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Apr 24

X Deaths of Wolverine #1-5

Posted on Sunday, April 24, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Federico Vicentini
Colourists: Dijjo Lima with Frank Martin
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editor: Mark Basso

If X Lives of Wolverine felt like a Wolverine arc pressed into service as an event, then its sister title X Deaths of Wolverine is more obviously conceived for the role. That’s because much of the story here involves Moira MacTaggert, and what happens to her after being banished from Krakoa at the end of Inferno. That plot thread marks the book out as continuing a major storyline for the X-books as a whole.

There’s still maybe a bit of overhyping going on here. X Deaths was never going to do anything as game changing as House of X and Powers of X, and maybe inviting those sort of comparisons so directly was unnecessary. It doesn’t really do anything to change the status quo for the line, either – Inferno did that, by getting Moira out of the picture, bringing back Destiny, and letting the whole Quiet Council know what Xavier and Magneto were up to. But what X Deaths undoubtedly does do is take Moira to her new status quo.

We’ll come back to that, though, because this is also a Wolverine comic. It doesn’t tie very directly to its sister book X Lives in plot terms, though a macguffin from Lives is dutifully used to resolve the plot of Deaths. But the thematic links are there, and on reflection, they’re maybe stronger than I thought the first time around.

The point of X Lives is to send Wolverine back to revisit his sprawling, unwieldy history, and to show him existing over a massive expanse of history. X Deaths extends that into the future, with a Wolverine from the far future, infected by the Phalanx, coming back in time. He’s set up to look like a villain – he’s the Phalanx, after all – but it turns out that he’s actually here for one last mission before he succumbs, trying to stop Moira from setting post-humanity on the path to domination.

Future Wolverine doesn’t talk much in the first few issues, but he does loosen up a bit when he’s faced with his family members. The “X Deaths” of the title is a bit of a strain, and perhaps could use a bit more space, but the idea is that future Wolverine outlived everyone else to become the last of the mutants. He’s long-lived already, as seen in X Lives; he’s going to stick around forever, as seen in X Deaths. (Let’s not worry for now about how this fits with him succumbing to old age in the relatively near future in Old Man Logan. Hickman already ignored that in Powers of X, after all.)

By the end, you get a Wolverine distilled to his essence as a lethal last man standing, and finally, by the end, distilled still further into the living weapon he’s always resisted being. At the same time, the real – or rather, the present day – Wolverine shows up to fight him and defeat him. That bit’s muddied somewhat by working in the Cerebro Sword, which can save the day for Reasons, but it means that Wolverine gets to symbolically bring his life to an end and show that it will in fact have an end point and a resolution. It’s maybe interesting also to see that Laura, Daken and Scout, all of whom have similar healing powers, don’t make it into the future with him. In a way it reasserts him as, maybe not the only Wolverine, but the prime or template version of the character.

Phalanx-corrupted Wolverine also degenerates into a skeleton, which makes the further point that on an island where we’re supposed to be alarmed about the third force of posthumanity, Wolverine was always a mutant post-human. Sure, it’s not machinery, but he’s a little bit cyborg already, contributing to the sense of him having a slightly awkward relationship with the rest of the island.

Federico Vicentini is a very different sort of artist to Joshua Cassara on X Lives, and it’s a smart piece of casting. X Lives is organic all, maybe in a rather grimy way, complete with Omega Red making bone extensions from his host bodies in place of his usual metal tentacles. Vicentini’s art is more angular and cleaner, harsher in some ways. The crisp, regular, parallel lines in Wolverine’s Phalanx infection are a nice interpretation of the techno-organic concept, and appropriately understated.

It’s also a bit more conventionally superheroic than X Lives, which is perfectly fine for what’s basically an action chase book. It also allows the book to pull off a cute callback to House of X in the final issue, in Moira’s dying moments, when it parodies her first meeting with Xavier. I’m not sure that would have worked with Cassara – his style is too far removed from the original – but it fits here. The one thing that I’m really not sure about, visually, is that weird suit of armour Moira’s wearing in the last couple of issues, which feels awkward and undercuts some moments that feel like they want to be taken more seriously. But on the whole it’s a good looking book.

Moira, then. Let’s recap. House of X revealed that Moira had lived through multiple previous lives, and that in one of the earliest, she developed a cure for mutant powers. Mystique and Destiny promptly hunted her down and killed her. She spent multiple lives trying to find a way for the mutants to win, and it always failed. And she sold Professor X and Magneto on some sort of plan for Krakoa, claiming that the big idea was to have all the mutants together. In fact, according to Inferno, her plan was apparently to get the mutants onto a nice happy island where they could be sidetracked, and then wipe out new mutants by using her cure on pre-manifestation children. She had Mystique and Destiny out of circulation in this timeline and she finally had a chance to get back to the original plan. The implication is that she was going to somehow include her cure in the Krakoan drugs. How that was going to work with mutants whose powers were visible from birth, I’m not entirely sure, but that was the idea.

So, Moira is exposed by Destiny, Mystique and Cypher and driven out of Krakoa, with Mystique still determined to hunt her down. This story basically sees Moira on the run from Mystique and the future Wolverine, hooking up with apparently well-meaning tech entrepreneur Arnab Chakladar, and basically giving herself that final life that Destiny mentioned, by eventually “resurrecting” herself in a robot body. So it completes Moira’s turn to outright villainy.

Does this actually work for Moira? The obvious objection is that it trashes the character. To be honest, if you go back to Claremont-era stories, it’s not as if Moira actually does all that much. There are vague hints in the early days of a secret, it basically turns out to be a break-up with Xavier, and from that point on her role is mainly to serve as an in-house scientist. She has close relationships with Banshee and to some degree Wolfsbane. She gets to be a prominent supporting character in Excalibur. She seems to be very upset about the deaths of her students in Deadly Genesis. Mostly, she’s a part of the X-furniture; her value to the Krakoan era rests as much as anything in subverting the sense of familiarity she provides.

Still, to the extent that Moira did stuff, it’s uncomfortable to try and rationalise it all as her maintaining a facade for all these years. And I don’t think you need to do that. You can believe that Moira’s plan requires the mutants to survive; that she’d prefer the world to be rid of mutant powers but sees her cure as an opportunity; that she genuinely believes she’s providing the mutants with the best possible world, given how all the others turned out; and that she can care about individual mutant characters alongside her plans for mutants as a whole. You can also make the point that in the most Moira-centric storyline, the Proteus arc, she’s a gun-toting badass who kept her own child locked in an empty room; Hickman’s Moira can be seen without too much of a stretch as a throwback to that version of the character.

Having her join the post-human forces doesn’t seem too much of a stretch once she’s been kicked out of Krakoa – after all, she’s got to find a place somewhere, and she’s allied with all sorts of people in previous lives. But having her feel quite so vindictive towards mutantkind doesn’t ring true. Part of the problem here is that she wasn’t rejected by mutants generally, in Inferno. The whole point was that almost nobody even knew she was there, and she left before more than a handful of characters found out. Anger at Charles kind of makes sense; he failed to protect her and screwed up all her plans., or at least she could see it that way. But when you have her straightforwardly embracing the anti-mutant angle, I don’t really buy that. And when she’s killing and skinning Banshee… that’s too much, and it feels like it is trashing the stories based on that relationship. Maybe it’d work if you played it as desperation, and taking her only card to get back onto the island, but that’s not how it comes across.

Then again, the early issues cast her more as a victim, so maybe she’s meant to come across as more ambiguous even at the end than she actually does. Perhaps the problem is just that she ends up feeling like an uncomplicatedly straightforward villain, and the book comes down rather more decisively in favour of that interpretation than it was meant to. Poor Arnab feels like a more rounded character than her by the end of the story. I can’t say I really understand what the point was of giving her cancer, either – why allow her to escape, if you’re already planning to kill her?

It works pretty well as a chase book, and there are some nicely done set pieces, such as the motel sequence. The Wolverine aspects have grown on me with a bit of further reflection. But if the aim is to convince me about Moira as an outright villain, I’m not yet sold. There’s a lot of work still to be done in unscrambling her actual motives and turning her from a plot device back into an active character again, if that’s where we’re going.

Bring on the comments

  1. Diana says:

    A charitable reading, but one that requires setting aside a few things: Moira was hardly the first person to come up with a mutant cure (is Kavita Rao not around in the Krakoa era?); resurrection, which she presumably inspired in the first place, would bypass the effects of the cure just as it undoes Forge’s neutralizer and Wanda’s magic-down-to-the-DNA nonsense; and, most significantly, wasn’t the whole point of Moira 6 that the Phalanx don’t actually care about posthumanity? They were willing to go as far as assimilating AI copies of living beings, but anything organic was going to be disintegrated. There’s no timeline in which Moira can become part of a Dominion, and she knows that, so what’s really going on here?

    The villain turn just doesn’t work. Omega Sentinel comes from a future where the mutants win (and Moira would still be alive then, at least up to the point Omega goes back) – so did Moira *not* go for the cure then? Why not? How does ORCHIS change a plan she seemingly came up with on her own?

  2. Evilgus says:

    Bit harsh to call Moira part of the X-furniture. I’d go as far to say that she was always a meaningful foil to Xavier as the-other-adult-in-the-room, and had some very consequential stories (Proteus, de-aging Magneto..). I’d even go as far as to make the case she’s been more interesting than day, Colossus, or Iceman, in terms of practical story impact.

    So the subversion of Moira in HOX worked incredibly well on that basis. But this miniseries loses all subtlety and makes her a psychopath. Robot suit *and* cancer? Sheesh…

  3. Si says:

    Moira was a character who’d just vanish when the story didn’t need her. Where characters like Iceman and Colossus might not have actually done much, if they were on the roster they’d always be there, in fight scenes and baseball games. Moira was the linchpin of several stories, but she was still on the level of Stevie Hunter. A temp worker who simply didn’t exist when she wasn’t required. Actually maybe Stevie and that groundskeeper who got turned into an Indian should join Moira and get some revenge for being neglected.

    By the way, metal in your bones doesn’t count as being a cyborg. It has to be active mechanical parts like cochlear implants or something. I checked when I got a titanium part put in my spine. I was ready to call myself Siborg and everything.

  4. The Other Michael says:

    @Si – You’re thinking of Tom Corsi, who was a cop (and Sharon Friedlander, a nurse) who were transformed into Native Americans by the Demon Bear circa New Mutants 18-20 (the Demon Bear Saga). After that, they basically did become X-Furniture, either working at the Mansion or otherwise being forgotten for lengthy periods at a time.

    (They were also controlled by Empath and prompted into a self-destructive BDSM relationship for a while, ew…)

    Sharon was killed by the Acolytes during their attack on a human school at which she was working, while Tom just apparently vanished after M-Day. He probably got off lightly since it was a really shitty way to kill off Sharon.

    And at no point was there ever a -reason- for the raceswap other than “Claremont.”

    You know… Tom and Sharon REALLY got abused for being allies of the team. Transformed, emotionally dominated, and in Sharon’s case, murdered. And yet mutants like Empath and the then-Acolytes get amnesty for their crimes at least, resurrected multiple times as needed.

    I’d LOVE to see more of the X-Men’s former allies turn against them out of resentment.

  5. Chris V says:

    Diana-We don’t know that Moira was still alive in the alternate future from which Omega Sentinel returns to the past. Moira may have lost (or given up) her mutant powers and died in that timeline.
    Hickman doesn’t give any information about Moira from Life Ten(a), which is a huge problem when Hickman wanted “Inferno” to revolve so largely around revelations about Moira. It could have helped his last-minute reveal of Moira’s plan if Life Ten(a) showed that Moira was killed by Mystique after Destiny was resurrected. It could have hinted more at the fact that Moira was planning to betray mutants in this life.

    Her siding with post-humanity makes no sense and her knowledge from Life Six about the Phalanx is being totally ignored now.

    A wider problem with this story is that Percy seems to be writing Moira was if getting an eleventh life is important to her. Moira getting more lives or becoming immortal was never given as a motivation for her by Hickman. Now, that seems to be something which is driving her.
    Unfortunately, Moira has become a plot device. Sinister’s use of Moira in Immortal X-Men almost feels like Gillen driving that point home.

  6. raoulseagull says:

    This whole series felt a bit like Game of Thrones after they’d run out of book material – Percy was given a general outline of what was supposed to happen with Moira and supposed to connect the dots.

    COVID definitely impacted this whole era significantly, as well as the renewed popularity and hype it generated. I just remembered that he used the “skinning to trick Krakoa” thing in his X-Force run with Domino. It probably would have made more sense for Moira to do that to Banshee if that’d happened closer to that but it’s been years and as you say – she’s barely a character at this point.

    Overall I think it could lead to some fun stuff and I appreciate Percy might have been told to just write filler for most of his run while they sorted out stuff behind the scenes, but this whole event was just not enjoyable to me. I am interested to see what happens with the upcoming crossover with the Eternals and the Avengers though.

  7. Taibak says:

    I thought Tom Corsi was killed in the camps in Weapon X?

  8. Dave says:

    “Hickman wanted “Inferno” to revolve so largely around revelations about Moira.”

    Maybe he should have given the main revelation more then One. Single. Panel.
    (I may have made this point before). Also, giving more than a very general sense of what it even meant would’ve helped, but you can’t do much in…y’know.

  9. Moo says:

    “I thought Tom Corsi was killed in the camps in Weapon X?”

    Why would he even be there? He’s not a mutant. Sure you’re not thinking of someone else? Maybe Paulie Provenzano from that Lobdell fill-in run preceding Morrison?

  10. Moo says:

    “I’d LOVE to see more of the X-Men’s former allies turn against them out of resentment.”

    Not a bad idea. Put them in a series together and call it “X-Furniture”.

  11. Josie says:

    “Put them in a series together and call it “X-Furniture”.”

    Surely it’s the X-Pendables?

  12. Josie says:

    Someone should write a series about mutant crematorium workers who have to dispose of the duplicate bodies after X-Men have been killed in action. They could call it The X-Crement.

  13. Diana says:

    Chris V: Moira had to be alive in 10A, or the timeline would have reset again. Sure, she might have been depowered, but why would that be the case? In a “mutants win” scenario, Destiny and Mystique have no reason to target her.

  14. Adam says:

    No knock on raoulseagull, but y’know, I’ve come to realize the charity of Paul’s reviews is one reason I read them.

    I think the benefit of the doubt not only makes for a better reading experience, both in Paul’s reviews and in the comics themselves, and that it often also proves more critically illuminating.


  15. Michael says:

    I’m still confused about one thing- who gave Moira cancer?
    The spoilers have Robot Moira taking over Mary Jane Watson’s body. They really should have given the Spider-Man readers a heads up. I imagine Spider-Man fans who skipped this story will be wondering “Why is Moria McTaggart an evil Robot”?

  16. Allan M says:

    I’m lost on what Moira having super-cancer really added to the story. She’s already powerless. She had her arm cut off and now has a presumably spyware-filled one now. She’s on the run from an immortal super-assassin who can look like anyone, said assassin’s wife who can see the future, along with various human government operatives. Oh, and then Omega Wolverine. She’s in mortal peril from page 1. Is giving her cancer on top of that really raising the stakes in any meaningful way?

    I don’t recall that we ever get an explanation of how and why she has it, and from whom, (maybe Krakoa, presumably working at cross-purposes against Doug?), and her biological body is dead for unrelated reasons by the end so why even bother? Is it just for the parallel with Omega Wolverine, where each has a disease, one organic, one techno-organic, that threatens to kill them once they lose their powers?

  17. Diana says:

    We don’t even sit with the premise of Mystique hunting Moira (thus being in violation of Krakoa’s “Harm No Man” law) long enough to get a handle on what that means – it just makes Cypher look like a complete moron

  18. Miyamoris says:

    I’ve been saying, the cancer thing completely messes with what was going with Doug in Inferno. Krakoa was clearly going along with him and it makes no sense either of them wanted her infected if they just wanted to expulse her with a means to keep an eye on her.

    Gotta agree with Adam re: Paul’s reviews. Even if I don’t fully agree/find them too charitable, it’s always good to see how someone else is getting more out of an story than me.

  19. Jon R says:

    Until they say otherwise, I’ll continue assuming the cancer was just an unintended consequence of her living in the no-space that was initially described as being like a cancer on Krakoa.

    And honestly, I don’t know if they’ll ever bring it back up. It doesn’t matter any more except as a sub-motivation. Maybe if they ever decide to try and rehabilitate her and explain that this was all a mistake?

  20. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I can see it now. A flashback showing Moira slipping on a banana peel while holding a knife, accidentally skinning Banshee, getting tangled up in his skin and tumbling through a Krakoan gate…

  21. Omar Karindu says:

    Jon R. said: And honestly, I don’t know if they’ll ever bring [the plant-based cancer] back up. It doesn’t matter any more except as a sub-motivation. Maybe if they ever decide to try and rehabilitate her and explain that this was all a mistake?

    It was all Hordeculture playing the long game!

    They also clearly dropped that banana peel Krzysiek Ceran retconned in. That was no ordinary banana peel; it was a smart-floronics telepathic vector.

    Be here for the next big Marvel event, X-Men Vs. Avengers Vs. Eternals vs. Plants vs. Marvel Zombies.

  22. […] Paul O’Brien reviews the organic superheroics of Benjamin Percy, Federico Vicentini, et al’s X Deaths of Wolverine #1-5. […]

  23. Jpw says:

    Surely it’s the X-Pendables

    The X-Traneous X-Friends

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