Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
“How do you accurately describe it? Miraculous? Glorious? Wrong?”
At their best, the X-Men — like all characters residing in the superhero genre — are an exercise in morality. Not just justice — but philosophies of right and wrong. Of course, when we live in a world of double-shipping and artificially induced events timed to the fiscal quarter, it’s easy to lose sight of what separates comics from being product and being art.
But X-Men #7 — perhaps the single best issue of Hickman’s post-House of X/Powers of X run, even with Issue #4 in the rear view mirror — is all about examining those lines. Between morality and law. Between heroes and tyrants. Between discoveries that could unite a nation and revolutionize a planet, and the brutal rituals and superstitions holding everything together. It’s a deeply thoughtful but polarizing work whose ambition is only outstripped by its sense of ominousness.
It’s also the best damn comic you’re going to read this week.
Perhaps the best part of Hickman’s stewardship of the X-Men has been the way he’s folded continuity in every element of this new but lived-in world. He’s repurposed mutant powers to give Krakoans functional immortality — but what happens to those who were previously left behind? I’m referring, of course, to those millions of mutants depowered by the Scarlet Witch in 2005’s House of M — mutants who have not died, but have had their birthright stripped from them in a burst of chaos magic. Given that mutants are given a clean slate upon resurrection, it seems as though the X-Men have both a moral and a pragmatic problem — how do you stop these depowered mutants from committing suicide en masse, and derailing the slow but steady repopulation efforts entirely?
Just like many other aspects of Charles Xavier’s new society, Hickman’s answers here are unsettling and alien — but in this case, adopting some of the most primitive of human solutions and grafting it onto the post-modern sci-fi elements of the X-Men’s brave new world. And through it all, Hickman explores the bleakness of the Crucible not just with violence, but with a dialogue — Cyclops and Nightcrawler. A pragmatist and a philosopher. A seer and a thinker. A question and an answer. The pairing makes perfect sense, given how Hickman loves to explore not just the high concepts of the X-Men’s world, but their deepest implications. And through it all, Hickman also rewards readers of the original Dawn of X series, as we see just how the X-Men’s religious center could start a path to the pacifist Cardinals of the far-flung future.
I’ve talked a lot about the philosophical angles that Hickman presents here, but like I said — this is a superhero comic, and that often means visual action as well. Just as Hickman tries to reconcile these seemingly conflicting directives — a whole genre that achieves peace and justice through violence, essentially just fighting fire with fire — Yu nicely melds the brutality of the Crucible’s violence with the religious elements that have been such a strong undercurrent in Krakoan society. With depowered mutant Aero having to justify her rebirth by battling Apocalypse himself, Yu immediately amps up the tension just by showing the massive size difference between the two — Aero looks like she’s wielding a twig, whereas Apocalypse towers over her with a sword that’s almost as tall as she is.
In many ways, the actual battle of the Crucible is almost sickening to watch — to the point where you can’t help but question the whole basis of the X-Men’s new homeland, if this is the price they must pay to maintain it. (To which Hickman might respond: Isn’t bloodshed of its citizens a trait Krakoa shares with every other nation? But I digress.) But just like Hickman, Yu also contrasts those visuals with sequences that are almost supernaturally beautiful — scenes like Nightcrawler exploring an otherworldly tower sealed off from the rest of Krakoa, or the Christlike imagery as Aero reclaims her lost powers of flight.
Faith has been one of the most positive forces in the history of mankind, creating societies and technologies and bonds between people that would have otherwise almost certainly been broken by a harsh and uncaring world. But faith has also generated some of the worst tragedies and most harrowing sins that humanity has ever devised. In that regard, perhaps it’s fitting that even with their elevated DNA, the Children of the Atom can only fly so far from their oh-so-ordinary forebearers. That there is no such thing as a perfect society, but one that must evolve — even as it shows that not all mutations are positive ones. There are no answers in X-Men #7, only questions — but it’s the act of even asking that makes this book such an exhilarating read.