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Nov 23

X-Men #17 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, November 23, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

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

X-MEN vol 6 #17
“Size Matters”
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Joshua Cassara
Colourist: GURU-eFX
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Design: Tom Muller with Jay Bowen
Editor: Jordan D White

COVER / PAGE 1. Magik leads the team into action, in a generic action shot with no particular relevance to the issue.

PAGE 2. Data page. Forge’s opening quote comes from his scene with Caliban on page 23. Obviously, given what we already saw Forge do to Caliban in the previous issue, the correct answer to this question is “absolutely not”.

PAGE 3. Synch is summoned from the Treehouse.

Synch wasn’t with the rest of the team for this mission, presumably because he already spent centuries of subjective time there (ending in vol 5 #19) and finds it too upsetting. Arguably he’d have vital intelligence for anyone going into the Vault but (a) they can always get that information from him telepathically, (b) it will have changed beyond recognition since he was last there, and (c) the X-Men are not monsters. With the possible exception of Forge.

PAGE 4. Recap and credits.

PAGES 5-6. Forge decides to leave Wolverine behind.

We’re picking up from the cliffhanger of the previous issue, where Forge and Caliban (as his harness) found that the Wolverine (Laura) who had been in the Vault was still alive after all, meaning that they’d accidentally revived a duplicate in X-Men vol 5 #19. I’m not sure why the art obscures her in this issue when she was completely visible last time – it’s clearly less effective this way.

The basic arc of this issue is that Forge (who is, after all, a recent transfer from the cast of X-Force) starts off with a completely instrumental and manipulative approach to everyone, represented in particular by poor old Caliban. He tells Serafina later that while he is here to avert war, he’s also driven by scientific curiosity. But he turns out to have enough empathy to change his position, particularly when confronted directly with Caliban’s faith in the integrity of the X-Men. In fact, he turns the corner on page 6 when he relents on his decision to simply switch him off.

“I thought the Five only accidentally resurrected one mutant, not two.” Interesting. At the end of X-Men vol 5 #19, the Five do indeed resurrect three mutants, so apparently they did create a second Darwin after all. Of course, in itself that shouldn’t prevent Forge from coming back to rescue the original Darwin. But it’s clear that Darwin is a higher priority for him, and the obvious implication is that Darwin has some instrumental value to Forge that Wolverine lacks. Forge confirms that on page 6 when he claims that finding Darwin “could mean the survival of our species”.

“You don’t exist! Not really!” Forge seems to be saying here that this is actually a copy or clone of Caliban’s mind rather than the original in mutilated form – and indeed we’ll see Caliban alive and well at the end of the issue, with no mention of any recent resurrection. Forge’s willingness to create a duplicate Caliban tends to confirm that he’s not very bothered about the clone resurrections in themselves.

“Everyone that has ever come to me has always misused my curse.” This is a bit of an overstatement, and seems weirdly harsh on the Morlocks. I’m not sure Caliban is normally this down on his mutant status, either.

PAGES 7-11. Forge fights Serafina.

Serafina. We saw Serafina on page 9 of the last issue, when Forge wandered past her in disguise, and she seemed to register that something was up. We see her more clearly this time, and as usual, she’s gone through some changes in this latest iteration. She retains her monochrome stripes, though.

Forge’s claws are obviously based on Wolverine’s but, being energy blades of some sort, they might be specifically based on the “Adamantium Men” arc from Wolverine: Weapon X #1-5.

“I remember being captured by humans. Of the Orchis clan.” Serafina was rescued from Orchis custody by Krakoan forces (not technically the X-Men, since the team didn’t exist at that point) in X-Men vol 5 #1. They weren’t specifically looking for her. From that issue and vol 5 #19, we get the impression that that incarnation of Serafina had been activated early for some reason, and had got herself captured by Orchis as a result. Caliban is slightly overstating the X-Men’s moral probity here – they never made a conscious choice to release her with the other Orchis prisoners, it just kind of happened. Given the Krakoan government’s paranoia about posthumans, based on what Xavier and Magneto learned from Moira, I wouldn’t be so confident that they would have chosen to release Serafina given the chance. Still, she seems to feel some gratitude.

PAGES 12-17. Forge and Darwin.

Forge’s vision of Krakoa is, conspicuously, a city rather than a utopian island. He has three fairly recognisable trad X-Men flying around to make it all look more cuddly.

Darwin basically tells us that his evolution powers allowed him to survive by uploading his mind into the Children’s computers. He says he doesn’t want to have a body again, but note in particular the reason he gives: “Now I can be in many places at once.”

PAGE 18. Forge relents and rescues Wolverine after all.

PAGES 19-22. Synch and Laura are reunited.

This pays off Synch’s main storyline throughout this series: that he’s in love with the Laura who spent centuries in the Vault with him, but Krakoan Laura has no memory of any of those events.

“Where’s Havok?” Havok walked out last issue after getting into a fight with Cyclops.

Forge’s harness is destroyed with a flamethrower, with Forge clearly regretting having created it in the first place. But… wasn’t it sentient? This doesn’t seem like a very good way of showing that he’s learned his lesson.

PAGE 23. Forge meets with Caliban in the Green Lagoon.

This seems to be Forge calming his conscience by verifying that Caliban would indeed have consented to what he did. But he does seem determined to make amends by apologising.

Background characters: the Blob and Forearm are behind the bar (though doesn’t Forearm already have a job working security for SWORD?). Black Tom, Tempo and Wolverine are in panel 1. In panel 2, Sage and Domino from X-Force are talking behind Forge; Deadpool and Colossus are clearly visible; and there are some generics I can’t place. The girl with the glasses over her forehead might be a miscoloured Jubilee.

PAGE 24. Data page. This is where the “size matters” title comes in. Cecilia Reyes (who manages to get her own name wrong) tells us that Forge’s first backup after returning from the Vault was massively large, but now it’s back to normal. She initially attributed this to an error or something to do with Forge’s mutant powers, but is more worried now. The implication is that a version of Darwin escaped the Vault through Forge’s mind and has now relocated itself to Cerebro.

PAGE 25. Trailers.

Bring on the comments

  1. Michael Hoskin says:

    >though doesn’t Forearm already have a job working security for SWORD?

    The Krakoan economy is so poor that mutants have to work multiple jobs.

  2. Michael says:

    Am I the only one that thought Havok’s absence was odd? Last issue, I thought he was just wandering off for a few minutes to clear his head. Now it seems like he just left and nobody’s worrying about him.

  3. GN says:

    @Michael: I think the idea is that after the fight, Havok walked through the gateway back to Krakoa, so the team expects to find him there when they walk back.

    This ‘Havok doesn’t get along with Jean and Scott’s X-Men’ plot thread seems to be set up for Dark Web: X-Men to me, where Havok will probably be driven back into Madelyne’s arms.

  4. GN says:

    This issue went some way in clarifying the Vault plot to me. It turns out Duggan didn’t really retcon Hickman’s Vault issues.

    In the first Vault story, Synch, Wolverine and Darwin entered the Vault to do reconnaissance. After centuries of Vault time, Synch escaped but Laura and Darwin were left behind.

    This Vault mission was being run on FORCE protocols – which meant proof of death was not necessary for resurrections. So as soon as one mutant emerged from the Vault (in this case, Synch), Xavier resurrected all three of them in Krakoa. Wolverine and Darwin were resurrected with their pre-Vault memories and continued their lives from where they left off. Synch was resurrected with his Vault memories intact since Krakoa needed the recon data, so Synch became a centuries-old man in a teenage body.

    Some time later, Forge (and the X-Men) went back into the Vault to rescue Vault!Darwin for his own purposes. The X-Men came along with him. Instead, he finds Vault!Wolverine there and

    Vault!Darwin had evolved into psionic computer code that hitched a ride on Forge back to Krakoa, where it copied itself onto Cerebro.

    So to summarize:

    Wolverine > living on Krakoa, currently on the X-Terminators team
    Darwin > living on Krakoa

    Vault!Synch > resurrected in a teenage body, currently on the X-Men team
    Vault!Wolverine > in a centuries-old body, reunited with Synch
    Vault!Darwin > living computer code, embedded in the Cerebro network

  5. GN says:

    Sorry, that last part was meant to say:

    Some time later, Forge (along with the X-Men) went back into the Vault with a Sinister Chimera suit to rescue Vault!Darwin for his own purposes. Instead, he finds Vault!Wolverine there and decides to bring her back, where the X-Men reunite her with Synch. Vault!Darwin had evolved into psionic computer code that hitched a ride on Forge back to Krakoa, where it copied itself onto Cerebro.

  6. MasterMahan says:

    We’ll have to see whether Forge’s hitchhiker truly is a version of Darwin. Forge’s mental conversation happen after some black tendrils connect themselves to his body – and while Darwin could have co-opted Vault technology for that, that’s also one of the Serafina’s main tricks.

  7. Jeff says:

    I kind of loved this issue. I thought the original Vault trilogy in Hickman’s X-Men was his strongest arc outside of HoX/PoX and this was a great follow up. I loved seeing Forge find his moral bearings over the issue (especially as a contrast to everyone in X-Force right now). Cassara is a worthy successor to Larraz on the title. This kind of felt like Claremont characterization in the world of Hickman’s X-Men to me. Good stuff.

  8. The Other Michael says:

    what’s better than one Wolverine? Two, and one’s a woman.
    What’s better than that? Three Wolverines, and one’s a woman and one’s an older woman.

    If they continue to let the multiple Lauras and Darwins live, what does that say about the process with regards to who’s real and who’s less real? i.e. the whole reason they didn’t clone multiple iterations in the first place.

    Also, Forge’s Caliban suit was pretty much sentient and aware like the real thing, so… he coopted Caliban while still alive, cloned him, and then murdered him again. Even for Forge, this is pretty dodgy.

  9. Mathias X says:

    >> If they continue to let the multiple Lauras and Darwins live

    I don’t think you really have a choice but to “let” Darwin live. Accidentally cloning him is a mistake you can’t undo since once made, nothing should ever be able to unmake him.

  10. Luis Dantas says:

    I have to wonder if it is coincidence that Hickman and now Duggan are using X-23 in this storyline and insisting on calling her “Wolverine”.

    The end result is having her go through two very different forms of identity dillution, on two different levels. She was a modified and mindwashed clone in search of an identity of her own when introduced, and somehow after Wolverine’s temporary death it was deemed proper to regress her to a literal Wolverine immitator for the duration. It did not really make sense.

    Now, under Duggan – a writer that I do not enjoy, but who happens to sometimes go out of his way to apply strong characterization – Laura exists as two different people with barely distinguishable bodies but very different personalities. It sort of emphasizes how it is the characterization that makes characters.

  11. YLu says:

    GN: “It turns out Duggan didn’t really retcon Hickman’s Vault issues.”

    That’s what I thought at first too but I’m not so sure after thinking about it. It could be the second accidental resurrection Forge mentioned is not Darwin but someone else entirely, and Duggan’s mentioning it to tease a future story. I say this because certainly nobody is talking as if there’s another Darwin out there living his life. In the previous issue’s text page, Forge ever writes, “I suggest we release the hold we placed on Darwin and expedite him to the top of the queue.”

  12. Mike Loughlin says:

    I liked this issue- Cassara’s great, and Duggan writes a good Forge- but two plot points left me confused:

    1. Is there a Darwin on Krakoa? Has he been seen in anything other than crowd shots? Has he had any dialogue? I don’t recall.

  13. Mike Loughlin says:

    (Thumb hit submit before I finished typing, oops)

    2. I understand why Serafina let Forge live, but is she okay with the trap holding her fellow Children of the Vault at bay? Serafina could release her teammates at some point, after Dark Web. Come to think of it, this issue could be part of the set-up for Fall of X. YLu may be right, the extra data might not be Darwin but an upgraded Serafina sneaking onto Krakoa.

  14. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    First of all, I admit I was wrong – after last issue I predicted Old(er) Woman Laura would immediately die a heroic death without a backup to resolve the duplicate issue, because I associate Duggan with clean, neat and sort of boring resolutions.

    That didn’t happen, I was wrong.

    Having said that, I’ll profess doubt once again – Forge’s conversation with Darwin being a Serafina misdirect seems too tricksy for a Duggan plot. But maybe it will turn out that I’ve underestimated him again.

    Still. Very good issue, but Forge burning the conscious suit with a flamethrower as the culmination of his personal growth was… iffy.

  15. JD says:

    We already had another duplicate resurrection : Maggott’s slug in that Unlimited story.

  16. Mike Loughlin says:

    I think Serafina faking being Darwin is in line with Duggar’s storytelling in that we don’t have to deal w/ Darwin’s actual story. No complicated story about what went on in the Vault, just a simple fake out. We can have Darwin back, reset to pre-Vault time, via resurrection and ignore anything else. Then Serafina undoes the trap and the fighting begins.

    I don’t think it’s a bad plot, just uncomplicated.

    As for Vault! Wolverine being back, that has the potential to let Synch off the hook for being into Laura despite being muuuuch older mentally. The clones’ right to resurrection question was tackled in New Mutants, so no need to have that discussion again in depth. Badda-bing, Badda-boom: plot conundrums solved.

  17. Michael says:

    @Mike Loughlin- Darwin only appeared since the Children of the Vault storyline in a crowd scene in the Feral and Marrow story in the 2021 Women of Marvel book- and that story can take place any time after the Green Lagoon opened, so it could take place before Darwin went into the Vault.

  18. YLu says:

    Mike Loughlin: “YLu may be right, the extra data might not be Darwin but an upgraded Serafina sneaking onto Krakoa.”

    Er, I might’ve been unclear. I wasn’t talking about the data upload but rather Forge’s line about how younger Laura was the second “accidental resurrection,” or something like that. Implying a first. GN took this to mean Darwin, and that he actually was resurrected along with Wolverine and Sync after the original Vault mission (as did seem to be Hickman’s intent). But I’m not sure because nobody acts as if there’s another Darwin walking around on Krakoa.

  19. Mathias X says:

    Something I haven’t seen anyone point out: The black cable stabbing Forge and jacking him into the phantasm talk with Darwin — Serafina also uses a black cable as her main power signature during the Mike Carey run.

    Forge’s “fake world” trap for the Children is also very similar to the fake lifetime she made Cannonball live. I don’t think that conversation with Darwin was real at all, or if it is, Serafina was part of it.

  20. neutrino says:

    On that subject, is the Laura that Forge found the real one? The Children of the Vault have access to cloning technology. It could be an infiltrator.

  21. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    On that subject, did anybody pick up the Hunt for Wolverine: Adamantium Agenda dangling plot thread regarding there being a mole in the X-Men?

    I guess Mole is on Krakoa, though I doubt that was what Tom Taylor meant.

  22. MasterMahan says:

    @neutrino: It occurred to me that Old Laura might be a Vault-created duplicate. Not necessarily as a Trojan horse, but rather so Marvel can say the younger, more marketable Laura is the ‘real’ one.

  23. YLu says:

    @Krzysiek Ceran

    I could’ve sworn Taylor revealed that was just thrown in as a future story hook and he didn’t have anyone specific in mind. But a Google search isn’t turning up anything so maybe I imagined that.

  24. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I can believe that, but still – it’s out there.

    If anybody wanted to be cute, it could turn out to be a Skrull. The X-Men were suspiciously not infiltrated during Secret Invasion*, but maybe there is a Skrull among them after all who just decided he liked being, I don’t know, Neal Shaara.

    *apparently they were supposed to be, but then editorial plans changed

  25. neutrino says:

    It was supposed to be an infiltrator created by Sinister. Some people thought it might be Kitty Pryde, explaining why she couldn’t use the gates.

  26. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    They got the information from Sinister’s files, but was it actually said in the book that Sinister made the non-mutant?

  27. neutrino says:

    I’m pretty sure it was said Sinister was using a mole to infiltrate the X-Men.

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