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May 19

X-Men Red #2 annotations

Posted on Thursday, May 19, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

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

“Man on Fire”
Writer: Al Ewing

Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colourist: Federico Blee
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editor: Jordan White

COVER / PAGE 1. Storm fighting Vulcan. It seems to be going rather better for Vulcan than it does in the issue itself.

PAGES 2-5. Flashback: Professor X and Cyclops confront Vulcan.

This takes place before issue #1 (when Vulcan had already been kicked out of the Summer House), and shortly after X-Men: Trial of Magneto #5 (when the Scarlet Witch created the Waiting Room).

The Summer House is the Summers family’s home on the Moon – though with Cyclops and Jean Grey in New York with the X-Men, Kid Cable no longer in this timeline, and Rachel with X-Factor and now in Knights of X, it may just be Vulcan, Havok and Wolverine actually living there now.

The three aliens on page 2, and their dialogue, come from X-Men #10 of the Hickman run. It’s a straight recap of what was set up in that issue, which didn’t identify them or shed much further light on their plans.

Petra and Sway. Oh god.

Vulcan’s back story involves him being part of a team of trainees who were pressganged into becoming an ersatz X-Men group, and who made a first, doomed attempt at rescuing the original team from Krakoa in Giant-Size X-Men #1 – as retconned in X-Men: Deadly Genesis. Petra and Sway were also members of that team, and died on Krakoa. That was meant to be before the earliest Cerebro back-ups, making it impossible to resurrect them until Trial of Magneto created the Waiting Room and made it possible to resurrect mutants who had died in earlier years.

Unfortunately, Petra and Sway appear alongside Vulcan in the Summer House in several stories (such as X-Men #8 and #10). Jonathan Hickman’s intention was apparently for them to be hallucinations, but dialogue in issue #8 mistakenly implied that other people could see them too (Havok refers to “you guys”) and issue #10 has them continuing a conversation in his absence. Making matters worse, Petra appears – and has dialogue – in New Mutants #14, where Vulcan isn’t even present. That’s the visit to Krakoa that Xavier mentions on the data page.

This flashback, and the data page that follows, square all this away and get the story back to Hickman’s original intention by explaining that “Petra” and “Sway” are energy constructs created by Vulcan, whom everyone can see, but whom Vulcan delusionally believes to be real.

Vulcan’s behaviour in this scene (and Petra and Sway’s, for that matter) is in line with his Hickman appearances. Petra kept banging on about margaritas in X-Men #10 too.

The Changeling is, technically, the first X-Man to die in battle, having died in X-Men vol 1 #42 while impersonating Professor X. He doesn’t have the iconic status of Thunderbird because his death was a retcon to explain away Professor X’s return from the grave in issue #65. The Changeling has also previously been shown in crowd scenes in Krakoa (he’s among the mutants gathering around Professor X’s body in X-Force #2), but evidently we should disregard that as an art error. Poor Changeling is apparently still dead, and was last seen in Sensational She-Hulk #36 as a member of the mutant zombie group the X-Humed.

PAGE 6. Recap and credits.

PAGES 7-10. Abigail Brand introduces Vulcan to X-Men Red.

Vulcan was causing trouble in the Diplomatic Zone last issue, where he was mortally offended by a Shi’ar diplomat pretending not to know who he was. Plainly, even aside from the manipulation he’s undergone at the hands of the aliens, Vulcan is a character looking for a role and for some direction, and unable to come to terms with having lost the one he had before. Brand pitches X-Men Red to him as an opportunity to do something worthy of his talents. Since X-Men Red are part of Brand’s scheme to destabilise Arakko, she’s presumably well aware of the fact that she’s putting someone deeply unreliable on the team.

Vulcan’s “personal reasons” for not setting foot on Krakoa are presumably to do with the traumatic memory of leading his team to annihilation there in Deadly Genesis.

X-Men Red are notionally the title characters of this book, but it’s fairly clear from the first two issues that the Brotherhood are at least the co-stars, if not actually the real stars. That said, Cable and Vulcan both got a fair amount of page time in the first two issues.

Aside from Vulcan, the members of this team all come from the cast of S.W.O.R.D., and they don’t seem especially keen to be there. Frenzy wants to get back to diplomacy; Manifold has lost all confidence in Brand and walks out within pages. Random is hard to read. Mentallo seems amused by the whole thing but gives the impression that he realises all is not as it seems. As for Cable, he remains mostly silent here and certainly seems to be a loyal right hand man to Abigail – but can he really be that gullible? Or is he just keeping an eye on her? (He could of course be on her side – but Abigail went out of her way to sideline him in the closing issues of S.W.O.R.D., which makes that unlikely.)

Henry Gyrich was murdered by Abigail in S.W.O.R.D. #11, and as Manifold says, he and Cable were both kept far away from that as part of a scheme of Abigail’s. Manifold blatantly sees through it all, making it all the less likely that Cable can’t see it. Abigail pretty much invites the X-Men Red team to accept that they would be fine with killing Gyrich anyway, but the reaction she gets is less than enthusiastic. (Again, Mentallo seems to be amused by the situation, but is that because he’s fine with murdering Gyrich or because he’s paying attention to the reactions of his teammates?)

The Krakoan text in the last panel reads “ALERT”.

PAGES 11-14. X-Men Red fight the Progenitors.

Cable gets killed rather quickly – partly because it’s part of Abigail’s plan to take the opportunity to investigate his techno-organics, but note that it also has the effect of getting him out of the way before the real heroes show up.

The Progenitors are an alien race from Al Ewing’s Royals (an Inhumans series). They were vastly powerful in that story, which may suggest that these guys are fakes. Abigail’s data page later on tells us that they were “programmed” by Orbis Stellaris. Cable wasn’t in Royals but seems to suggest that he’s met them before.

The Arakkii seen here are the local version of artists – they have no particularly useful combat powers, from the look of it, but still have a strong cultural inclination to fight any opponent in front of them. Note that Mentallo’s attitude changes dramatically here from the previous scene – he’s genuinely appalled by this suicidal attack. Brand’s idea seems to be to offend Arakkii sensibilities by having the Krakoans “rescue” them – and again, she waits until Cable’s out of the way before giving orders to start clearing away the battle-ready civilians. Just to make sure it goes as badly as possible, she entrusts the job to Vulcan, a disturbed man who presumably read the “civilian rescue protocol” on his way there.

The Arakkii artists repeat the “you were not there” complaint from the previous issue.

PAGES 15-18. The Brotherhood sort it all out.

The key point here is that the Brotherhood are trying to work in line with Arakkii sensibilities, and they have a degree of credibility in that regard because Ororo has earned cultural respect, and the Fisher King clearly carries some cultural cachet. The Brotherhood harness the local mutants as allies and summarily despatch the Progenitors.

Vulcan yelling that he “never died” refers to the end of War of Kings, where he was banished to the Fault. That was the end of his tenure as Shi’ar Emperor.

Storm’s reference to him containing a “flaw” is a reference to the aliens’ speech in X-Men #10. (“There was a flaw in you. An error in your existence. A crack in your firmament. It cannot be fixed. You cannot be fixed.”) The “flaw”, in their eyes, appeared to be that Vulcan had the potential for good.

PAGE 19. Data page – Abigail’s diary.

Orbis Stellaris is the arms dealer who was dealing with Gyrich in the closing issues of SWORD; a data page from SWORD #11 says that he’s from Earth, but we still don’t know much about him.

“That Skrull separatist who’s running the Chitauri these days”. Talionis, who seized power in Guardians of the Galaxy vol 6 #18 (part of Al Ewing’s “Last Annihilation” story).

“Queen of Wakanda / Queen of the Morlocks”. Storm was (notionally) the leader of the Morlocks for much of the 1980s, having defeated Callisto in a knife fight to win the role. There are some parallels between that side of Morlock culture and Arakko. Storm as queen of Wakanda is, well, a regal supporting character.

PAGES 20-21. Brand sends Vulcan to kill Tarn.

Tarn is mainly a Hellions villain, but he’s also a sadistic maniac with vast power. This isn’t going to go well for Vulcan. It also shows that he’s failed to learn the point of this issue’s story: the Arakkii don’t want an outsider to come in and save them from Tarn.

PAGE 22. Trailers.



Bring on the comments

  1. The Other Michael says:

    The whole Petra/Sway thing is such a weird clusterfuck, especially since it occurred under Hickman’s own watch, and he’s the one who made the rules about who could be resurrected in the first place.

    Also, Changeling being around, even as an art error, is still another one of those “you can bring back anyone you want EXCEPT these characters” that should have been baked into the story bible. I mean, if it’s “no one who died before X” and that basically means Thunderbird, Changeling, Petra, Sway… the list of “no” should have been pretty short.

    Seeing Cable get wiped out here once again demonstrates how, once resurrection became possible, every character becomes cannon fodder. And that just diminishes them as characters when Quentin or Cable or Xavier can be killed off every time someone sneezes wrong. (And we keep seeing scenes of mass casualties which turn all sorts of characters into little more than recognizable cameos. Dead today, back tomorrow… even if it doesn’t make sense for them to die so easily.)

    The Arakkii seen here are basically a community of Larry Bodine equivalents, with the light shaping. I’d like to see him brought back to interact with them. Though I doubt they’d respect his manner of death.

    I like that Manifold nopes the fuck out. A crack in Brand’s plan, or did she manipulate him into leaving so he doesn’t catch on to whatever she’s up to?

  2. GN says:

    Paul > It’s a straight recap of what was set up in that issue, which didn’t identify them or shed much further light on their plans.

    I always assumed that these aliens were (related to) the Many-Angled Ones, since Vulcan met them within the Fault, which was a bridge to the Cancerverse. But Al Ewing probably has a better idea for who they are.

    Paul > Vulcan’s behaviour in this scene (and Petra and Sway’s, for that matter) is in line with his Hickman appearances.

    Vulcan will probably get worse before he gets better. Now that Ewing has firmly established that Petra and Sway haven’t been resurrected, their proper return will probably be the catalyst for his reformation.

  3. Michael says:

    Note that Brand refers to Orchis’s “pet Judas in Fourth Petal”. That’s Judas Traveller. Brand seems to be saying that she merely has an alliance with Orchis out of convenience while Traveller really believes in Orchis. One wonders if this is just what Traveller wants Brand to think- after all, his power IS illusion.

  4. Jenny says:

    Also the bit about the “royal couple” fighting the progenitors refers to when they showed up in Ewing’s GOTG and fought Hulkling and Wiccan.

  5. Mike Loughlin says:

    Caselli & Blee Did a fine job on the visuals. I was especially impressed by Case olive facility with body language. Storm’s stance when she caught Vulcan felt like it had weight and power.

    It was telling how the two groups interacted with and treated the Arakki. I look forward to seeing if the Brotherhood’s cooperation ends up hitting a limit, if the X-Men Red team keeps screwing up, and the end result of Brand’s scheming.

  6. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I was going to say, I remember these Progenitor guys but I didn’t read Royals so I didn’t know from where.

    Another good issue. Hopefully the Brotherhood actually picks up some Arakki characters and gives them some personality.

    My take on Vulcan is that he’s an unwitting sleeper agent for the aliens and he’s going to be triggered to ruin everything.

    I hope they don’t turn him into a good guy, the only interesting thing about him is that he’s a petulant little shithead Summers brother with god powers.

    We need to keep some mutants unsympathetic assholes don’t we?

  7. GN says:

    Michael > Note that Brand refers to Orchis’s “pet Judas in Fourth Petal”. That’s Judas Traveller.

    Oh, I didn’t catch that. I thought Judas was an oblique reference to Stasis being a Sinister clone but your idea is better and is probably the correct one.

    We can actually list down most of ORCHIS’s personnel by now.


    Dr. Killian Devo (director)
    Omega Sentinel (machine liaison)
    Nimrod (machine super-weapon)
    M.O.D.O.K. (?)
    Moira XI (?)


    Petal 1: Research and Development
    Dr. Alia Gregor, ORCHIS Forge

    Petal 2: Infrastructure and Influence
    Abigail Brand, S.W.O.R.D. Station Two

    Petal 3: Operations and Offense
    Feilong, Phobos Base


    Petal 4: Culture and Narrative
    Judas Traveller, ?

    Petal 5: Sociology and Modelling

    Petal 6: Human Resources
    Doctor Stasis, Oblivion Institute

  8. Ceries says:

    That’s the second time Brand’s expressed an unusual interest in the techno-organic virus. Maybe she’s plotting to infect Arakko with it as a means of control? She clearly doesn’t have any actual ideological faction among the mutants; she probably grifted Magneto and Xavier with a pitch that amounted to “I have always been loyal to the superior race! Here is how we will demonstrate our superiority!”

    Manifold was the only one on her crew with any actual non-Krakoa-centric ideology; Mentallo is there because she pays him and Wiz Kid has bought into some kind of “benevolent” forced cultural uplift thing she’s fed him that’s still rooted in mutant superiority.

    So maybe the plan is to use the techno-organic virus to assimilate the Arakki, giving her an actual power base that she doesn’t have to convince that she believes in the inherent superiority of the mutant race.

  9. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I wonder if they’ll actually have Manifold abandon Krakoa?

    He says “I’m done with all of it, maybe I’ll go be an Avenger.”

    Would he be the first person to walk away?

  10. Luis Dantas says:

    If you ask me, Magneto walked away before Manifold did. There are probably others, but I don’t know that we can reliably say whether someone walked away from Krakoa. You could make a case for the current team of X-Men, for instance. We are talking mainly about political stances and supporting them.

    Not a fan of flaunted-ego Storm. It does not help that she describes herself as an “Omega mutant” and seems to expect respect, even reverence for that. She is actually reminding me so much of Magneto, with the ego fluctuations and presumption of royal significance, that I am starting to want to see them bond as a couple.

    Which reminds me that their duo act in Immortal X-Men #2 does not fit very well with X-Men Red continuity right now. I am guessing that X-Men Red is happening some time later and Immortal X-Men has yet to catch up.

    Cable is presented very cartoonishly in this issue. He barely utters a word and seems to use every single opportunity to pose for the camera while checking some gun or another. It may be just to further the perception that Brand is the mover and shaker of their group, I suppose. Al Ewing seems to emphasize pointing clear signs towards the protagonists of his tales. But I find myself wondering if Cable is not quite what or who he seems to be here. The line about the transmode virus keeping his TK in check instead of the other way around was laughable. Has that been established at some point previously? Was it an actual jest hidden in plain sight, perhaps?

  11. Devin says:

    The Celestial that’s been causing conflict back in Avengers/Eternals was called the Progenitor too! It’s probably unrelated to the Progenitors in this story, but I wouldn’t put it past Ewing to use these guys as a way to call the reader’s attention back to the Celestial one.

  12. Mike Loughlin says:

    Luis Dantas: “Not a fan of flaunted-ego Storm. It does not help that she describes herself as an ‘Omega mutant’ and seems to expect respect, even reverence for that.”

    I disagree. The Omega mutant speech was directed at Vulcan, who was causing trouble and flaunting his powers. She put him in his place, but didn’t declaim to the people around her. She said there were “no thrones” on Arakko. Storm even asked permission of the people before interceding. I think she’s learning how to work with the Arakki rather than just rule over them.

    I’m also wondering what Cable’s deal is. I think he’s playing a role, probably to uncover Brand’s plan.

    “The line about the transmode virus keeping his TK in check instead of the other way around was laughable. Has that been established at some point previously? Was it an actual jest hidden in plain sight, perhaps?”

    I don’t know if it’s been phrased that way, but it has been established that Cable uses a good portion of his psi powers to keep the TO virus in check. Stryfe, who doesn’t have the TO virus, was always depicted as more powerful.

  13. Chris V says:

    It was also the story around X-Man. He’s an alternate reality version of Cable who never was exposed to the TO virus. This has allowed his powers to become exponentially greater than Cable. In his ongoing series, it was a running plot that he would also die young because his powers were so great that they would eventually burn out his body.
    At some point, there was a retcon that Apocalypse infected baby Nathan with the virus because he recognized that Sinister had bred the child to be a weapon in order to kill Apocalypse. By infecting Nathan with the TO virus as a child, it would hamper Cable’s development of his psi-powers (he’d have to always use a portion of his concentration and power to stop the virus from spreading), helping to prevent Cable from being able to be the one to kill Apocalypse.

  14. Sam says:

    With the ORCHIS talk, I’m wondering whether they will use Wanda’s spirit gate to bring back the one mutant that could probably help the most in defeating them: Larry Trask.

    I mean, he created the sentinels that beat the X-men before they were talked into fighting the sun. He’s also a precognitive, so he could say “no, sending X-Force in for the millionth time will not work”. I’m sure that Destiny has said the same thing, but Xavier probably ignores her.

    With Moira gone, have they officially said “okay, that no resurrecting precognitives thing is repealed” or have they left it in place to save face?

  15. Devin says:

    In the preview for next week’s Legion of X, Blindfold mentions that the Five told her the precog ban was lifted. It’s still unclear whether that was official Krakoan policy or just an order to the Five.

  16. Chris V says:

    Sam-I don’t think it was ever official policy. It was just something that Xavier and Magneto knew and were working to prevent from happening because of Moira’s order. They never told Mystique it was an official rule, they kept making excuses about why they couldn’t resurrect Destiny yet, but if she followed their orders, they would rush Destiny up the queue (which was all lies). So, now that Moira is gone and Destiny is back, Xavier and Magneto will just stop enforcing the “no precogs” edict.

  17. Paul says:

    There was no official ban on precogs being resurrected – if there had been, Professor X and Magneto could never have used Destiny as leverage over Mystique. They just relied on their control of the queue, and the fact that there were millions of random Genoshans to be resurrected before it was going to get seriously tricky to justify resurrecting Destiny or Blindfold.

    The Five may well know NOW that the precog ban has been lifted, but I don’t think they knew at the time.

  18. Sam says:

    I guess I thought of it as “Resurrections for precogs is banned, but do these jobs for us, and we’ll make an exception for Destiny.”

    Though Tarot did slip through; she read the future in her cards, even if it wasn’t part of her mutation. Speaking of Tarot and the original Hellions, has Emma interacted with any of them other than Empath since they’ve been resurrected? I’m guessing the answer is no.

  19. Mathias X says:

    >> The line about the transmode virus keeping his TK in check instead of the other way around was laughable. Has that been established at some point previously? Was it an actual jest hidden in plain sight, perhaps?

    Cable and Deadpool #10, Burnt Offering, shows Cable without the TO virus is god-like in power–he breaks Silver Surfer’s board–but he is at risk of burning out. He says: “My body can’t handle this kind of energy output. No one born of humans could.” He has himself lobotomized as “the only way to stop his powers from losing control.” Ditto X-Man, who would have blown up by the age of 21–his powers were only stabilized by merging with an alternate version of himself. I don’t know how Stryfe manages, but Cable is reliant on TO to keep his powers in check.

  20. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Honestly I think with the plans drastically being altered because Krakoa is popular and Hickman dipped out we’ll never get a clear answer in the no-precogs stuff.

    There’s certainly plenty of nods in the Hickman set up that Krakoa is only one step in a greater plan by Chuck, Magneto, and/or Moira.

  21. Ben says:

    @Mathias I always thought there was a bit of a parallel between Cable and Franklin Richards, where the next generation of superhumans might end it all. I guess Young Avengers kind of changed the formula, now its more like DC with the various Wolverine or Captain America replacements inevitably being replaced by the original. It’s Barry Allens all the way down for some reason.

  22. MasterMahan says:

    They could say precogs would have derailed Moira’s alleged plan to dose everyone with mutant suppressant, since they’d have been able to notice the lack new mutants before everyone else.

    Mind you, the idea that Moira was secretly planning to betray mutantkind doesn’t make a lot of sense. According to Karima, the mutants were going to win this iteration. If Krakoa was an anti-mutant trap, she *really* messed it up.

    So I agree, @Uncanny X-Ben. Whatever Hickman’s plan was has long fallen by the wayside.

  23. Diana says:

    @Sam: The Krakoa era hasn’t been big on depicting characters’ relationships with each other, so I wouldn’t count on it.

  24. Evilgus says:

    I do like Ewing’s writing. His Manifold was great. Hoping that we get a bit more focus on Frenzy, too.

    One thing I am not keen on is how omnipotent Storm is at this point. Not only is she super powerful but she just can’t put a foot wrong in the other character’s eyes. It’s a bit dull really. Does she have any internal conflict at this point? Or is there mileage in her just having her go mega powerful and lose her humanity/go full Arakki?

  25. Jenny says:

    I believe I read somewhere (I wanna say it was a Lobdell book) that Stryfe’s armor is what keeps his powers under control, but I could be misremembering that.

  26. Mike Loughlin says:

    “ I believe I read somewhere (I wanna say it was a Lobdell book) that Stryfe’s armor is what keeps his powers under control, but I could be misremembering that.”

    The only thing that can hold back the vast psionic powers of the world’s most powerful mutant is… SO! MANY! BLADES!

  27. Mathias X says:

    I like that explanation re Stryfe’s armor, honestly. It’s such a weird character design that giving it an in-universe justification grounds it properly. I’ve never read that anywhere else, but I’m keeping it as my personal canon.

    Stryfe is always such an odd duck for me, because there’s so much inconsistency in the design anyway. (Why does he have a metal arm sometime? What does he have the same facial scarring as Cable?) I’d like to see someone really sit down and try to do a more distinctive design for him as the “peak” Nathan Summers.

  28. YLu says:

    “Though Tarot did slip through; she read the future in her cards, even if it wasn’t part of her mutation.”

    Technically, she’d already been resurrected pre-Krakoa. In an issue of Spider-Man/Deadpool guest-written by Penn of Penn & Teller. Oh comics.

  29. Jon R says:

    @Mike: Of course, all of the blades on Stryfe’s armor are like the cooling fins on a heatsink! They allow him to better dissipate his extra power into the aether harmlessly.

  30. Karl_H says:

    And I believe we have confirmation that the Fisher King is one of the Night Council (as theorized by GN in the comments for last issue) — specifically, the Midnight Seat. “…the unarmed king… who ruled at midnight…”

    Who’s the lion-faced guy who heals Vulcan?

  31. Drew says:

    “”Though Tarot did slip through; she read the future in her cards, even if it wasn’t part of her mutation.”

    Technically, she’d already been resurrected pre-Krakoa. In an issue of Spider-Man/Deadpool guest-written by Penn of Penn & Teller. Oh comics.”

    Hell, if we want to get technical, she was resurrected by Jesse Bedlam’s brother in the “New Hellions” arc of X-Force, a year or so before Counter-X. She never appeared after that and it was never explained how she’d come back, so I believe the fan explanation was that Bedlam resurrected her with his powers and when he lost them, she died again.

  32. neutrino says:

    Tarot isn’t a precog, the other mutants think her card reading is superstition. Even if it worked, it wouldn’t reveal any secrets, as X of Swords showed.

  33. Si says:

    I think all we can say is Tarot doesn’t have a precog *mutant* power. In the Marvel Universe, tarot cards almost certainly work for people who know how to do it, if they have the right juju.

    I don’t know if Tarot the character can make them work or not, but there’s no reason why she couldn’t.

  34. neutrino says:

    But like X of Swords showed, they don’t reveal secrets, like Moira being a mutant or her plans for a mutant cure. Tarot cards are more about the present situation and how it might continue.

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