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Oct 14

X-Force #24 annotations

Posted on Thursday, October 14, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-FORCE vol 6 #24
“The Pen is Mightier than the Cerebro Sword”
by Benjamin Percy, Martin Coccolo & Guru eFX

COVER / PAGE 1: Colossus with (literally) blood on his hands.

PAGES 2-4. Mikhail Rasputin intimidates the Chronicler.

This is the sort of scene I’m used to seeing as a thinly veiled complaint from writers about editorial interference, but I can’t imagine it’s the actual intention here. Still, if I’m being honest, it’s the first thing that these tropes bring to mind.

This issue contains the first semi-clear explanation of what the Chronicler’s powers actually are, but we’ll come to that. In terms of what hold Mikhail has over him, it seems to be mostly a matter of threats of violence, though apparently this guy is also really keen on wine to the point of abject desperation – is he meant to be an alcoholic?

Mikhail gets another speech to claim that his manipulation of Colossus is in keeping with a long Russian tradition of secret police forces which, he says, are a constant throughout years of Russian change. The examples he gives don’t really support that claim, since they’re all secret police forces from the Soviet era:

  • OGPU was the Joint State Political Directorate and functioned from 1923 to 1934.
  • The NKVD was the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs; the name referred to a previous incarnation as a regular interior ministry. It functioned as the secret police from 1934 to 1946.
  • The MGB was the Ministry for State Security. It was carried out secret police functions from 1946 to 1954.
  • The better known KGB (Committee for State Security) was the Soviet secret police force from 1954 to 1991.

Obviously, there’s a tacit analogy with X-Force as the “mutant CIA” here. Earlier and later examples could have been used: the current equivalent of the KGB in Russia is the Federal Security Service. OGPU was preceded by the Cheka, which was formed in the immediate aftermath of the October Revolution. Their Tsarist predecessor was Okhrana, which dated back to the 19th century – though obviously it wouldn’t be literally correct to say that Okhrana became the Cheka.

PAGE 4. Recap and credits. The title alludes to the Cerebro Sword which Mikhail stole back in issue #12; last issue, Mikhail mentioned his ongoing efforts to decrypt it. The line “The pen is mightier than the sword” is one of the many phrases coined by the Victorian writer and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who was highly successful in his time has the misfortune to be mainly known today as the man who opened his 1830 novel “Paul Clifford” with the words “It was a dark and stormy night…”

PAGE 5. Data page. Beast is trying to work out ways of getting rid of the Russian nesting doll that infected him in the previous issue. This must take place before page 20 of the previous issue, where he called in Black Tom.

One thing about the data pages in X-Force – they do often look as if they’ve been cut and pasted straight from Notepad. I suspect that may be what Percy’s going for here, to be fair, but still – when the X-books started doing these things, there was a bit more design flair going on.

PAGES 6-7. Black Tom enters the Beast’s body.

Needless to say, this whole thing is a Fantastic Voyage riff. It really doesn’t work, because… well, shouldn’t there be fluids?

PAGES 8-9. Colossus and Kayla in the Savage Land.

The Savage Land farm was meant to have been shut down in X-Corp #1 as a violation of international law, so either this is a continuity error or the mutants have quietly opened it again. Dominic Cummings would approve.

“Most of your old friends seem to prefer the spotlight. Calling Central Park their address.” Kayla is referring to the X-Men setting up base in New York again, over in their own title.

PAGES 10-13. More of Black Tom and the nesting doll.

Speaks for itself.

PAGES 14-18. Under Chronicler’s influence, Colossus kills Kayla.

The idea here is clear enough: under Chronicler’s influence, Colossus has been painting state secrets and is going to ship the paintings to Mikhail. You’d have thought that was a rather impractical way of assembling data, but to be fair, Chronicler is keen to stress the limitations on his powers and his inability to do things as directly as Mikhail would like. Or maybe Chronicler is deliberately tanking it in the hope of getting spotted, or simply struggles to use his powers to order. We don’t exactly know.

Kayla will be resurrected, of course, but her memories will be reset to her last back-up, and so she won’t remember discovering Peter’s treachery. However, see the final scene below.

Note that Mikhail has spent two issues rhapsodising about the joys of Russian art and literature but loses patience with it almost immediately when it gets in the way of his goals.

PAGE 19. Data page. The Chronicler speaks directly to the audience (or his imagined audience, anyway).

From this and the previous scene we can more or less piece together how Chronicler’s powers are supposed to work. When he’s sufficiently focussed on a real person and knows that person well enough, he can write stories about that person that influence their life and behaviour. He’s either some sort of reality warper, or the writing process is a vehicle by which he can control someone’s mind. Since he apparently knows what’s happening between Peter and Kayla, he apparently has some general awareness of what’s going on around his main character.

Chronicler insists that there are heavy limitations on what he can do: he can’t directly control any other character, he says, and he can only write things that feel true to him (which seems to blur into “feels like a good story”). He may be lying to Mikhail to downplay his powers and make excuses for his slow progress. It’s also unclear whether these are inherent limitations of his powers or just a question of how much he’s mastered them.

Chronicler seems to have engineered Kayla finding the paintings, but since he can’t control her directly, the suggestion is that he made Peter leave the paintings out for her to find. It’s not clear how far any of this is happening in real time – in order for Chronicler to write Kayla’s part of the conversation, you’d think that it had to be simultaneous. But we’ve seen in previous issues pages where he’s scored out some of the words, so apparently he cancel stuff before it happens. Maybe that’s just an aspect of reality-warping.

An interesting implication of all this was that Beast was actually right when he targeted Colossus as a potential spy back in issue #12. Though that was still probably more by luck than design.

PAGES 20-22. More of the nesting doll.

Beast is nothing if not self-sacrificing, but there’s really no safe basis in anything we see for his conclusion that Krakoa is safe.

PAGES 23-24. Colossus disposes of Kayla’s body.

This is odd – he seems to be trying to dispose of the body so that it won’t be found. But Colossus, consciously at least, must know about resurrection, and know that Kayla’s death will be detected by Cerebro. The most likely explanation is that Chronicler doesn’t know this, but that would seem to sit awkwardly with his claim that he knows his subjects intimately. Is he deliberately botching it, or does he just not know Peter as well as he thinks? Certainly the whole scheme with the paintings suggests that Chronicler is either unable or unwilling to simply write down a detailed description of everything Peter has seen, or to recite it to Mikhail from memory afterwards – which suggests there are limitations on what he consciously knows.

PAGE 25. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: SURF’S UP.

 

Bring on the comments

  1. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Maybe Beast is all dried up inside and that’s why he’s so cranky now.

    Hydration is important.

  2. Chris V says:

    You mean Bulwer-Lytton isn’t mainly known for his novel The Coming Race anymore?

    You seem to have missed the final page of this issue, with Professor X showing up to have a word with Colossus.
    Unless you has nothing to say about that scene.

    Is the next issue seriously going to feature those surfing twins from X-Treme X-Men?
    There really needed to be an edict about not allowing them to be resurrected on Krakoa, far moreso than Destiny.
    The bad PR they will being to mutantdom.

  3. The Other Michael says:

    Oh good. There’s nothing like seeing Colossus turned into an unwitting murderer to really make me say “meh.” (Mainly because the scene during the Mutant Massacre where he killed Riptide was one of the most chilling, dramatic moments I’d seen as a young reader…)

    It doesn’t help that Kayla still feels like a complete non-entity of a character. Why is she with Piotr anyway? Who is she? Why should we care about her? As it stands, she exists only in relation to Piotr’s story… and to be killed as part of his story.

    The more I read of Percy’s work, the less impressed I ultimately am.

  4. NS says:

    The Chronicler has the same power set as a girl the x-men rescued during Claremont’s second run. Don’t remember her name since she only showed up once. I’m surprised these types of writer mutants don’t show up more often, given the nature of the comics biz.

    @Chris V: While i have no idea who they are, those aren’t the surfing twins from XXM at the end of the issue. Neither one of the twins shot power from their hands, one of them was a woman, and they’ve both already appeared in the background on Krakoa.

  5. Mathias X says:

    I somewhat appreciated that Chronicler’s powers were somewhat limited. The idea that he can only do his work if he’s particularly inspired and in tune with his subject makes him a bit more interesting than just another reality warper.

  6. Brian says:

    I laughed audibly at “Mayo for Sam” in this one

  7. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    If you want to read some more much worse Percy’s gross treatment of women characters, try his werewolf apocalypse novel.

    Actually don’t, it’s all together dreadful.

  8. Chris V says:

    That got a lot of praise, but yeah, it was a really terrible novel.
    It was billed as “1984 with werewolves”, which sounded amazing.
    That’s not what it ended up being. It read as disjointed and confused.

    I don’t remember anything terrible about the treatment of women characters though.

  9. Alastair says:

    This seems to be a version of the Puppet Master, his control always vary according to plot. They should take it all the way and make Kayla his daughter.

  10. Paul FR says:

    NS: The Chronicler has the same power set as a girl the x-men rescued during Claremont’s second run. Don’t remember her name since she only showed up once.

    I was reminded of Sketch too, she was in Russia if not Russian, but her power was in her art. Might make sense for these two to be related?

    I do think if Chronicler and Sketch teamed up they would create amazing comic books.

  11. Joseph S. says:

    I too am sick of Percy, but unfortunately they’ve given him an upcoming event book. Hopefully that will be the end of his x work. Anyone who has complained about Howard must admit Percy’s handle of Russian history is nearly as embarrassing. That said, he’s good at pacing and juggling various subplots.

    Like Paul, I wondered if there was some meta commentary directed at editorial, but it doesn’t really make sense. It seems like he wants to use Kayla and Chronicler to say something about fridging, without actually developing the character. Either way it misses the mark. Would be great is some writer could get Piotr beyond this sad sack phase that’s been going on for decades

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