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Sep 2

Knights of X #5 annotations

Posted on Friday, September 2, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

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

“Fort Krakoa”
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Bob Quinn
Colour artist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Design: Tom Maher
Editor: Sarah Brunstad

COVER / PAGE 1: Captain Britain on the throne, flanked by Merlyn and Saturnyne.

PAGE 2. Merlyn is angry.

This is basically a recap page.

“On the way to his last stand, Omniversal Majestor Merlyn has been betrayed.” This is the final issue of Knights of X and it really feels like it’s rushing to a conclusion that it was meant to get to at much greater length. The narrator is having to spell out beats. Merlyn was indeed pursuing Roma and Saturnyne into Mercator at the end of the last issue but there wasn’t anything about it being a last stand. (To be fair, the narrator doesn’t say that Merlyn knew he was on his way to a last stand.) The “betrayal”, I assume, is the letter from King Arthur that appeared as a data page last issue, in which he told Merlyn that he was going his own way to confront Mordred and somehow address his kingdom’s future.

All the stuff about Merlyn’s “ragged army” seems to suggest that Merlyn has been suffering a longer series of reverses rather than just losing the one battle in the Crooked Market. There’s a whole load of missing set up to get to this point, but then that’ll happen when a book gets cancelled with issue #5.

“His most legendary ally, King Arthur of Avalon, is dead in the muck…” What we actually saw last issue was Arthur and his men sinking into a swamp within the Siege, but the dialogue presented it as something that would lead to Arthur “contend[ing] with [his] deepest, innermost self”, rather than killing him.

PAGE 3. Recap and credits.

PAGES 4-5. Mercator explains the Siege Perilous.

This is relatively straightforward: Mercator has used his matter-manipulation powers to turn the Siege Perilous into an entire landscape, presumably because it’s hard to steal a desert. Mercator reminds us that the ground rules of this series are that things in Otherworld have to function by the rules of story, hence the need for a quest and a sacrifice to get into his realm – though he also seems to imply that this is something to do with Merlyn’s spell. This kind of explains why Mercator has been sealed off until now, though it doesn’t really explain what happened to the previous inhabitants.

“Gambit tried to use the Death card on Merlyn…” In issue #3, Gambit did indeed get blown up while fighting Merlyn with a charged-up Death tarot card taken from the Starlight Citadel. The somewhat tortuous logic here seems to be that, because the Death card symbolises change rather than death (or perhaps more accurately, change of all types rather than specifically death), the magical effect of being blown up by a Death tarot card is to be changed rather than to fully die. But we’re also told later on that death in Otherworld isn’t permanent any more because mutants who die here can be resurrected using the previously-inaccessible Siege Perilous. In which case… was the card actually significant at all? In conventional terms, no, but in terms of story-logic, symbolism always helps.

“And the Siege is where mutantkind goes to be changed…” Um… that’s a stretch, surely? The Siege is meant to be ancient. It’s been used by the X-Men in a scattering of stories in the late 1980s in which they also chucked a bunch of non-mutants through it (such as most of the original Reavers).

PAGE 6. Shogo arrives.

Shogo is now talking, at least telepathically, which he wasn’t doing in the previous issue. Perhaps it’s because Captain Britain can contact him telepathically, when neither Roma nor Saturnyne could.

PAGES 7-8. Mordred gets dragged away.

Mordred and Arthur are going to resolve their storyline off panel because we’ve only got 16 pages left and Howard (understandably) wants to focus on the core plot. Have fun, guys.

PAGES 9-11. The Knights of X find the hall of Gambit statues.

“The Captain Britain Corps had a place like this in the Starlight Citadel.” Betsy is probably referring to the memorial garden from Excalibur #13.

PAGES 12-13. Wrongslide attacks.

Or a vision of Wrongslide, anyway. This is the reincarnated version of Rockslide, as named over in X-Men Red, representing Gambit’s fear of what will happen to him if he does get resurrected conventionally.

The fact that Wrongslide isn’t real explains why Rictor’s rock-control powers don’t work on him, though note that he’s still calling it “magic”.

PAGES 14-16. Gambit as Death.

Gambit became Death in X-Men #184 (2006), during the little-referenced Peter Milligan run. He accepted Apocalypse’s offer in a misguided attempt to keep an eye on him. It’s kind-of-sort-of correct that Sunfire freed Gambit from that role in X-Men #187 through what the original story described as “the cleansing purity of fire”, but he kept his Horseman appearance for a while after that, and he and Sunfire wandered off together to hook up with Mr Sinister. That plot then basically gets dropped, as Sinister has restored Gambit to normal by the time he next shows up in X-Men #200. It’s not an especially satisfying arc.

PAGES 17-18. The X-Men come to the rescue.

Apparently the restoration of Gambit completes the “story” and allows the immediate opening of a portal to Krakoa that lets the full X-Men forces come through. Visible in the double page spread are Pixie, Scout, Rogue, Legion, Mordred, Exodus, Jean, Polaris, Wolverine (Logan), Roma, Cypher, Bei, Saturnyne, Kylun (fiercely loyal to her), Wolverine (Laura), Shatterstar, Rictor, someone with fire powers, Captain Britain, Rachel Summers, Meggan, Captain Avalon, Cyclops, Synch, Shogo, Juggernaut, Nightcrawler, Psylocke and Daken. The character selection and costume suggests we’re before the Hellfire Gala and this is the previous X-Men line-up.

PAGE 19. The post-battle party.

Off panel, Mordred and Arthur have broken their narrative cycle by bonding; presumably this was going to be a story where Mordred’s power of irritation eventually got resolved in some way, because Brian likes him now, but we’re only getting the very broad strokes.

PAGE 20. Data page, in the form of a hand-written letter from Brian to Mordred. I don’t think you can get away with doing a handwritten letter by an adult that isn’t in cursive, but whatever.

Brian explains that Mordred and Arthur were able to break their narrative cycle through confronting themselves in the Siege Perilous. Okay then. Brian essentially says that they’ve earned the right to rule Avalon again and that he’ll be their hero. Again, all of this would have been much more convincing if it had actually happened on panel but, well, that’s early cancellation for you.

PAGES 21-22. Betsy rejects all the rulers of Otherworld.

Betsy is basically claiming that all three potential rulers of Otherworld are just finding excuses to have the Captain Britain Corps under control, and aren’t actually needed for the Corps to fulfil its function of protecting the Multiverse. Of course, that’s only the case because she has access to Rachel as an alternative way of monitoring the Multiverse.

PAGE 23. Data page – the current Map of Otherworld. The former Starlight Citadel is now empty, and a “Fort Krakoa” has appeared in Mercator, which will presumably be the headquarters of the Captain Britain Corps.

PAGE 24. Trailers. The Krakoan reads “Coming soon: Captain Britain.” This is an odd call – this series reads very much like it’s been heavily truncated, and we don’t normally get this sort of rushed ending simply in order to go into a relaunch.

Bring on the comments

  1. Michael says:

    “The character selection and costume suggests we’re before the Hellfire Gala and this is the previous X-Men line-up.”
    One thing bothers me though- in New Mutants 25-28, Dani, Rahne, Illyana and Maddie are worried that if they die in Limbo, they might not be resurrected, like in Otherworld. So does this mean that story takes place before Knights of X? Keep in mind, Illyana gets a new costume that story, and she’s still wearing her old costume in Judgement Day. OTOH, it’s possible that simply no one told Dani, Rahne, Illyana and Maddie about the Siege at that point. (They run into Colossus later but he’s been suffering blackouts due to the Chronicler’s control, so if someone told him during those blackouts, he wouldn’t remember it.)

  2. Allan M says:

    Shogo “talking” was weird. He’s usually depicted as a baby, pre-verbal, and suddenly he’s having pretty coherent telepathic conversations. The whole issue is obviously rushed due to the cancellation, but that bit stuck out for me.

    Making it explicit that Mordred’s mutant power is that everyone hates him is a genuinely inspired idea. I cannot believe Spurrier didn’t think of it first, but hats off to Howard.

    Knights of X went all-in on the fantasy/Otherworld angle and got cancelled for its trouble. Not sure what a Captain Britain relaunch would fix. I feel like Betsy and Rachel should do a year in X-Men, really entrench their new status quos at the centre of the line while tackling Orchis and the other big storylines of the Krakoan era. I guess we’ll wait and see what the big pitch for the presumed re-re-launch is.

  3. Taibak says:

    I’m starting to wonder if Howard and Marvel have seriously misjudged how many people want to read stories about Betsy as Captain Britain.

  4. Luke says:

    I’d like to read more stories about Betsy as Captain Britain… just not by Tini Howard.

    This book is full of so many things I like and it does have some great ideas (Mordred’s power), but I’d like to forget it ever happened.
    She doesn’t seem to understand Britain, she doesn’t seem to understand Betsy, or Rachel, or Otherworld, or magic, or Jubilee, or Meggan, or how to write team books that give everyone a chance to shine.

  5. Loz says:

    Her ‘Catwoman’ is okay, considering I don’t particularly care about her solo stories, so I think it’s just that Howard was trying to write outside her comfort zone for this and it was a variety of different piles of rubbish. Her overall ideas for the stories were fine, a new Captain Britain, a war in Otherworld, I just never saw a reason why I should care.

    I also don’t understand why this would all get reset to a new issue 1 and a new title only to last five issues and get hurriedly wrapped up. Is Tini also following Hickman to the good ship Substack and no-one fancied trying to take over Excalibur?

  6. Evilgus says:

    For the wider X-universe, I really don’t like how they are rapidly sanding down constraints or rough edges. Want to be resurrected? Well we won’t talk about crucible. Died before Cerebo? Well now there’s a magical waiting room so any mutant can be resurrected. Threat of perma-death in Otherworld or Limbo? Ah well, magically not anymore! These all had much more interesting story potential and it’s been decided not to lean into them – it’s too difficult.

    Betsy did a murder/execution again this issue. Barely remarked on. How does Rachel feel about that?

    Agree with others. I’d happily read a Betsy as Captain Britain. Howard has good ideas but needs thorough editing. Otherwise the stories are incoherent and unsatisfying.

    Compare this to X-Men:Red and the theme of mutant expansion and colonisation into another world. It’s all consistent with the wider line. But the execution and toe-in is very far apart.

    Final peeve: Meggan with fairy wings. It’s so unnecessary to lampshade. She can fly without them!

  7. Michael says:

    “How does Rachel feel about that?”
    “No fair, Betsy. You got to kill a villain without Wolverine stabbing you through the heart!”
    New Mutants 25-28 implied that the “kill no man” law doesn’t apply to the Limbo demons. (Which makes sense- there’s several stories where the X-characters kill some of the Limbo demons and it’s not treated like killing a human villain.) Merlyn is sometimes written as half-demon in the Marvel Universe. Maybe it doesn’t apply to him for the same reason? (Although that raises questions about Roma- if Rachel got the hots for Roma and Betsy killed her out of jealousy, for example, would the Quiet Council consider that acceptable?)
    Betsy has always had a dark side and no one calls her on it except Havok. Which is understandable, considering that she tampered with his memories against his will but botched the job, causing him to have nightmares that causes his powers to go out of control and almost kill Lorna, tried to convince Storm to kill him, tired to convince Storm to toss Tyger Tiger through the Siege Perilous against her will after Maddie asked Storm to let her go and finally tossed Alex through the Siege against his will, resulting in him winding up amnesiac in Genosha where Cameron Hodge manipulated him into kidnapping the New Mutants.

  8. Jenny says:

    Isn’t Merlyn some kind of weird multiversal composite entity anyway? He’s survived death before at least.

  9. Drew says:

    The other consequence of the title’s early cancellation is that anyone reading the series in OHC format is kinda screwed. Volume 1 collects issues 1-12, and volume 2 is set to collect up to the end of Excalibur. At this point it’s too late for Marvel to adjust the contents to add in KoX 1-5 (I think it’s due out next month), and I can’t imagine they’ll release a KoX OHC of just 5 issues. So oversized readers are just hosed, I guess.

  10. The Other Michael says:

    Jenny: Betsy even acknowledged that Merlyn was too crafty to die for good, so this was a “for now” execution.

    This run was such a godawful mess and all over the place, and I really wonder what happened behind the scenes for them to make Howard wrap it up so abruptly when she had so many different balls in the air.

    So much wasted potential, so many characters acting off-model, so many rushed conclusions. I still feel like I missed out on like, every other episode of a season or something.

    I knew they wouldn’t give Gambit the same treatment they did Gorgon and Rockslide, he’s far too A-List to suffer that kind of alteration. But will they now be able to fix Rock and Gorgon, or are those literally the only Otherworld changes to stick?

    The only good thing that came from this is seeing Betsy and Rachel as a couple, and finally acknowledging Rachel’s attraction to women, even if I still don’t feel like Howard’s writing properly developed the idea of them as a couple beforehand. There’ve been enough seeds planted over the years that at least it’s not completely off base.

    I’d like to see more of Betsy as Captain Britain, and Brian as Captain Avalon, and so forth, but from a writer who actually -understands- the sensibilities and mythology and cultural symbolism and politics and experience involved in the concepts.

  11. Thomas Williams says:

    It’s crazy this relaunch happened. I think we learned this was truncated to 5 issues from 12 by the time the second solicit came out. We have seen them scrap series before launch lots of times.

  12. John Wyatt says:

    I loved the climactic final battle — sorry, not a battle, just a caption reading “A story-shaking battle later”

    Too many things happened off-panel in the collection of scripts.

  13. Jenny says:

    I already had somewhat of a dim view of Howard as a result of her Death’s Head series (which has Death’s Head have his head knocked and so he spends most of the series out-of-character until the last issue, and is instead mostly a spotlight for the Young Avengers-sorry, not interested in Kate Bishop doing robot-racism in a universe where robots have been shown to have souls) and this whole experiment with Excalibur did nothing to change that.

  14. neutrino says:

    So imperialism wins?
    Retconning Mordred as a mutant with a useless power: dumb.

    @The Other Michael: “and finally acknowledging Rachel’s attraction to women”
    That was people’s head canon and fanfiction.

  15. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    It’s called subtext. Claremont was quite fond of it.

  16. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Sorry, that was cheap sarcasm. But Rachel was intentionally queer coded since the 80s.

    As for this issue, it’s… well KoX wasn’t nearly as bad as Fallen Angels, and as far as cancellations go, this was still a more coherent wrap-up than Williams’s X-Factor – Williams tried to cram everything in, Howard moves at least some stuff off-panel.

    I wonder when she fond out she’ll only have 5 issues. It seems weird to use so much space for Gambit’s death and return, and then make him come back completely normal? After so much build up I don’t feel ‘the Knights have achieved a great victory, overcoming Otherworld’s limitation on how the mutants overcame death’, rather I’m dissapointed that they were building up to some cool makeover for Gambit and then they didn’t do it.

  17. The Other Michael says:

    Yeah, all I meant is that they made Rachel’s queerness explicit and on-page rather than restricting it to subtext, fanfic, and literally anywhere else. 🙂

    I’m still amazed that some writer hasn’t done the same for Dani Moonstar, who’s been queer-coded since the very beginning as well, and who actually had a relationship with Rahne in the New Mutants movie. It’s like… what are they waiting for?

  18. Allan M says:

    Is Storm canonically queer at this point, or is she still technically straight despite how insanely obvious her relationship with Yukio is? I want to say it’s still unofficial, but I drifted from the X-books in the 2010s and might’ve missed something.

  19. neutrino says:

    “Sorry, that was cheap sarcasm. But Rachel was intentionally queer coded since the 80s.”

    How come no one can point out examples of this? I asked one person and all he could come up with was her ignoring Alistaire Stewart’s attraction to her, which is kind of homophobic. Claremont had obvious subtext with Mystique and Destiny, which causes some people to see it everywhere in his writing.

    Storm is still straight, and Yukio is long gone. Claremont had her in a relationship with Wolverine in his last run.

  20. Chris V says:

    There’s this idea that Claremont intended all females (except maybe Jean) to be bi, and this is supposed to be somehow “progressive”. As if straight men don’t get pleasure from the thought of attractive females who are bi. They get titillation from the thought of seeing two sexy women together, but the women are still available for them. Meanwhile, it is rare to ever hear from fans that Claremont intended for male characters to be bi or gay.
    I’m not sure if Claremont actually intended the majority of his female characters to be bi or the mostly male readership are simply wanting to read subtext into the close female friendships Claremont wrote (which is an area where Claremont was very ahead of the curve), but if the former is true, it really doesn’t reflect well on Claremont.

  21. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    As far as I understand it, queer coding tends to be more general in nature. It’s not a case of pointing to a specific speech balloon where a character literally speaks in ‘queer code’.

    (Though apparently Rachel is described several times as ‘rough trade’ by some characters, which is 80s’ gay slang for a sexual partner – I haven’t done the research, I’m repeating stuff I heard on a podcast).

    So it’s not a case of specific instances of Rachel acting in a certain way, but more – the clothes she wears, the haircuts she sports (both fall into butch aesthetic). And yes, the fact that she spurns male advances. And the way she is written in her relationship with Kitty.

    All those things combined are queer coding. And we have Claremont’s word that they were intentional choices.

  22. Omar Karindu says:

    Kryzsiek Ceran said: So it’s not a case of specific instances of Rachel acting in a certain way, but more – the clothes she wears, the haircuts she sports (both fall into butch aesthetic). And yes, the fact that she spurns male advances. And the way she is written in her relationship with Kitty.

    Apparently Claremont stated in this interview that he intended Rachel and Kitty to become romantic partners:

  23. neutrino says:

    @Chris V
    The same thing happened with John Byrne. After creating Northstar and Maggie Sawyer, people assumed at least one of his Next Men were gay, probably the underage Danny. Byrne lampshaded this in a hallucination one of them had.

    With Claremont, it seems there’s a positive feedback loop where people assume most of his female characters are lesbians, so other writers make it explicit, like with Karma, which is used as evidence that all of his female are bi or lesbians.

    @Krzysiek Ceran
    Rachel’s look including her hair was designed by her creator, John Byrne. It was because she was an inmate in a concentration camp. It’s stuck, probably to distinguish her from Jean Grey, although Claremont gave her longer hair in his Revolution run. She didn’t dress butch; in Excalibur #1 Kitty tries to get her to wear less sexy clothes. Her hound uniform is a result of Claremont (a straight man)’s fetish. A man at the party she crashes into in the Excalibur graphic novel calls it “rough trade”, which is the only time IIRC. The term usually refers to a straight male lover of a gay man, so Claremont is obviously using it as a synonym for S&M.
    Rachel wasn’t aware of Alistaire Stuart’s attraction to her, just as he wasn’t aware of Kitty’s crush on him. Probably because Rachel had seen the love of her life, Franklin Richards, die again and then escaped slavery, she wasn’t thinking about a new relationship. She did pursue Nightcrawler in Revolutions.
    I apply the Wertham test to any alleged subtext. If it would sound ridiculous if Dr. Frederick Wertham said it, I discount it.

    @Omar Karindu
    People misinterpret that interview. He’s saying that he writes X-Men: the End as if Kitty and Rachel had been soulmates from the beginning. They clearly weren’t. John Byrne created Rachel and the Days of Future Past plot, which was intended to end Rachel and her timeline. It emphasized the love of Kitty and Peter and had Franklin Richards as Rachel’s lover. The latter was emphasized in Days of Future Present. When Rachel and Kitty were on the X-men, they weren’t particularly close, and Kitty admits in Excalibur that she hadn’t thought of her recently after Rachel’s disappearance.

  24. Omar Karindu says:

    Yeah. With Rachel, in particular, I think some of the issue is that Claremont effectively reinvented the character three times over:

    * First as an incidental character to parallel Franklin Richards as the heir to two Silver Age heroes

    * Second, as the timelost “Hound” burdened with the Phoenix legacy and scared of reconnecting with her alt-timeline birth parents

    * Third, as the team powerhouse and maybe soulmate to Kitty in Excalibur

    Some of the “Rachel + Kitty” read also seems to me like a reaction to Rachel slotting in place of Ilyana as Kitty’s gal-pal, and the “Kitty + Magik” vibe was kind of a thing thanks to Kitty being the heir of Ilyana’s Soulsword and so forth. As Rachel became Kitty’s new young gal-pal in Excalibur, it was also easy to think the “girls’ love” dynamic was there again.

  25. neutrino says:

    We’ve gone from “When Harry Met Sally”‘s claim that men and women can’t be friends to women and women can’t be friends.

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