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Jun 29

X-Men Red #4 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-MEN RED vol 2 #4
”Three Short Stories About Death”
Writer: Al Ewing
Artists: Juann Cabal, Andrés Genolet & Michael Sta. Maria
Colourist: Federico Blee
Letterer & Production: Ariana Maher
Design: Tom Muller withJay Bowen
Editor: Jordan D White

COVER / PAGE 1. Sunspot is resurrected at the feet of Rockslide.

PAGE 2. The Great Ring begin their discussion.

Magneto took the “Seat of Loss” – Tarn’s seat – by killing him last issue.

PAGE 3. Recap and credits. The “Meanwhile, elsewhere in the cosmos” paragraph relates to events from other books. The “recent assassination of the Shi’ar empress and Xavier’s daughter, Xandra”, is the as-yet-unresolved cliffhanger of Marauders #3. The “secret of mutant resurrection [was] revealed on Earth” in X-Men #12.

“Because I could not stop for death…” is the opening line of a poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), the rest of the sentence being “he kindly stopped for me.” Obviously, that has some resonance in the Krakoan era.

PAGE 4. Data page, explaining the Arakkii attitude to death and resurrection.

The White Sword is a character first introduced in Hickman’s X-Men #12 and who appeared as one of the Arakkii champions in “X of Swords”. He was a healer who resurrected his “One Hundred Champions” every morning so that they could continue the endless war. It was always fairly clear that the Arakkii weren’t massively keen on this practice, which feeds into the fact that (despite being in many ways an obviously parallel society to Krakoa) they have no resurrection and have shown no interest in getting it.

Of course, just because they haven’t asked, doesn’t mean that Xavier isn’t recording them anyway. It’s not as if he was going around getting consent forms signed when he started using Cerebro.

At any rate, Ora Serrata’s argument here is that life is meaningless without the threat of death, and that the symbolism and significance of combat to the death is undermined when a participant knows they can simply be brought back. That’s just the Crucible, after all. And while Ora Serrata at least claims to be comfortable having Krakoans around, it’s another matter whether they’re fit for a governing position in this society.

One might reasonably ask why this question didn’t come up when Storm was acclaimed as regent, but Ora Serrata may be worrying that when you have two Krakoans on the Ring – both winning their seats in mortal combat that was ultimately risk-free – it really is starting to set a precedent.

PAGE 5. Isca comments.

Isca claims that she would win any debate on the necessity of loss that she chose to participate in. From what we know of her history, that doesn’t necessarily mean that her preferred side would win the argument. She might just be compelled to support the side that was winning anyway, regardless of her personal view.

Ora Serrata seems entirely open to the possibility that Roberto used Isca’s powers to engineer Magneto’s victory over Tarn last issue. Since this scene shows that she can decline a challenge, presumably Roberto’s bet last issue is to be read as him accepting an offer that she had implicitly put forward, though I’m not sure it really comes across that way. Anyway, Ora seems remarkably relaxed about whether this would undermine the symbolic nature of the single combat; as the Arakkii lawyer, perhaps Ora is simply comfortable that this is covered by precedent, while the resurrection thing is an open question.

PAGE 6. Sunspot is resurrected.

That’s Jean Grey doing the resurrecting.

PAGE 7. The Great Ring’s meeting continues.

Xilo’s point is that if resurrection is objectionable because it means that a Quiet Council member faces no real risk when defending themselves against challenges in the Circle, presumably Isca’s presence on the Council is also objectionable, because Isca’s powers mean she is bound to win any challenge. Isca’s answer is to say that she is merely standing in for the absent Genesis, who remained in Amenth with Apocalypse after “X of Swords” – and she seems surprisingly convinced that Genesis will be back, or better yet, that the whole of Arakko will go back. While Isca was presented as the spokesperson for Arakko in their early appearances, it seems increasingly like she represents a minority opinion.

Arguably Isca could also be defeated by someone turning off her mutant powers, as Vulcan did to Tarn last issue. Nobody suggested that that was against the rules. But presumably if you do that before the fight starts it’s cheating, and if you wait until the bell has rung, Isca’s powers will guarantee (somehow or other) that you never get the chance to turn them off. More plausibly, Isca might argue that she still faces a risk of severe and permanent injury, but then we don’t know how the Arakkii feel about healers.

PAGE 8. Data page – the diplomats attending the meeting with the Shi’ar. As you’d expect, this is largely self-explanatory, and follows the same groupings we’ve seen before.

Dorrek VIII, the current Kree / Skrull Emperor, is Hulkling, formerly of the Young Avengers.

The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda is an empire formed by time-travelling Wakandan colonists which T’Challa wound up running in the previous volume of Black Panther.

Orbis Stellaris is indeed an arms dealer, as established in S.W.O.R.D., where he was an unreliable ally of Henry Peter Gyrich.

Richard Rider is Nova, but since everyone in the Nova Corps is called Nova, they’re understandably referring to him here by his real name. The line that “He stood when all else fell” probably relates to the stories he discusses on page 17.

PAGE 9. Storm and Black Panther talk.

Galactus protocols were mentioned back in the Christopher Priest run as something that the Black Panther had.

Kimoyo is an advanced Wakandan communications system, introduced during the Ta-Nehisi Coates run.

Gentle was indeed established as a Wakandan sleeper agent (long predating Arakko) in the most recent Black Panther #3.

PAGES 10-11. Oracle briefs the diplomats on Xandra’s death.

”Deathbird is missing.” She was kidnapped in Secret X-Men #1. Marauders #1-3 establish that she was kidnapped by the Kin Crimson as part of their scheme to isolate Xandra and make her more pliable.

Superguardians. The members of the Imperial Guard. This is a Grant Morrison-era term.

PAGE 12. Roberto, Jean and Hope talk about Rockslide.

“Back once again for the renegade master.” This is the hook from Wild Child’s “Renegade Master”, which in turn is best known from the Fatboy Slim remix that reached number 3 in the UK in 1998.

“I have a distinct memory of him reading me the riot act for getting killed last time.” Sunspot was among the many characters casually killed off in the run-up to the Krakoan era – specifically, in War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men. We’ve never actually seen his resurrection from that.

Otherworld. The rule that mutants who die in Otherworld can’t be resurrected, except as tenuously related new versions like Rockslide, was established in “X of Swords”.

PAGE 13. Orbis Stellaris speaks.

Obviously, there are unspoken parallels here between the position of Xandra and mutants more generally, particularly if you know that Orbis has been tenuously allied with Orchis.

PAGE 14. Magneto speaks.

Magneto reframes the question – as we’ll see shortly, he does so in a way that means it never has to be answered. However, his basic point is (legally) valid. Ora Serrata’s professed concern was about immortal mutants; any rule ought to be expressed by reference to that, and not by reference to Krakoa specifically.

”The self that draws the soul back to the new body.” That’s the closest we’ve had to a clear explanation of how this back-ups thing works given that the Marvel Universe unambiguously has an afterlife.

PAGES 15-16. Sunspot talks to Wrongslide.

We haven’t seen all that much of Rockslide since his reincarnation beyond a few appearances in X-Factor, which got cancelled not long after. In those, he was practically childlike and unable to communicate. He’s evidently picked up a lot since then, and is keen to distance himself from the previous Santo – not least because he doesn’t want to remind people of their lost friend, or to live his life trying to fill Santo’s role.

Note that when asked to give his name – “the sound that means only you” – Roberto acknowledges his codename but gives his real name as the answer.

PAGE 17. Nova speaks.

“I used the entire Nova Force to help bring the dead of Xandar back to life.” New Warriors #41-42.

“Pretty basic – cloned bodies, mind recordings. You’ve probably got a better way on Krakoa.” On the face of it, no, they don’t – unless the reality-warping contribution of Proteus is adding something material. This is an interesting point, since it suggests that the resurrection technology is not inherently specific to mutants. (The fact that they had back-ups of Wanda, as seen in Trial of Magneto, also tends to suggest that limiting the back-ups to mutants is a matter of choice and perhaps of storage limitations.)

“Then the Annihilation War happened…” Xandar was destroyed again in Annihilation: Prologue. Again, the subtext here is that Krakoan-style resurrection technology didn’t do Xandar a whole lot of good in the long run. They’re immortal as individuals but not as a race.

PAGES 18-19. Storm points out that Xandra will have been resurrected already.

Obviously, this is what was occupying Professor X when he failed to attend Sunspot’s resurrection.

The Reckoning refers to the recent “Reckoning War” storyline in Fantastic Four.

PAGE 20. Sunspot and Rockslide talk.

Asserting that death is an inherent part of life and that the Five cannot ultimately remove it.

PAGES 21-22. Magneto surrenders his and Storm’s immortality.

Magneto expands somewhat on his own reasoning, suggesting that he’s worried about what he could become in the long run. Storm’s reasons – beyond the surface one of appeasing Arakkii sensibilities – may be covered in due course.

“There are other ways back… My daughter built one.” Referring to the Waiting Room established by the Scarlet Witch (Magneto’s de facto daughter) in X-Men: Trial of Magneto #5. In Trial #5, we were told that Wanda had enabled Cerebro to scan past mutants – hence creating back-ups for them. Presumably Magneto means that in principle Cerebro could go back and scan him again, even after his death – at least following further magical intervention. He also helpfully clarifies here that not all past mutants were added to the resurrection queue – Trial #5 actually says that Wanda “allow[ed]” Cerebro to scan for “every mutant” not previously catalogued, but strictly speaking it never said that Cerebro actually had scanned them.

PAGES 23-24. Sunspot and Rockslide.

Rockslide sees his own continued resurrection as selfish; he wants to share the world with  future generations (in the form of future incarnations of him) rather than hold onto it forever.

Bringing this gentle soul to Arakko feels like it would solve his problem of reminding people of Santo, but cause vast new difficulties of fitting in. Mind you, he certainly fits the “broken land” theme.

PAGE 25. Trailers.


Bring on the comments

  1. Ceries says:

    Orbis Stellaris raises a good point that nobody else really addresses, which is that Krakoan resurrection means they essentially control the Shi’ar Empress-yet another mutant on yet another throne. Also, he’s right that the Shi’ar are rotting from the inside out due to intense social stratification, like we saw in Hickman’s X-men, and keeping Xandra on top and immortal is basically a bandaid.

    Storm telling the assembled that mutants will do what they want-in this case, that they’ll keep an immortal sovereign on the Shi’ar throne, making them culpable for all the evils and goods she might oversee-strikes me as another moment that superficially reads as empowering but on deeper investigation reads as quite sinister. Back in SWORD, Brand was portrayed as having crossed a line by taking measures to put a sovereign of her choosing on the throne of the Zn’rk-one who owes her everything. Now Storm is saying that Xandra, too, will owe Krakoa everything…

  2. K says:

    A remarkably cathartic issue that effectively interweaves three stories for emotional impact without skimping on actual plot development.

    This really is Ewing firing on all cylinders.

  3. Joseph S. says:

    “Xilo’s point is that if resurrection is objectionable because it means that a Quiet Council member faces no real risk…”

    I think you meant the Great Ring here, Paul, no?

    Anyway yes, I agree with K, Ewing very adeptly propells his story forward while weaving together various subplots, including the largely forgotten Wrongslide. What a clever and subtle way of commenting on resurrection. Really, the Arraki are perfectly situated to undercut the Utopianism of Krakoa. Looking forward to seeing where this series goes next.

  4. Jon R says:

    It was really nice to have people start to talk about the long-term implications of immortality. No one needs to have answers, and probably shouldn’t have, but hearing people have opinions rather than a party line was very good.

    I was also happily surprised at how much this took the cliffhanger-ball from Marauders and ran with it, with Xandra. I was expecting there’d be a fakeout/illusion/whatever with the end of Marauders, or a followup after the arc was done about resurrecting her. Following up here immediately was a good choice.

  5. Mike Loughlin says:

    I like Legion of X, more than most readers I think, because it tackles big topics. Religion, law enforcement, trippy sci-fi- Spurrier & co are not afraid, even if their reach exceeds their grasp.

    X-Men Red is trying something similar, but Ewing & co have a much better grasp on the subject matter. Politics, culture clash, depression, death, even more trippy sci-if- the X-Men Red creative team (especially Ewing) has, so far, carried plot and character beats through to logical, well-considered conclusions while adding new elements of tension for each solution. I wish this book & Immortal X-Men were bi-weekly, alternating weeks.

  6. Diana says:

    @Ceries: Presumably the counterargument there is that Xandra didn’t die of natural causes – she was murdered, and specifically murdered due to her involvement in mutant affairs. In fact, aside from Somnus, have the resurrection protocols ever been used for mutants who died natural deaths? Even Jason Wyngarde was a victim of the Legacy Virus.

    The biggest problem I have with this setup (well, second-biggest – Arakko being Planet Itchy-and-Scratchy remains the #1 thorn in my side) is that resurrection functions best as a tacit acknowledgment that we’re not doing convoluted comeback scenarios for the X-Men anymore. Magneto’s whole scene here is just ridiculous, because who actually believes that if he or Storm were to die in the next few issues they’d *never* come back? It’s pointless stakes

  7. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I feel like I have to keep telling myself ‘it’s only been a few issues, this might turn mediocre or outright bad at any moment’ to lower my expectations, because if I don’t I start wondering when was the last time I enjoyed two titles in the x-line as much as Red and Immortal. If they were contemporary with Hellions I’d be wondering if it’s not my favourite x-lineup ever.

    But it’s only been a few incredible issues. I might sour on it any day now.

    …but it is not this day.

  8. Mike Loughlin says:

    Diana: “Magneto’s whole scene here is just ridiculous, because who actually believes that if he or Storm were to die in the next few issues they’d *never* come back? It’s pointless stakes.”

    I get what you’re saying, but Magneto destroying his and Storm’s backups only have to convince the Arakki, not the reader. I want to see what happens when they come back, and how that effects their role in Arakki society as well as Arakko’s relationship with Krakoa.

  9. Mike Loughlin says:

    Krzysiek Ceran: same, and I put New Mutants on a tier slightly below Immortal & Red. Sabretooth also belongs in the top tier (another great issue today). Those are the A+ to A- books.

    Legion of X, Marauders, and X-Men go in the B+ to B- range. Wolverine ranges from B+ to C-. X-Force had some A art on B- stories. Without Cassara, it’s in the Cs. I should drop it but I’ve got some sunk-cost issues with the series. Not reading Knights of X.

  10. Everett K. Ross says:

    Microscopic quibble: Christopher Priest had the Black Panther using Kimoyo as far back as BLACK PANTHER v2 #1 in 1998.

  11. NS says:

    I enjoyed the issue, but found a few things odd. When Magneto destroyed the last backups, does that mean there aren’t any older ones, or that he just destroyed the current ones and that there will be no more going forward? If old backups still exist, they can still be resurrected. They don’t need the most recent backups to be resurrected. Not to mention, who actually thinks Xavier would not back them up without their knowledge anyway given that they are omegas?

    Also, we have no confirmation that Xandra is dead and this could be a problem going forward. This is what X-Factor was for, to confirm the deaths. Have she and Xavier even met on panel yet? It’s a bit weird for him to be this concerned for her.

  12. Jenny says:

    Nova’s mention of his therapist refers to #6 of Ewing’s GOTG. Relatedly, the “He stood when all else fell” bit is something that’s popped up before in Ewing (and maybe others, it feels like a very Dan Abnett-y line) works about Nova, referring to how he was one of the few heroes at the time to survive the Annihilation Wave.

  13. Jenny says:

    On another, entirely unrelated to X-Men topic: litearlly only just finding out that not only has most of Reckoning War already come out, but Slott is leaving FF in August? Did that dumb retcon he pulled with Franklin Richards actually go anywhere?

  14. SanityOrMadness says:

    It’s interesting that Storm pulls out the old “Xavier is the most powerful telepath” line, when Hickman explicitly left him off the Omegas list (in favour of Jean as the omega telepath).

  15. SanityOrMadness says:

    (Of course, Magneto also describes Forge as “our Omega technopath” – but Hickman also explictly excluded Forge from the Omegas list, but for a different reason: basically, that the likes of Reed Richards could outdo him even *without* a mutant power to design stuff)

  16. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Another strong issue.

    Yeah I thought Kimoya has been around for a while.

    Nova is basically the most famous borderline Christlike space hero now. Ewing really leans into it. I hope he ditches that God awful GotG jacket though.

    Didn’t Somnus due of old age or am I misremembering?

    Yeah everything Storm does this issue is pretty menacing.

    Does she not understand the irony of her bending over backwards to please Arakko and be one of them while also being somehow in charge of the solar system?

    Which a small group of unelected heroes and villains decided for everyone, while scorning everything not mutant?

    I like that Ewing has been giving the villains logical and legitimate reasoning.

    First Doom, then Brand, now Disco Ball.

  17. Luis Dantas says:

    I will have to find out what else Al Ewing has written. This is good writing. Everyone has a distinctive voice and personality. I am even wanting to see more of freaking Magneto and freaking Storm in self-important mode. That is some feat. Never happened before.

    To be sure, I liked Roberto and Wrongslide’s scenes more. Wonderful characterization. Roberto’s respect for Wrongslide’s plight comes across very clearly and is very welcome.

    Also good: Arakko’s take on things. This issue has marvelous objections to the naive ressurrection culture of Krakoa.

    If this is what we get from breaking Hickman’s plans for the X-Men, then it was probably very much worth it.

  18. YLu says:

    Under Priest, kimoyo was the “kimoyo cards,” devices that felt like cool sci-fi at the time but from a 2022 perspective are basically touchscreen cellphones, almost uncannily so. It was a later writer (Coates?) who redefined the term as referring to Wakanda’s communications network.

    When Magneto’s talking about not wanting to live forever, I took the “life after life” line to indicate he’s specifically thinking of Moira as the cautionary tale of how twisted immortality can make someone.

    Another great issue, I thought. And a great proof of concept of the rich storytelling possibilities the whole resurrection dealio opens up.

  19. Asteele says:

    In a meta sense Magneto and Storm are definitely taking the Mickey. They can give up their “immortality” but how long would they really stay dead (1 -2years maximum?). When any of these Arrako guys die we may very well never see them again.

  20. Chris V says:

    Luis-Most of Ewing’s work for Marvel is worth reading. I consider his current X-work to actually be some of his weakest writing.
    I would start with Loki. I definitely recommend his Ultimates and consider it his best comic (it’s not part of the Ultimate Universe). From there, he is probably most famous for his Immortal Hulk series. He’s one of the few writers who managed to make the Inhumans interesting to me in The Royals. His recent Defenders mini was fun. Mighty Avengers is worth a read.

  21. Suzene says:

    Ewing’s creator-owned “We Only Find Them When They’re Dead” is fantastic sci-fi. I’d recommend it over even most of his Marvel work (and I like his Marvel work!).

  22. Si says:

    In the comics, unless you’re Gwenpool, you’re not going to know that Magneto and Storm will come back to life anyway.

  23. Diana says:

    @Si: Nnnno, X-books have on more than one occasion had characters sitting down and openly talking about how many times various teammates have died and come back. It may have been with a wink and a nudge before, but Ewing’s treating it with a level of gravitas that doesn’t even make sense in-universe.

  24. Drew says:

    @Si: To be fair, isn’t Gwenpool living on Krakoa now? She’s probably walking around blabbing genre conventions to everyone.

    “Thanks for the Mai Tai, Blob! Man, it’s gonna suck in a few years when this all collapses and you’re back to being a villain.”
    “I’m sorry, what?!”

  25. JDSM24 says:

    DS’s retcon led to Reed Richards whispering something inaudible to Charles Xavier at the 1st HellFire Gala Tsk Tsk

    BTW theres an obvious “Out” of the Retcon: RR’s own mutant-detecting/mutant-depowering device which CX mindwiped from him , and RR and Sue Storm’s own desire for Franklin Richards NOT to even visit the orgy island of Krakoa for at least a couple more years , until he either became a Legal Adult by American Law or reached the Age of Universal Sexual Consent in New York State (depends on what you think is FR’s age right now , whether 15 or 16) LOL

    And even if MAXneto refuses to be resurrected again , theres always his much younger, much nicer, much stronger clone , Joseph , who Marvel did-dirty when they brought him back during the Utopia Era only to become a crazy-Sephiroth analogue in order to prop-up Erik’s upteenth heel-face-turn at that time tsk tsk

  26. M2 says:

    The design of the new individual Storm/Magneto backups look a lot like the first of elder’s seer-self from the X3 timeline in HoX/PoX. Not the same, but similar enough to wonder if it was intentional or lazy.

  27. wwk5d says:

    “isn’t Gwenpool living on Krakoa now? She’s probably walking around blabbing genre conventions to everyone.”

    Have she and Deadpool met up yet? Because if they haven’t…

  28. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    They met way back in Hasting’s Unbelievable Gwenpool.

  29. Paul says:

    Deadpool and Gwenpool met in her solo series. The angle was that he was the one character in the Marvel Universe that she *didn’t* know all that much about, because she didn’t really like his book.

  30. YLu says:

    “It may have been with a wink and a nudge before, but Ewing’s treating it with a level of gravitas that doesn’t even make sense in-universe.”

    As you say, that was just a wink and nudge. Characters might joke that the doomsday device timers always stop in the last few seconds, but that doesn’t mean they genuinely believe it’s some inescapable law of the universe.

  31. Michael says:

    I just thought of something. Last issue, Magneto is jealous of Northstar since Northstar’s infant daughter can be resurrected through the Waiting Room but Magneto’s daughter Anya can’t because she’s not a mutant. But this issue, Magneto says you can only be resurrected through the Waiting Room if you WANT to be resurrected. How can an infant want to be resurrected? Or maybe the “wanting” rule only applies if you’re over a certain age?

  32. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I’m pretty sure there were scenes of telepaths touching infant minds and being overwhelmed by their incandescent beauty or something. With baby Nathan, maybe? Anyway, I guess it can be interpreted as a yearning to live and explore and whatnot. Also, children get freebies all the time. I bet resurrection is the same as them not having to pay bus fare until they’re 4.

    Two points I forgot to mention earlier – while ‘He stood when all else fell and we remember’ refers to Annihilation War, as mentioned, I think it specifically refers to Rider’s role in the war – he was the leader of the united front, and especially early on he was the one who regrouped the fleeing survivors and organized resistance.

    First time it comes up – not as this particular line, which I think is an Ewing invention, but as a scene of aliens honoring Rider for his part – is IIRC in the short lived Nova vol 7. Sam Alexander comments ‘I think they remember’. (It’s in issue #2).

    The other point – I loved everything about the Sunspot/Wrongslide scenes except for the way not-Santo is drawn. He looks like a grey Groot, which is funny considering he already had to be redesigned once so he didn’t look like a grey Thing.

    And while the current redesign comes from X of Swords, back then he got the new head shape he retains here, but he was bulkier and had massive shoulders like pre-death Santo. Here he’s a bit slimmer and that little difference is enough to make him just a grey Groot.

    Still. Loved those scenes. I was a fan of old Rockslide – or to be precise, of the Rockslide & Anole duo – and it wasn’t great when Santo was randomly selected to be killed off to raise the stakes of XoS. At least his story was supposed to continue in X-Factor, except that was canned.

    So I’m happy it gets picked up at all – but to have it picked up by Ewing is probably the best result I could have hoped for.

  33. Evilgus says:

    Completely concur with K’s comment.

    I’ve been thinking about this issue for a while. It was just excellent! Packed in so much for what is essentially talking heads. Three distinct stories that moved the theme and characters on, and grappled with the morality of the option of functional immortality. Great stuff! Enhanced by top notch, facially expressive artwork.

    And it used ‘Wrongslide’ in a meaningful way. And it picked up another plot (Xandra assassination) and effortlessly ran with it. I was so impressed with how Ewing dealt with crossovers during SWORD. He’s very good. This and Immortal X-Men are such standouts.

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