X-Men’s New Dawn Doesn’t Mark The Spot

I’ve been spending a lot of time on DC properties lately, what with the Professor Pyg & Joker customs. So before Crisis On Infinite Earths takes over The CW, let’s check in on Marvel’s House of X & Powers of X leading into “Dawn of X.” (HoX, PoX, & DoX for short, soon to be followed by CoX.) Before this SPOILERY dissection of the X-Men’s latest status quo, let’s talk toys! Remember to save Lodge 49 too!

DSCI7441.JPG

The best part of the MCU having the X-Men & Spider-Man is now they can do a movie inspired by Marvel Team-Up #74! (Which current SNL castmember would an acceptable substitute for Jim Belushi though?)

I had a $15 GameStop coupon so I got Silver Samurai for $8! (Getting deals on items I would’ve paid full price for is such a lovely feeling!) Is there any rhyme or reason to some being labelled Silver Sam? The card bio is directly plagiarized from the original except it omits mention of his power & Wolverine? Despite the lack of removable kabuto & vac metalization, this is a huge improvement on the genuine vintage figure. The flexible silver plastic isn’t swirly but it does let too much light through. Butterfly chest joints would help him achieve more double handed poses. I’m still mad Hasbro made an energy effect for swords but didn’t give it to him. He’s currently borrowing Psylocke’s. I’d prefer a power spiral & a scabbard to a second sword that’s not even the cursed Black Blade. (He was much better at controlling it than Black Knight is at controlling the cursed Ebon Blade.) Since there’s no BAF pieces yet they’re still full price, it would’ve been nice if Hasbro had gone all out on the vintage series.

DSCI6838

Stryfe had enough of being teased over his four washer nipples!

The Disney-Fox merger means any chance of seeing Stryfe’s helmet has been pushed way back. This is a shame for all fans of Wolverine masks made of gigantic X-Acto blades like me. (Thanks to the Fox films, there are people who don’t know Wolverine wears a mask of his own face.) At least you can swap the heads of Stryfe & Cable. This is a keen play feature I haven’t seen highlighted anyplace.

DSCI6848 (2)

“But then again, who needs a crystal ball to predict the obvious?”

DSCI6870

Is this a Youngblood?

Mezco’s costume description is wrong. Gambit’s been wearing his armored pink vest on missions long before he joined the X-Men! The costume itself is missing the vital pink rectangles on his pants revealed to be card holsters.

I can’t afford XM Studios’ (this design has changed since Marvel originally cancelled it) or Iron Studios’ dioramas of X-Men fighting Sentinels. Both have Jubilee! (You purchase the Iron Studios pieces separately expect her.) Of course I don’t have space for them anyway.

More effort was put into this unlicensed 12″ Mystique than the movies.

In a recent comics shipment I received a Sabretooth chess piece. I thought it was an error, but it turned out I ordered one in 2015.

~

Emma Dumont wears Polaris’s blue & black costume. (Sometimes she looks like a cross betwixt Krysten Ritter & Dove Cameron.)

Olivia Munn found Bryan Singer’s and Simon Kinberg’s lack of X-Men knowledge “very frustrating.” I know this feel.

Batman vs. Cyclops: He didn’t have enough prep time.

The day your pony burned was the most important of your life, Firestar. But for Emma Frost, it was Tuesday.

Trenchcoat guys are posers!

Both Gail Simone & Fabian Nicieza are wrong. Cyclops shoots love-rays from his eyes. That explains why all the telepaths want to see his one-eyed monster.

Leech vs. the linear progression of time

Billie Eilish’s new hair makes her look like the lovechild of Rogue & Polaris.

Colossus as The Proletarian always reminds me of Super Mario.

~

I can’t believe Marvel canned Sina Grace for promoting Iceman to the New York Times! How dare he try to attract more readers! If they didn’t want him to go behind their backs, maybe Marvel ought to hire more publicists. It’s like they’re not even in the business of selling comics! Imagine all the indie creators that’d kill for NYT publicity!

~

Okay, now I’m finally going to review the mini-series leading up to the Dawn of X relaunch! (I’ve not discussed X-comics since I dunked on Dark Phoenix. It also failed candle makers.) It’s quite long. First, some background context as dialogue:

Marvel: We don’t own the X-Men movie rights, so we’re going to marginalize them as much as possible without outright killing the cashcow. Inhumans are going to be the mutants of the MCU!

fans: But nobody likes Inhumans! In fact their eugenics based caste system is problematic at best & contrary to the metaphors that make X-Men so popular.

Marvel: SHUT UP & EAT YOUR INHUMANS!

The Inhumans movie TV series happens & there is no rejoicing! Then Disney buys 20th Century Fox.

Marvel: We have all the X-Men rights now. All Inhumans not named Kamala Khan or Luna Lafayette are now dead. Prepare for the big X-Men relaunch as we prepare to integrate mutants into the MCU!

fans: FINALLY!

Marvel: Jonathan Hickman will reinvigorate the X-franchise by making mutants the new Inhumans!

fans: GRODD DAMN YOU!!!

There’s no reason House of X & Powers of X had to be two separate six issue mini-series instead of one that’s twelve issues. Hickman said it was because one artist couldn’t do that many issues within the timeframe, so why not have one series with two artists? The series intertwine so the option to skip half the story setting up the new status quo doesn’t make sense. They don’t even alternate issues for convenience, so readers could easily read them in the wrong order if they hadn’t consulted the checklist in back. It just makes them more inconvenient to store (together by issue or mixed by read order?). The story itself probably could’ve been told in less than twelve issues anyway. This doesn’t even factor in the the double-spread white pages of supplemental infographics, the most gratuitous being a collage of reprinted anti-mutant ethnic cleansings.

Whenever a new writer takes over a long running title, there’s bound to be some retcons. These mini-series are 88% retcons. So even before parsing out the narrative’s quality, I frequently screamed in my mind “THAT’S NOT RIGHT!” When that much canon needs to be changed, it’s best to set it outside the mainline continuity. Marvel doesn’t even have the excuse of doing periodic reboots like DC does. Hickman’s answers about the assorted continuity flaws & ethical conundrums aren’t reassuring.

The retcon parade begins with Krakoa, the island that once walked like a man. (Wait, Arrako & Krakoa were separated centuries ago by Apocalypse & his first Horsemen? But Krakoa was specifically born after WWII!) Professor Charles Xavier reveals that Krakoa naturally produces three distinct pharmacological drugs to benefit mankind. The concept of natural resources being harvested from Krakoa is intriguing, but it’s jarring how they suddenly form the impetus for the story. Xavier will only release these drugs to countries that recognize Karakoa as a sovereign mutant homeland. (Emma Frost telepathically influencing politicians is something I’ve wanted to see her do for a while.) What’s weirdest is that Krakoa know produces seeds that open portals back to itself if planted elsewhere. Teleportation was never part of Krakoa’s mutant powers. International teleportation hubs back to its safety also seem too convenient. (In Excalibur, its vines are also an invasive species to the extradimensional realm of Avalon.)

Another huge retcon that the whole thing pivots on is Moira MacTaggart secretly being a mutant. Well she introduced herself to Xavier as a mutant when they first met; it’s just that she’s conveniently immune to mutant detectors. Her power is that whenever she dies, the entire timeline resets & gives the latest incarnation of Moira all the memories of her prior selves. So rather than getting a mutation that’s an amped up version of something biological, hers is on the the downright magic end of the spectrum. Also Mystique had actually killed a Shi’ar golem of Moira instead of the real MacTaggart. This is ruinous to the coexistence aspect of the X-Men as Moira used to be their most prominent human ally. She was also the first human to be infected with Legacy Virus, but apparently this disease didn’t mutate into a pandemic. So rather than becoming universally lethal like AIDS, this plague actually stayed a mutant exclusive problem.

Upon meeting him, Moira tells Xavier that his dream of mutant-human coexistence failed in each of her lives so he should make an isolationist mutant homeland instead. Then they tell Magneto to get him onboard. This plan also gets to Mr. Sinister & Forge fairly early. Since these are prominent characters whose thought’s we’ve even been periodically privy to, this secret history of the X-Men falls apart conceptually. This is a massive undertaking that should’ve preoccupied them, yet this is the first time it’s sprung on readers. It makes so much of their past actions explicitly self-defeating to this shared masterplan.

Karima Shapandar is back to being Omega-Sentinel. She appears to be voluntarily working with the new anti-mutant Orchis cabal. (Orchis is concerned with the potential for mutants to destroy Earth, yet willfully ignorant of the many non-mutant superhumans that could do likewise.) She’s supposed to be a cyborg who successfully overcame the programming she had forced upon her. Furthermore her body’s Prime Sentinel components were rendered inert when she last appeared. Text mentions that Prime Sentinel nanites have dormant phases, but it’s lazy character regression that was already stale by the time Hickman got to her. He could’ve just invented another Prime Sentinel.

Mr. Sinister’s X-gene somehow comes from Thunderbird? Shouldn’t it be from Courier, since Gambit had a time travel arc showing that’s how he acquired shapeshifting powers? Since Hickman is writing future Nimrod like Mr. Sinister, he’s writing Mr. Sinister over the top like Joker. He may have arch moments, but he shouldn’t be this outright goofy. He also made an entire secret island of Mr. Sinister clones before the X-Men formed despite it being established he was unable to clone himself until the recent creation of Miss Sinister.

Orchis is building a space station that births Master Molds in outer space. The X-Men jet off to destroy it without bringing any teleporting Krakoa flowers lest they fall into evil hands. Archangel & Husk are killed instantly offscreen, so I knew not to take anything seriously. The mutants are successful at the cost of everyone on the strikeforce. Since it’d been established there’s a do-over each time Moira dies, I expected that’s how they’d undo killing so many marketable mutants at once. Instead this event remains in the main timeline, & Xavier just immediately resurrects the team as clones.

There are no stakes because death is cured. Why use five mutants (Goldballs, Elixir, Tempus, Proteus, & Hope) to make insta-clones when one reality-manipulating Proteus or Jaime Braddock could do it alone? (Goldballs is calling himself Egg now, & that’s somehow more terrible. Apparently his balls are really hollow eggs that can conveniently incubate clones.) The minds of the dead mutants are downloaded from a device Forge made that stores templates of every mutant’s mind made by Cerebro. (Xavier wisely had redundancies of this storage device built, so there’s not even drama about the possibility of it being destroyed.) Cerebro was apparently copying mutant minds all along, not just locating their physical bodies via amplified telepathy. The issue of whether the clones would have distinct souls from the originals is apparently not a factor. If they’re getting all new bodies, it doesn’t address why Wolverine still has adamantium-laced bones or why Cyclops still has brain damage requiring him to wear his visor. Storm’s big contribution to this series is to proclaim that the X-Clones are genuine since she’s been demoted to cult hypewoman.

A mutant homeland is a good idea; I just don’t think it should be the only option. I didn’t like it during Matt Fraction’s Utopia era either. They never learn that putting all the mutant eggs into one basket makes them sitting ducks. (Remember when the X-Men warred against Cable for starting his own island nation, Providence, with voluntary citizenship for both mutants & humans?) Extorting recognition seems savvy in the short run, but how long will it be until countries team up to seize Krakoa’s drugs on their own terms? (How mad will the flatscans be when they learn they weren’t offered resurrection too?) The segregated aspect also ruins the goal of peaceful coexistence.

So far everyone on Krakoa acts like a pacified zombie ecstatic to be there. Its inhabitants all get an artificial Krakoan language & alphabet telepathically implanted to further alienate them from their prior cultures. (What’s Doug Ramsey’s favorite fruit? Lingo-berries!) At least some of Utopia’s mutants would be annoyed at living on an island with no infrastructure. X-Factor Investigations was also around to straight up refuse residence.

The lack of contrasting characterization is especially egregious when Xavier assembles a Krakoan ruling council with a sizable amount of supervillains. (Professor X should be legally barred from interacting with teenagers.) Mass murderer Magneto isn’t even the most dubious! They just all agree to the island’s new rules in the blandest way possible in a single issue. There’s lots of drama to be mined from nation-building (The 100 & The Expanse are great examples), but Hickman opts to be as underwhelming as possible.

Only Sabretooth speaks out against the new society as he’s being punished ex post facto for breaking the law against killing humans. The reasoning behind the law being that it’s gauche to murder genetic inferiors is paternal at best & speciesist at worst. Why is Apocalypse, whose whole ethos is built on a misunderstanding of Herbert Spencer, so chill about not making Krakoans violently prove their worth & not smiting the dependent human nations? Granting him amnesty makes the X-Men seem like supervillains. Xavier’s view that all mutant lives matter is hollow when he invites the architect of the Mutant Massacre to a seat in government. If Krakoa can indefinitely confine Sabretooth Sarlaac Pit-style, it can do the same for Sinister.

The most controversial of the three laws of robotics Krakoa among readers is “Make more mutants.” (It’s going to need more defined rules if it’s to function as a society.) Since it’s presented as an outright law rather than a suggestion, some interpret it as enforced heteronormativity. It’d also be offensive to the autonomy of heterosexual mutants who don’t want kids. Since Xavier made the resurrection protocols so no mutant would ever die, however, my question is whether Krakoa would be able to support new generations of mutants in addition to the perpetually resurrecting ones already in existence. The island’s genetic diversity could be at risk. Since more mutants will be born outside Krakoa with each generation anyway, there needn’t be an onus on Krakoans to keep mutant births up. How much will Krakoa need to expand to house all successive waves of imported mutants? From a narrative perspective, there’s little point in breeding new characters when they’ll never be able to truly replace the current generation. (This is true of western superhero comics in general, but made more explicit here.)

Powers of X is named thusly as it flits through time in exponents of ten. (So it’s Powers of Ten, House of Ten, Dawn of Ten, & Ten-Men. Xavier said the X in X-Men stands for X-tra, so maybe it ought to be House of X-tra, Powers of X-tra, & Dawn of X-tra.) There’s a section of set a century from the present where the ragtag survivors of Krakoa battle humans & their Sentinels in another “DOFP” riff minus time travel. Then there’s another segment 1,000 years from now where mutants are even more nearly extinct as humans are on the verge of being voluntarily assimilated into the Phalanx/Technarchy to move up the Kardashev Scale. (There appears to be some reinterpretation of its hierarchy & opperations, but I’m too burnt out to delve into it.)

The continued use of Sentinels into the future implies a theme of biology against technology. The finale reveals that the humans were merely using machines as a stalling tactic against mutants while they learned to genetically engineer themselves into “post-humans.” This big reveal falls flat. Genetic engineering to give humans superpowers already exists in present day Marvel universe! Why did it take them centuries to get to that point? It’s also unclear why genetic tinkering should be abhorrent to the surviving mutants including geneticist MacTaggart. (It’s implied her own experiments produced a reality warping son specifically for the resurrection protocols.) Sinister even produced chimeras for mutants before betraying them. (Mister Sinister is a name you can trust!) Of course the point is moot since the very tardy post-humans want to become Phalanx anyway.

Now that resurrection is available, Mystique wants Destiny back. (It’s irksome that she’s never had another girlfriend since, even after ditching the Comics Code preventing them from explicitly saying Mystique is bisexual.) Moira is vetoing this because Destiny will both know she’s alive & reveal that this Krakoa gambit fails. So if MacTaggart knows Krakoa is doomed already, why bother going through with it in the first place?

Cyclops now lives on the Moon to really drive home those Inhumans parallels.

While Magneto is tearing through their base to rescue mutant kids, some Orchis goons get the bright idea to thwart him by turning themselves into gorillas! This is ridiculous yet not in a good way. Gorillas aren’t Magneto’s Kryptonite like they are the Flash’s! Way to squander that gorillafication tech!

Orchis has an M’Kraan Crystal shard. I call bullpucky! Do you realize how hard it is to get past its guardians, Modt & Jahf?

Marvel likes to act as if mutants are a fringe group despite several company-wide crossovers being instigated by them. One of the most intriguing aspects of Grant Morrison’s “New” X-Men (which is now somehow old enough to vote) was how mutant subcultures were flourishing organically & even appreciated by non-mutants. Here we see Krakoan culture is artificially created just for mutants independent of the larger world. Rather than letting mutants’ unique backgrounds inform them as characters, it feels like they’re being homogenized. If you replace mutant with a real life subset of humanity, you’ll notice how extremely problematic it is to send that entire group to an island to live by themselves. I don’t think the X-Men should be underdog doormats, but this new society feels like it’s set up as a eugenics cult. Instead of a great stride forward for mutantkind, it feels myopically regressive.

So far I like Marauders though! Mostly because Gerry Duggan, who wrote one of the best Deadpool stints, is writing it. Is Krakoa not letting Shadowcat in because that dangler that she might be a Neo is finally being addressed? There’s Hellfire Club Trading Company intrigue. (Emma Stone is just the White Queen’s diamond form.) Original Pyro is back. Resurrect original Avalanche next! It’s still crazy that Kurt “Velvetface” Wagner isn’t part of this swashbuckling team.

To be an X-Men fan is to know suffering.

9 thoughts on “X-Men’s New Dawn Doesn’t Mark The Spot

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s