For two years now, the X-Men have battled against the growing forces of Orchis. In X-Men #20, Krakoa faces Orchis at a critical moment, in a story that has multiple layers, and not all of them good.
The penultimate issue of this volume places several last dominoes on the board of this huge story. In the last two pages, they start to get knocked down. It comes from Jonathan Hickman, Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, and Clayton Cowles.
The birth of Nimrod is nigh. If the ultimate Sentinel is activated, everything Krakoa has worked for will fall. Their only hope is Mystique. However, Raven Darkholme doesn’t just have Krakoa’s agenda at heart, she has her own: giving Xavier and Magneto one last chance to bring her beloved Destiny back to her.
The story side of the issue is so complicated that I want to dig into the art first. Mobili is clearly a star on the rise, in multiple senses. His action scenes are paced extremely well, with engaging layouts, figure work, and point of view. In the quieter moments though, he relies a bit too much on Dutch angles and positioning the POV below the character’s eye line, which makes it somewhat disorienting. It’s good, but he has some room for growth. Meanwhile, Gho continues to grow as a colorist, putting in more great work and bringing both Krakoa and Orchis to life.
On a superficial level, this story is very good. One of the themes of this era of X-Men is that the mutants always lose, and they are trying to overcome that. This is a horrific loss on the macro level, as Mystique is unable to prevent Nimrod’s birth, but on a personal level, her failure means an incalculable loss. The story also brings back one huge player, and adds a wrinkle on the final page that many readers may miss, but has massive repercussions for the line.
On a deeper level though, this story has some major issues. To dangle the carrot as Charles and Erik has in front of Raven can make for interesting drama. However, at a certain point centering the story on forcing a woman’s suffering is not just unnecessarily cruel, but also heavily misogynistic. Add to that it’s happening specifically to a queer woman, and that undertone is even worse. On an in-universe level, it falls apart quickly too- it would simply take Mystique convincing other members of the Quiet Council- Emma, Kate, Ororo, and Kurt in particular- of Destiny’s value to Krakoa, and the confrontation that needs to happen would.
This is a story that I understand needs to be told in some way, shape, and form, but it has these glaring flaws that are impossible to ignore, especially when the line has other struggles as well. When you add that LGBTQ rep in the line hasn’t gotten more than playful winks and hints or stories like this one, it’s a flaw that the entire line needs to look at.
I’m excited for what the future holds based on this story (and the massive teaser at the end). However, on a larger level, the X-Men line, and Marvel as a whole, needs to do better when it tries to include representation.
X-Men #20 is available now from Marvel Comics.
Some very interesting writing and plot points are overshadowed by issues on a deeper level. There’s still a lot to like but the line needs to be better.