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Jul 21

Knights of X #4 annotations

Posted on Thursday, July 21, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

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

“The Seat of the Self”
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Bob Quinn
Colourist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Design: Tom Muller
Editor: Sarah Brunstad

COVER / PAGE 1. Betsy walks towards an (empty) Siege Perilous, surrounded by shards with images of the rest of the cast.

PAGE 2. Arthur’s forces continue their attack.

PAGES 3-4. Recap and credits.

PAGES 5-6. Jim Jaspers makes a portal to Mercator for the remaining Knights of X.

The sacrifice. We established last issue that Apocalypse’s grimoire predicted that a sacrifice would be required in order to get into Mercator; Rictor spent most of last issue thinking it could be him, until Gambit got killed in action instead. As Meggan reminds us, we established during “X of Swords” that mutants who die in Otherworld can’t be resurrected, except as rebooted blank slates.

Meggan is the only character who shows the conventional no-man-left-behind superhero reaction to a teammate dying. I pointed out back during issue #1 that she seemed to show up for the team gathering alongside Gambit, but she’s also just the most straightforwardly nice of the group.

Kylun thinks for some reason that the Siege Perilous offers the best chance of helping Gambit, but quite why is anyone’s guess. Maybe he figures that the Siege is used to reboot people in new lives (as seen in 1989/90 Uncanny), and so that potentially interacts with Otherworld’s resurrection rules… somehow?

PAGES 7-8. Arthur’s forces pursue them through the portal.

Mercator. This is the first time we’ve seen Mercator, which is apparently just the Siege Perilous writ large. The idea that “the Siege forces you to contend with your deepest, innermost self” is broadly the theme of the various Claremont-era reincarnations. The man in the suit is Absolon Mercator, the reality-warping omega mutant who runs Mercator.

PAGE 9. Data page – a letter from Arthur to Merlyn. Despite Absolon’s dismissal of Arthur in the previous scene, Arthur comes across rather better here, turning away from Merlyn’s agenda and stressing his perceived duties as king and father. So who knows, maybe Arthur will come out of the Siege Perilous in better shape than Absolon expects.

PAGE 10. Rictor in Mercator.

We’re now going into a series of one-page vignettes of each of the cast members in Mercator, which is a pretty sketchy way of having them confront their “deepest, innermost self”. This book has one more issue to go and I can’t help feeling this was meant to play out over a much longer timescale.

Anyway, since Rictor’s powers are a kind of earth-moving, it’s ironic for him to be stuck in mud. He’s still loudly proclaiming his willingness to be the sacrifice, and being told by “Apocalypse” to stop aiming for a heroic demise that is no longer possible in Krakoa. (Um, except in Otherworld.) Rictor’s Apocalypse claims sole credit for Krakoan resurrection, despite actually having little or nothing to do with the technology.

PAGE 11. Meggan in Mercator.

Meggan’s scene involves a Brian who veers from affection to disdain; despite her insistence that “My Brian would never silence me like that”, there was always an uncomfortable power imbalance in their relationship, particularly in Excalibur.

PAGE 12. Mordred in Mercator.

We’ve barely got to know this guy, and the fact that we’re racing to some sort of reconciliation with his father really feels like this was meant to come in six issues’ time. Anyway, Mordred’s vision involves him fighting his father, who tells him that they have to become friends.

PAGE 13. Betsy in Mercator.

The Captain Britain Corps show up to deride Betsy’s dreadful performance as a team leader; apparently she sees them, and the Captain Britain role they represent, as a symbol of duty. She “lost Gambit” last issue, and “gave up Shogo” in the sense of leaving him in Roma and Saturnyne’s care in issue #2. There is, obviously, something a bit odd about berating her “search for the Siege” when she’s literally just succeeded in it.

Betsy says that she’s “been here before”, referencing Uncanny X-Men #251 (1989). That’s the issue where she enters the Siege Perilous in order to escape the Reavers; we didn’t actually see her inside the Siege before she emerged in Hong Kong.

PAGES 14-15. Saturnyne and Roma with Shogo.

Again, this feels quite abbreviated. As in the previous issue, Saturnyne and Roma are claiming that experiencing loss is somehow an essential stage in Shogo’s growth. Apparently it’ll allow him to change from a dragon into something a bit more practical. This seems to be something else that Gambit’s sacrifice opens the way for. In the meantime, they all head off to join the finale.

PAGE 16. Rachel in Mercator.

Rachel sees the woman from the previous issue who identifies her as Askani, but since she’s apparently fully aware of her surroundings and making contact with the outside world at the start of the issue, it’s not desperately obvious why she needs the prompt. She’s sent to go and help Betsy but… really, if she’s in a position to monitor events with Shogo, shouldn’t she be paying attention to her own teammates anyway? And in fact, Betsy doesn’t seem to be in any particular need of help – it’s the rest of the team that Rachel rescues.

PAGE 17. Data page: Rachel as the Askani.

This massive infodump is simply a recap of material that was being alluded to in previous issues, and which the book hasn’t had a chance to cover in any other way.

Earth-811 is, obviously, the Days of Future Past timeline.

Variant Rachels. The idea that there are no variants of Rachel was repeatedly stressed in Excalibur, particularly “The Cross-Time Caper”. While an obvious explanation might have been that these other worlds lacked a Rachel because she was a time traveller who wasn’t native to the era – i.e., their local Rachels simply didn’t exist at that point in time – Excalibur made it abundantly clear that Rachel was unique and that this was in some way meant to be significant. The problem with this idea is that it contradicts other stories (most obviously issues of What If…?) in which alt-Rachels do appear. This page attempts to square that point off by claiming that these alt-Rachels are not strictly versions of the same Rachel; they’re very similar-looking sisters who happen to have been given the same name.

“Rachel bravely took Captain Britain’s place when he was condemned to reality exile…” This is Excalibur #75 (1994), an issue which isn’t on Marvel Unlimited and is only really remembered for being an unskippable part of Rachel’s Askani back story.

“A far distant future…” This is the far-future timeline where Cable grew up, but we’re not particularly concerned about that here. It’s a little unusual for this book to go out of its way to remind us of storylines where Apocalypse was a horrific tyrant.

“In her travels, Rachel gathered followers…” This, including the supposed meaning of “Askani”, comes from Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix #1 (1994). However, the Askani’s goal as stated in that issue was not to “defend mutantkind” or to help mutants to thrive; on the contrary, Rachel (as Mother Askani) describes the apocalyptic world around her as one in which Apocalypse has already imposed mutant superiority. Originally, their main agenda is just to overthrow Apocalypse, but the idea that they’re also keen on altering history to prevent Apocalypse’s rise presumably comes from Cable’s return to the present. But that too was more about stopping Apocalypse. Basically, presenting them as some sort of specifically pro-mutant utopians is a retcon.

“Rachel Summers’ unique ability of chronoskimming…” The term comes from Alan Davis’s Excalibur, but it alludes to the time-travel elements that were always present in Rachel’s abilities – her main role in “Days of Futures Past” is to send future Kate’s mind back to the present, after all.

PAGE 18. Shatterstar in Mercator.

He’s fighting Spiral and Adam X in the arenas of Mojoworld, referencing their battle for social media domination in X-Factor #3. Judging from this scene, Shatterstar seems a bit conflicted in his feelings about Rictor, who comes across as decidedly threatening.

PAGES 19-20. Bei in Mercator.

This is a callback to Bei and Cypher’s arranged shotgun wedding in Excalibur #14, as part of the absurdist “X of Swords” tournament, which Saturnyne randomly declared a win for both sides. Presumably, it’s a “compromise” in Bei’s mind because she married a total stranger who doesn’t accord with Arraki standards of heroism, though she seems genuinely affectionate towards him.

PAGE 21. Kylun in Mercator.

Kylun is revisiting his exploits on Ee’rath, the alternate earth where he grew up after being transported by Widget in Excalibur #2 (1988). Sat’neen, the local Saturnyne, was his love interest, and evil sorcerer Necrom was his arch-enemy (who went on to fight Excalibur themselves). Sat’neen was killed by Necrom in Excalibur #46 (1991).

PAGES 22-23. The team reunite.

The Rachel/Betsy relationship has been fairly clearly foreshadowed in the last few issues.

PAGE 24. Shogo, Roma, Saturnyne and Merlyn arrive.

Because there’s only one issue left…

PAGE 25. Trailers.

Bring on the comments

  1. Si says:

    Honestly I don’t understand this hangup people have with the cataloguing of alternate universes. Yes it’s kind of fun to imagine every retelling such as 2099 and MCU and even the real world be literally other branches of reality that can be reached from the 616, but it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

    I mean, the conceit of What If is that they are alternate universes, but the conceit is also that the Watcher regularly sits down and narrates stories to us readers. I don’t see any comics showing Uatu stopping halfway through an encounter with the Fantastic Four to start talking in disjointed sentences to the middle distance, just to preserve continuity. So why not have Rachel be unique in the regular comic?

    (honorable mention to Teen Titans vs Teen Titans Go, where one alternate universe set of Titans were actually made of paper and comic print. Doctor Strange did not have that so he can call it 616 if he wants.)

  2. Josh says:

    This is a bad comic on every level. I hope that they don’t attempt yet another relaunch and point Howard to the door. I love the original Excalibur characters, they actually matter to me. Whatever all of this has been will be happily forgotten. Hopefully whoever handles these characters next is actually interested in said characters, instead of distorting them into shapes that make no sense. That Rictor is now a ‘druid’ will never be anything other than baffling.

  3. YLu says:


    Thank you! I’ve always felt exactly the same way. I’m honestly baffled at those fans complaining about the MCU also being labeled 616 because “that’s taken,” as if the movies and comics actually being part of the same multiverse was ever a real possibility, or for that matter a desirable one.

    Heck, I think there was even an Excalibur letter column that addressed this, where someone wrote in asking about Rachel appearing in What If issues. The editor or whoever basically went, “Look, those are just stories.”

  4. Michael says:

    @Si- The problem is that the Fantastic Four spent several issues of DeFalco’s run fighting the son of an alternate Rachel and an alternate Franklin Richards. That story requires that there be at least one alternate Rachel in the multiverse.
    Although I think the explanation this issue is hairsplitting- it’s not an alternate Rachel- it’s just an alternate redheaded mutant daughter of Scott and Jean named Rachel who has feelings for Franklin just like “our” Rachel. Isn’t that essentially an alternate Rachel?

  5. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    First, Kitty and Rachel forever.

    Second, in a real way it feels like the Betsy character I knew and liked has died an actual death more than characters who actually die.

    They’re never going to let her go back, and she really reads like a completely different person.

    Third, not that I’m actually reading this book.

  6. Jon R says:

    A big problem is that there’s no actual explanation for what it means to be an alternate. You can split hairs with how that Rachel isn’t the alternate of “our” Rachel, and then some other comic will have a Tina Stark treated as an alternate of Tony. How does it work? Is one using a colloquial alternate and the other some stricter definition we’re not privy to? Dunno, and if you’re going to make it an important plot point that Matters then it’s harder to just accept the inconsitency and just relax.

  7. The Other Michael says:

    Somehow I missed that this was downgraded to a mini. That’s a LOT of setup in need of resolution, but I see where Tini Howard is claiming there’s more in store after this so…

    Sadly, she’s down there with Benjamin Percy for my least favorite writers of the Krakoa era, and I’m not sure why they keep getting the high profile work.

    Also, Betsy/Rachel is certainly a pairing. Can’t say it excites me. It feels like it didn’t have a good amount of buildup to suit the characters; it’s like Howard went “they’re both Captain Britain adjacent, they have a connection, let’s kiss.”

  8. Allan M says:

    I don’t think it was a wise choice to do the “team is separated and has to face their deepest fears alone” trope when a) a lot of the cast are barely introduced and/or ciphers and b) you’ve only got half an issue to do it, so everyone’s visions were insanely on the nose. Bei’s face going feral for a panel and the butterflies in the Betsy/Rachel kiss were the only memorable visual flourishes in the issue. The rest is just everyone emoting for a page, usually with minimal background/setting, then on to the next. For a book set in a magic world, it’s very drab.

    It also stuck out for me that Rictor’s continuing to angst about his relationship with Apocalypse and carrying on that legacy. It’s been four years. We still have no explanation of how Apocalypse managed to brainwash or convert Rictor. It happened between issues. God help whoever handles Rictor next. He’s been radically changed and centrally motivated by something unexplained. How do you even move the character forward from that?

  9. Alastair says:

    Excalibur 75 is notable for introducing the character find of 94, Britannic! I still surprised with such a cool and 90s name and look available we have ended up with the full captain Avalon identify when Betsy became Cap.

  10. K says:

    I was just thinking that Claremont would approve of this issue.

    Probably because he set up Betsy and Rachel when he returned to Uncanny.

  11. Luis Dantas says:

    Rachel could use some stability. It wasn’t that long ago that it looked like she and Nightcrawler could become a serious couple. It has been even more recently that she lost X-Factor, which was her best showing in a long while.

  12. Evilgus says:

    Uncanny X-Ben:
    “Second, in a real way it feels like the Betsy character I knew and liked has died an actual death more than characters who actually die.”

    I feel this way too.

    There’s so much wrong with this comic on a basic storytelling front. Skipping scenes, location jumps, lack of character motivation. As Paul points out, there’s no point knowing a character’s deepest fear if they haven’t had any speaking lines until now. Why pack all this in, if you know there was only five issues?

    I like the idea of Betsy as Captain Britain, and I love much of the cast. This doesn’t work.

  13. John Wyatt says:

    This is a mini-series, about to end, but, sadly, Tini Howard says:

    “You’re all loving the book and I’m loving that you’re loving it. I know some people are upset about not seeing a continuation in PREVIEWS, and I get it! This industry is crazy and no one tells anyone anything!

    So I’ll tell you – Knights #5 is the last issue of that book, but we’re not done. We’re about to take Betsy on maybe her greatest ride yet, and some very special people close to her are coming along too – but to do it the way we wanted involved a big ol’ exciting pivot. Our Captain Britain isn’t going away, and I’m not done telling stories with her, and thankfully…Betsy and I seem to be permitted to still do so. We’re happy about it, thanks for coming. Sorry for the stress. Issue #4 is big, you’ll love it, and Bob just turned in what might be the Spread of his Career for issue #5. We love this book.”

  14. Ben says:

    You could maybe do a Richter/Apocalypse story where the four horsemen are all elementals and he’s Earth and Sunfire or Thunderbird 3 is Fire. I’m guessing there’s an Air and Water mutant besides Storm I’m forgetting. The current story is just a complete mess inspite of the attempt at anything long-term.

  15. Taibak says:

    Ben: Wind Dancer and Washout.

    Granted, neither of those have any business being a Horseman, but still….

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