

    are my top ranks, besides HoX/PoX itself. Cautiously optimistic about Inferno after one issue.

    Besides Fallen Angels, X-Corp and Children of the Atom were particularly abysmal. The remit wasn’t the problem; Zeb Wells is writing enjoyable stuff about freaking Nanny and Wild Child.

  11. Josie says:

    HOXPOX wasn’t a story. It’s like saying the preview of a movie that hasn’t been released is as good as several actual movies.

  12. Chris V says:

    It actually was a story, but one that was left open-ended.

    Moira meets Charles Xavier.
    She reveals to him a secret.
    She is secretly a mutant and has lived multiple lifetimes.
    What she learned from that experience is that mutants always lose. Humans and mutants can never coexist.
    We see Moira’s prior lives.
    Moira changes from someone who hates mutants to someone who takes up the cause of mutants.
    We see Moira learn about the far future of humanity in Life Six.
    Everything leads to the Phalanx and a virtual immortality for post-humanity, only by dying can Moira prevent post-humanity’s victory.
    In Life Nine, we see the role of Nimrod.
    Apocalypse dies fighting Nimrod in order to allow Moira to die and prevent the rise of Nimrod and post-humanity in life ten.
    Now, Moira has a plan for the island nation of Krakoa.

    Most comic writers couldn’t manage to put half of the content Hickman put in to House/Powers in to a multi-year run on a title.

  13. MWayne says:

    I might be a little more invested in New Mutants than many of the commenters here.
    What I like most about New Mutants lately is the juxtaposition of Reid’s Sienkiewicz-y, expressionistic art against the dialogue style of Ayala, which is very straightforward and sometimes a bit “splainy”. It creates a dream-like, unreal quality where everything still remains fairly clear at the same time. I also like the general plot direction, even on those occasions when I’m not sure it is well-executed.

  14. Aro says:

    I think the conundrum with HOX/POX is that the Moira parts (mostly in POX) do play out like a story, and do really interesting things with structure and narrative. However, the X-Men stuff with the establishment of Krakoa IS mostly settung up a new status quo, rather than telling a story — resurrection, the mutant drugs, the portals, the Quiet Council, all of it is interesting without being developed narratively within HOX itself. Now arguably, those changes were significant enough they needed several issues to be set up, but still.

  15. the new kid says:

    Kinda wondering what the essential reading for the Krakoa era is. Not in terms of quality but what’s needed to follow the main narrative. I’ve read House of X/Powers of X and the first batch of trades and the giant size books and that’s it so far.

    I’m guess Hox/Pox and Hickman’s X-Men and Giant Size are pretty important for obvious reasons. Excalibur seems to set of X of Swords as far as I can tell, though I’m not wild about the book.

    I find the idea behind this era interesting, at least, but it’s just not that fun tbh. And now it looks like it’s going to ramble on for a while.

  16. Chris V says:

    It depends on what you want to follow.

    If you are following the main plot thread from House/Powers, you can skip X of Swords, as so far, Arakko hasn’t proven important to Hickman’s main narrative (and hopefully, it won’t, as I find the concept ludicrous).

    Amazingly enough, the Giant Size issues seem to be mostly pointless.
    The first issue goes in to the final issue, but has no resonance for anything outside of that story-arc.
    Giant Size Nightcrawler seems to serve no thematic purpose.
    Giant Size Magneto introduces a concept that pays off with the “Hellfire Gala” event, but it seems that all that can be comfortably skipped too.
    Giant Size Fantomex is the strangest. It seems like maybe it was meant to have an eventual tie-in with Hickman’s wider plot, but I’m guessing it was dropped by Hickman deciding to leave early.

    So, that leaves certain issues of the Hickman run on X-Men as needing to be read, and now “Inferno”.
    Hickman’s X-Men issues do tie-in with X of Swords and the “Hellfire Gala” unfortunately. Those issues could be avoided so you could read straight from House/Powers through to “Inferno” and avoid all the extraneous material.
    Really, nothing else is directly pertinent to Hickman’s overarching main plot.

  17. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Yeah I agree with Chris V if all you want is Hickman plot.

    However the actually good ongoing titles are the ones that by and large have little to nothing to do with the grand design.

    Hellions
    X-Factor
    Way of X

  18. Drew says:

    MWayne: it’s not just you, I’m mostly enjoying this book too. I don’t have much patience for the (increasingly frequent) instances where the kids just talk about their feelings for three pages at a time, because while it’s undoubtedly emotionally healthy, I’m not paying $4.99 a month for bleeping Anole to apologize for his insensitivity.

    But the art is nice and I REALLY like this take on Amahl Farouk. He’s NOT the Shadow King, but his lengthy possession has (understandably) turned him into a paranoid survivalist, and if Apocalypse isn’t going to prepare everyone for the horrors to come, then dammit, he’s going to do it… psychically, so he doesn’t have to actually kill anyone, but you’ll sure feel it. I find that both more interesting and more realistic than just “He’s finally freed of his possession and becomes a swell guy again.”

  19. Josie says:

    @Chris V “Moira meets Charles Xavier…Now, Moira has a plan”

    That’s not a story.

  20. Chris V says:

    When you conveniently edit what I actually wrote to something convenient for your point, no, I guess it isn’t a story.
    It’s also not a serious point or rebuttal.

  21. Salomé H. says:

    Finally read this, and I enjoyed it a lot. I think New Mutants as a whole suffered with the weird, two-step division between Hickman/Brisson (which was a gimmick to begin with) and Atalaya and Reis’ work, who’ve established a strong identity for the book.

    Agreed that the characters could be a bit less plain, and better defined individually. Heck, some conflict wouldn’t hurt.

    Something I noticed: the Farouk story didn’t read that simply to me. There seems to be more detail. I think the first moment referes to their basic set up, then there’s reference of a child with comparable power who disappears (…Legion?). Then the scenario in Cairo, with Ororo and something which stuns the Shadow… But also reference to a distinct girl, who the boy must say goodbye to? And which I’m guessing could be about Gabby and friends?

    Really loved the use o data

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