Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Custom Kitchen Deliveries 11 – Nightcrawlers #3

Well, I was way off, wasn’t I? For those who didn’t read last week’s edition, I dove head first into wild speculation about the grand plans of Mother Righteous in relation to the narration of Storm & The Brotherhood of Mutants #3. I knew I wouldn’t be right, but why not have a bit of fun and swing for the fences in the art of exposing one’s ass publicly? (To be clear, my speculation that Jon Ironfire killed Lodus Logos is still a valid guess until proven otherwise...) That’s fine. I’m happy to look the fool sometimes. I guess I didn’t expect to be proven wrong by Mother Righteous’s true plan being so less ambitious. I definitely overestimated what she was aiming for...

It’s actually pretty funny how, throughout this event to this point, there’s been a sense that Mother Righteous was lurking just beneath the surface, ready to steal away Dominion from Orbis Stellaris and Mr. Sinister. Building up thank yous and regrets, sinking her hooks in, and amassing magical objects, all to step in at this moment and become Dominion while her ‘brothers’ watch, horrified. Instead, all of her work was to... create a slightly more complicated version of Sinister’s plan...? Well, consider me fooled. I thought that she was somehow a different breed from the other Essexes... something smarter or more ambitious. Nah, just the same sort of simplistic solipsism. Use people in the laziest way possible to get a slight leg up in the next go ‘round and, maybe, after you try that a few hundred times, you may actually get somewhere... You just have to laugh.

What hit home in this issue – and I feel like a bit of a fool for not picking up on it more before this – is how misleading the part numbers given to each issue are in this event. I’ve been so focused on the larger story of the Essexes and the playfulness with Powers of X that the obvious-from-the-beginning connection that I’ve mentioned, but not really discussed so far kept getting overlooked: Age of Apocalypse. If you’re not familiar with AoA, it was a 1995-96 X-Men story that began when Legion went back in time to kill Magneto before he and Charles Xavier had their falling out. He assumed that, without Magneto to act against his father, Xavier’s dream would happen easier. With only ‘good’ mutants in the public eye, the Dream would be achievable. Of course, it all goes wrong and Legion accidentally kills his father. This leads to a four-month period where the entire X-line of books are replaced with the alternate present where the lack of Xavier allowed Apocalypse to rise much sooner and conquer North America. Every book in the line became a new title (Uncanny X-Men was now Astonishing X-Men, X-Men was now Amazing X-Men, X-Force was now Gambit & The X-Ternals, Cable was now X-Man, etc.). It was bookended by Alpha and Omega issues and was a lot of fun. As a 12/13-year old, I loved it. I loved seeing all of these changed, alternate versions of characters that I knew, picking up on little details about their pasts, maybe where each of them veered off from the story I already knew, and I spent a shocking amount of time looking at the map of this new world.

The important part here is that it told one big story through individual titles that each told their own stories that added to the larger story. It wasn’t a linear story where you read the comics in a specific order and needed to read every single one (while my dad read comics and bought the entire line, I only got all of the first issues and, then, focused in on X-Man specifically as the book that I wanted to follow). There were details that crossed over (the Sentinel airlift launched in Weapon X #1 became a major plot point in Amazing X-Men) and there was a cumulative effect so that, by the time you reached that Omega issue, all of the various books’ plots smashed into one another for the climax. Skip some of it and you were fine. Even now, you can go back and read it all in pretty much whatever order you want – read all four issues of each series in succession or the mixed up order that the omnibus has or even figure out your own – because it wasn’t a story told in a specific ‘correct’ order. The actual story of Age of Apocalypse was one of those ‘more than the sum of its parts’ things where it existed outside of the actual comics to a degree. Each reader created their own version of the larger story.

Sins of Sinister is based off that idea... kind of. Unlike Age of Apocalypse, we’re given a specific reading order from the getgo with a much smaller ‘line’ of books participating. Sins of Sinister takes the loose idea of Age of Apocalypse and turns it into a weekly series. There are advantages to that as specific effects are created, like propelling the story forward through specific successive issues (Sins of Sinister #1 ending with Sinister finding his lab stolen leading right into Storm & The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants #1 showing the theft) and creating a sense that every issue is essential to the larger story. But, thinking about it, it’s also misleading in that it implies a much more coherent and structured story than it delivers (or intends to deliver). There isn’t a linear story exactly, yet the existence of story numbering on each issue implies a more coherent story that each issue of the event advances. Some plot points begin in one part and pick up in the next (the +1000 time period is the most cohesive chunk of the event where each issue does lead to the next in a much more direct manner than the previous time periods), but, now that all three mini-series have been released, their specific structures are much clearer. Like Age of Apocalypse, each of these ‘substitute series’ tell their own stories that contribute to the whole:

Immoral X-Men is of Sinister’s struggle to stay alive long enough to regain his lab and reset the universe with a subplot about the progression of the Sinister-infected Quiet Council over time.

Storm & The Brotherhood of Mutants is about... well, the titular characters fighting against the prevailing Sinister forces. As the Sinister-infected mutants become more and more powerful (more the status quo), the Brotherhood (with Storm both a part of and apart from the group simultaneously) are the ‘evil’ mutants rebelling and trying to overthrow that new status quo.

Nightcrawlers is about Mother Righteous’s schemes with a specific focus on her manipulation of the Nightkin.

Each of these series tell those stories in shockingly straight forward, linear ways. None stand alone completely, of course, but they come damn near it in a few cases. I don’t know how many titles would have needed to be part of this story to escape the idea that it’s a linear larger story much more akin to past X-line crossovers that has similar part numbering schemes. Five? Six? Enough to break free from the one-a-week release schedule, I suppose. But, with only three titles and each issue numbered as a specific part of Sins of Sinister, the idea of the larger implicit story of the event looms larger than it did in Age of Apocalypse. AoA was so big that, as a reader, you knew you wouldn’t get it all, even if you read every issue. It was a miniature version of trying to keep the ongoing story of the Marvel Universe straight in your head in real time with every week’s new releases. While there are some fools crazy enough to try, most of us know that it won’t happen and accept that we’re only ever going to know a piece of it and move on with our lives, hoping that we know enough for everything to make sense in the end (it never ends).

Sins of Sinister’s structure and release gives the impression of a specific story being told (and the cycling of the order of the three titles in each time period (ABC, BCA, CAB) played into that idea of a very specific order/structure)... and I’m not sure that’s the right takeaway. While there is a story told by Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing, and Si Spurrier, I’m convinced more and more that it’s much looser than we (I) may have imagined. It took until Nightcrawlers #3 and seeing the end goal of Mother Righteous to have that particular bubble popped. If you look at only Nightcrawlers #1-3, then her plans don’t take on the same implied epic scope as they do when you add in her other appearances. Her appearing as a vision to Jon Ironfire or dropping off her book with Sinister... they helped create a larger myth for the character than the self-important fake-it-til-you-make-it false god of Nightcrawlers. Her pettiness is a key limitation of the character and was lessened by her appearances outside of this series... All of which pointed toward a larger plan – a larger payoff. Instead of a race to Dominion, we get a race to remembrance... And, make no mistake, the release structure purposefully downplayed Mother Righteous’s pettiness and made her seem more important with that four-issue gap between Nightcrawlers #2 and 3.

I guess what gets lost in the larger story approach are the little stories that, while not necessarily as prominent in the grand scheme of things (not as... fun and alluring as the schemes of the Essexes). The stories of Wagnerine, Jon Ironfire, and Rasputin IV all play a role in the (for lack of a better word at the point) metastory of Sins of Sinister, but are all much more prominent in their specific series (and, as I haven’t developed the idea but want to get it out there, let me just mention how interesting it is that Orbis Stellaris doesn’t get the same prominence as his siblings... Storm gets that role and that seems important in ways I haven’t thought nearly enough about). Wagnerine (and the Spirit of Variance!) plays a rather key role in thwarting Mother Righteous in this issue... but that seems like a crucial moment delivered by a minor player when you look at the metastory. Read exclusively through the lens of Nightcrawlers as a series, it’s a major moment from a main character! The release structure of Sins of Sinister de-emphasises those series-specific elements in favour of speculation on how they play a role in the metastory... last week’s Custom Kitchen Deliveries is a clear example of reading this event in that manner gone awry.

And, of course, I hit this realisation right before the final bookend issue that will firmly conclude the Sins of Sinister metastory. Alas. Hindsight and all of that.

Next: Sins of Sinister: Dominion #1

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Custom Kitchen Deliveries 10 – Storm & The Brotherhood of Mutants #3

Who is the poet narrator of Storm & The Brotherhood of Mutants #3?

This is the question that vexes me. Done in the font/word balloon and poetic style of Lodus Logos, it sent me hunting for any reference to Arakko’s poet in Sins of Sinister thus far, coming up empty. Perhaps I missed an offhand reference. As far as I can tell, he doesn’t appear anywhere. Any art depicting the fall of Arakko doesn’t include him – rather a mix of the Arakki we know and some of the returned Arakki that were still with Genesis and Apocalypse when this story began. And, right there on the first page, in the second balloon, it states “Sing as Great Lodus sang, in days of old before the Diamond,” suggesting that he died somewhere between the beginning of Sins of Sinister and the fall of Arakko. In Sins of Sinister #1, very little attention is given to Arakko save the Eternals war and its eventual fall to the forces of Sinister. No mention is made of the rejoining of the Arakki tribe that stayed behind. In the previous issue of this series, Jon Ironfire is visited by the image of Mother Righteous who assures him that she is nothing more than a daydream he won’t remember. As he participates in the raid on Orbis Stellaris’s Death Sphere, she asks if he has any regrets, and he responds, “...The Genesis War. I made a mistake – took a life that haunts me still. My faith... it’s a penance. Because I didn’t have faith then. I didn’t trust the Storm.” Maybe you’re ahead of me here, but, as I sought desperately to answer my question and indulge in a bit of diving too deep to make connections, I came to the following conclusions:

Jon Ironfire killed Lodus Logos in the Genesis War. Mother Righteous learns this fact, one that is tied up intimately with his desperate need for faith in Storm to atone for his action. Mother Righteous uses this knowledge to craft “The Song of the End” and engineer both the destruction of the Red Diamond Queen and the downfall of Arakko by intertwining Ironfire’s regret and faith. What we witness is not narration, it is causation.

The first clue that the song/poem narration interacts with the story comes early on when it says “Sing me the Storm System... and the king who ruled there, last of his line, Jon Ironfire his name.” To which Ironfire responds “‘The Storm System.’ How many still know what means?” suggesting that, on some level, he can hear the Logos-esque poetry. He follows this up with a reference to telling Righteous of his one regret... why think of that conversation at that moment? It folds into a discussion of trust with Khora, yet, I wonder if the voice he can vaguely hear reminds him of admitting his regret... before it turns to them discussing putting faith in Sinister in order to bring Ororo back to life.

So much of this issue centres around the idea of Ororo as goddess, an object of faith and worship – in opposition to Emma Frost who, Sinister now for 1000 years, has set herself up as a self-proclaimed goddess of her own empire of subservient worshippers. Ultimately, this issue is a battle of the gods, one secure in her solipsistic belief in herself, while the other is strengthened by the faith of others. At one point, Emma strikes out in rage after hearing Araki whisper “...Ororo protect us,” proclaiming, “You’ve broken my first commandment. Praying to another goddess?” The struggle between the two becomes a proxy battle between Sinister and Righteous despite Sinister seemingly on the side of Arakko. All that Emma draws upon is her self-assuredness and belief in her own supremacy... and that takes her far. The resurrected Ororo, on the other hand, is given all of Khora’s power and is the physical embodiment of Arakko’s last hope, borne out of Ironfire’s memories, an embodiment of a single man’s faith. Ororo is the purest form of the sort of power that Mother Righteous has sought to tap into throughout the story. A pure vessel that faith is poured into... While Emma cloaks herself in a giant robot, something that recalls a living statue, Ororo flies free and without protection, secure in her power and the faith entrusted in her. Emma is an empty goddess propped up by tyranny... something like a pharaoh who declared himself a living god simply because he happened to rule. Emma is a goddess because she says so; Ororo one because others say so. Ororo’s triumph is a clear victory for the sort of power that Righteous covets and seeks to cultivate, while Sinister’s genetic solipsism cannot stand... it’s a lonely sort of power.

All of this happens against a backdrop of a universe divided into kingdoms of faith where Sinister’s genetic empires have risen as singular religions by this point. Each member of the Quiet Council is either powerful enough to stand as their own focal point, acting like a god, or is subsumed into one of the other’s religions. Arakko stood apart and, now, has its own goddess returned only to die (eliminating another rival goddess in the process). After 1000 years of amassing objects of power and planting her seeds of gratitude and faith (and regret), is a universe where the ruling class are indistinguishable from deities what she wanted? In a universe primed for faith, is she poised to take all of that religious energy and redirect it her way, using it to ascend to a higher form of godhood – Dominion?

Her absence in this issue is the other thing that troubled me. While she hasn’t appeared in every issue of this event, her role has grown and her appearances important no matter how small. Despite Orbis Stellaris seeming like the true rival to Sinister at first, she’s been the one slowly and methodically spreading her own sort of influence. Stellaris has been too insular and isolated – so focused on building up his World Farm as the power base to launch his plan for Dominion that, when the Brotherhood stole it, he’s seemingly dropped off the map entirely by the time we reach +1000. Sinister, we know: he’s given up the hope of Dominion in this reality, focused on reaching a Moira and killing it. That leaves Mother Righteous as the seemingly only (obvious) chance for an Essex to reach Dominion.

And that leaves her “Song of the End” as she weaves her magic, drawing upon Ironfire’s regret over killing Lodus Logos to mask her magic as his power... to shape events. Is her song narrating or is it directing? The interplay of words and images in a comic aren’t always clear in this regard. When Alessandro Vitti draws a panel of Ororo holding a lightning bolt, while Al Ewing writes the words “And Ororo readied for the end... and called the lightning home,” are these two occurring simultaneously? Are the words describing the picture? Usually, we read comics that way where overly narrated comics are treated as redundant to an extent – the words telling what the art is showing. But, here, what if the words are telling a story into being? What if this is an act of incredible power and magic as Mother Righteous sings a song that helps shape the reality needed to achieve Dominion? Ororo gives her life for Arakko. Jon Ironfire’s faith is justified, realised in full glory as his goddess, the Storm, sacrifices herself again for the sake of universe. When Sinister (seemingly) shoots and (apparently) kills him... does that faith disappear? Does that form of mystical energy dissipate? Or does it go somewhere else?

All of these questions relate to the larger structure of Sins of Sinister. Everything has been building towards a specific point, much of it playing off Powers of X to some degree. In Powers of X, the X3 timeline of Moira VI was moving towards the assimilation and ascension of homo novissima into part of the Phalanx, becoming a small part of a Dominion. However, in Sins of Sinister +1000, there are no machines to fuse with humans – to be Phalanx – to form Dominion. Or, at least, none that care to make their appearance known (save a leftover non-mutant clone Moira and a broken down Doombot). All that remains is a host of homo superior that exist in such powerful form as to be akin to Phalanx, possibly even Titan. If Mother Righteous can eliminate the figurehead mutant gods and assimilate the cloned masses of followers... will that be the same as uniting 10 or more Titans? Though, in Powers of X, the ascension never actually happened as Moira was killed, secure in knowledge she hoped to use to avoid that fate for mutantkind.

Will Sinister kill his Moira in the nick of time as well?

Next: Nightcrawlers #3.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Custom Kitchen Deliveries 09 – Immoral X-Men #3

Genetics aren’t enough.

We are now 1000 years from where Sins of Sinister began and the universe is a monstrous wasteland of rival factions. Things are so splintered that even Exodus and his religion has broken into dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of sects. When Destiny’s recording for Sinister tells him “I know your eventual goal is to transcend time and space to become a Dominion. You do not succeed,” my first thought was “Yeah, no shit.” It’s apparent, by this point, that the flaw in Sinister means that he is incapable of achieving that goal. Perhaps, a flaw in all of the Essexes.

As I said when discussing Immoral X-Men #1, the key component that Sinister’s genes added to the Quiet Council was narcissistic solipsism. Each and every one of them thinks themself the only true person in the universe, the only person that matters, be they original or clone or staring in the face of a thousand identical clones of themselves. It’s been the ongoing joke of Sinister where every version of him thinks that it is the real Sinister... only to have its head blown off by the next Sinister in line who assures us that he is the real deal (until...). Faced with Doctor Stasis and Mother Righteous, his first instinct is to shout that he’s the real Nathaniel Essex; as does Orbis Stellaris. That overwhelming, unavoidable idea that each of these Essex-derivatives have that they are the only one that matters. The only real person. It comes to a head in the +1000 time period as it’s a universe of single-minded empires, all convinced that they are right, they matter, and all others must be conquered, subjugated, and subsumed.

The supposed goal of the Essexes is to defeat the machines. On Earth, we saw that happen fairly quickly, almost as a throwaway footnote to this entire story. In the +1000 time period, there doesn’t appear to be any threat from the machines. The universe is overrun by mutantkind, endless combinations and variations, almost all carrying that Sinister gene. While our perspective on things is fairly limited by the narrative goals of the comic, the successful domination of the universe via Sinister’s mutants seems complete – despite it being domination without Dominion. Yet, is that any better? Nearly a dozen little fiefdoms that may have sprung from the same genetic source, but wind up mimicking any other random universe of competing interests. Dominion requires unity of consciousness and purpose, and, in +1000, there is none. All Sinister has done is trade one dominant lifeform (machines) for another (mutants) with the same dreary dystopian existence. Except a bit gooier.

In Immoral X-Men #2, when Sinister gave his convincingly insincere speech to Rasputin IV about destroying the paradise of Krakoa, I think what he was trying to get at what the shared purpose of Krakoa. Genetics aren’t enough. This has been the endless cycle of X-Men comics where mutants can never truly unify and thrive, because all that they’ve got in common is an extra gene and a world that hates and fears them. When you take away the hatred and fear and replace it with overwhelming dominance, that extra gene isn’t enough. The centre cannot hold, as it were. By accentuating the individuality of each of the Quiet Council, Sinister has both achieved universal dominance and moved away from Dominion at the same time. Think of those two goals as the X and Y axis on a graph. At the line towards universal domination moves forward, the line towards Dominion rises and rises until it peaks and begins falling until it flattens out. Perhaps, given enough time, one or more of these fiefdoms of the Quiet Council could grow large or powerful enough to approach Dominion on their own. More likely that we’ve reached a dead end. The real path forward was Krakoa, at least for the Sinister branch of the Essex family tree. A multitude brought together under a shared purpose and cause that allows growth. But, alas, even if Sinister were to kill a Moira and reset the universe back to before all of this, with “Fall of X” on the horizon, that chance may be gone, too...

The real problem is that the goal isn’t the survival of a species or a people. The problem is that a single man, Nathaniel Essex, came the conclusion that he will die. He can find ways to prolong his life, but, eventually, something bigger and more powerful, like a Dominion (more likely a Phalanx or something even smaller) would come along and be too much for him. He wouldn’t just die – he would be absorbed, taken in, and made part of a greater whole. Something bigger than him. The problem is that he only cares that he survives forever. Everything flows from his solipsism. So: four of him, each exploring a different path to ensure that Nathaniel Essex can never be lost – each searching for a path to Dominion. Each convinced that they are the only true Essex (or the only one that matters). Each doomed to failure because their message is not one of inclusivity, it’s of singular focus and determination, of absolute control and domination. But, that message of solipsism and singularness, when spread, only breeds new versions of that same solipsism. While the Empress of the Red Diamond may carry Sinister’s genes (Essex’s genes), it is still Emma Frost and thinks of herself as Emma Frost, not Sinister or Essex. The same goes for Xavier and Exodus and Colossus and the rest. They are worshippers at the altar of Essex’s Church of Solipsism and, as devout believers, they each think themself a god.

(To indulge a brief return to my nonsense metacommentary from earlier in this series, if Jonathan Hickman is Sinister and Sins of Sinister is the X-line after HoX/PoX, growing and changing beyond his original plans as each additive creator takes things in new, unexpected ways, deviating further and further from the original singular plan... then Hickman is a Sinister that was able to look at what their influence had wrought, smile, and walk away. Is it what he wanted to do when he began? No. Does that mean he’s unhappy with what has happened? No. You could make a compelling argument for Sins of Sinister as a repudiation of anyone who wished for Hickman to force his vision on the line going forward…)

However, speaking of gods and churches, it’s more and more apparent that one Essex has the potential to succeed: Mother Righteous. She’s the constant figure throughout Sins of Sinister, popping up here and there, planting her little seeds of gratitude, getting her hooks in as many different people as possible. While we don’t yet know the exact state of her religion playing off the Spark with the Legion of the Night, she makes an appearance at the end of this issue, offering Rasputin IV a deal. That her power base is one of belief, calling in her markers at once could, conceivably, unite enough beings to begin the road to Dominion. While the other Essexes spread themselves among the masses – she has focused on spreading herself via a focus on her. She is the singular focus of her interactions with everyone. Not her genes, not her technology, or even her despot orders. Just her, a separate being, ready to possibly enslave all she’s lured in, body and soul... even her two remaining brothers...

Next: Storm & the Brotherhood of Mutants #3.

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Custom Kitchen Deliveries 08 – Storm & the Brotherhood of Mutants #2

“My Progenitors. My World Farm. All that computational power... data that would take millennia to recalculate and recompile...”

I find myself torn, unsure of how exactly to approach Sins of Sinister at this point. I keep leaning towards the high level view, focusing on the remaining Essexes and their machinations in the race towards Dominion... and, yet... those elements are but small pieces of each issue. Pivotal pieces, granted... pieces still. It’s overlooking something of the human/mutant-level drama. Each of the three issues of the +100 timeframe are steeped in that sort of personal drama. Actions are dictated by it. Wagnerine, Exodus, Storm... all driven by their personal beliefs balancing against the sheer solipsism of Mother Righteous, Mister Sinister, Orbis Stellaris... and, beyond them, more and more people each with their own motives... it’s what these issues are rooted in. Yet...

My mind wanders to thoughts of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and this episode about genetically modified people. See, they decided to add genetic modification to Dr. Julian Bashir’s character, somewhat out of nowhere. He was always skilled as a doctor, but his skill never stood out as somehow beyond human capabilities, at least no more so than any other member of the main cast of a show like this. In the Federation, genetic modification was illegal due to some rather poor experiences with it; still, it happened sometimes. Once that element of his character was introduced, it was used an excuse to bring in other genetically modified characters, at least for an episode or two. The group that’s brought to the station for Bashir to work with are brilliant, but have other social and emotional issues. After several attempts to engage and failing, Bashir finds an ‘in’ via the ongoing war with the Dominion. Details of the war spark their collective interest and they begin providing reports for Starfleet using various models to predict future events. Eventually, their models show that the best course of action is surrender, using a method that becomes more accurate the further it projects into the future, mostly by ignoring the little things, focusing on the larger movements of history. The actions of individuals get lost in the sea of actions by other individuals until you have something akin to fate, I suppose. That’s where I keep feeling myself drawn. The largescale sweep of fate, following Sinister, Righteous, and Orbis Stellaris with the actions of the Quiet Council and Brotherhood and Nightkin largely cancelling one another out.

This issue makes a strong argument against that idea, mostly by repeating the first issue’s plot. It’s actually alarming how effectively Al Ewing writes a variation/sequel to the first issue centred around the same(ish) group of people trying to steal the same thing. In the first issue, the ultimate reveal was that the entire theft of Sinister’s lab was engineered by Orbis Stellaris; here, there is no grand reveal. Yes, Mother Righteous makes an appearance as an observer, perhaps sinking her claws into a character or two; otherwise, it’s the Brotherhood with Destiny creating and executing a plan to steal the lab again (actually, Orbis Stellaris’s entire World Farm) and inserting themselves directly into these larger forces of history.

My mind wanders to thoughts of Babylon 5 and the final episode of season four, “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars.” Ostensibly the finale of the show before it was renewed for a fifth season, it jumps through time in the form of video recordings. From the ‘present’ to 100 years later to 500 years later to 1000 years later to a million years later, it shows the distortion of time and history on the events of the show that we’ve been watching. The +100 period is of particular interest. It’s an educational broadcast with some historians to mark the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Interstellar Alliance and there’s some debate between the historians that’s meant to seem laughable given that we know what actually occurred as viewers of Babylon 5 the fictional TV show that is the history they are discussing. There’s one spot where one of the historians dismissing the various stories and legends of the core cast as mythmaking, that they couldn’t have done the various things attributed to them. That history rarely turns on the actions of a few people, rather it is largescale movements by hundreds of people that produce true change. We, the viewers, know differently.

Here, Storm is that central figure that changes history. From the beginning of Sins of Sinister, she’s been the outlier, the one person able to withstand the forces of Sinister’s Quiet Council and, despite Mystique’s betrayal, the one able to steal his lab. In a way, she steps into the place vacated by Stasis as that fourth force acting against the interests of the other Essexes. She and the Brotherhood stand in for the lost humanity of this future – lost to the corruptive touch of Sinister and Righteous and Orbis Stellaris. The Brotherhood under Storm is the one group that’s truly free of their influence and control, a fourth possibility for evolution and growth outside of any Essex experiment. Move back far enough and Storm is almost a synthesis of all four: mutant with a deep humanity, believed in as a goddess, and acting as a cosmic-level power. She contains elements of all four and uses them not to further her own ambitions, but to protect and save whoever she can from the machinations of Sinister and Orbis Stellaris (she seems largely ignorant of Mother Righteous). The inclusion of Righteous briefly in this issue serves to highlight how much true faith that Storm inspires – something that Righteous struggles with, if only because she is insincere. Storm’s absolute dedication and sincerity is her true power, it’s what drives those around her to trust in her and give their all on her word. Ewing’s SWORD and X-Men Red have both largely been about this idea. To further set her apart, her final act is one of self-sacrifice, something none of the Essexes could accomplish.

Heading into this issue, the Brotherhood (and Freedom Force) was already a power unto itself, albeit a very minor one in a universe containing two rather major ones. Storm potions herself as an alternative to all four of the Essexes – effectively a synthesis of all of the best parts of their respective ideologies/approaches.

Next: Immoral X-Men #3 and the +1000 time period.