X-Men #16 by Jonathan Hickman

X-Men #16X-Men #16 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Large sections of this comic consist of nothing more than headshots in a nine panel grid as people discuss things in meetings. There’s absolutely no action at all. The closest thing to action is two Ents, for want of a better word, having a silent conversation.

And it’s brilliant.

If it wasn’t impossible due to the timescales involved, I’d say this was put together as a two fingered salute to that Twitter post that did the rounds recently complaining about three pages of talking heads being a waste of space in a super hero comic. Super hero comics do not need to be 22 pages of people hitting each other. Sometimes they can slow down and be 22 pages of people having conversations, and after the roller coaster ride of X Of Swords, that’s exactly what we needed.

Personally, I very much appreciate Hickman taking the time to take stock of the new status quo. There are now a LOT of new mutants on Earth, and a whole new island, which does want to make friends with the existing one. This is an interesting new dynamic, and one wonders if it’s something Moira has accounted for…

And then there’s the election of a new X-Men team. The fact that the team’s going to be elected by the inhabitants of Krakoa means that the make up of the team could be very interesting indeed.

All in all this is an excellent issue, stunningly illustrated by the superlative Phil Noto.

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X-Men #15 by Jonathan Hickman

X-Men #15X-Men #15 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And so, the end is near…

I could have read all three remaining parts of X Of Swords before writing my reviews of them but decided not to, so I don’t yet know how it ends…

But what we have here is a Krakoa that’s falling apart, or, rather, the quiet council is…as Scott and Jean decide to go and rescue their son, Cable, against its wishes. Although it very much seems that Charles is pleased by this.

Meanwhile, Apocalypse and Genesis battle…and we find out which of them is the fittest…

And…ok…this is just ramping up the tension and I need to go read the next part now, sorry. But this is good. This is very good!

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X-Men (2019-) #14 by Jonathan Hickman

X-Men (2019-) #14X-Men (2019-) #14 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can understand some readers’ frustration with the slow burn here, that in being told Genesis’ side of the story of Arakko we get very little new information…and the clear reuse of art did pull me out of the story a little at times…but…this is really too good to for me to care. Sorry/not sorry.

What we do learn is significant. That Genesis fought and defeated the previous wearer of the Annihilation mask. That the winner of that fight also won the mask, and that the mask was the only thing keeping the demon hordes of Amenth in check. That Genesis still resisted wearing the mask herself for a hundred years. And it was only when the mutants of Arakko tried to reopen the way back to Earth that she finally put on the mask. Also, significantly, we learned that the mutants who fled when they first arrived in Amenth were captured by Annihilation and bred with demons and that was the source of the Summoners…who are likely the real enemy here.

The interaction between Apocalypse and Genesis was also brilliant. Seeing how weak she makes him seem is fascinating, and a credit to both the writing and the art.

As I’m sure is clear, I’m thoroughly enjoying this event and can’t wait to read more!

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X Of Swords: Stasis (2020) #1 (X Of Swords by Jonathan Hickman

X Of Swords: Stasis (2020) #1 (X Of Swords (2020))X Of Swords: Stasis (2020) #1 (X Of Swords by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Pogg Ur-Pogg’s Pogg, in Ur-Pogg’s Pogg. But Pogg’s Ur-Pogg Pogg, then in Ur-Pogg, Pogg’s.”

You know, if you’re at all taking this stuff seriously then you’re making a mistake. This is just fun.

I’d feel smug about being right about Genesis being Annihilation, but, you know, it was obvious to everyone apart from Apocalypse, so…

But, yeah, this is great, we get more insight into all of the Swordbearers if Arakko and, more interestingly, as far as I’m concerned, we get more of a taste of all of the kingdoms of Otherworld. I’m really enjoying how Hickman and Howard have expanded Otherworld and created a much richer and detailed environment for future stories (possibly) to play out in. We didn’t really learn anything new about Otherworld here, as it’s all been covered in previous text entries, but we actually got to see it and its inhabitants here. I’m definitely going to need more Sheriff Gia Whitechapel.

There are more clues about how this is all going to play out here, as Saturnyne presents each of Krakoa’s champions with a tarot card, which are, to some extent, explained by Tarot on the final text page. We’re clearly going to see Doug going through some kind of evolution and possibly merging with one or more other characters. I’m also curious to see if he’ll interact with his Arakkan opposite number, Redroot.

The art is as stunning as ever, and I know I’ve mentioned before that I love all of the new character designs, but I particularly love War. She looks amazing. Others have complained that this event features all new villains we’ve never seen before, and that as a result they find this story less interesting. Personally I love that we’re not just recycling the same old characters over and over and over again. I hope that we continue to get to know at least some of these new characters over the coming years…although I doubt that they’ll all survive X Of Swords. Also, as much as they’re new, I like that they’re still tied into existing characters and lore…Apocalypse has always had horsemen, but these were the first. And I’ve said elsewhere that this event has filled in Apocalypse’s backstory in a way that’s made him more interesting to me than he’s ever been.

So, we’re at the half way point of X Of Swords and so far it’s been almost universally excellent. Let’s hope it remains this good until its climax!

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X-Men (2019-) #13 by Jonathan Hickman

X-Men (2019-) #13X-Men (2019-) #13 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When first introduced, Apocalypse was a mysterious character who obviously had a long and detailed history. Previous attempts to fill in that backstory have only served to make the character less interesting. What Hickman is doing here is weaving a tale of the secret history of Apocalypse, and, quite wonderfully, it’s adding to the mystery and wonder of Apocalypse and making him…interesting. Apocalypse has always been a bit of a one note villain, with his survival of the fittest mantra. But here, at last, he’s being given motivation for that mantra. A reason for testing mutants so that only the fittest survive, beyond just, “He thinks it’s a good idea.”

Far from being simply filler, this issue answers questions…or, rather, confirms our suspicions, while posing some more. We learn that Annihilation is very much just the helmet, which confirms that the person wearing that helmet is likely to be significant, and the best candidate for the wearer is Genesis, Apocalypse’s supposedly dead wife. But, equally, it could be Isca, Genesis’ sister and the sister-in-law of Apocalypse, who betrayed them all. This mystery feels significant, and the answer feels like it will be important…both for Apocalypse and the future of Krakoa.

It’s also important to remember that this is Apocalypse’s account of events. We are seeing and hearing everything from his point of view, through his recollections. It’s entirely possible, and extremely likely, that he’s an unreliable narrator. I anticipate us seeing these events from genesis’ point of view at some point, and for that to quite revelatory.

The art, by Mahmud Asrar, is superb, which is what we’ve come to expect from the whole X-line right now. The creators have been called on to conjure myriad new character designs and each one of them is interesting and unique. Part of me hopes that we see them return after this event is over, but part of me thinks that will ultimately dilute their impact.

Anyway, this is great stuff, and next week we hit the official half way point in this event, with X Of Swords: Stasis…and I can’t wait!

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X of Swords: Creation #1 by Jonathan Hickman

X of Swords: Creation #1X of Swords: Creation #1 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, bravo!

Amazing writing, beautiful art, what a fantastic comic!

I was slightly concerned, going into this, that a lot in the build up simply didn’t make sense, or add up. That people were trusting people they probably shouldn’t be trusting. And I didn’t get how everything fitted together.

Now everything is much clearer and I’m simply left feeling excited for this event.

It’s also just always fun seeing Apocalypse get stabbed.

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X-Men (2019-) #12 by Jonathan Hickman

X-Men (2019-) #12X-Men (2019-) #12 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like the other book building up to X Of Swords, Excalibur, this is exposition heavy, but unlike that book, I very much enjoyed this, as it was easy to follow. I mean, as easy as anything is to follow when you have no idea what’s going on or if the narrator is a reliable one. We may be being lied to here. I mean, it involves Apocalypse, so it’s unlikely that we’re getting the full story.

My head slightly hurts trying to figure out exactly where and how this all fits in with the history of Apocalypse, but we have a twenty two part crossover coming up which will hopefully explain everything.

Yu’s art is, as ever, gorgeous. The Summoner looks suitably otherworldly and creepy, which is very apt. Essentially what we get here is an explanation, of sorts, of exactly what Apocalypse has been up to since he arrived on Krakoa. We also learn that he has/had a wife called Genesis, which was also the name that Cable’s son took…I think…maybe…if my memory serves me well, which it rarely does. He might have technically been Stryfe’s son… Anyway, I found that…odd. I mean, is that actually a coincidence? Part of me wants to say yes, but then Hickman’s run has involved some pretty deep dives into continuity, and one of the themes has been clones, Stryfe being a clone of Cable, and Cable’s deeply connected with Apocalypse…and was infected with the transmode virus…and a transmode virus has featured in the Giant Size one shots…and is also connected with the Phalanx, who featured in HoX/PoX…and…oh, my brain hurts!

Anyway, this comic is good.

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Giant-Size X-Men: Storm #1 by Jonathan Hickman

Giant-Size X-Men: Storm #1Giant-Size X-Men: Storm #1 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve gotta confess, I’m with Emma here…if they know that they can just resurrect Storm, why fight so hard to save her from the techno-organic virus? Also, how was M able to figure out how to save her when nobody else could? Given that the plot threads within this book have also been woven through most of the other Giant Size one shots, everything still felt a little deus ex machina here, when surely there’s been enough time to properly set things up.

That said, the art is absolutely gorgeous, as Daughterman’s work always is. And there’s still a lot to enjoy here in the writing. I particularly enjoyed seeing more of Doug Ramsey, who’s very much been pushed into the background so far.

But, yeah, having Emma point out the pointlessness of fighting to survive when you’re functionally immortal at the start of the book kinda’ sucked all off the tension away for me.

It’s entirely possible I’m missing something though, as I so frequently am.

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