Dawn of X catch-up

We’re getting a little into the Hickman era of X-Men, and all-in-all, it’s been pretty good. I’ve been meaning to cover these as each book comes out, but now that we’re through the issue 3’s, I guess it’s time to catch up.

If you want me to be more on-time with following the X-Men, please remind me via the comments. I work more efficiently if someone is staying on me.

So here’s what’s been going on. After those, I’ll give you thoughts on them.

X-Men
Over in the main title, we mainly follow the exploits of Cyclops who is the main field agent of the Krakoan council. After establishing the Summer House, a Krakoan living structure on the Blue Area of the Moon, he welcomes his wife Marvel Girl, his brothers Havok and Vulcan, his children Cable and Prestige, and his wife’s booty call Wolverine to live with him. He also has a gate that connects to the Starjammer so his father can come and go as he pleases.

The first major event that transpires brings back Krakoa’s “sibling” of sorts Arakko into the picture and the two islands combine together for the first time in thousands of years. This adds a whole new area onto Krakoa, though it is thus far unexplorable by the mutants.

Then, the Savage Land portal is cut off, and the mutants sent to investigate are attacked. Cyclops takes Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw to find what has happened, and they are attacked by a trio of elderly botany warriors called Hordeculture. They have easily found the means to take control of the Krakoan portals and use them, and they are planning to either use Krakoa to their own personal means or destroy it if it can’t be done.

MARAUDERS
Kitty Pryde, being unable to use the gateways to transit to and from Krakoa, has found herself as something of an outcast of the mutant society, as she is forced to travel via ship. Because of her situation, she is recruited by Emma Frost, White Queen of the Hellfire Club, to be the in-field agent of the Krakoan worldwide business dealings done by the Club. Recruiting Iceman and Storm, as well as the resurrected Pyro (the original villain version), Kitty (now calling herself Kate), takes to the act of piracy, commandeering ships to travel to countries who have not accepted diplomatic relations with Krakoa and distribute the mutant medicines, while also offering transit to any mutants who wish to come to the island but are forbidden by their nations. During a mission, Kate establishes her team to be the Marauders, despite the history of that name with the X-Men.

When Sebastian Shaw, the Black King, begins using his role as Krakoa’s black market dealer to gain personal wealth, Emma sends Kate to steal Shaw’s haul and destroy his ship as a message to not go against the official Krakoan ways. Kate succeeds in her mission, while also bringing Bishop onto her new ship, the Marauder, a high-tech ship bought by the Hellfire Club. Shaw is taken aback by being punished, and further when he learns that he is not able to fill the final seat on the Krakoan Council, the Red King spot of the Hellfire Club with his own choice, as Emma has given it to Kate. Kate tries to recruit Bishop to be her Red Bishop, but he has thus far refused the role.\

Shaw’s own pick was believed to be whomever he had been presumably shacking up with, but in reality it was his son, Shinobi Shaw, whose resurrection by the Five was a part of the Black King’s agreeing to come to Krakoa. With Shinobi in the Red King spot, Shaw would have had leverage in the Hellfire Club over Emma Frost, but her manipulations outplayed his, and he is forced to convince his son to help him work against the women to gain more power for themselves.

Excalibur
Betsy Braddock is warned by Apocalypse that something off is happening in Otherworld, and suggests that she get her brother, Captain Britain, to look into it. Brian had already been summoned to Otherworld by Morgan Le Fay, who has found the waters of Avalon polluted by growth from Krakoa, which is trying to establish a gateway. She takes control of Brian and orders Betsy killed, as well as the gateway to be attacked, but Betsy manages to seal the gate, though the energies that come through it come into Rogue, who was using her powers to try to absorb some of it, and puts her into a state of trance. With his last bit of will, Brian orders Betsy to put his pendant around her neck and bestows upon her the power of Captain Britain.

Betsy, accompanied by Gambit and Jubilee, are taken by Kate Pryde to the old location of the lighthouse formerly used as a headquarters by Excalibur to establish a Krakoan gateway, as well as seeking a means to help both Brian and Rogue. When the floral cocoon containing Rogue is put on that spot, a new lighthouse emerges from the ground, serving as a bond between Krakoa and the magics of the area, as told by druids in the area. The three mutants set up a temporary homestead, with Jubilee bringing her baby Shogo to her from Krakoa. Apocalypse also comes to them and says that they must go after Brian if they ever want to save him, so the three transport to Otherworld while he stays behind to guard Rogue.

However, Jubilee was transported before she could give up Shogo, so the baby also came into Otherworld, where he took the form of a dragon. As a human child, with infinite imagination, Shogo has great power in that realm, so is perfectly safe in that form, though Jubilee is not at all amused by it. They manage to find Brian Braddock, though he has been completely taken over by Morgan Le Fay and is unable to be pulled from her thralls. Back on Earth, Apocalypse leaves the lighthouse and travels to recruit Rictor, who has lost control of his powers with the coming of Krakoa. He brings him back to the lighthouse in Cornwall, England, where the two of them are confronted by Pete Wisdom, Agent of MI-13.

New Mutants
With the establishment of Krakoa, a “second generation” homestead is formed consisting of Sunspot, Mirage, Karma, Wolfsbane, Magik and Cypher of the New Mutants, as well as Chamber and Mondo of Generation X, the majority of whom having been recently resurrected by the Five and feeling whole for the first time in a long while. With all of the celebrations going on, Sunspot feels that their old teammate and his BFF Cannonball should be there. For those of you not in the know, Cannonball married a Shi’ar Imperial Guardsman, Smasher, had a child, and is living in the Shi’ar Empire.

Determined to bring their buddy back to Earth, the New Mutants hitch a ride with the Starjammers into Shi’ar space, but make nuisances of themselves by doing things like Magik cutting off Raza’s metal arm in a sparring bout, or Cypher’s Krakoa pod ruining Cho’od’s plant harvest, or Sunspot stealing Corsair’s bourbon. So finally, when the Starjammers come to a space station, Corsair tells them a really horrible story of slavers and tells them to stay put and not make any trouble. Unable to let such atrocities go by, the New Mutants butt into the fray, only to discover that the Starjammers made up the story to scare them and are actually just robbing the space station. Finally having had enough of their guests, the Starjammers bail and allow the New Mutants to be arrested.

Put on trial and defended by possibly the worst defense attorney money can buy, the New Mutants are found guilty and placed into custody of an Imperial Guardsman, who just happens to be Cannonball’s wife. The group has a happy reunion, though their festivities are cut short when Smasher tells them that the New Mutants have been pardoned for their crimes in exchange for being summoned into service to the Empire. Gladiator, Emperor of the Shi’ar, is preparing to abdicate the throne to Xandra Nerami (established in Mr. and Mrs. X, if you’ve been paying attention), but needs to bring someone in to get her ready to take her role as Imperial Magestrix. Sooooo, the New Mutants are going after Deathbird.

So while that’s going on, issue 3 heads back to Earth and switches the focus to the duo of Armor and Glob Herman, who have decided to go looking for friends who have not made it to Krakoa. They also bring along Boom Boom and the siblings Maxine and Manon, who I remember existing, though I can’t remember from where. Their first targets are Beak and Angel Salvador, who have not gone to Krakoa due to Beak’s father being very ill. Luckily, they have some mutant drugs that heal anything. That solved, some anti-mutant thugs show up to kidnap their kids and we cue the fight scene.

Fallen Angels
Kwannon, the Japanese assassin whose body was formerly used by Betsy Braddock, has come to Krakoa but is feeling out of place, abandoning the “Kwannon” name (which is not her real name), in favor of just Psylocke. Feeling like she has to hide her true self to have a place there, she decides to go out adventuring, and takes two others who have similar feelings, Cable and X-23. There is also a lot of lore and quotes going on.

X-Force
A team of mercenaries taking up the Reavers name kidnaps Domino and flays the skin from her body and places it on themselves to get past Krakoa’s defense system and invade the island. Professor X, during a public appearance, is given a tiny tracking device so they can beeline to him once on the island. The plan works, and Professor X is shot in the head and killed, shattering his Cerebro helmet.

Wolverine and Marvel Girl retrieve a backup Cerebro unit to replace the destroyed one, while they prepare to perform the resurrection process for the first time without Xavier, whose role is ultimately vital. While this is being done, Wolverine and Kid Omega strike back at their attackers, and finds Domino’s maimed body, still barely alive.

With Professor X successfully resurrected, he gathers Beast, Marvel Girl, Sage, Domino, Kid Omega and Wolverine and announces that the first key law of Krakoa, that no mutant shall kill a human, must be laid aside in dire circumstances. However, this must be done in absolute secret, as to not undermine their society (especially since they have scores of villains amongst them), so he dubs the team “X-Force” and sends them on their way.

THOUGHTS

X-Men
This is basically a Cyclops book, which while definitely cool with me, I can see it not being to everyone’s liking (but what is?). But I like the concept of Cyclops being the field leader, which is the role he fits best, who just grabs up whoever is available to handle the problems. Cyclops is such a good leader that he should be able to work any group into a cohesive unit. I’ve never really been a fan of fluid rosters in the X-Men books, but keeping Cyclops as the centerpiece works for me.

My only issue is that this book doesn’t really seem to have much purpose on its own beyond laying groundwork for things that could be happening. I get that this whole thing is one big story being told, but this almost feels like it should be a Cyclops book, while the main X-Men book should be X-Force, which is where the crucial events have taken place thus far.

I’m also concerned that this book seems to be having schedule problems, as the next three issues have all been pushed back in their solicitations. Of course, being that this is a story meant to be consumed with all of its parts, that may have been the original design, and the original solicitation dates were put out just to get them announced, and their schedules updated later. I suppose only time will tell.

Marauders
This is a fun title, which I guess is the entire point. Kitty Pryde has gotten more character development in three issues than in the entire Blue/Gold era in which she was the headmaster of the entire school. To me, it feels like Kitty has almost been exiled from the rest of the mutant society because of her spectacular failure there. Calling her Kate instead of Kitty leads her closer to her form in Days of Future Past, though I have trouble not referring to her as Kitty Pryde. It just flows off the tongue.

Making this book about the entire Hellfire Club rather than just the seafaring adventures of the Marauders is a good balance for it. Getting Emma Frost back into her original role, as head of a company with mutant affairs its focus, fits her better than trying to be an X-Man. Also giving Sebastian Shaw proper focus in his classic role makes him an unexpected star of this book. Perhaps even more than Kitty herself. The dynamic between him and Shinobi Shaw in just one issue has made Shinobi more interesting than his entire history thus far, which is saying something for a character who’s nearly 30 years old. The difference is by putting the two Shaws together. When Shinobi debuted as a member of the Upstarts, he had already “killed” Sebastian.

If I’m nitpicking, there’s one major issue with the setup of this story. In the second issue, the team needs to get from Point A to Point B very quickly, so they use the Krakoan gate to bring Gateway over from Australia to do his little trick. It’s a good workaround, true, but if you introduce the workaround two issues in, then it completely undercuts the entire point of the plot, which is that Kitty sails around on a boat because she can’t use the gates. Why not just use Gateway anytime she needs to go anywhere?

Actually, that’s not nitpicking. That’s a glaring plot hole. How hard would it be to just have someone ask Kitty about it and for her to say “I like this way better.”?

Excalibur
This is a book I was not thinking I would enjoy as much as I do. I was a fan of the original Excalibur title when it was headed up by Chris Claremont, Alan Davis, or later Warren Ellis, but the whole British Otherworld stuff is a lot of ground to cover. Without a primer of sorts, you kind of have to just nod and go along with it, because when magic is involved, you can kind of throw the rulebook out the window.

Giving Betsy Braddock the Captain Britain mantle is a good fit for her, especially if you’re going to keep her in her British body. Brian Braddock is not a character that gets used very much these days, so why not give it to a mutant who can be a part of this whole thing? Especially since you’re keeping the Japanese assassin Psylocke around. It’s having the cake and eating it too…or the biscuit, I suppose it would be in this case.

I also liked that the cast is made up of the 90’s Blue team, who would be considered Betsy’s closest friends in the X-Men. She and Rogue have been teammates since the Mutant Massacre, and where Rogue goes, Gambit must follow. Jubilee and Psylocke have had a close tie since the Acts of Vengeance, and it was Psylocke who vouched for Jubilee to be allowed back onto the active roster when she was benched upon Professor X’s return.

Not thrilled about Jubilee still being saddled with the baby, but I did love Dragon Shogo. If you’re going to keep him around, you might as well make him useful. Very interested to see where this goes.

New Mutants
How fun is this book? Nobody outside of Al Ewing writes a better Sunspot than Hickman, and his love for the buddy duo of him and Cannonball continues to shine, much like it did in his Avengers book. The New Mutants have taken up their nuisance role that they had back in their original run (when the X-Men referred to them as ‘X-Babies’), and it still fits them. Their hearts are always in the right place, but they just don’t think things through before they leap into action. When you have leaders like Sunspot, Mirage and Magik, it’s easy to see why.

I’m not sure I like that this book is telling two separate stories, with two different writers. I love both Hickman and Ed Brisson, but just as something big gets established in the A plot, suddenly it switches to what seems like filler (though methinks it might be to give Rod Reis a chance to get his art done). I have a special place in my heart for the New X-Men kids, but once again the majority of them are ignored in favor of Armor and Glob Herman. Bringing back Beak and Angel Salvador is also not my favorite, because I just don’t think there’s much you can do with these two anymore. Even here, they are just the foils so the heroes have a reason to punch villains.

Beyond that, it’s also a strange thing to have Glob Herman to be the one to go after these two. Remember that Glob was one of the Omega Kids that caused the Riot at Xavier’s which led to the death of Dummy, which was one of Beak’s friends in the special class. Of course, a lot of time has passed since then, and with all of this going on, I guess Dummy can be resurrected (though how would they clone his body?). But if my biggest concern is “What about Dummy?” I guess I really don’t have a concern at all. Well, except how stupid it was to let Cypher go offworld when he plays such a crucial role on Krakoa, but that itself is a plot point, so I’ll let it go.

Good book, though the New Mutants stuff is far superior to the New X-Men stuff.

Fallen Angels
To me, this is the weak link in the whole thing. I’m not sure who was clamoring for a Kwannon book, but here it is. This doesn’t fit into the narrative of the rest of the story, as the point of this was taking three characters that don’t fit and going and doing stuff with them. Kwannon basically has a tabula rasa for giving her a backstory, but clearly the writer is way more into it than I am. There’s a lot of “here is a neat quote I found” that is placed to add the info pages that all of these stories have, but in this book it doesn’t add anything to the story. Do you really need two pages of “Excerpts from the Scrolls of Exile?”

I also don’t think Kwannon’s direction for herself works at all. She has decided that she’s giving up the identity of Kwannon, which was placed upon her, as a sign of bringing forth her true self, free of others’ controlling her. So what does she do? She takes the codename used by the person whose been using her body. It would work if Kwannon had originally created the Psylocke name, but Betsy Braddock was using it long before they ever got into their whole thing. I get it that they want to keep the ninja Psylocke character, even without Betsy Braddock in there, but this doesn’t work with the character’s goals.

In fact, it doesn’t really make sense that this Psylocke still has all of the powers of the Betsy Psylocke. Kwannon was not established as a mutant, originally. When she first showed up as Revanche during the Lobdell/Nicieza era, her use of the powers was associated with the mixing of their bodies and minds that was done by Spiral. If Kwannon had been resurrected in her original body, theoretically she would not have those powers. I suppose one could assume that her body was resurrected in the form that Betsy had possessed, though now with Kwannon’s psyche. But it’s presented as if she had always had these powers, as even her use of Betsy’s signature butterfly effect when using her powers is presented as a destined connection between the two, rather than an after-effect.

The other thing I’m not a fan of is the use of Cable here. When the young Cable was established during X-Men Disassembled, he murdered his older self (the Cable we’ve known) for abandoning his role as guardian of the timestream. He’s certainly not doing that here, though I guess if he’s a timecop, he can take his time to do whatever needs to be done in the timestream. But if that’s true, then why bother killing his older self for shirking that duty? And why…oh god, I’ve gone cross-eyed. Maybe the less mention of time travel, the better.

And the less of Fallen Angels we get, the better. I won’t miss it when it’s six-issue run comes to an end. In fact, this seems more like a mini-series that just got shoehorned into the official readlist timeline to get people to buy it. It’s not something I’ve been particularly enjoying.

Next time!
All right, we’re caught up. Starting next week, we’ll return to the old eXaminations format of checking the books as they come out. That won’t be easy on me, because of course as soon as I say that, Marvel puts out five of the six titles out in one day. So that’ll be all but X-Men covered next week.\

Ugh.

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