It’s the dawn of a new age for mutants. A new relationship with humankind is on the horizon. And at the centre of it, three new drugs Charles Xavier is offering the world. A drug that extends human life by five years, a super-antibiotic and a protection against dementia. And all that world leaders have to do for them to be made freely available is recognise Xavier’s new nation state, the mutant island that grows the drugs in the form of flowers, Krakoa.
As well as the three proffered drugs, Krakoa has developed a plant that acts as a teleportation device, one that creates habitats for the island’s immigrants… and something that sounds decidedly sinister.
It’s not entirely clear, but I’m guessing the human ambassadors who travel to Krakoa in this first issue of Jonathan Hickman’s game-changing mini-series – one of two linked books, the other being Powers of X – aren’t told of the latter three plants. The focus is on Xavier’s supposed benevolence, but Krakoan ambassador Magneto is clear that non-mutants really don’t have a choice here. The mutants have inherited the earth and they’re anything but meek.
The deal is, the rest of the world gets to continue on its way if it recognises Krakoa as a refuge for mutants. They can visit the habitats grown by Krakoa if accompanied by a mutant, but the original Krakoa – a mutant island – is off-limits.
I enjoyed this comic a lot. Sure, there are the usual Hickman infodump graphics, which bring the story to a screeching halt every time they appear, but overall this a very engaging read. I’m intrigued by how blatantly Hickman and artistic partner Pepe Larraz are about how dodgy this all is, from the eerie prologue to Professor X’s new look to Cyclops skirting the line between kindly uncle and full-on It… and emerging more killer clown than cuddly pal.
Scott Summers endorsing a raid by Mystique and her Brotherhood of Mutants doesn’t look great…
… so regular humans are right to be preparing to fight back, as shown in a sequence that knits together Marvel’s black ops teams. Xavier may present as beneficent but he’s fooling no one. And look at this moment with Jean – it would be kind to call it psychic massage.
I suspect the secret to Krakoa’s sudden ability to grow wonder drugs is the right plant food. Specifically, the corpses of mutants – the healer Elixir begets the cure for dementia, a long-lived Wolverine clone brings extended life, a psychic cuckoo sister prevents Alzheimer’s, the teleporter Gateway results in Gateways, Limbo ruler Magic is the fuel for No-Place… that kind of thing.
The book is full of little moments that bear examination, but I won’t pull the x-wings off this comic book butterfly. I’ll just say that Hickman has my attention with a well-wrought script, while Larraz – working with the excellent colourist Marte Gracia – is producing seriously nice comic book art. Clever little sequences like this convey and enhance Hickman’s story.
Look at that second panel, for instance – the intensity of Magneto’s stare, the fear in his victim, the angle of the horns evoking the pincers of a killer crustacean. The description in the script, which is included as backmatter, simply says ‘Magneto leans down and whispers in his ear’. It’s fine work, and typical of Larraz’s contribution. Wait until you see Mystique’s entrance…
Clayton Cowles letters the chapter, using the upper and lower case style Marvel debuted in their Ultimate line; I’m no fan of the look, but Cowles does a good job.
On the basis of this issue, I’ll be back next time. I just wish Hickman would pack it in with the graphics and get the expository stuff – such as an interesting passage on superhero intellectual rights law – into the actual comic story. Yes, he risks being clunky, but he’s a smart guy, elegant solutions are possible; don’t give up, practice. Because as stylish as the ‘data pages’ designed by Tom Muller are, they’re an impediment to reading flow.
Marvel have been pushing Hickman’s ‘showrunning’ of the X-Men line as the biggest thing since Grant Morrison’s New X-Men book. And while that critically acclaimed and popular run was quickly overturned by Marvel, it was fun while it lasted. I think this will be too.