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Aug 25

Realm of X #1 annotations

Posted on Friday, August 25, 2023 by Paul in Annotations

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

“The White Witch”
Writer: Torunn Grønbekk
Artist: Diógenes Neves
Colour artist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Design: Tom Muller & Jay Bowen
Editor: Lauren Amaro

REALM OF X is a 4-issue miniseries tying in to “Fall of X”… though possibly only in the sense that “Fall of X” provides the occasion for the story to happen in the first place.

COVER / PAGE 1: Mirage and Magik charge into action through a Krakoan gate. More of a misdirection cover for the solicits than anything much to do with the contents.

PAGES 2-10. The cast wake up in Vanaheim in the middle of a fight.

The name characters, and a bunch of random generics, evidently wound up here after being marched through the Krakoan gates by Professor X in X-Men: Hellfire Gala 2023. This is plainly not the alien landscape where we saw Forge in X-Men #25, or the featureless desert where Exodus and co wound up in Immortal X-Men #14 – despite Exodus claiming in that issue that the “whole population of Krakoa” was there. To be fair, they were a much larger group than the one we see here, so they may well be the vast majority of the Krakoan population; this issue’s recap page refers to “a handful of other mutants” accompanying the name characters, and Dani later mentions a “dozen” being wounded. We still don’t know why the mutants have been scattered in this way, although some sort of scheme involving Destiny and Manifold seems a realistic possibility.

The name characters here are:

  • Magik. The reason why she can’t use her powers is that she was dosed with Orchis nanotech in X-Men #23, but she doesn’t know that. Considering that the justification for some X-Men remaining on Earth is that they were able to resist Xavier’s influence thanks to his training, it’s a bit odd that Magik didn’t make the cut – not only is she one of his trainees, but she’s supposed to have an inherent magical resistance to telepathy. Perhaps the distraction of losing her powers had something to do with it.
  • Mirage. Magik’s longtime team mate in the New Mutants, and again, a Xavier trainee with psychic abilities… but let’s not ask too many awkward questions. Although it isn’t mentioned in this issue, Dani has a longtime connection with Thor mythology as one of the Valkyries, which is doubtless going to be significant at some point.
  • Marrow. Her full name is given here as Sarah Rushman; that comes from the 2000 one-shot Spider-Man / Marrow, where she used the name as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but it wasn’t clearly established as being her real name. We last saw her hanging around Madripoor with other former Morlocks in X-Men Unlimited Infinity Comic #75-79. She’s written as weirdly reasonable in this issue, possibly because scripting Typhoid as such an intolerable brat necessarily forces Marrow into looking sensible by comparison. But then why is she here…?
  • Curse. Look, that’s her in the top left of page 3, running off into the woods. Curse had a major role in the X-Men Green stories in X-Men Unlimited Infinity Comic, which very broadly established that she’s a reality warper who takes damage if she tries to use her powers without doing harm to someone else. Curse was killed at the end of that arc and somehow got herself put to the front of the resurrection queue, since we saw her alive and well in Hellfire Gala 2023. She’s also innately resistant to telepathic control, so she was unaffected by Xavier’s command, but the other mutants just picked her up anyway and bundled her through the gates.
  • Typhoid Mary is a mutant, but she’s principally a Daredevil character. She has multiple personalities, and her creator Ann Nocenti clearly intended each of those personas to be modelled on different unhealthy ways in which women define themselves by reference to men. Her depiction here as a snarky princess type is… not really in character for any of her personas, to the best of my knowledge, but I wouldn’t claim to be hugely familiar with her. She married the Kingpin in Daredevil #36 (2021) and they showed up in Krakoa in X-Men #20.
  • Dust. Introduced during the Grant Morrison run in New X-Men #133, she was also a member of the Young X-Men cast, but she hasn’t done much on Krakoa beyond cameos. As a fairly religious character, she tends to spend a lot of time being conflicted about stuff, and here she gets to make the point here that Dani’s idea of a prima facie villain would cover a lot of mutant activity as well. (Edit: As pointed out in the comments, she had a role in Legion of X, where Legion suggested renaming her Congregation, but she didn’t expressly take the name. Evidently she politely ignored the suggestion. She didn’t do a tremendous amount in that book either, anyway.)

Vanaheim is the home of the Vanir, who are the more nature-themed branch of the Norse gods (as opposed to the Aesir, who live in Asgard). Actual Norse sources are pretty vague about what the place is supposed to be like. The Vanir are also associated with seeing the future, which fits the plot here. The specific Vanaheim characters in this issue are all new, but Vanaheim itself has appeared sporadically in Thor-related stories.

The attackers are working for “the White Witch” – we’ll see later on that this is apparently Opal Luna Saturnyne.

PAGE 11. Recap and credits.

PAGES 12-14. Curse runs through the forest.

This is all pretty much in character for Curse as depicted in “X-Men Green”. There’s a general sense in “X-Men Green” that Curse shirks responsibility to avoid putting herself in a position where she would feel obliged to use her powers to help people, and thus injure herself – but she’ll usually do the right thing if there really is no alternative. (Delaying the moment of decision counts for this purpose as an alternative.)

PAGES 15-17. The main cast search for Curse without success.

All pretty self-explanatory. Dani’s power to telepathically communicate with animals gets a rare modern outing.

PAGES 18-19. Curse fights off some Rock Trolls.

We’ll see later that these poor guys have been sent by Saturnyne to try their luck against Curse in order to test her powers.

PAGES 20-21. The heroes ask Trabin for explanations.

Again, this speaks for itself.

PAGE 22. The “White Witch” fails to restore her trolls.

She does attempt to fix them, but she’s clearly more interested in what she’s learning about Curse’s powers. In fact, it’s decidedly possible that she only tries to fix them at all in order to test the resilience of Curse’s effects.

PAGE 23. Trabin explains the history of Vanaheim.

Trabin explains that Vanaheim used to be full of massive cities, but that they deindustrialised and returned to nature on realising that their strength would simply lead to conflict. Broadly, this comes from Thor: God of Thunder #16 (2013), which is part of Jason Aaron’s run – though the reference to prophesies is new. In Aaron’s story, the narrator says: “Long ago … the gods of the Vanir built castles the size of mountains, great citadels that could be seen from worlds away. But over the eons, the gods grew weary of the constant warfare required to defend their walls, of the blood that was shed over pils of rock. And so one day, they returned to the depths of the forest, leaving their great stone towers to crumble back into the dust from whence they came.” Despite the way Vanaheim is depicted here, other parts of it still have massive ruins. They’re just not the parts where the Vanir are actually living these days. Aaron’s narrator describes Vanaheim as a land that has tried to turn its back on conflict.

PAGE 24. Data page on the use of prophecy in warfare. Broadly speaking, the point being made here is that the Vanir know that their prophesies are fairly reliable, but also know that their reaction to the prophesies can change events. After all, as we’ve just seen, they left their cities in response to prophesies of future war – and successfully avoided it. The conflict for them here is that the Vanir know from their prophesies that the arrival of the mutant heroes is probably bad news, but the simplistic solution of changing history by killing them off doesn’t particularly appeal to them either.

Some of the characters namechecked on this page are mythological figures and/or have appeared in the Marvel Universe before:

  • Buri is the first of the Aesir, and Odin’s grandfather. He first appeared in Journey into Mystery #97 (1963).
  • Njord is Buri’s son, and a sea god. He appears on panel in Thor #274 (1978).
  • Mimir is also Buri’s son; in mythology, Odin carts his severed head around as a source of wisdom. The Marvel Universe generally presents that a bit more gently, showing him as a disembodied fiery head. He debuted in Thor #240 (1975).
  • Bor is Buri’s other son, and Odin’s father. He was killed off in Thor #600, whatever that means in relation to gods.
  • Kvasir seems never to have appeared in the Marvel Universe, but he was a wisdom figure created from the saliva of both the Aesir and the Vanir.
  • Freyr is the god of fertility; Marvel tend to call him “Frey”, perhaps to minimise the confusion with his sister Freya. The bit about him making a deal with Surtur in advance of the Aesir-Vanir war comes from Mighty Thor #18 (2012), a Matt Fraction story. In mythology, Freyr is fated to be killed by Surtur at Ragnarok.
  • Surtur is a major Thor villain and probably needs no introduction.

PAGES 25-26. Trabin shows the heroes the statues of the Four.

The obvious point here is that only the name characters make it into the prophecy – and Magik and Curse both fail to make the cut.

PAGES 27-28. The White Witch’s birds abduct a child.

As we’ll see shortly, this is another test for Curse.

PAGES 29-32. The White Witch captures Curse.

The plan is to manipulate Curse into a situation where she has to use her powers to help someone, thus forcing her to inflict pain on herself, and making her vulnerable. Faced with an immediate emergency, Curse does do the right thing, but only after trying to help indirectly by hurting the birds. Apparently it’s okay for Curse to use her powers with good intent, as long as the immediate effect is to hurt someone else.

The White Witch is clearly identified as Saturnyne – which links this story more directly to the wider X-books. It’s not a massive twist, since Saturnyne was also referred to as the White Witch in Tini Howard’s Excalibur (see for example Morgan Le Frey in Excalibur #1).

PAGE 33. Data page, fleshing out Trabin’s explanation earlier in the issue that the predicted “chaos” might be a person. The significance as far as the author is concerned is that they’re dealing with something that can be reasoned with, rather than just a force of nature.

PAGE 34. Trailers. The Krakoan reads: SPARKS FLY.

Bring on the comments

  1. Ryan T says:

    Dust was a relatively major cast member of Legion of X, wasn’t she?

  2. Michael says:

    Magik’s depiction as being helpless due to having her powers neutralized makes no sense. We were told in the Hellfire Gala issue that her powers were neutralized by “inhibiting her x-gene”. She should still have her magical powers. She’s shown in the issue to remember that Vanaheim is a realm of divination, so shouldn’t she still remember any spells she memorized? What makes this annoying is that in New Mutants 28, Magik specifically proposed teaching certain mutants sorcery so they wouldn’t be helpless if they were attacked with power dampeners- exactly the situation she finds herself in now.
    Illyana should definitely still have her Soulsword- she had it in the Hellfire Gala issue. Since the Soulsword is usually depicted as particularly effective against magical creatures. and their opponents are all magical, she should still be useful. Depicting Illyana as useless in a sword-and-sorcery story just because she can’t teleport makes no sense.

  3. Midnighter says:

    In his interview with the Marvel website, Torunn Gronbekk said that being on Vanheim does not allow Magik to use his magical knowledge. Perhaps this is something that will be explained later.

  4. Chris V says:

    Torunn Gronbekk is a woman, just for reference.

  5. Alastair says:

    Dust was in way/legion she was renamed congregation and was part of legion’s mind sanctuary.

    Apart from Dani these are the characters we saw in the curse scene of the gala so there is some logic to the groups that end in each location maybe based on which gate and time as these all went through the same gate together

  6. Alexx Kay says:

    It’s not just Marvel, most English sources prior to this century rendered Freyr’s name as Frey. Technically, “Freyr” is the nominative case form of the name. English doesn’t have cases, so the old fashion was to simply use the root form in English renditions. At some point in the last decade or so, the fashion shifted to using the nominative form when translating names to English (I don’t know precisely when or why).

  7. neutrino says:

    It was implied that Curse using her powers against Xavier and others with him changed the portal’s destination.

  8. Mike Loughlin says:

    Paul mentioned above that characterization was off, and I agree. Marrow might have cooled off in the time following her first stint with the X-Men, but she doesn’t sound anything like the character I’m familiar with. Her last appearance I read, the Secret X-Men one shot from a couple years ago, portrayed her as still having an edge. She’s doesn’t display any personality here. Typhoid is insufferable, but not scary and unpredictable. I hope the characterization improves in future issues.

  9. GN says:

    Paul > We still don’t know why the mutants have been scattered in this way, although some sort of scheme involving Destiny and Manifold seems a realistic possibility.

    Putting all of the pieces together, here’s what I’ve got:

    ORCHIS genuinely meant to send all mutants to Planet Arakko during the Gala. They rerouted all gateways to Arakko and blackmailed Xavier into coercing the mutants to walk through them. Post-Gala, MODOK injected the gateways with the Hordeculture device that switched them off (except for the ghost Shadowkat) and ORCHIS began deporting the remaining mutants to Arakko via the Bloom and Phobos stations.

    What ORCHIS didn’t tell Xavier is that they provoked Genesis to return to Arakko to spark a civil war there. So there’s two reasons for ORCHIS to send mutants to Arakko: (1) to kill the Earth mutants at the hands of Genesis’ forces, and (2) to keep Genesis occupied so that she doesn’t turn her attentions to Earth.

    However, during the Gala, Mother Righteous cast a spell on the gateways which diverted most of the mutants who passes through into a desert. MR’s interest in Krakoan gateways was set up in IXM 11, where she examined one and described it as “a load of magic circles connecting the world”. We also have the SoS set-up of a collective Krakoan thank-you to MR. MR also shrank and trapped the Atlantic Krakoan island into her lantern at this time. So the desert the Exodus mutants are trapped in is either a transformed Atlantic Krakoa or something related to it.

    During the Gala exodus, Curse, who was being carried involuntarily through a gateway by Dust, Magik, Marrow and Typhoid Mary, cast a curse on Xavier. I suspect Curse’s powers interfered with Mother Righteous’ magic and diverted this group to Vanaheim instead. Some other mutants ended up in Vanaheim too – we know Mirage did, and looking closely at page 20, Elixir and Egg appear to be seated at the table behind the main cast. (Hope also seems to be there too, but that’s probably an artist mistake.)

    Forge is a special case. He is explicitly shown to be one of the mutants who resisted Xavier’s psychic instructions but he wasn’t part of the Lourdes Chantel group that ended up in New York. Some time later, he’s trapped on an alien planet without knowing how he got there. So there’s clearly some mystery involved in what happened to Forge that Duggan will probably explore in X-Men.

    So, in summary:
    Desert (Atlantic Krakoa?) > Exodus + Hope + Destiny + 250,000 mutants
    Vanaheim > Curse + Dust + Magik + Marrow + Mirage + Typhoid Mary + maybe Egg, Elixir, Proteus, Tempus
    Alien planet > Forge

    The Manifold scheme that Destiny and Rogue cooked up probably doesn’t have anything to do with how the mutants got to where they are but it likely will have something to do with how the mutants get back. At some point, Manifold will be woken up so he can use his powers to bring them all back. The big “To me, my X-Men!” moment.

  10. GN says:

    It’s a credit to the strength of Tini Howard’s world-building that when her overall Excalibur run was done, there was a very solid foundation left behind for other writers to pick up and play with.

    And play with it they certainly are.
    Al Ewing is using Coven Akkaba and Amenth in X-Men Red.
    Jonathan Hickman is using Sevalith and Mercator (& possibly other kingdoms) in G.O.D.S.
    Torunn Grønbekk is using Saturnyne in Realm of X.

    It reminds me of what Jason Aaron did with Thor, where he took 9 (now 10) realms – which besides Midgard & Asgard were vague and inconstantly depicted concepts at best – and turned them into something solid. Now all these realms have maps, rulers, ambassadors & heroes, politics and a sense of how they fit in with each other. A unified Norse mythology landscape and cosmology that other writers can use to tell stories. We’ve had a couple of Loki miniseries set in Jotunheim and now we have Realm of X in Vanaheim.

    I’m hoping Jed MacKay will do something similar to what Aaron and Howard have done to Marvel’s Egyptian mythology (Moon Knight, Scarlet Scarab, Black Panther, etc.).

  11. Michael says:

    @Mike Loughlin-I seem to recall Torunn mentioning that she had to fight for Marrow, because Foxe wanted her for Dark X-Men. Now we know why- apparently Foxe wanted to write her with the edge she had in Secret X-Men while Torunn wanted to write her as the watered down version we have here.

  12. ASV says:

    Has Marrow recently been redesigned to look like an early 90s supermodel who happens to have swords made of bone available?

  13. Luis Dantas says:

    Have Curse’s powers changed?

    In the early installments of the “X-Men Green” storyline it seemed like she could verbalize something in order to make the opposite happen.

    Here it feels like instead she does not need to make verbalization nor mental inversions, but rather manage the hurt price.

  14. Mike Loughlin says:

    @Michael: ugh, she’s a much better fit for Dark X-Men. I know Percy has Laura in X-Force, but I’d rather see her in Marrow’s place here.

    @ASV: I don’t like the design either (although I like the art in this issue overall), but making Marrow too conventional looking has been a problem for years. I prefer her early look, before Operation Zero Tolerance.

  15. Allan M says:

    Marrow ran out of gas as a character pretty fast. The early tension was “is this Wolverine 2.0 or is she genuinely too extreme and damaged to be a functional X-Man?” Kelly balanced that pretty well, but the answer turned out to be “she’s edgy but fine”, which isn’t very interesting. And then Davis did the whole “pretty Marrow” arc, which was a reasonable twist and explored some new angles with her. But every writer since then basically resets her to something somewhat but not too edgy, or, as in this book, she’s a nonentity so far.

    Grønbekk is usually solid so hopefully she has a plan in future issues. Why bother fighting to include her if you don’t have a plan? I’m giving benefit of the doubt for now.

  16. Michael says:

    @Allan M- the problem with Marrow is that Scott Lobdell intended her to be an irredeemable villain, so he had her massacre a nightclub full of dozens of people. Then the editors found that people liked her and ordered that she be made an X-Man. The problem is that none of the writers wanted to deal with the implications of all the deaths Marrow caused upfront. When Rogue joined we had Carol punching Rogue in the face. But writers didn’t want to do anything like that with Marrow. This wasn’t unique to Marrow- when Emma joined, no one wanted to ask if Emma should be teaching Generation X after everything she did to Firestar. But in Emma’s case, Emma became a core member of the X-Men- the writers just had Firestar avoid the X-Books. In Marrow’s case, refusing to confront the issue head-on arguably prevented her from developing as a character.

  17. Josie says:

    “It reminds me of what Jason Aaron did with Thor”

    You mean . . . basically nothing?

    I’d heard so many great things about his Thor run and finally read it a few months ago. The first 25 issues with he-Thor are a snooze fest. Aaron manages to shed a few of his hangups once Jane Foster takes the lead, but the book still took the dullest march to War of the Realms, which itself was utterly dull. Aaron packed almost nothing into about 100 issues. It’s truly incredible.

  18. Person of Con says:

    Add me to the chorus of people who think we’ve got out of character characters here, particularly with Marrow and Magik. This is a fun set of characters: between Curse, Magik, Marrow, and Dust, you have a set of abrasive but different personalities, and you should be able to get a really interesting story out of Dani having to wrangle these abrasive, outcast (to varying degrees) heroines into working together. But what’s here feels very meh so far.

    @Josie: Totally agree with your Thor take.

  19. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    The idea that Aaron’s Thor isn’t at least pretty good really makes me question people’s taste.

  20. Josie says:

    “The idea that Aaron’s Thor isn’t at least pretty good”

    At what? The ART was pretty good. The art was some of the best being produced in the entire industry at the time it was coming out. But it couldn’t compensate for Aaron’s empty plotting.

  21. Salomé H. says:

    “And then Davis did the whole “pretty Marrow” arc, which was a reasonable twist and explored some new angles with her. But every writer since then basically resets her to something somewhat but not too edgy, or, as in this book, she’s a nonentity so far.”

    Isn’t there also a short-lived iteration of X-Force – I want to say Cable and X-Force, but I’m not too sure – where she figures as rather violent, volatile, and emotionally unwell? I could swear it was Spurrier writing her having a histrionic pregnancy or something…

    About her prettification – more than agreed. And the same goes for Callisto, who is now “fixed” to look like the supermodel she seemingly once was. The implications of villains who become heroes likewise suddenly becoming attractive are pretty disturbing, and the franchise’s inability to deal with that association between ethics and aesthetics really irks me.

    Marrow is a pretty fundamentally broken character whose violent history could be approached more meaningfully if anyone wanted to take a shot at it. And damn, I do like the idea of her hanging out with Gambit…

  22. neutrino says:

    @GN: Hickman is just using them as cameos, and saturnyne was created in Captain Britain (and was much more interesting) a long time before Tini Howard.

  23. Jenny says:

    Why is Marrow using English slang when she grew up in New York’s sewers?

  24. Jdsm24 says:

    No-Prize: Marrow decide to personally reinvent herself ala Madonna , who like her , also grew up in New York City , but later spoke with a British English accent (Madonna, not Marrow) while she was married to movie director/producer Guy Ritchie. As for being a mass murderer , Marrow May have been given a Second Chance by Fate/Heaven/Whoever, and by Marvel standards , this of course means that there is no point revisiting her crimes since she’s been forgiven already (except it was indeed revisited in 1998’s X-men 79 and the 1999’s Uncanny XMen 373&374) This is because Sarah was essentially killed already in 1995’s Uncanny XMen issue 325 , when Storm literally tore out her heart in order to stop bombs from being detonated in NYC (they were linked to her heartbeats). But Marrow secretly survived because a hidden aspect of her physical mutation is that she supposedly has 2 hearts (or so she claims) and apparently a healing factor as well , because when she reappears later after an absence of roughly 20 months later , in 1997’s Uncanny X-men 346 , she’s for all infants and purposes been effectively ressurrected , as she’s now become Objectively Conventionally Fully Sexy (immortalized in Capcom’s StreetFighter vs X-men) or at least , Even More than she was a couple of years before that point (admittedly , she was never actually ugly , even in Gene Nation , she already had the bone structure and perfect teeth & akin of a certifiable beauty , except her head was mostly bald , with loose strands of hair here and there like a cancer patient, which by 1990’s U.S.A. standards meant that she was hideous , even if it was , now in hindsight , an example of the trope of Hollywood Homely)

  25. Jdsm24 says:

    Also Marrow WAS pregnant (she apparently got knocked up at some point in time after she was depowered on M-Day but like fellow Marvel heroines Jessica Drew/OG Spider-Woman and Marvel UK’s Motormouth , her babydaddy’s identity still remains unrevealed to the audience) but she accidentally miscarried after she participated in an experimental process to artificially Xerox her X-gene and then was brainwashed/gaslighted into believing that she willingly sacrificed her unborn baby (essentially aborting it) by stereotypically sociopathic/sadistic Ruzzian Mafia crime-boss/global-black-market-weapons-dealer Volga for the lolsz (this was written a decade ago around the time of the rise to power of the global alt-right neo-fascists when 4chan was still at its peak) but in actuality she very much did not as she spent the whole series unconsciously and/or subconsciously keeping a constantly-running stream-of-consciousness narration where she was apologizing to her deceased offspring for being so irresponsibly careless

  26. Michael says:

    @Jdsm24- neither X-Men 79 nor Uncanny X-Men 373-374 mentioned the dance club massacre. All that was mentioned was, for example, her killing Mikhail’s guards in Uncanny 374- not the murder of innocent people. And X-Men 79 suggested the X-Men had problems with her because she was ugly and not because she killed dozens of people.

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