RSS Feed
Jun 15

X-Men Red #3 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-MEN RED vol 2 #3
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colourists: Federico Blee & Fernando Sifuentes
Letterer & production: Ariana Maher
Designers: Tom Muller with Jay Bowen
Editor: Jordan D White

COVER / PAGE 1: Magneto fights Tarn. This is misdirection – the fight does happen in the issue, but it doesn’t go anything like this.

PAGE 2. Cable is resurrected.

The opening four panels are Cable’s life flashing before his eyes, presumably as his memories are downloaded back into him. From left to right, we have a panel of Nathan as a baby, presumably being held by his mother Madelyne Pryor. It could be Jean Grey, who looked after him for a while, but we can see Wolverine’s hand in the foreground, which strongly suggests that it’s very soon after his birth. Next is the Kid Cable from the recent solo series, followed by the classic Cable in his Liefeld costume, and finally Cable dying in the previous issue (though come to think of it, he shouldn’t remember that).

PAGES 3-4. Cable and Thunderbird.

Since issue #1, Thunderbird has switched to the new costume that debuted in Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird #1.

Predictably, Cable has quickly figured out that Abigail Brand isn’t to be trusted, and is back working with Manifold (who quit Brand’s X-Men Red team instantly last issue). Note that Cable is using his “stealth arm” to conceal their discussion; on page 1, he says that he specifically asked Hope to bring him back with this equipment, which suggests that he was always expecting to get killed on one of Brand’s missions.

Thunderbird’s interest in all this is less immediately obvious, though he’s clearly taken against Brand in a big way. And quite right too. This scene seems to be telling us that his argument with Cable in issue #1 was staged to provide material for Cable’s cover – though Thunderbird insists that he meant everything he said.

“You and Frost, you used Jimmy.” John is referring to the fact that his younger brother James was recruited into Emma Frost’s Hellions as the second Thunderbird, then went on to join Cable’s X-Force as Warpath. John is basically right that both Cable and Emma enlisted James to help with their own wider agendas, but James was keen to follow in his older brother’s footsteps anyway, as seen in Classic X-Men #3, where he was vowing revenge on Xavier for his brother’s death. In a sense, what John is glossing over is that he was the character most responsible for James going down this route. (Nobody else calls James “Jimmy” apart from John.)

PAGE 5. Recap and credits. The title, “Loss”, refers primarily to the seat which Tarn holds on the Great Ring. According to S.W.O.R.D. #8, the holder is “consulted in dark times of humiliation and pain, when the world has fallen” (it forms part of a trinity with the seat of Victory and the seat of Stalemate). Tarn appears to have claimed this seat as a way of reminding of Arakkans of their loss to him. It also refers to Magneto’s speech about Anya, of course.

PAGE 6. Data page – a poster announcing Vulcan’s challenge to Tarn, as foreshadowed last issue. Note that even though he’s on the Great Circle, Tarn is billed as “Enemy of Arakko.”

In the corners are the words “Destroy Enemies” and “Defend the Land”, which sound a lot like the Arakkan counterparts of Krakoa’s “Murder No Man” and “Respect This Sacred Land” laws. If so, it’s interesting that there’s no mention of the third Krakoan law, “Make More Mutants.”

PAGES 7-8. Storm confronts Abigail Brand.

This is all largely self-explanatory – there’s even a footnote to S.W.O.R.D. #8 for Storm’s previous fight with Tarn. We established in issue #1 that Vulcan is no longer acknowledged by the Shi’ar (and that he doesn’t like that at all).

Abigail’s comments about “someone” having to act like royalty allude to Storm rejecting her “queen” role in issue #1. In fact, of course, it’s Abigail who seems to be acting like royalty here, receiving Storm in a throne room.

PAGE 9. Data page. Mentallo reports back to Abigail Brand on his attempts to surreptitiously scan Vulcan’s mind. Basically, he’s discovered the surface personality that the mystery aliens imposed on Vulcan, as first mentioned in Hickman’s X-Men #10, and recapped last issue. Mentallo suggests that he can train Vulcan to “make better use” of his powers against Tarn, and presumably this is where Vulcan winds up getting the idea for the creative use of his energy-absorption powers that we see later in the issue.

PAGES 10-13. The Brotherhood discuss their next move.

The Fisher King explains that Tarn is absolutely hated and that whoever kills him will be a national hero. Presumably there’s some strong cultural imperative which explains why these challenges have been brought exclusively in the Circle, instead of people just trying to kill Tarn. After all, while Tarn’s body-manipulation powers make him essentially unbeatable in a straight up fight, presumably he could still be shot from a distance.

Storm says that killing Tarn and taking his seat “would have lessened me”, apparently because Tarn surrendered in their fight. This is slightly curious. Ora Serrata, in Legion of X, also seems to suggest that a duel can end by submission – and if the Arakkans do have a powerful urge to stick by the rules, presumably they wouldn’t kill Tarn after surrender for the same reason that they haven’t taken him out with a sniper rifle. Yet the Fisher King seems to be saying that Storm could have killed him and that it would have been recognised as a victory, suggesting that he doesn’t have any cultural problem with the idea. Or maybe he’s just willing to make an exception for Tarn.

Magneto is understandably unsure about all this – not convinced that sticking a second Krakoan on the Great Ring is really the way forward, and perhaps worrying that this is all part of Abigail’s agenda anyway.

“I hear it’s better if you’re an Omega-level mutant…” Though anyone can challenge for a seat on the Great Ring, we’ve been told that only Omega-level mutants have ever actually sat on the council.

“I watched my daughter Wanda build our heaven…” X-Men: Trial of Magneto #5. Wanda isn’t strictly his daughter in current continuity, but that’s been glossed over on the grounds that he treated her as his daughter for long enough that he still thinks of her as such.

Anya is Magneto’s daughter, killed by a lynch mob in the back-up strip in Classic X-Men #12. Since she died young, it was never established whether she was a mutant, but Magneto tells us here that she wasn’t – so despite the introduction of the Waiting Room, she cannot be resurrected.

“You are on the Quiet Council, Ororo – you know the betrayals we’ve suffered.” Presumably referring to Inferno and what the Council learned about Moira there.

Sunspot continues to refer to Magneto as “Headmaster” in reference to his period as mentor of the original New Mutants. He may be making the point that that was also a period where Magneto was trying to retire from action and settle down. And it didn’t stick.

PAGES 14-19. Tarn versus Vulcan.

“Your silly Krakoan eggs.” Resurrection, as seen on page 1. Tarn is also indirectly reminding us that the Arakkans appear not to have any equivalent of resurrection.

“I never died.” Vulcan said this last issue too. Again, he’s referring to the end of War of Kings, where he lost the Shi’ar throne after being banished to the Fault. As Tarn picks up, Vulcan’s point is that he refuses to accept that he lost the throne.

“Ororo’s bartender friend.” Roberto mentioned in issue #1 that he had bought the Red Lagoon bar.

Khora of the Burning Heart was introduced into the cast of S.W.O.R.D. but she’s drifted into the background for a while. That’s probably what she’s referring to when she says that she “miss[es] feeling useful”.

“Didn’t you bring a knife? Who taught you to fight?” Tarn is referring to the way Storm beat him in S.W.O.R.D. #8. But he asks a good question. If the plan was always for them to cancel each other’s powers out, and bringing weapons is allowed, why didn’t Abigail just get him to bring a gun? Did she really think that Vulcan would win this fight, or was she just hoping that he would create an opening? She certainly seems pretty relaxed watching the fight on page 19.

“Praise Tarn.” Tarn’s followers in Hellions said this a lot.

PAGES 20-24. Magneto versus Tarn.

I’m… not convinced Roberto’s plan here works, for a couple of reasons. One, Isca’s power, as defined, is that she can never lose. That doesn’t necessarily mean that she can force her side to win; Hickman’s back story for her makes some play of the fact that she switched sides when Arakko was going to lose the war, because when she couldn’t actually bring about a victory, her power compelled her to join the winning side. If you could manipulate her powers like this then that part of her back story wouldn’t make sense. In fairness, though, that seems to be what she’s yelling about to Storm – that if this does indeed work, what does it say about her that she fought alongside Tarn for so long after her defection?

Two, more fundamentally, she never accepts the bet.

Still, killing off Tarn – who was a big deal in Hellions – is a bold move. And I think probably a smart one since he was overpowered and didn’t necessarily fit in the direction of this book.

PAGE 25. Trailers.

Bring on the comments

  1. Douglas says:

    Wow, this was an incredible issue. I’m so into this series.

    My reading of the final scene is that Roberto realizes that Isca’s power allows her to, at least, bend probabilities such that she doesn’t lose (she only changes sides when it’s impossible for her side to win). And it’s not as if she *could* refuse to accept the bet; she doesn’t get to pick and choose her challenges (beyond recusing herself from votes), and refusing a challenge is anathema to Arakkii. (Her response is to declare it a “challenge by insult” and immediately kill Roberto–but, of course, that was not really the nature of the bet, despite Ora Serrata repeating what she’s heard.)

  2. SanityOrMadness says:

    Two questions about the ending:
    • Does Magneto’s helmet REALLY work like that? I know it’s anti-telepathy, but if it was anti-mental powers in general, surely he couldn’t use his *own* powers while wearing it. (And wasn’t there a thing in X-Men Red v1 where a bunch of characters wore Magneto helmets, including Jean, without losing access to their powers)

    • More tangentially… when was it actually established that Magneto’s helmet was telepathy-proof? I was talking to a guy a while back who thought it was something the comics inherited from the movies rather than the other way around (noting that Juggernaut was the guy with the telepathy-proof helm). I thought it came from earlier, but I couldn’t cite any actual examples…

    Douglas> My reading of the final scene is that Roberto realizes that Isca’s power allows her to, at least, bend probabilities such that she doesn’t lose (she only changes sides when it’s impossible for her side to win).

    I mean, it has to be something like that. Being the Starscreamiest one of all is hardly a power, let alone an “Omega level” power. Plus… what’s stopping someone from shooting a sniper rifle at HER otherwise, never mind Tarn? It’s not a fight if you don’t know you’re in one.

    Paul> …what does it say about her that she fought alongside Tarn for so long after her defection?

    Well, IIRC, Ewing did say something about wanting to remind people that Isca isn’t a good person…

    Oh, and typo in “Note that even though he’s on the Great Circle…”. Ruling council is the “Great Ring” (where the colosseum is the “Circle Perilous”. Arrako apparently like round stuff.)

  3. Chris V says:

    As far as Magneto’s helmet, here is how I read it:

    Lee and Kirby basically intended that all mutants had the power of telepathy. In the earliest X-Men issues, Magneto seemed to be a telepath as well as a have his magnetic powers. He could meet Xavier on the mental plane and he had some degree of protection from telepathy.
    Even during the Claremont run it was just accepted that Magneto had trained his mind to be aware of and protect itself from telepathy.

    At some point, this was ret-conned because Magneto did not have the mutant power of telepathy, obviously. Some writer added the detail that Magneto’s helmet had technology which allowed him to interact with Xavier on the astral plane.
    OK, so that solved one half of the problem. What about Magneto being able to protect himself from telepathic probes?

    I know it was John Byrne who added that ret-con, but I can’t remember in which comic. Byrne simply added that the same technology in Magneto’s helmet also gave him protection from telepathic powers.
    So, it wasn’t until the 1980s that this revelation was made as to Magneto’s helmet. It was then picked up and used in the movies and Ultimate X-Men.

  4. Jenny says:

    I get the feeling, based on Isca’s tears and her and Tarn both saying “not like this” that they had some sort of relationship going on.

  5. Michael says:

    My comment seems to have disappeared.

  6. YLu says:

    According to this column – – Magneto’s helmet wasn’t shown protecting from telepathy until 2014 (though the Ultimate version did it earlier). Which is surprising, because like many I could’ve sworn it predates the movie, not the other way around. I assume the reason so many misremember is they’re mixing up memories of the helmet’s sorta-psychic powers, which ChrisV mentioned.

  7. Si says:

    Back in the original New Mutants, Cable approached James Proudstar to join his nascent X-Force team, and James basically said “Nope. I’m retired.” Then he goes back to the reservation to find everyone murdered, and that’s when he joins Cable, to get revenge. So it’s pretty easy to argue that if Cable hadn’t dangled that carrot in front of him, he might have found a healthier outlet for his grief (plus it always struck me as awfully convenient. Did Cable know the massacre was coming and just let it happen for his own ends?)

    The case for him joining the Hellions is shakier, but you can just about get away with it being Frost also enticing him with revenge, against Xavier.

  8. Jenny says:

    I don’t have my hardcovers on me to check, but “Riot at Xavier’s” from New X-Men has the Omega Gang put a Magneto-designed helmet on Xavier to block his telepathy, which might be why some people misremember?

  9. CitizenBane says:

    I thought Magneto’s strategy to beat Tarn was clever and that Berto’s stunt detracted from it. So if someone says “I bet you win this fight” to Isca, is she forced to lose the fight to win the bet and thereby implode in a paradoxical black hole?

  10. CitizenBane says:

    Also, isn’t Warpath probably the same age as Proudstar by now, or maybe even older? Proudstar keeps talking about him like he’s an easily manipulated child and not a grown man who made his decisions. Wolverine even tried to dissuade him from joining X-Force in the Kyle/Yost run and Jimmy wasn’t having it.

  11. Luis Dantas says:

    I would have to double-check, but IIRC Magneto’s helmet’s ability to block and increase telepathy was established or at least expanded in the original 4-part “Avengers vs X-Men” series. Roger Stern was the writer of the first three issues. At some time in the late 1980s, I think.

  12. Asteele says:

    I am almost positive that Magneto’s helmet protecting him came up in the comics before the movies. In any case I am completely positive it did so in the 1980s Marvel tole playing game. They must of gotten the idea from somewhere.

  13. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    A good issue overall, but yes the Roberto plan doesn’t track.

    It’s a Doctor Who reveal.

    It’s flashy and interesting until you think about it for ten seconds, then you realize it’s nonsense.

    Why did Magneto’s entirely reasonable plan even need any help?

    Also I just hate resurrection now. Two characters were brutally killed but will be fine next issue.

    They won’t even have trauma from it because they won’t remember.

    Or maybe they do remember now because everyone goes to the waiting room now?

    Or do they?

    Do they need crystals and back ups anymore?

    How do the Five/Xavier download “souls” from the Waiting Room exactly?

    How does any of this work!?

    Oh God…. Krakoa is Doctor Who!

  14. Jon R says:

    Well, if nothing else Isca’s reaction gave a very good reason why no one else would dare to try that cheat on her. Did it actually do anything? She obviously believes that it did, but from what we’ve seen of her, she feels very strongly about how powerful and adaptable her weapon is and so might just be letting her ego talk.

    I agree in retrospect with Jenny, and that it does sound like she had some sort of relationship of whatever type with Tarn. The ending bits of how she can’t lose fit that, and make a good counterpart to Berto’s winning by losing.

    I really hope that she returns, because that’s a very strong setup for her going against Berto and Magneto in the long term. The thing that seems to be the center of her character and personality got turned against her with a few words.

    And man do I love seeing Ewing’s Roberto again. Whether or not his ploy worked, that was a pretty strong power move to tilt the scales, and the pacing of it with several scenes over the fights was excellent.

  15. MasterMahan says:

    My interpretation of Isca’s power is that it forces her to act in such a way that she never loses. In a fight, she uses the right moves to win. When she played the pick-the-cup game with Magik, it made her pick the right ones. That’s why her power forces her to change sides – it’s always forcing her to act a certain way. Think Contessa from Worm if you’re familiar.

    So I say Isca wasn’t shocked because Roberto is the first person in millennia to try something that obvious. She was shocked to discover her powers would let her accept that bet, meaning Tarn was going to die.

    I hope that’s the case, at least, because otherwise it really is a Doctor Who reveal.

  16. Mike Loughlin says:

    MasterMahn said what I was going to say about Isca, namely that I think her powers make it so she can’t help but win. Her having a prior romance or friendship with Tarn didn’t occur to me. I thought part of the insult, however, was Roberto trying to use her power to force a Magneto win. Or to try to cause a paradox that forces her to “shut down.” Her reaction and screaming that she can’t lose indicated that she was having a breakdown because her power compelled her to act and that she had little or no controi.

    Anyway, I loved this issue. The Magneto vs. Tarn fight was sublime. Magneto’s speech about Anya was heartbreaking. The art was great throughout. The Roberto/ Isca scene was flawed in that the intended effect was unclear, but I’m patient enough to see if there’s a clearer explanation in the future.

  17. S says:

    Roger Stern’s “Avengers Vs X-Men” definitely doesn’t give the helmet mental protection powers – the helmet has electronics that can affect other people’s minds, but nothing on the protection front.

  18. Michael says:

    @SanityOrMadness- the guy were talking to was right- it was from the movies. In the comics. the first time the helmet was shown to block telepathy was in New X-Men 137. in 2003. (The movies introduced the idea the helmet blocked telepathy in 2000.) In that story, Quenin Quire blocks Xavier’s powers by placing the helmet on him. In fact, before New X-Men 137. we were shown scenes where telepaths had trouble reading or controlling Magneto’s mind where he clearly wasn’t wearing the helmet.

  19. Michael says:

    It’s clearly Maddie in the flashback and not Jean- if you look carefully you can see that the blue in the flashback is meant to be Nightcrawler. Since the 1992 Marvel Comics Presents story featuring Kurt and Wolverine is treated as the first time they’ve met since the Mutant Massacre, and that story takes place after Baby Cable was sent to the future, this flashback takes place before the Mutant Massacre.

  20. Michael says:

    That was weird- I couldn’t get my comment to post until I split it up into two posts. Anyone else have that problem?>

  21. Bengt says:

    Good issue. Isca’s powers are weird, I hope MasterMahan’s interpretation is correct as that makes them less wonky. 🙂

    I wonder how Vulcan’s “mind overlay” will affect his personality when he is resurrected.

  22. Mark Coale says:

    It’s funny how much better these books are when they’re written by good writers (in my book).

    Loved the end.

  23. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I love the first issue, second had too much fighting, not enough scheming, but this, this was amazing. Both the fighting and the scheming, but the character work! Fantastic. I’m so glad Ewing’s Roberto is back. The Anya speech – the writing is good, but it’s the art that elevates it. Great choices on how to prezent Magneto from panel to panel.

  24. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    *loved, present; phone’s autocorrect has it in for me

  25. Jim Harbor says:

    >In the corners are the words “Destroy Enemies” and “Defend the Land”, which sound a lot like the Arakkan counterparts of Krakoa’s “Murder No Man” and “Respect This Sacred Land” laws. If so, it’s interesting that there’s no mention of the third Krakoan law, “Make More Mutants.”
    The three laws of Arrako are.
    1) Make more mutants; 2) Destroy all enemies; 3) Defend Arakko.

  26. Si says:

    Are the Arrako laws based on the Krakoa ones, or is it another huge coincidence?

  27. Karl_H says:

    >> It’s funny how much better these books are when they’re written by good writers (in my book).

    Seriously, my three favorite writers all got pulled onto the X-books at the same time. It’s fantastic.

  28. Jon R says:

    Thinking it through, Isca and Tarn having a relationship of some sort makes sense. If Isca wants a long-term connection with someone, Tarn is both powerful enough to not die and his loyalties are as flexible as hers. Isca can be forced to turn against her side if they’re losing, but Tarn will do that for pragmatism.

  29. Salomé H. says:

    I quite enjoyed the issue, and I’m glad there’s someone with actual skill and imagination dealing with the potential clusterfuck of high fantasy nonsense that Arakko could easily devolve into. It very much lacks nuance, but it’s becoming more interesting, and I can imagine it being a distinctive enough set-up to hold up over time as a part of mutant world-building.

    Even then, that would take some large scale rebuilding of the architecture of mutant lore – but I suppose that is already under way.

    I can’t with the Isca bit though. It’s a shame, because I love the dramatic impact of it and the execution is just beautiful. But Ewing seems to be departing from some sort of equivocal understanding of performative utterances.

    Even if we read Isca’s power as an impersonal compulsion to win, inscribed into her physical presence in the universe and seperate from her will, the trigger doesn’t make sense. A bet isn’t a challenge, unless it’s accepted. And Isca has no logical reason here to do anything but say: “No need to”.

    Doing so isn’t conceding defeat. It’s just rejecting the invitation in the first place, because it’s redundant and meaningless. This could only really work if Isca’s power compels her to compete or combat even where there is no need to do so… But has that ever been established?

  30. Salomé H. says:

    (Trying to think what could work, rhetorically… But nothing really holds up.)

  31. Mathias X says:

    I don’t necessarily think Roberto’s bet actually did anything to Isca’s powers, I think it just introduced massive cognitive dissonance and punched her ego by showing that her powers have limits. In other words, by showing her a way she can be beaten, she’s now taken a punch to centuries of self-confidence. So more like moving the Blob or stopping the Juggernaut than using a word game to fix reality.

    I can’t imagine Tarn is fully dead. As Sinister has ways to self-resurrect with his clones, I think Tarn, as his Arakko equivalent, would have set up something similar.

  32. heartstone says:

    “I don’t necessarily think Roberto’s bet actually did anything to Isca’s powers, I think it just introduced massive cognitive dissonance and punched her ego by showing that her powers have limits. In other words, by showing her a way she can be beaten, she’s now taken a punch to centuries of self-confidence. ”

    That was my idea too. Isca says that Tarn will win, and she cannot lose and thus cannot be wrong.
    But when Roberto bets that Tarn will win, she suddenly loses in any scenario:
    – If Tarn loses, she was wrong with her statement.
    – If Tarn wins, she loses the bet.
    Isca cannot accept that, if only because it could destroy the legend around her powers, so her only way out is to kill the person responsible for the conundrum.

  33. Karl_H says:

    >> She was shocked to discover her powers would let her accept that bet, meaning Tarn was going to die.

    This adds a weird kind of precognition to her powers, but I think this is better than saying that what Roberto did somehow affected the fight. It gives Magneto his win, and gives Roberto a good cheeky moment.

  34. Person of Con says:

    FWIW, in the 2012 X-Men: Season One by McKelvie and Hopeless, Magneto forces his helmet on Xavier to block his mental powers, much as he did with Tarn here. No idea if the book’s considered canon in anyway, though.

  35. Person of Con says:

    I guess Michael’s comment covers/predates it. NM.

  36. Manu says:

    General question as I’ve only read on/off the current X-Men status: Why does Cable still suffer from the T/O virus if he can be resurrected permanently? Has that been explained?

  37. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    The resurrectees opt to be brought back as they were since it’s tied to who they feek they are.

    Also marketing and licensing opportunities, Cable’a metal arm is his trademark.

  38. Michael says:

    Brand theorized that it’s because Cable’s technoroganic infection keeps him from burning out like Nate Grey.

  39. Taibak says:

    I always thought Cable’s trademarks were the star over his eye and the absurdly large guns.

  40. Mathias X says:

    In the Cable & Deadpool story, Burnt Offering, Cable is free of the TO virus and sets up a suicide play because he knows he’s burning out.

  41. Evilgus says:

    This issue was great. I really want to single out Caselli’s art in particular – he’s so good at expressive, distinct faces. It really helps Ewing’s storytelling.

    Brand is becoming so dislikeable, isn’t she?

    And this is taking characters in such interesting ways. I’ve never really latched onto Sunspot as a character but I’m getting it now.

    Just hope we get a bit more of Frenzy and some of the others, in due course.

    I feel like all this world building can only result in a fight again between Arrako and Krakoa… But I’m there for that, once we’ve developed all the relationships.

  42. JDSM24 says:

    Here’s a dark possibility: Tarn is an obvious sexual predator and Isca’s power caused her to Stockholm Syndrome for him , ever since she defected to work for Amenth 11& Annihilation (of which Tarn was apparently their no.1 collaborator) LOL

    And as both Steve Orlando and Jordan White and Al Ewing said in interviews with AIPT, for John P , even thought its been literally years or decades since he died , for him , its only been weeks or months since he died (the events of Necrosha and Chaos War nonwithstanding), so of course , he still views James P as this pubescent-teenager, and indeed, James has been shown in both New Mutants and Giant Size Thunderbird , to emotionally regress to the same kid he was when John died, when James is in John’s presence (a common global real-life phenomenon between adults and their older family/relatives/authority figures) which cannot really be psychologically healthy moving forwards

Leave a Reply