Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Custom Kitchen Deliveries 00 – Immortal X-Men #8-10

I didn’t fail. I didn’t pass. It didn’t judge me.

How would Mister Sinister have fared had the Progenitor judged him? It’s the sort of question that only Kieron Gillen knows the answer to, though, perhaps, he doesn’t even know the answer. Maybe he never decided. Maybe there is no answer until it’s canon. I can speculate based on my impressions of Sinister as Gillen writes the character and my observations of the Progenitor’s criteria when judging individuals. If you use the level of a person’s hypocrisy, then Sinister passes. Sinister is Sinister to a fault. Unless Sinister is working against himself, except that’s usually a part of the plan to advance Sinister’s causes. If that makes sense. You would perhaps need to go back to Gillen’s time on Uncanny X-Men to fully appreciate the idea of Sinister working with and against himself as a means for moving his plans forward. Sinister can contain multitudes, a veritable society of diverse peoples that are all a single person. All Sinister. And, as the Progenitor was partly birthed from Sinister’s plans and contributions... was the Progenitor Sinister, too? Perhaps, that was the reason for the absence of judgment. Judging Sinister would be judging itself and judging itself as Sinister would mean confronting the fact that destroying Earth was never the plan, because, if the Earth is destroyed, how can it serve Sinister’s grand ambitions to make all Sinister?

“Clearly I cannot choose the wine in front of you,” I murmur to myself. You could run in circles all day with this bullshit...

Sins of Sinister is fast approaching and it’s weird how, depending on your view, Judgment Day is a building block along the way, ensconced within the framework of Sinister’s plans that have been building since before Immortal X-Men #1. Sinister’s plans are moving right along with a few stumbling blocks (Destiny, Exodus, Stasis) and, suddenly, he’s kidnapped by Eternals and charged with helping to make a new god. I don’t know about you, but I think they didn’t need to kidnap him to gain his assistance. The Progenitor seemed to have very little of Sinister in his behaviours. His arrogance, maybe? Even that, I must admit, seems like a stretch. The Progenitor was nothing like the sort of Celestial you would imagine Sinister crafting if he had free reign. It had very little style. And it wanted to destroy all life on Earth. Like many of Sinister’s experiments and attempts to create something grandiose, it went awry. At least, in this case, he could blame Ajak and Tony Stark; if only they listened to him more and so on...!

All of which is my rambling way to figure out the function of Judgment Day within the larger Sinister story that Gillen has been telling since returning to the X-books in early 2022. Its prominence within Immortal X-Men has shifted from foreground to back and back to the front up until issue eight, the first post-Judgment Day issue, where it has dominated the comic once again with it about to be subsumed by a mini-event that’s also pulling in X-Men Red and Legion of X. And, honestly, we still don’t know entirely what to expect from Sins of Sinister. Is it the full-on culmination of this story or merely a major chapter on the road to something bigger? What we know is that it is bookended by one-shot issues with the main body of the event being three three-issue series, each replacing one of three ongoings involved, and each month following the progression from Powers of X: ten years, one hundred years, one thousand years. It seemed, at first, based around the idea of Age of Apocalypse, an alternate reality that replaced the main one that we all know and love. There are suggestions that it’s not entirely that.

In looking back on how we got here, issue three of Immortal X-Men seemed like a possible place to look. That issue was told from the point of view of Destiny and, at one point, we see a double-page spread of possible futures coming out of NOW. Various futures all hit dead end stops like “Cassandra Supernova,” “Krakoa Dissolution,” “Unity,” and three separate instances of “Nimrod Extinction Event.” How literal this map of possibilities is is hard to tell. One branch has Judgment Day at a focal point, which then had “The Empire of the Red Diamond” as another possible focal point after. Is that Sins of Sinister? And, if we’ve already experienced Judgment Day, does that mean all of the other possibilities are closed off? The map gives way to a confrontation between Exodus and Sinister, the former fueled by belief and powerful beyond his current status, and the latter called the “Gene-Corsair” and ranting about how everything is him. Their conflict ends when Sinister activates his ace in the hole: the Moira clones that he uses to set ‘save points’ and end a timeline to return and try again.

But, how far back did his reset point go?

Ah, but that’s a triviality. Gillen has gotten to this moment through intrigue and innuendo. We don’t know what Sinister wants specifically. He spends issue nine repeatedly trying to “get the second stage up and running,” which mostly involves trying to kill Hope and others on the Quiet Council. Issue ten seems to point to wanting a previously resurrected mutant being involved with resurrecting Hope and the others as the end of the issue reveals a red diamond on Xavier’s head. We know that Sinister has been integral to the Resurrection Protocols by supplying a genetic database and it seems like he slipped a little extra in there that required a non-original mutant’s involvement in the resurrection process to activate. I could be wrong, but I can’t see another reason to kill Hope other than to ensure that she isn’t involved in bringing herself and the others back. In this case, Sync takes her place and we’ve seen him die before. Is this where Krakoa becomes a new version of the Sinister society we saw in Gillen’s Uncanny run? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he retreats to that location in issue ten to ‘escape’ from the Quiet Council and X-Men. Hell, I’m not really convinced that he didn’t want to be thrown into the Pit, worming his way deep into the bowels of Krakoa.

To this point, only two characters have stood out as possible opposition to Sinister: Destiny and Exodus. The former because of her precognition abilities allowing her to see the possibilities of his plans and work with and against them as it suits her needs. She has a long history with Nathaniel Essex, one that positions her as a longtime adversary of sorts; though, sometimes opposing him involves working with him. But, as we learn, her abilities aren’t perfect and her motives are not aligned with the ‘good guys’ necessarily. We know that Sins of Sinister is a story and, at the end, we will get Immortal X-Men #11 and, while the in between may be less than great for all involved (except us, the readers, I hope), it winds up in a place that Destiny desires. While it appears that Sinister has outsmarted everyone, Destiny is quick to get Mystique and leave, abandoning the rest to whatever is coming, seemingly with the hope that it will lead back to somewhere palatable.

Exodus, on the other hand, is Sinister’s opposite. Sinister is a man of science; Exodus is a man of unquestioning faith. Sinister believes only in himself; Exodus believes only in something beyond himself. Sinister seeks to remake the universe into himself; Exodus seeks to remake himself to serve the universe as demanded by his faith. These opposites do position the two similarly at times: that future where Exodus fought the Gene-Corsair involved an Exodus fueled by the beliefs of thousands or millions of the faithful, a unified group working towards a singular goal as channeled through a single entity. It’s the same as Sinister’s little society of himself, albeit driven by people willingly giving up their individuality towards that singular goal rather than a singular goal necessitating the creation of individuals that serve it by design. I do wonder what role he will play in Sins of Sinister (and the choice of that first word in the title...). And I can’t help but note that he was resurrected alongside Xavier, Emma, and Hope... is Exodus a little Sinister now as well?

I like that all I have are questions. I’m not really one for speculation or trying to ‘solve’ stories. I like to ponder possibilities and think about what brought us to this point. It seems like everything is going to plan for Sinister and we don’t know entirely what that plan is – and that’s exciting. However, we’ve also seen Sinister fail. A lot. Even when he supposedly succeeds. For a grand genius that plans things in great detail, he often overlooks things and winds up having to bang his head against the wall again and again and again until he breaks through. Head on back to Immortal X-Men #1 and there’s a text page that previews what’s coming up in the title. Entries 10 through 12 are particularly relevant:

10. Finally! Someone who actually deserves it gets thrown in the pit. Good riddance.

11. Oh no.

12. Help. Just help me. It stretches on endless and cold. Infinity balloons and a scream is too big for my head. This is a hell of my own making. Hell is other people. Hell is also me.

Sinister (or a version of him) getting thrown in the pit is portrayed as a positive, while the seeming success of initiating stage two of Sinister’s plan is a possible negative. When everything is Sinister and he achieves a truly solipsistic existence, is that actually a good thing? Or is he the proverbial man who gets everything he ever wanted only to find that his every desire was a mistake?

Is this the part where Sinister is finally judged by the only being capable of doing so and found wanting?

Next: Sins of Sinister #1.