X-Plaining the Dawn of X: Hickman and Yu’s X-MEN
Mutants in (Relative) Peacetime
With HOX/POX acting as a relaunch of Marvel’s X-Men titles, it’s fitting that the first ongoing monthly book to spin out of HOX/POX is X-Men, written by “Head of X” Johnathan Hickman with art by the legendary Leinil Francis Yu. Unlike the other X-titles, X-Men serves as a bit of an episodic series, with most of its chapters not exactly relating to other issues, but instead mainly serving as a way to build this new world, so to speak. Introducing new enemies, establishing Krakoa’s position on the world stage, and creating new mythologies.
X-Men #1 opens with a mission to destroy the last Orchis stronghold on Earth and free the mutants imprisoned therein. Cyclops and Storm attack from the ground, while Magneto and his daughter Polaris arrive late and descend from the sky, destroying all their research and forcing their leader, Director Devo, to retreat. While liberating the mutant children, Polaris stumbles across a pod holding a posthuman named Serafina, a member of the Children of the Vault. Serafina disappears before the X-Men can detain her, but Cyclops decides not to follow her, and instead bring the freed mutant children back to Krakoa. After arriving on Krakoa with their new citizens, Cyclops has brief conversations with both Storm and Polaris about how everything they’ve done, every tragedy they’ve suffered, every act of hate thrown at them was worth it for the paradise that is Krakoa.
Later, Cyclops returns to his home on Earth’s moon to welcome his human father, space pirate Corsair, for a family dinner. Cyclops explains that Krakoa can grow ‘houses’ anywhere that it’s plants take root, all connected to the main island. When it came time for the Summer House to be established, Cyclops decided to grow his home on the moon, because “why settle?”. After dinner with the other members of the Summer House, Cyclops and his brothers (Havok and Vulcan) present a Krakoan Gate flower to their father. They instruct him to plant it in the arboretum of his spaceship, so that they can visit each other whenever they want, a gift that Corsair proclaims to love. All the while, Orchis secretly makes a breakthrough in developing the beginnings of Nimrod, the future destroyer of mutantkind. As of writing this, there has been a follow up to this issue in X-Men #6
Issue #2 sees Cyclops and his children, Prestige and Cable, investigate a new island that seems to be on a collision course with Krakoa. After exploring and fighting local wildlife, the trio stumble upon a being with bright white skin and a black symbol on their chest. This being is known as the High Summoner, a mutant being born on the other half of Krakoa, Arrako. Unknown to all except Apocalypse, eons ago there was once a sentient landmass known as Okkara that was cleaved in two by an unknown entity wielding a powerful sword, creating Krakoa and Arrako. Apocalypse lead his first team of Horsemen in battle against the entity and ultimately defeated it, but in doing so he was forced to lock both his Horsemen and Arrako away in an unreachable pocket of reality.
This new landmass, however, is revealed to be a chunk of Arrako that somehow escaped and wishes to be reunited with Krakoa. After a brief misunderstanding, Prestige uses her telepathy to teach the Summoner both the English and Krakoan languages, and two landmasses become one. The chunk of Arrako (renamed Arak Coral) is deemed off limits until the Council can discern whether it’s safe to inhabit or not. However, the Summoner is visited in the dead of night by Apocalypse, who learns that his former Horseman, War, is the Summoner’s mother. Apocalypse embraces the Summoner and announces his intention to save both his first Horsemen and Arrako. At the time of writing this, there has not been a follow up to this issue (though there soon will be during the X of Swords event)
The next few issues are lighter on worldbuilding, with issue #3 introducing a new villainous team known as Hordeculture, a team of elderly female human botanists who intend on eradicating humankind so as Earth’s plants can thrive. They hijack Krakoa’s gateway system and attack their Savage Land flower garden to gauge whether mutantkind will be an obstacle for them or not, engaging in battle with Cyclops, the White Queen Emma Frost, and the Black King Sebastian Shaw. At the time of writing this, there has been a follow up to this story, but that’ll be for another piece covering the Empyre: X-Men miniseries tie-in to the company-wide Empyre event series. Issue #4 sees the Winter table of the Quiet Council (Xavier, Magneto, and Apocalypse) attending an international economic summit, whilst their bodyguards Cyclops and Gorgon covertly thwart an assassination attempt on the mutant leaders.
Issue #5 sees a return of Serafina, who reaches The Vault, her home, and seals herself away to call her siblings. Cyclops and Xavier send a small team consisting of mutants Darwin, Synch, and Wolverine’s daughter Laura (also code-named Wolverine) inside The Vault to destroy it from the inside. The Vault uses a temporal displacement countermeasure to protect itself, effectively meaning that hundreds of years can go by inside the Vault while only minutes pass outside. Darwin is sent because of his power to adapt to any environment he finds himself in, Synch because of his ability to mimic any mutants power (in this case, Darwin’s), and Wolverine (Laura), because her powerful healing factor should help her survive the harsh conditions of the Vault.
The team is sent in, knowing that there’s no way for Cerebro to detect whether they’ve died or not, and are sealed inside for three months, five days, "and some change”. According to Xavier, from the team’s perspective, they’ve been in the Vault for approximately five-hundred thirty-seven years “and some change”. This brings Cyclops great despair, as he questions why he thought it was a good idea to send these mutants to suffer in the Vault for hundreds of years. At the time of writing this, there has not yet been a follow up to this issue.
Issue #6 reveals that the X-Men’s attack on the Orchis Forge in the pages of House of X #4 was not so straightforward, as Xavier and Magneto gave Mystique an additional, secret mission. She was to plant a Krakoan gateway in the garden of the Forge, so as to spy on Orchis further. Mystique does so on the condition that her deceased wife, the mutant seer Destiny, be fast-tracked for resurrection. The duo agrees, and she proceeds with her mission, but is killed with the rest of the team. Once resurrected, Xavier holds off on ordering Destiny’s resurrection until Mystique can prove her side mission successful, as she was too far out in space for Cerebro to detect her.
It’s discovered that her mission was successful, and she proceeds to use her shape-shifting abilities to spy on Orchis. She returns with news that Orchis is building a Nimrod, but she neglected to sabotage the experiment, much to the chagrin of Charles and Erik. She demands that Destiny be brought back to life, and the duo refuse, promising to bring her back once she’s “earned it” (though, the reader knows the real reason they haven’t resurrected her is because Moira X has forbid them from allowing mutants with clairvoyant abilities to step foot on Krakoa). After returning to her home habitat defeated, Mystique reminisces about how Destiny foresaw Krakoa’s creation, and has Mystique promise that if she isn’t resurrected, to “burn that place to the ground”. At the time of writing this, there has not been a follow up for this issue.
Issue #7 introduces the concept of Crucible, a semi-gladiatorial test to see if mutants depowered by the Scarlet Witch on “M-Day” were worthy of resurrection with their mutations restored. Aero, the only member of the mutant Guthrie family to lose her powers, is chosen to prove herself. Cyclops, feeling conflicted about the barbarism of the whole thing, goes to friend and teammate Nightcrawler (birth name Kurt Wagner) for spiritual counsel. Nightcrawler reveals that the Quiet Council’s vote to enact Crucible was not unanimous, as he voted against it. Kurt, a devote Catholic priest, then proceeds to wax poetic on the resurrection protocols and their religious ramifications. He expresses that he has not begun to doubt his belief in the God of Abraham and the Catholic Church, instead only growing stronger in his faith. He sees mutantkind’s newfound immortality as an opportunity to spend eternity doing good deeds in the name of God.
The two friends witness Aero’s fight against Apocalypse whilst discussing the issues facing The Five, namely the wills of dead mutants requesting ‘customization’ of their new body, such as altering their physical features, reassigning their gender, or even adding powers they didn’t already possess. Crucible ends with Apocalypse showing respect for Aero, before running her through with his sword. She is promptly resurrected, with her mutant power of flight restored. As she displays her powers to the cheering citizens of Krakoa, Cyclops and Nightcrawler agree on the beauty of seeing one of their mutant sisters return to her full potential. The issue ends with Nightcrawler revealing his intention to start a mutant religion. At the time of writing this, there has not been a follow up for this issue.
Issues #8 and #9 contain the first story of this run to be told in two consecutive issues. The story in question revolves around the alien Brood attacking Krakoa to claim their King Egg, which is prophesized to house a Brood King to unite the various hive-minds into one. The New Mutants stole the King Egg from the Shi’ar Empire and brought it back to Krakoa as a trophy (that story will be elaborated on when the New Mutants series is covered). Broo, a mutant member of the Brood and former student of Wolverine’s, visits Krakoa and warns them that the Brood are coming to reclaim their King but is too late. As the Brood attack, Cyclops, Broo, Jean Grey, Vulcan, and Havok fly off to Shi’ar space to lure the Brood away from Krakoa. In doing so, they come back into contact with Corsair and his team, the Starjammers, and former Shi’ar emperor/mutant ally Gladiator and his son, Kid Gladiator. As the X-Men, Starjammers, and Shi’ar fight off the Brood, Broo ‘accidentally’ eats the King Egg, thereby becoming the King of the Brood and ordering them to stop their attack on his friends. At the time of writing this, there has not been a follow up to this issue.
And finally, we come to the most recent issues: #10 and #11. Again, these issues deliver a consecutive story, that story being an invasion of Krakoa by the alien plant-based beings known as the Cotati. The Cotati are the central antagonists of the Avengers/Fantastic Four centric event series Empyre, and these two issues act as tie-ins to said event. Issue #10 focuses on Vulcan and his PTSD. Vulcan is an Omega-Level mutant who is no stranger to trauma. He’s been killed, driven insane, and tortured in another dimension known as The Fault. Resurfacing on Krakoa in the modern era with his insanity wiped away, his trauma keeps him mostly secluded to the Summer House on the moon, drowning in booze and nightmares. In issue #10 he finds the Cotati on the moon and warns them not to attack Krakoa. When they attack him, he remembers his time in The Fault, where mysterious entities suppress his power and rewrite his personality to make him seem like he’s no longer evil, for reasons yet to be revealed. After Vulcan burns all the Cotati with his fire, the invaders attack Krakoa in retaliation.
Issue #11 focuses more on Magneto and his response to the Cotati’s invasion. Framed as a story that Exodus tells to scared mutant children, he tells of how Magneto lead Krakoa against the invaders, having Magma erupt a volcano and Iceman super-chill the resultant lava into jagged iron spikes, which Erik uses to great effect. After killing the Cotati leader with a barrage of weather satellites, Magneto leads the X-Men back to the moon to continue the offensive. The issue also showcases a tease for the upcoming X of Swords event (which is meant to start with September's issue #12) with the long-awaited return of the High Summoner, engaging young mutants in a game from Arrako meant to test one’s weaknesses. Since the Summoner is supposedly one of the antagonists of the forthcoming crossover event, this does not bode well for the citizens of Krakoa.
Next time: Marauders from writer Gerry Duggan and artist Matteo Lolli!