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Jan 4

X-Force #36 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, January 4, 2023 by Paul in Annotations

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

X-FORCE vol 6 #36
“The Methuselah Complex”
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Robert Gill
Colourist: GURU-eFX
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Design: Tom Muller with Jay Bowen
Production: Joe Caramagna
Editor: Mark Basso

COVER / PAGE 1. The Man With the Peacock Tattoo poses with a scalpel; the faces of the cast appear in the “eyes” of the peacock behind them. Well, them and a few random X-characters to make up the numbers – that’s Gentle in the bottom right, Professor X and Forge just under the logo, and Rogue, Magik and Havok running along the top. You can’t see her clearly on the published version, but that’s Storm obscured by the cover box.

PAGE 2. Omega Red and Deadpool prep Domino for her mission.

Presumably Domino knows perfectly well how to apply make-up to herself, so I can only assume she’s indulging Deadpool. Quite why Omega Red is playing along with this, when he literally decapitated Deadpool on a whim in issue #30, is harder to fathom. Maybe Deadpool’s joking about him having chosen the clothes himself.

PAGE 3. X-Force are no longer speaking to the Beast.

Seriously? Last issue read as if they were arresting him for his weird space prison, but… we’re back to “we don’t trust you”?

Obviously the arc here is that Beast is losing control of the team and is so arrogant that he doesn’t really understand why. But the basic problem here is that Beast’s evil schemes are both so over the top and so persistently unsuccessful that the team (and the entire Quiet Council, except the outright villains) wind up looking gullible and spineless. The balance is way, way off and the escalation isn’t working. Running a black ops prison and experimenting on the prisoners, for example, is not obviously an escalation compared to enslaving an entire nation.

Wolverine is still absent, due to the storyline in his own book where Beast has tried to enslave him as a mindless soldier.

PAGE 4. Domino goes into the meeting.

The person wearing a hoody in the last panel is wearing a XENO mask. The guy on the bike two panels earlier is presumably a separate XENO thug, since we seem them again on page 8 panel 2.

Domino’s cover identity, “Beatrice Domini”, is her real first name and a slight variant of her codename. And she’s surprised when she gets caught. Is she auditioning to be a Silver Age Batman villain?

PAGE 5. Recap and credits.

Methuselah is a Bible character who supposedly lived to 969. The title presumably links to the Xeno members in the restaurant arguing that humans are evolving inexorably towards immortality, and that it’s just a question of using technology to catch up with the mutants.

PAGES 6-7 and 9. Xeno begin their sales pitch to Domino.

The claim implicitly being made here is that it is biologically possible to live forever, and that exploiting Wolverine’s powers will enable humans to do so.

Lobsters. It’s true that lobsters show no signs of ageing. That doesn’t mean they’re immortal, though. Eventually, they either die from exhaustion in the course of a moult, or they die from infection or injury because they haven’t moulted. But true enough, they don’t age.

Tortoises. They can certainly live a long time. The oldest confirmed lifespans are around 190, but there’s some evidence of at least one tortoise making it to 250.

PAGE 8 and 10. XENO attack Deadpool and Omega Red.

Omega Red is being a lot more tolerant of Deadpool’s blather than he was in issue #30.

PAGES 11-13. X-Force fight XENO.

“The last time I got cornered by you freaks, I ended up carved up on a laboratory table.” In issues #1-2. Domino knows that this happened, but she doesn’t remember it – we’ll come back to that.

PAGE 14. Data page. Cecilia Reyes comments on the Wolverine heart and the bio-engineered XENO agent.

The Heart. For once, the Beast’s comment is actually useful. The Man With The Peacock Tattoo does indeed get his hands on a bloody tissue discarded by Wolverine during the Legacy House auction in Wolverine #9. It’s in page 13 panel 6.

The Body. The Beast takes the opportunity to justify his secret experiments on prisoners from the last few issues. Presumably he doesn’t copy these comments to Cecilia.

“The child stolen from the Bowery.” XENO surfers stole a child from Krakoa in issues #25-26. It hasn’t come up since, but presumably either the Krakoans have had no leads, or Beast doesn’t care.

PAGE 15. Domino returns home.

The scroll shows a mutilated Domino in a containment tank, as she appeared in the cliffhanger of issue #2.

The next scene strongly implies that Colossus left the scroll for her, under the influence of Chronicler. By way of recap, Domino was traumatised by her experiences at the hands of XENO and spent the next few issues being very upset about it, but also maintaining that she wanted to retain her memories of the incident. In issue #8, she dies on a mission, and specifically tells Colossus before she dies that she wants to remember everything that happened to her. Colossus lies to the Five and has them remove those memories when they resurrect her. Although this violates Domino’s autonomy, it does in fact massively improve her mood and mental health and she accepts the assurance that she requested the edit.

For some time now, Colossus has been under the influence of Chronicler, the aide of his brother Mikhail who can control people by writing stories about them (but only within the parameters of what he believes they would do). This storyline hasn’t come up since issue #24, after which Colossus joined the Quiet Council and disappeared from the book. I rather assumed that either the story had been handed over to Immortal X-Men, or a decision had been taken to park the whole arc about Mikhail’s Russian nationalist mutants, in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But apparently we’re going back to it after all.

PAGES 16-18. Domino confronts Colossus.

Kayla was murdered by Colossus, under the influence of Chronicler, in issue #24. Apparently nobody’s spotted and resurrected her yet. Sucks to be a bit part character, doesn’t it?

Since this scene is described in the next data page, presumably Colossus is under Chronicler’s control at this point. X-Force has been ambiguous about how much free will Colossus actually has at the moment, but in New Mutants #28 he tells Magik that he’s suffering from blackouts, presumably covering at least some of the period when he’s under Chronicler’s control. He seems to be resisting to some degree at the end of the scene, after Domino leaves, which is also after the section that Chronicler writes.

PAGE 19. Data page. Chronicler’s version of the scene we’ve just seen. Chronicler is a very reluctant ally of Mikhail, and in his first draft – unless the guy types at superhuman speed, his powers presumably don’t involve controlling events in real time – he attempts to get Colossus to sound the alarm. The bloodstains suggest that Mikhail was less than keen on that version.

PAGES 20-21. Beast addresses X-Force. 

XENO did indeed use Domino’s DNA to give similar super powers to one of their creations, as seen in issue #8. Once again, Beast seems to completely misread the room; presumably he thinks that reminding Domino of her abuse will motivate everyone, but even Deadpool seems appalled, and everyone turns to Sage for leadership. That said, the next scene indicates that they went with Beast’s plan.

PAGES 22-24. Legacy House auction off a Krakoan egg.

Evidently provided to them by X-Force. This is very weird, since the Krakoans are normally paranoid about protecting the details of resurrection; but Beast’s judgment is reliably terrible in this book, so fair enough. Oddly, he claims the egg is “unfertilized”, but there’s clearly a fully developed humanoid body inside. Do X-Force actually realise that?

Unless I’m missing something, the kid is new.

PAGE 25. Trailers.

Bring on the comments

  1. Devin says:

    I think the kid might be Max, the baby stolen from the Bower, aged-up a few years. If I remember correctly, Quentin was protective of that baby specifically because he was also a telepath.

  2. The Other Michael says:

    That was my take as well–that the kid in the suit was the stolen kid mentioned earlier in this episode. It was a too conveniently mentioned dangler to be much else, otherwise.

    I’ve seen speculation that the Man with the Peacock Tattoo is a fifth “joker” variant of the Sinisters, and now I can’t stop wondering if it’s possible. Or if MPT will turn out to be another familiar face (Henry Peter Gyrich, not as dead as we thought?).

  3. Michael says:

    Beatrice isn’t Domino’s birth name- it’s a nickname her ex gave her. However, it’s not like no villains are aware of it- just off the top of my head, Sinister called her Beatrice pre-Krakoa when he wanted to annoy her.
    Re: Beast- most of the prisoners had left by the time that X-Force arrived. Is it possible that Hank lied about the fact that (a)a lot of the prisoners were guilty of minor crimes and (b) how cruel the experiments were? Could he have told them he was trying something like the old Project Pegasus where villains like Klaw and Electro were experimented on to see how their powers work?

  4. Mike says:

    Thanks for posting these Paul.
    They do make me feel validated, again, at dropping this book many issues ago.

  5. The Other Michael says:

    “These lampshades made from alien skin? Oh, I just wanted to see how they affected the light in my quarters. Nothing weird going on here…”

  6. Chris V says:

    Kayla would presumably be at the end of the resurrection queue. Unless a mutant is considered someone in a very important position on Krakoa or dies while in service to the cause of the nation, if you die you go to the back of the line. The Five are still working to resurrect the dead of Genosha. They have precedence for resurrection over recent deaths.
    If Professor X is killed, he goes to the front of the line because he’s on the Quiet Council.
    If Logan is killed on assignment, they immediately resurrect him as a reward for putting his life on the line for the nation.
    Bob, the random mutant, has a tree limb fall on his head…he’s got a long wait ahead of him.

  7. GN says:

    I think the telepath boy with the MWTPT is a young clone of Quentin Quire. Quire (accidentally?) deleted himself from the Cerebro network when he fought Cerebrax so he couldn’t be resurrected on Krakoa. However, XENO had access to his DNA so they could have cloned a younger version of him to do their bidding.

  8. Allan M says:

    The character arcs in this book make no sense. Last arc, X-Force discovers that Beast isn’t just unethical, he’s a straight-up monster who is torturing and experimenting on prisoners in space. And now they’re having a team meeting with him, except they snub him but enact his plan anyway? That makes no sense at all for Sage, Domino, Deadpool, or even Black Tom, who definitely kill people but Beast’s actions are beyond the pale. And actually doesn’t track for Omega Red given that Sage is his only ally on the team and he knows Beast screwed him over personally. Omega Red ripped Deadpool apart just for being annoying. How in the world is he showing restraint for Beast?

    It actually makes more sense to flop the order of the arcs – X-Force gets fed up with Beast and turns to Sage for leadership first (this arc), so Beast goes into his sadistic sulk in orbit and relies on mercenaries (Maverick et al., last arc) to do his dirty work, while brainwashing Logan to act as his personal pet assassin (current Wolverine). It makes no sense for anyone to be playing ball with Beast at this stage, and at the very least, there needs to be a beat where Sage or Domino tries to report him to the Quiet Council and gets rebuffed by Xavier.

  9. Drew says:

    Just an informal poll, how confident are we that Percy has a plan for resolving this whole Beast mess? Like, Scott Lobdell infamously liked to just write ideas he thought were cool and see how they developed, but obviously that doesn’t really work when you’re turning a good guy into a sociopathic genocidal monster. You gotta have a damn good plan to put the toys back in the toy chest when your time is done. Are we… confident Percy has that plan in place?

    I mean, fixing “Tony Stark, servant of Kang” took a year-long reboot and line relaunch; fixing Bishop the crazy mass murderer seems to have amounted to “What? No, that never happened. Or he was being manipulated, whatever, who cares?” But Beast is a more prominent character and Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld are busy. (Well, Jim Lee is busy.)

  10. Chris V says:

    The Tony Stark-Kang story had an end plan…It was called Teen Tony, perhaps the most annoying comic character ever. It took the reboot and relaunch to rectify the Stark-Kang fix.

    Plus, Marvel cared much more about continuity back then. Now, anything unconscionable done by any Marvel heroes are just ignored.
    Tony Stark’s actions during/after the Civil War were just ignored and everyone pretended Stark was still a workable hero.

  11. Mike Loughlin says:

    I felt like I missed the issue in which Beast is put on trial for crimes against humanity, or rather mutancy, and the Quiet Council deemed him too valuable to throw in the pit. The stories need to be told on the page, not glossed over just because you don’t feel like telling them.

    Drew: I think Percy has a plan, but pulling the trigger keeps getting delayed. Someone somewhere suggested he might be delaying Beast’s comeuppance or escape from justice until issue 50, and I’m afraid that person might be right.

  12. Si says:

    I don’t think there’s any resolution in mind for Beast. As noted, there’s no obvious arc (compare to Sage’s alcohol abuse arc), it’s just issue after issue of him wallowing in his own crapulence.

  13. YLu says:

    Percy has a plan. He’s talked in interviews about how, as a novelist, he plans for the long haul and has known the conclusion to Beast’s story since the beginning. Though it’s certainly possible he has no intention of putting the toys back in the box and his big plan is to end with Beast as an irredeemable war criminal or whatever

  14. Chris V says:

    If his plan for X-Force is anything like his novel Red Moon, then the plot will just skip ahead a few years when Beast have given up on his actions and everyone will have moved on to something else.
    The blurb that caught my attention on the bookcover was “1984 with werewolves”, which is certainly something any sane person would want to read. “What would happen if 1984 was a werewolf story?” I guess the answer is Big Brother would grow bored.

  15. Si says:

    I don’t know, maybe I saw too many late 90s/early 00s supernatural drama TV shows to trust anyone when they say there’s definitely a conclusion that they’ve been working toward since the beginning, and it will all pay off.

    Though I can believe Mike’s suggestion above, that Beast’s evil turn should have been resolved a few arcs ago, and the story’s been stretched out far beyond its natural lifespan.

  16. Evilgus says:

    I’m no longer following this book as I got fed up with the wheel spinning and frankly, also dislike Beast becoming cartoonishly evil! I do like the gross muddy art, which did fit the moral ambiguity and natural/biological themes of Krakoa, at least at the start of HOX.

    What are the sales figures? X-Force is very long running, in this era.

  17. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Just wanted to add my voice to the pile of ‘this doesn’t make sense as a follow up to the space prison arc’ comments.

  18. Luis Dantas says:

    To be fair, this is X-Force.

    The specific goals of such a team vary a lot, but frequently are in the vicinity of “acting viciously and irredemably while attempting to achieve plausible deniability”.

    It is institutional hypocrisy made into a black ops team. At one point its very existence was meant to be a secret.

  19. SanityOrMadness says:

    GN> I think the telepath boy with the MWTPT is a young clone of Quentin Quire. Quire (accidentally?) deleted himself from the Cerebro network when he fought Cerebrax so he couldn’t be resurrected on Krakoa

    *cough*Waiting Room*cough*

  20. Pseu42 says:

    Re: Domino getting resurrected sans her XENO memories

    Do we KNOW that this was done because Colossus lied and said that’s what she wanted? That’s a reasonable inference but I don’t think it’s the only one. Would Beast or another high-status Krakoan bigwig have reason/power to make The Five do this? Was Colossus already being controlled by Mikhail/Chronicler at that point? As far as I’m concerned this is still an open question.

  21. Jon L says:

    I know this is grasping at straws, but maybe the reason Beast is so downright evil is because the Chronicler is manipulating him. If the Chronicler is limited in scope of what he can change, then it could be that Hank is capable of these immoral acts and the Chronicler is nudging Hank into actually doing them. This would leave room for redemption on Hank’s part, but still leave him responsible to a degree.
    I doubt that’s what’s happening, but I really want another explanation than Beast is just evil now.

  22. Sam says:

    Rather than worry about the Beast this time, I’m going to throw out my (very stupid) idea for who the Man with the Peacock Tattoo is. He’s an evil, alternate future version of Eye-boy.

  23. MasterMahan says:

    Post-Civil War Tony is an odd case. There was an attempt to salvage him. After Secret Invasion he erased his own memories for reasons, resetting himself to a pre-Civil War state. Despite that, his character seems to have drifted permanently into being an impulsive idiot with seriously questionable morals. Civil War II he kidnapped and tortured Ulysses. 2022 alone had him forcibly make everyone in New York as smart as him before helping to build a Frankenstein Celestial that murdered most of humanity.

    As for X-Force, this Beast storyline is just interminable. Deadpool points out correctly that even he has more common sense than Beast, and Percy’s Deadpool is a worthless, blithering moron. And they still go along with Beast’s inevitably doomed plan that can only fail if the group that cloned Kid Omega and kidnapped a telepathic baby can somehow, somehow have access to a telepath.

  24. Chris V says:

    MasterMahan-The attempt to salvage Stark involved Norman Osborn coming to power and using the vast security State created by Stark against Stark. The moral would be, “it’s ok for our side to have that kind of power, it’s just bad if the other side comes into that power and then uses it against our side”, which is an incredibly dangerous message. It didn’t help redeem Stark, it just showed that Marvel superheroes were continuing down the path to amorality.
    Who watches the Watchmen? No one, and that’s for the best.
    There was a chance during Civil War II to change the message by pointing out that Tony Stark realized from his actions during Civil War that what he did was wrong and he didn’t intend to make the same types of mistakes again. Of course, Bendis even managed to mangle that simple idea by presenting Stark being against Carol’s views due to self-interest (he was very upset they got Rhodey killed, even though he died being a superhero, so y’know, there’s no rational motivation for Tony’s extreme anger directed at Carol and Ulysses).
    Of course, you’re right, as it didn’t matter anyway, as Stark would continue to act in a morally questionable manner beyond Civil War II anyway.

  25. Luis Dantas says:

    Maybe it is just me, but I don’t think I will ever find it very proper for fans of teams that include Wolverine to point out that Iron Man has been acting immorally.

  26. Omar Karindu says:

    Jon L said: I know this is grasping at straws, but maybe the reason Beast is so downright evil is because the Chronicler is manipulating him.

    Other possibilities for explaining Evil!Beast:

    * Belated results of his soul being corrupted from reading the Darkhold for a couple of seconds before the Scarlet Witch grabbed it out of his hands back in Avengers v.1 #188

    * Sublime’s possessing him in a call-forward to Morrison’s “Here Comes Tomorrow” arc from New X-Men v.1 #151-4

    * Arkea took control of his glasses and, through them, his mind, when he talked to her briefly in X-Men v.4 #2 while she was controlling Omega Sentinel and she is now using him to go after Sublime

    * Unexpected side effect of Pestilence;’s plague that made him dumber whenever he exerted his strength (X-Factor v.1 #19 and Infectia’s kissing him that seemingly “cured” him (X-Factor v.1 #31); ever since then he becomes slightly less moral every time he uses his intellect, and it’s all added up

    * Yet another character possessed by the time-traveling intellect of their counterpart from a Bad Future or Bad Alternate Timeline

    * Belatedly added to Jeph Loeb’s “lupines” retcon from Wolverine v.3 #50-55, with the added twist that there’s a secret blue-haired lupine who always mucks about with the other ones

    * Has discovered he’s a comics character and sees everyone around him as unreal, plus he knows Barr Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X story was really popular

  27. Chris V says:

    Luis-All of Wolverine’s faults can be forgiven for being the conscience of Krakoa. When Quire was spouting Krakoa’s mutant supremacist ideology, Wolverine was the one who told him, “Don’t buy into it. Humans, mutants, we’re all the same.”

  28. CalvinPitt says:

    The weird thing to me with what’s going on with Beast is Percy keeps talking about how this book is about “necessary bastards” or whatever term he uses. People who do amoral crap to protect everyone else, which yeah, is kinda of X-Force’s deal.

    The problem is, Beast is a cartoonishly over-the-top bastard, while seeming entirely incompetent at actually accomplishing anything. His plans are stupid, poorly thought out, and he does a poor job of keeping covert activities, you know, covert.

    If Percy’s goal is to point out that having these sorts of people in positions of authority is actually a bad thing for your country, great job, but I lack confidence that’s actually his point. It feels more like what Chris V mentioned about Iron Man and Norman Osborn, that the point is you need the “right” person wielding this sort of unchecked power, which I don’t think is a great takeaway.

  29. neutrino says:

    @Chris V: Wolverine has been reduced lately to yelling at Krakoa itself.

  30. Karl_H says:

    Peacock Guy being a fifth ‘joker’ version of Sinister almost tracks, as his schtick is a variation on the chimera theme (human/mutant chimerae, with the main suits being, what, mutants, animals, aliens, and astral forms?)

    But I’d rather not have this story connected too closely to the larger/better plots going on in this era… One takeaway I’ve had from current Incomplete Wolverine posts is how completely bad runs and stories can fade away from memory and continuity over time, and that wouldn’t be a terrible thing here.

  31. Mark Coale says:

    Problem is you only need one person (writer/editor) who has a fondness for something dumb for it to be revived years later and suddenly made important.

  32. Loz says:

    Oh God, surely we aren’t going to have to wait another 14 issues before this Dumb Dark Beast plot gets put out of it’s misery? Because I presume by then Beast will have the brilliant idea of sorting everything out by killing Pepper Potts, Bucky and Loki in front of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, pouring weed killer down Krakoa’s throat, kidnapping the Supreme Intelligence and betting the souls of all the X-Men in a card game with Mephisto and losing.

    I can see that neither Deadpool or Omega Red would care enough to go to someone in authority about what they are doing, a slaughter is a slaughter. And Wolverine is off the board. And maybe this Chronicler thing is keeping Colossus contained. But Domino and Sage? I can’t see them working for someone with Beast’s 0% success rate and who shows no signs that he’s got any way to up that number. Percy seems to be writing everyone as though by being the ‘dark ops’ team makes them happy to follow the lead of someone who is more likely to get them killed than achieve anything good for Krakoa. Indeed, even not knowing what he’s done to Wolverine, they should start getting paranoid about whether he could deliberately get them killed so that he can tamper with Resurrection so they come back more inclined to slavishly obey him.

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