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Apr 8

X-Force #27 annotations

Posted on Friday, April 8, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-FORCE vol 6 #26
“From Cradle to Grave”
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Robert Gill
Colourist: Guru-eFX
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Editor: Mark Basso

COVER / PAGE 1: X-Force battle the possessed Forge.

PAGES 2-3. Wolverine reflects on recent events.

As the footnote says, Wolverine is referring to the X Lives of Wolverine miniseries, in which Professor X and Jean Grey used Cerebro to transport Wolverine’s consciousness back in time so that he could battle Omega Red at various points in history, and prevent him from altering history by either murdering Professor X or preventing him from being born.

Wolverine claims that “I risked everything for Krakoa. Not just my life, but the timeline.” That’s a bit of a stretch, since Wolverine’s life is at risk in almost every story (to the extent that he’s killable at all), and the whole plot was that if he didn’t go back, the timeline was going to be irreparably altered anyway. Perhaps what he means is that the events of X Lives risked his life in the sense of destabilising his own history, but if so, that’s not something that really came across on the page as being at stake.

PAGE 4. Recap and credits. X-Force retains its previous small print: “Mutant espionage – law order”.

The title, “From Cradle to Grave”, is a play on the fact that the storage locations for the back-up Cerebros are called “Cradles.”

PAGES 5-9. The Beast addresses the Quiet Council.

The Beast is giving the Quiet Council an account of events which is broadly accurate as far as it goes, but misleadingly incomplete. He’s arguing for the introduction of a permanent death penalty for traitors, in place of the Pit – which thus far has only been used for serial killers at worst. Presumably the Beast’s argument would be that treason is a far greater crime because the preservation of the society itself is a greater value than the lives of any individuals within it (let alone outside), but he doesn’t actually make that case explicitly. A permanent death penalty could of course be achieved simply by choosing not to resurrect someone – the purpose of destroying the records would presumably be either symbolic or to prevent someone circumventing the rules in the way that Mystique did with Destiny. It would also, of course, prevent any mistakes from being reversed, and prevent Omega Red from revealing what Beast had done to him by implanting a surveillance device in him.

The Beast lost his left eye in issue #24, when he was trying to get one of Mikhail’s “nesting doll” soldiers out of his body. I think it’s the first time we’ve been clearly shown that it’s stuck. On the face of it, he could always have just had it fixed by one of Krakoa’s many healers. Presumably the Beast has left it that way on purpose, either as some sort of self-flagellation, or in an attempt to assert moral authority by showing the scars and self-sacrifice (albeit self-inflicted) which he’s taken on for Krakoa.

Sage, who in pre-Krakoan times was often portrayed as the unemotional one, has clearly lost patience with the Beast’s manoeuvrings. Not only does she make sure that the Quiet Council is aware of the true facts, and argue for a more humane disposal, but she makes a point of doing it in such a way as to undercut the Beast’s authority. While the Beast accuses her later of undermining faith in X-Force, what he really means by that is faith in him

Colossus is one of two Council members who insists on allowing Sage to speak, the other being Professor X. However, although it’s not spelled out here, Colossus is under the indirect control of Mikhail, via his reluctant agent Chronicler. It’s ambiguous whether Colossus is intervening to undermine Beast, or simply because Sage should be allowed to speak, or both. Note also that we get a bland reaction shot of Colossus when Sage says “there could be no greater and more unlikely ally [than Omega Red] in the war with Mikhail” – clearly, if Sage’s plan is that this is going to take Mikhail by surprise, it’s not going to go well.

“[T]he threat posed by Russia and what can only be called the war crimes of Mikhail Rasputin and Omega Red.” X Lives, again. The “war crimes” are presumably the attempt to alter the timeline, though it’s a bit of a stretch to call them that. Lead-in times justify some leeway here, but if I were Marvel I’d be steering well clear of using the language of war crimes right now in relation to fairly standard time travel tropes.

“Our response to Mikhail and the Russian mutant splinter cell will be a complex geopolitical affair that I imagine will take months to decide upon.” Eh? Didn’t we just say this was an existential war?

“[Omega Red] came to us for amnesty…” That’s true. Wolverine vol 7 #1.

“…and we offered him every generosity in return.” That’s not exactly true. Wolverine attacked him on sight, and X-Force exploited him as we’ll come to in a bit. But he was allowed in and benefited from the amnesty.

“He betrayed us first as an agent of the Vampire Nation.” In Wolverine vol 7 #1 and subsequent issues. He was initially a double agent because the Vampire Nation had the carbonadium-synthesizer device that he needed to keep his powers under control.

“He betrayed us again as a weapon of Russia.” True, assuming you equate Mikhail Rasputin with Russia. This is X Lives of Wolverine again.

“When we discovered he was an agent of the Vampire Nation, we killed and resurrected him…” The material about Omega Red being deliberately killed, resurrected without his knowledge, and fitted with a surveillance device, all comes from issue #15. According to a data page in that issue, Professor X already knows this, but the rest of the Quiet Council don’t. (The Five specifically lobbied for it to be voted on by the Council, and Professor X vetoed it.)

“Arkady admitted his betrayal… [H]e spearheaded a successful campaign against the Vampire Nation.” In Wolverine vol 7 #12.

“He only defected to Russia after discovering what we had done to him.” All in X Lives of Wolverine #1.

PAGE 10. Data page. Forge’s notes on the resurrection of Omega Red. Basically, they’re going to give him a somewhat improved version of the C-synth that doesn’t keep him under surveillance; changing his body more drastically than that is viewed as going a bit far without asking him first. And they can’t ask him until they’ve resurrected him. The very fact that Sage is thinking along these lines is a change from Beast’s approach.

PAGES 11-12. Forge investigates the failure of the Cerebro helmet.

Forge was zapped with his own neutraliser in X Deaths of Wolverine #4, which is why he’s been through Crucible – the ritual combat for depowered mutants to get themselves killed so that they can be resurrected with their powers restored. The resurrection procedure apparently restores mutants as they were before death, complete with prosthetics or implants (like Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton), unless a conscious decision is taken to do otherwise. Forge could presumably have asked to be resurrected with his hand and leg restored, but in his case it’s entirely likely that they have all sorts of technical gizmos that he actually prefers.

PAGES 13-14. X-Force discuss Omega Red.

Wolverine doesn’t support Sage’s plan, but nor does he actually oppose it – he merely voices doubts and invites Kid Omega to comment. So the Beast is isolated there. Note that when he says “That doesn’t mean I want to get into bed with a monster”, although Domino takes him to be referring to Omega Red, he could in context be referring to the Beast.

Domino doesn’t get much to do in this issue, but as the most normal member of the group, she unsurprisingly sides with Sage. Although she cites Weapon X as the example of a group that manipulates mutant powers as a weapon, which is the example relevant to Wolverine, she has something similar in her own childhood back story.

Kid Omega. His penchant for requesting customisations each time he gets resurrected was established in issue #17; he mentioned it again last issue, and specifically suggested using it as a way to erase his ex-girlfriend Phoebe from his memory. In the context of this scene, part of the irony is that Colossus (probably pre-manipulation) had Domino’s traumatic memories erased against her will, but she doesn’t know that, and it did indeed seem to do her a lot of good.

PAGES 15-16. Black Tom discovers a possessed Forge and raises the alarm.

Straightforward enough.

PAGES 17-18. The Beast talks with Abigail Brand on Arakko.

We’re on Arakko because this is where Brand is hanging out in X-Men Red; since the Beast came here “to be with someone who understood you”, presumably he was actively looking for her. There are two levels of reference here – one is to their former romance, which dates back to the Joss Whedon / John Cassaday Astonishing X-Men run, and the other is to the fact that Brand is a manipulative schemer who we know is secretly a double agent working with Orchis. In that sense, she understands the Beast very well indeed. He, on the other hand, is being completely outmanoeuvred again despite his conviction that he’s an intelligence mastermind.

PAGE 19. Data page. A quote from Colossus, arguing that the best way of countering Mikhail is to get lots of Russians on Krakoa. This is pretty obviously an idea planted by Chronicler.

PAGES 21-22. Omega Red is resurrected.

Note that the only people present aside from X-Force are Professor X and Colossus. Even the Five are absent.

PAGES 23-24. The Cerebro helmet has come to life.

Again, pretty straightforward.

PAGE 25. Trailers.

Bring on the comments

  1. wwk5d says:

    Looks like they’re going to have to resurrect poor Forge again.

  2. Omar Karindu says:

    Some of that dialogue about Russia reads less like an unfortunate bit of timing and more like an incredibly poorly conceived effort to be topical, right down to the “complex geopolitical response” stuff.

  3. Ceries says:

    I can’t get a read on what the book’s moral position regarding X-Force’s rank and file is.

    Like, obviously Percy is positioning Beast as a monster, and worse, an incompetent. But Sage, his firm right hand in all his atrocities, is treated as the conscience of X-Force because she occasionally acts against his worst impulses-usually, mind you, after enabling them to happen in the first place. Plus, the three field members of X-Force discovered at the Hellfire Gala that they’d been complicit in not just a coup but genocide-yet they’ve had no apparent reaction to this, and no indication that they might want to stop helping X-Force commit atrocities or thought about their positions at all. They basically just follow orders.

    Basically: Is the thesis of X-Force that Beast is bad because he’s evil, or bad because he’s incompetent? If he’s overthrown and replaced by Sage so now she directs all the coups and atrocities, will it be better simply because she’s more competent than him?

  4. Allan M says:

    I think X-Force is ultimately nihilistic at its core. Beast is monstrous and incompetent, but he’s actually correct to keep Omega Red dead. Sage showing basic humanity, while admirable, is just opening up room for Mikhail to cause problems. Beast is right on this for the wrong reasons and Sage is wrong for the right reasons.

    I think Sage breaking from Beast echoes Jean bailing on the team, but where Jean left on principle, Sage is ultimately more frustrated that Beast is inept, and can’t take being second banana to someone less competent than herself anymore.

    The field team’s just a mess. Domino remains well-adjusted because Colossus essentially euthanized her against her will. Quentin’s experiencing personal growth by embracing his painful memories, conversely. Wolverine’s endlessly tortured by his memories but it’s also what allowed him to save the day in X Lives. Black Tom’s blatantly losing his mind and nobody cares. If there’s an overall thesis, it’s that black ops/intelligence work invariably destroys people psychologically.

    Also, Beast losing his eye must be an obvious nod to Nick Fury (both of ’em) and the Russian version Claremont introduced back when(Vashkin, was it?). One-eyed spymasters are a classic Marvel trope.

  5. Douglas says:

    We also saw Beast with one eye in X Deaths of Wolverine #5, last week’s Immortal X-Men #1, and this week’s X-Force Annual.

  6. The Other Michael says:

    Colonel Alexi Vazhin. Hasn’t turned up in quite a while. Last referenced in the backmatter of Secret Warriors #1. Presumably still out there doing… spy stuff.

  7. wwk5d says:

    “and this week’s X-Force Annual”

    Speaking of, is Paul covering that issue?

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