Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Custom Kitchen Deliveries 04 – Immoral X-Men #1

As Storm & The Brotherhood of Mutants #1 recalled X-Men Red #5, Immoral X-Men #1 recalls Immortal X-Men #4. In the most obvious way, the repetition of Emma Frost as narrator, the first time a member of the Quiet Council repeats as narrator. Surprisingly, Kieron Gillen didn’t take this issue an opportunity to have one of the post-Sinister members of the Council (Magik, Namor, and Beast, replacing Sinister, Mystique, and Destiny) act as narrator, taking advantage of their novelty and sign o’ the times as it were. After all, this may be the only time any of them sit on the Council. Of course, had he gone with one of them as narrator, this issue would have been quite different as the fixation on Emma and Sinister recalls issue four of Immortal in structure in addition to the narrator.

For those that didn’t read Immortal X-Men #4 (for shame, for shame, etc.), it was the Hellfire Gala tie-in for 2022, and focused on Emma’s trepidation in a post-Moira Krakoa, added in the exposure of the Resurrection Protocols, had her reveal the true face of Dr. Stasis to the Quiet Council, Sinister ran/fought with the Council until he decided the best course of action was to return, at which point he was kidnapped by some unknown party (Eternals), and Emma was left with her anxiety and self-doubts. This issue both follows the general structure of that issue, but inverts many of the ideas, specifically those relating to Emma and Sinister. For instance, Emma sleeping in her diamond form is in the middle of this issue rather than at the beginning and the end, while Sinister doesn’t choose to return/not reset the timeline, he’s unable to and finds himself trapped. Throughout, there are various echoes of Immortal four, and I will save you from a listicle version of this piece where I count them down in some manner.

The main purpose of this callback/inversion is to demonstrate the change in the world in these ten years since Sinister wormed his way into Krakoa’s genes, while also emphasising that it’s not necessarily the drastic change that it appears. At this point, Krakoa rules the world whether or not everyone knows it. Mutant genes proliferate throughout the world, meaning Sinister proliferates. Emma’s narration makes this obvious along with her total confident and ambition to be the sole ruler of the world. The immortal White Queen of Earth. Gone are the moments of self-doubt apparent in Immortal four; but, before you think that this is the corrupted or evil Emma, I would argue that this is the same Emma from that issue. The only difference is the self-confidence and lack of doubts. As we see with Xavier, Hope, and Exodus, the influence of Sinister on each them is to give them the freedom to be themselves without doubts and worries about ‘fitting in.’ All that they needed was a healthy injection of solipsism. Each of them thinks, at their core, that they are the only real person in existence.

Immortal four makes that clear when Sinister reboots his personality. His blank, automatic body states “Add. Core. Motiv. Ations,” before he makes it clear what is at the heart of Sinister:


That is what we see on display in Immoral X-Men #1. For Xavier, all there is is the dream. For Hope, battle. For Exodus, Hope. For Emma, the White Queen. For Sinister, it is himself, of course. With him, though, we see the opposing forces that his solipsism has at its core: he surrounds himself with versions of himself and, yet, he constantly seeks to prove that he’s the ‘real’ one, the important one, the best Sinister. Yet, because he surrounds himself with Sinisters, all of whom share the same solipsism, he constantly chaffs at their efforts to overtake him and ensure their dominion. That’s all we’ve seen from the other Nathaniel Essexes to date with their methods differing. Each seeks to place themself atop the mountain in some way or other, often different mountains. And, as Sinister spreads further and further, what looked like it could be a hivemind situation is looking more like it may turn into one giant battle royal as every Sinister vies for supremacy.

It’s interesting as this is a departure from Sinister as Gillen last wrote him, during his Uncanny X-Men run a decade ago. Not a drastic departure, mind you. That Sinister was also a solipsist and insisted that there was a core, true Sinister that continually, somehow, survived all of the deaths and failures that we saw befall various Sinisters. However, that Sinister seemed interested in developing something akin to a hivemind society. It may not have worked in the sense of a central mind thinking a single thought and making its will known through various bodies; it was more like a designed society with a single guiding mind that set things in motion with the goal of seeing what would happen. In many ways, it was like our society, but where the answer to the question of free will was answered: everything is pre-ordained and planned, but you think it was all your idea. Recall the rebel that looked to kill the despot Sinister... only to learn that the society would be incomplete without the ‘freethinking rebel’ and that his existence only reinforced the ideals of that society that he sought to liberate and destroy... This isn’t that.

The solipsism and selfishness is on full display when Emma catches Sinister and has him at her mercy. He makes the case for not killing him as he can build better, more complex Chimera, and, while that argument seems to convince Emma enough to bring it to the Council, it isn’t quite enough: “...but first, I want something.” The emphasis on the ‘I’ is key to her demand: “Beg.” She requires domination over Sinister, to have him admit, on some level, that she is the superior Sinister. While she thinks of herself still as ‘Emma Frost,’ her core motivation is Sinister. She sees him as useful, she puts him under foot, and only when she is satisfied that she is properly in charge does she go to the others on the Council where, of course, the vote goes the way she wants. She thinks it because she is in charge; it’s more likely because the others wish to assert their own dominance and see Sinister as a tool for that. The issue ends with Emma assured of her place and planning for the future rule of the White Queen, but there is a question left unanswered in truth despite the issue beginning with the supposed answer:

Who rules a world of solipsists?

I guess we’ll find out in 90 years.

Next: a summation of the +10 time period.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Custom Kitchen Deliveries 03 – Nightcrawlers #1

I don’t know why entirely, but I can’t get over the one non-mutant Nightcrawler Chimera. We see nine of these ‘Nightcrawlers’ (or, more properly, Legion of the Night) and they’re all crosses between Nightcrawler and a mutant (Wolverine, Toad, Sabretooth, Domino, Pyro, Empath, Colossus, and Pixie), except for one: the Spider-Man Chimera, eventually named Wallcrawler. Why is he there? We first saw him in Sins of Sinister #1 and, here, he reappears as one of the Nightcrawlers affected by Vox Ignis’s Scream of Change, freed from the influence of Mister Sinister alongside the Wolverine and Domino Chimera. While Sinister doesn’t necessarily feel confined to mutants in his experimenting, that has definitely been the direction he’s gone, particularly as the schism/differences between the four Nathaniel Essex variations have solidified. The Sinisters have slowly taken over the world via assimilation of mutants and non-mutants alike, yet that’s come across as expediency in a way that Sinister’s obsession with mutant genetics has felt more ideological somehow. After all, part of the plan was eliminating Orchis, the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers alongside the Scarlet Witch and other non-mutant threats. The Chimera are specifically stated in Sins of Sinister #1 as having two X-Genes spliced together, something originally stated in Powers of X #1 where the variation generations of Chimera in Moira’s ninth life’s timeline are laid out:

The first generation of Sinister’s experimentation was simple replication of a single mutant. The second generation was the first group of Chimera, combining two X-Genes. The third generation mixed more than two up to five. And the fourth generation involved Omega-level sources and was sabotaged by Sinister in an effort to switch his allegiance to the ruling class of machines. In every case, it was using mutant DNA for his experiments.

Yet, here is a Spider-Man Chimera amongst all of this X-Gene DNA. Is it as simple as a joke going back to the early days of both Spider-Man and the X-Men when the hero thought he may be a mutant? I wouldn’t put it past the trio of Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing, and, this comic’s writer, Si Spurrier, to include this specific Chimera solely as a bit of a joke. It could be that simple. But, where’s the fun in that? No, if we’re going to read into these comics for the purpose of commentary and criticism, we’re going to overread into these comics for the purpose of commentary and criticism.

Part of the project that the Sinisters roll out is the addition of the X-Gene into homo sapiens. While an effective way to subsume the world, it’s also a direct attack on Doctor Stasis, the Essex variant focused on evolution through augmenting humanity outside of genetic tampering. It’s not just that mutants conquer and dominate the world, they also assimilate humanity into their ranks. By this point, the Sinisters have, for the most part, defeated the true threat of Stasis and his plans: Orchis and, specifically, Nimrod. The subtle, unstated victory achieved in this Sinister World Order is the “mutants always lose” curse of Moira. Homo novissima is cut off. Up until Moira’s sixth life (the +1000 years timeline in Powers of X), she wasn’t aware of the true threat to mutants and the fight for the dominance of Earth. It was both humanity and their machines, interwoven into a “manufactured branch of humanity not restricted by normal evolutionary constraints.” After living long enough to see this branch of humanity – this alternative next stage past homo sapiens – nearly reach ascension into a Phalanx, she reset the timeline with the specific goal of ensuring mutantkind’s victory by stopping the machines, culminating in her ninth life when she learns of the moment that Nimrod came online and entered her tenth life with the express goal of stopping that from happening while building up mutants to a place where they can, maybe, finally win. Of course, she failed. Nimrod came online, her plans were exposed, and she was stripped of her mutant genetic status, prompting her to immediately through her lot in with the likes of Orchis, embracing a homo novissima post-humanity.

And she lost again. Maybe it’s not mutants always lose, it’s Moira always loses.

The man-machine future dominance of Earth has been averted and mutants have won. All that’s left is either assimilation or subjugation or extermination (or experimentation). The assimilation would naturally involve expansion into genetic experimentation involving non-X-Genes. Given their similarities in acrobatic abilities, Spider-Man crossed with Nightcrawler would be a ‘safe’ test. It would be fairly predictable in the results, less likely to produce an unexpected circuit; instead, they would overlap to a large degree with additions like teleportation and Spider-Sense. And, while Spider-Man is not a mutant, his DNA has undergone a mutation of sorts. One wonders if Stasis would view him as one of his own or not. I imagine he would fancy himself more of a Dr. Octopus man as this issue evidences. How inhuman would the likes of Doctor Stasis view someone like Spider-Man? I guess we won’t find out in this event... and what about the Inhumans? He may view this less as a corruption of humanity by Sinister’s genetic manipulations and more an existing part of that threat being aligned closer with reality.

More than that, I think it relates to Mother Righteous, the heart-imprinted Essex variant that has embraced change as deviating further from the Nathaniel Essex template more than any of her brothers and has sought advancement through mystical means. With the Legion of X arc prior to this involving the transformation of mutants into ‘monsters’ and the larger influence of magic along with this issue’s focus on Mother Righteous, I recall the Spider-Man/X-Men story involving Kulan Gath from the Chris Claremont/John Romita, Jr. run where the Conan villain transformed New York into his version of reality, giving us some weird and wonderful classic versions of the X-Men, Avengers, and Spider-Man. In that story, Peter Parker definitely took on qualities of the ‘everyman’ in representing the change to the city. At his core, he’s the character that represents the average person (and Marvel in general) and including him resonates with past stories while also highlighting the importance or largesse of a story. No character is used more effectively in juxtaposition in stories like this than Spider-Man. It heightens the strangeness of things – and, in this case, the complete bonkers nature of the Chimera. We expect combinations of two mutants; but, a combination of the ‘everyman’ and a mutant? Well, shit just got real...

It’s interesting that Wallcrawler is the most devout of the bunch. Connecting Peter Parker’s very Catholic existence and unhealthy relationship with guilt and Nightcrawler’s very Catholic existence and unhealthy relationship with guilt is both obvious and inspired. He is the Nightcrawler to die, because he is the non-mutant. As much as everything I said above is true, this is a mutant story and a mutant dominance of the world, so, sorry, folks, the Chimera with a human stripe has to go. Plus, he likes the stripes. And, in so doing, he both reveals the callousness of Mother Righteous (which isn’t a surprise) and works to further cement her burgeoning faith.

Introduced in Legion of X #1, Mother Righteous doesn’t extend as far back as Orbis Stellaris, and she’s a much more consistent presence over the ten issues of Legion of X than Orbis Stellaris is in X-Men Red. While the space-faring Essex prefers to hide in plain sight, the mystical Essex is flamboyant and obvious, looking to shore up her powerbase by siphoning off from Sinister’s focus, mutants. Her primary focus is Legion, although she does have interests in the likes of Banshee (who she combines with the Spirit of Variance to make Vox Ignis) and Nightcrawler (and even Arakko). She offers power and her only price is gratitude – recognition for her role in the success of her business partner. Her big power play here is to kill off Stasis at the request of Orbis Stellaris for the price of knowledge and thanks – plus, as a bonus, free travel through the Dominion that Stellaris is convinced he can achieve. What exactly she has planned is a bit more obtuse. By the end of the issue, she seems to be positioning herself at the centre of a new religion, one grown out of the Spark concept of Nightcrawler, building it upon the foundation of the freed Chimera who, due to the Nightcrawler elements of their nature, are susceptible to this sort of thing.

What Mother Righteous does in this issue with Vox Ignis’s assistance is akin to Sinister’s efforts to assimilate humanity via his genetic tampering and the implementation of the X-Gene. When he alters their DNA to bring them to his side, Mother Righteous alters their souls. She’s far more dangerous than she appears at first as her hold over people is something beyond physical. The other three Essex variants all focus on a more physical or genetic level of change and evolution, while she doesn’t care about any of that. Human, mutant, alien, machine... any and all are welcome to worship at her feet and give thanks to her gifts. She shows here how easy it is, in a way, to grow her power base at the expense of Sinister’s (regardless of whatever his view of his X-Men is, they are his X-Men). That makes her tough to pin down entirely. A geneticist who alters DNA in an effort to dominate the world is pretty easy to see and understand; as is a technologist that aspires for a human-machine hybrid. But, a Gaiman-esque pseudo religious figure that trades in favours? She may just be the wild card of this whole event.

Next: Immoral X-Men #1.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Custom Kitchen Deliveries 02 – Storm & the Brotherhood of Mutants #1

My first thought was of X-Men Red #5. The way that it took a moment in Judgment Day #1 and expanded upon it, filling in the untold gaps, is repeated here with Al Ewing telling the story of an untold moment in Sins of Sinister #1. At the end of that issue, Sinister returned to his Muir Island base to kill one of his Moira clones and reset the timeline to a prior moment, undoing all of the work of his resurrected tainted mutants and humans. Only, he found his lab gone and, along with it, his chance to pull the plug on his experiment that has grown beyond his control. That reveal is a bit of a one-two punch with the shock of the lab gone, acting as the primary cliffhanger (of sorts) for the issue with the secondary detail of who took the lab coming right after. Well, thanks to Storm & the Brotherhood of Mutants #1, we now know what happened to Sinister’s lab and who has possession of it.

Taking place between pages of Sins of Sinister #1 (specifically after Sinister says “How can I not think I’m better than everyone?”), this issue echoes the first Judgment Day tie-in Ewing wrote as well. However, in rereading X-Men Red #5, the differences are obvious. Where that issue was a poetic death tome that doubled as an exercise in precise, controlled storytelling, slowly unfolding the horror of the inevitability of Uranos’s slaughter on Arakko, this one is a quick burst of action adventure. It propels you forward with a group of plucky rebels on a mission to save the universe from a world gone wrong as former enemies work together and overcome adversity to succeed... and, then, comes the doublecross. Not an unheard of twist, it nonetheless comes as a bit of a surprise here as Ewing and artist Paco Medina (who will be drawing all three of the +10 issues) play off the expectations of the first half of the issue, right from Storm and her Brotherhood seemingly showing up Mystique (disguised as Destiny) to the Star Wars crawl. This seems like a comic where the good guys are going to win by taking the lab and... then, we’ll see. Instead, it’s more like the good guys wi—oh, no they didn’t, whoops. And it works.

The Star Wars text crawl and the cast list pages are somewhat redundant, if you break down the contents of the book. The two pages prior to the text crawl are literally a recap and cast of characters plus credits. But, those two pages are key for the tone of the issue: scrappy sci-fi underdogs taking on a seemingly unstoppable foe, with the text crawl heavily alluding to (as I’ve said a few times) the Star Wars franchise, while the cast page is more like a TV series, both done with 3D text to play into that retro feel. Oddly, for a comic that takes place ten years into the future, it’s rooted in retro vibes and influences, right down to Storm’s ‘Queen of Mars’ outfit that looks like something out of Flash Gordon. Of course, as the comic leans into those influences and gets you rooting for the Brotherhood to succeed, it counts on you to forget that things in those stories always got much, much worse before they got better.

Part of that trick is that, much as X-Men Red #5 used the knowledge from Judgment Day #1 that Uranos decimated Arakko to lead to the surprise hope at the end where everyone expected nothing but death and destruction, this issue plays off the reader knowing that Sinister’s lab is stolen by the end of Sins of Sinister #1. When the Brotherhood and Mystique embark upon the mission to steal it, Ewing is counting on us to know that the plan is a success and, then, assume that that means it goes to plan. Hence the light and breezy pacing and tone during the mission – why wouldn’t it be a nice, fun action issue? We know that they will steal the lab! It’s the same trick as his previous tie-in issue, except done in reverse. X-Men Red was slow, deliberate, almost plodding in its poetic destruction, allowing us to languish in the inescapable onslaught of Uranos; this issue is fast, fun, and entertaining... it’s a popcorn flick right up through the betrayal. And Ewing keeps on playing the same trick, right up to the final page reveal that mirrors Magneto not being dead: Orbis Stellaris working with Destiny and Mystique to steal the lab and keep the timeline from resetting. What’s even funnier, to me, is that the final page of this issue is pretty much the last page of last month’s X-Men Red #10 where it was revealed that Orbis Stellaris is an elderly human with long white hair and a long beard, sporting a blade spades symbol on his forehead. Ewing ripped himself off twice in a single page.

(In another world, I would be a bigger Al Ewing guy. I’ve dipped my toes into his work here and there, but SWORD/X-Men Red is the first sustained work by him that I’ve stuck with. SWORD was marked by continual ‘interruptions’ by events and X-Men Red hasn’t been too different. He seems to love events and crossovers, and he would make for a great study of how a writer doesn’t just navigate them, but dives in head first. He has a way of making events and crossovers seem like they function solely to advance his various ongoing plots. In some cases, because he was the main writer of the event; in others, because he’s just damn talented. It reminds me a lot of Kieron Gillen’s history with events and crossovers at Marvel. I’m not sure if Ewing has pulled off anything as impressive as Gillen’s first Journey into Mystery arc where it rewrote Fear Itself in the background of that event as it was happening, but still... This project easily could have been about Ewing in a different world.)

So, let’s talk Orbis Stellaris...

One of the four Nathaniel Essexes, the one that went to space. He first appeared in SWORD #6 as a representative of the Galactic Rim and drops this telling-in-retrospect line: “Humanity is obviously capable of far more than I had previously considered.” He mostly stays a background galactic figure until the final arc of SWORD when he’s responsible for unleashing a group of cloned cyborg terrorists against SWORD and the Shi’ar, seemingly at the behest of Henry Gyrich and ORCHIS, but we learn more due to his own interest and desires. From there, he works with Agent Brand to try to destabilise Arakko and, until the final arc of X-Men Red, most notably appears in issue 4 where he makes an impassioned case against the resurrection of Shi’ar Empress Xandra. Much as the line from his first appearance reads different in retrospect where the surprise that the humanity he abandoned to seek the next stage of life in space could progress this far. Do I detect a note of jealousy that his sibling Sinister succeeded so? If not, it comes through in *ahem* spades when he says “Why can only Earth’s mutants deny the reaper? Where is the fairness? Where is the justice?” At the time, it read like a moral argument; now, it reads like a man jealous of his brother. “Why can Sinister’s bunch escape death and I’ve never managed to figure it out?” And, then, in the most recent arc, many of his plans are thwarted by Cable and company as they take back the techno-organic virus sample that was stolen and leave Orbis Stellaris humiliated in defeat: “The mutants of Earth have requested my undying enmity—my vengeance in full measure—and Nathan Essex is happy to deliver.”

So, that’s the broad view of Orbis Stellaris to this point... not quite the obtuse, inscrutable possibility to be one of the ‘four Sinisters’ once Dr. Stasis was revealed with his forehead clubs symbol (and being the Essex who put his faith in humanity rather than genetic mutations or aliens or...). With his clone armies and slowly emerging status of a possible main villain within SWORD/X-Men Red, many people guessed his true identity long ago. Looking back, Ewing wasn’t always subtle in his hints (SWORD #11 having him admit in his private “after-action report” that he’s originally from Earth) and, well, I guess, now that he’s revealed at the end of Storm & the Brotherhood of Mutants #1 as not wanting to reset the timeline despite Sinister’s ever-spreading influence/self, we’re left wondering exactly what his goals are...

The line that the issue ends on (“There can only be one... who has dominion.”) suggests that this is very much a competition between the four to see whose methods can produce a dominion-level society first and Orbis Stellaris looks to use Sinister’s project as something to possibly usurp for his own ends. If we continue on last time’s little metafictional thought exercise that Sinister is a stand-in for Jonathan Hickman, then who could Orbis Stellaris truly be other than Ewing’s stand-in? In the X-titles (and Marvel in general), he’s been the space guy, the one interested in exploring and expanding upon the space side of Marvel. While his most critically acclaimed work at Marvel is the now-marred Immortal Hulk, he’s mostly favoured space-tinged stories and specifically tried to evoke the cosmic feel of Kirby, Starlin, Englehart, and Gerber’s works... and has spent the last two years making in-roads in that respect in the X-line, to the point where he writes the comic about the new capital of the Sol System. If the future for the X-line (and Marvel) is in space, who better to be at the forefront of that? Why, in fact, lean into events and crossovers so readily other than to become as central as possible to the Marvel Universe?

Okay, that sounds a lot more calculated and, well, sinister than reality almost definitely is. But, I want to plant that little extra meta detail now – and you can see where I may look to be heading as we get deeper into this event, though that will depend on the actual comics. We’ll see if this holds up at all or it’s just me going way over the top into wanting to ready an obviously collaborative story as a secret confession of creative in-fighting and power struggles to be the one guiding voice for the X-line (and Marvel in general).

Beyond that, there are two other elements that I want to be mindful of as we move through this event: the use of single artists for each time period and the relationship to Age of Apocalypse. I don’t think we’ve got enough information yet to speak intelligently to either (they may even need to wait for a post-event piece, for all I know). For the latter, something that really needs to be emphasised is that, as much as Sins of Sinister has not been framed as an alternate reality story necessarily, it actually is. Except, while Age of Apocalypse deviated and ran parallel to the regular Marvel Universe, Sins of Sinister deviates from and runs parallel to Powers of X. The influence of Hickman is inescapable...

Next: Nightcrawlers #1.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Custom Kitchen Deliveries 01 – Sins of Sinister #1

It’s rare that something does exactly what you think it will and still surprises you. As usual, I have eschewed as many details about Sins of Sinister that I could so as to maintain the element of surprise. I like surprise. As everyone is oh so fond of pointing out, comics are not cheap and, as such, I refuse to sacrifice my money’s worth. Of course, there is also the enjoyment factor of experiencing a complete work unsullied by previews and spoilers and writers talking too much in promo interviews (something that Kieron Gillen is actually quite adept at doing in a manner that gives little away). All I had were some of the broad details of this X-Men event and the comics that led us here. I even gave out some theories previously and wasn’t far off. In many ways, Sins of Sinister #1 is exactly what I thought it would be. In a shocking number of ways. Sinister needed to take Hope out of the resurrection equation to ensure a little piece of him was in anyone resurrected and slowly begin turning the world into a world of Sinisters. This issue is devoted to that plan playing out and, under many circumstances, that would be dull beyond belief. If I wanted to read a story that I already knew, I’ve got plenty of comics to reread. If I’m buying something new, I want to encounter something new.

Yet, I was surprised throughout Sins of Sinister #1, much to Gillen and company’s credit.

I think what surprised me was the straight ahead boldness of the issue. There was no pussyfooting or dancing around the topic: it was pure, straight ahead Sinisters take over the world in an unrelenting, methodical way. And, eventually, Sinister grows weary of how things are progressing and looks to pull the plug and something gets in his way. When boiled down, it was everything that I expected, executed in a manner that left me somewhat speechless. It was about halfway through, right at the end of the first series of splash pages by the guest artists that I also realised that the trick here wasn’t just that it was Sinister turning the world into what he wants, it was him doing so by making Krakoa succeed. This issue is the overlapping area of a Venn diagram of Krakoa’s plan for success and Sinister’s plan to turn everyone into him. The only thing that’s missing in the issue is Hope walking around in a “SINISTER WAS RIGHT” t-shirt.

That element of showing the Krakoa experiment actually succeed on the global stage through manipulation and betrayal and pure, logical ruthlessness is what makes this issue so surprising. It’s a surprise to see that Sinister’s plan not only works for his purposes, but is also the key to the elimination of Orchis, uniting humankind and mutantkind, and setting up Krakoa as a respected world power with the X-Men as the world’s premier superhero team. Sinister makes the dream come true – albeit in ways that Xavier, Emma, Hope, and the rest would never sanction under normal circumstances. It’s utterly surprising to see how easy it would be for this to happen if everyone put their personal morals aside and just focused on accomplishing the goal. It’s shocking in how quickly it all happens. A few scenes, a montage of splash pages and, bam, Krakoa is everyone’s favourite country and almost all opposition has been neutralised.

It’s what we’ve all wanted since House of X/Powers of X, isn’t it? The X-Men eliminate Thanos, Doom, the Eternals, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Orchis, the Scarlet Witch... anything and everything that could prevent the unchallenged rule of Krakoa is done away with (save Storm). Moira was wrong; mutants do win. All they needed was to stop acting nice and get a little Sinister. Oh ho ho... Like Hickman’s reinvention of the X-Men franchise, this issue does a lot of things very quickly, making broad, sweeping changes to the status quo in an effort to set up what comes next: the +10, +100, +1000 timelines of the next three months of comics. Yet, I’m struck that we’re +1 from Jonathan Hickman’s departure at the end of Inferno and Gillen gets to write the success of Krakoa in a single issue.

In his essay “Football” in Eating the Dinosaur, Chuck Klosterman discusses the way that football seems like a conservative, never-changing sport, when it’s really a constantly evolving, ever-changing spot. He discusses the way that offensive and defensive schemes change over time and the way that radical thinking has a tremendous effect on the spot. There’s one quote, in particular, that came to mind when reading Sins of Sinister #1: “But this is how football always evolves: Progressive ideas are introduced by weirdos and mocked by the world, and then everybody else adopts and refines those ideas ten years later.” It’s not quite that extreme in comics. It’s more like “Progressive ideas are introduced by weirdos and praised by the world, and then everybody else adopts and ruins those ideas ten years later.” Basically, I kept thinking about Sinister’s influence on the world, the way things go from the point where his influence takes effect, and, how at the end of the issue, he hates what it has become and wants to wipe his influence from the world entirely and cannot. I kept thinking about Alan Moore, honestly. Not the most flattering comparisons (though, with Moore, not the worst comparison anyone has ever made either) and it only works if you tilt your head and squint a little.

But, let’s confine ourselves to the X-books for our meta reading too much into the event comic discussion. You could look at Sinister and see Hickman if you wanted. His influence and direction reshaped the X-Men franchise, turned it into not just an exciting and popular line of books again, but a critically praised one at that. And, down the road we go, and he wants to keep doing his plan, while the rest of the room who had been operating under his plan go “Well, actually...” and make their pitch to do something different. He, of course, was much more gracious than Sinister in accepting their desires and taking a step back. But, the point remains that, like Sinister, he provided the framework for success and, when he was ready to move on to the next stage of the plan, he was outvoted. It’s a gentle echo – particularly the use of similar language to when Hickman left (I think he called it the second act of his plans) and this is Sinister’s second stage of the plan...

I also can’t help but see the coincidence that we’re +10 in the comic from Sinister putting his plan for Krakoa into motion successfully and we’re also +10 from the dissolution of Sinister’s plans and Gillen’s departure from Uncanny X-Men in the real world. The building on his Mr. Sinister stories from his time on Uncanny X-Men, especially the Sinister Society that he created is a key touchpoint/foundational work for what’s going on here. We’ve seen one attempt by Sinister to make a society that is all him fail, mostly due to the intervention of the X-Men and Phoenix Five. Here, he’s trying again – both ten years on, and finding the same people responsible for screwing up his desired plans. When Gillen left Uncanny ten years ago, it was due to Brian Michael Bendis coming aboard as the new writer of the franchise, leaving the Avengers books are turning them into Marvel’s premier franchise. I don’t know how much more Gillen had planned or desired to do with those characters – his final issue of Uncanny X-Men featured a discussion between and imprisoned Scott Summers and a Sinister-posing-as-a-trusted-ally where the issue ends with Sinister throwing down the gauntlet for Scott to stop them from whatever they cook up in the future. The issue, Gillen’s last, literally ends with Scott saying to himself, “This isn’t over.” (Gillen, of course, then wrote the five-issue Consequences mini-series that bridged the gap between Uncanny X-Men #20 and All-New X-Men #1 written by Bendis, so...) And, here we are, +10 and it’s not over...

But, what does it mean to put something out into the world and have no control over what’s done with it? That seems, to me, to be the fundamental question at play here. It’s why I thought about Moore and Hickman and Gillen. They write stories and that leads to other people writing stories and even more people writing stories and, very quickly, it’s beyond them. They can’t control their influence or steer the direction of characters that they don’t own when someone else says no or even force their hand-picked group to do what they want (if they actually wanted to try). What’s it like to put something out into the world that changes a part of it and leads to unexpected consequences and be able to do nothing about it? I genuinely don’t know what will happen in the remaining ten issues of this event. Even if I thought I did, Sins of Sinister proved that knowing what will happen isn’t the same as knowing how it will happen.

Next: Storm & the Brotherhood of Mutants #1.