A dream is shattered as ‘Immortal X-Men’ #10 dives deep into the mind of the man that helped begin it all while sinister motivations begin to spin Krakoa toward the endgame of the evil geneticist working in plain sight all along. Two narratives are woven within this issue seamlessly coming together at the very end to help kick this book into gear for the upcoming event that will see it completely changed for months.
Expecting the unexpected is just par for the course as a descriptor for the work of Kieron Gillen. Yet, the unexpected that is expected is sometimes so unexpected, so out of left field or just so in your face it was missed, it still catches the reader off guard. Immortal X-Men #10’s climax is a perfect case in point.
This series began with various characters taking over the narrative focus, delving into their current thoughts and doings as the current issue plot centered around them in some way. That changed rather quickly as the series moved to prepare for and tie into big events, but each issue still had a different member of the Quiet Council as the narrator of sorts. In the previous issue, we had the Groundhog’s Day-style time loop situation with Sinister making a move on the council, and Kate Pryde was the narrator of sorts even though she was caught in the loop and the issue was not inherently about her. Her voice though served perfectly in that capacity, to point out the madness of it all, while also calling to the fact that she was not one of the major threats that Sinister was gunning for in each loop.
Here we are given the Xavier issue, as he pontificates about the dream and mutant kind through narration (while within the story he’s being resurrected after dying at Sinister’s hands last issue). Charles Xavier is a bastard, make no bones about that. The man has done some awful things to achieve his goals and thrown many of his ‘children’ under the bus in the process. Kate Pryde’s iconic “Professor Xavier is a jerk” outcry was correct then, and is still most definitely correct today.
That being said, Gillen’s focus here might have been the best-ever ‘justification’ given for why Xavier makes the choices he makes and why he’s such a chess player about everything. As a person Xavier still is just the worst, his self-importance is radiating off him in waves, but it actually gives us more insight into why he makes the choices he makes for the most part. He’s not entirely wrong that others with his extremely powerful abilities would have destroyed all of humanity and possibly the world a long time ago. But he has used his powers quite questionably as well more times than can be counted.
What’s truly interesting is how all this narration stands alone as an intriguing thought experiment of sorts, in regard to Xavier’s abilities and choices and the whys of them, it almost seems disjointed from what is happening on the pages. Which is the scramble to find a fix to resurrection with Hope dead (Synch’s star continues to rise as he is able to fill in for Hope to get her back), resurrect the council, followed by the council and X-Men tracking Sinister to his old base (from Gillen’s run on Uncanny X-Men a decade ago… wow where has time gone?) to take the monster down. There is a great moment where they defeat him, drag Sinister back to Krakoa, toss the monster down into the pit, and talk about how it’s time to move beyond letting the monsters into their midst just because it serves the purpose of helping the paradise they are trying to build.
Oh, here comes the swerve though. With a massive final page reveal Gillen brings the seemingly separate pontificating narration to a whole other major level. Every situation Xavier laid out for what could go wrong if someone else had his powers or he were to ever lose himself fully in the darkness just became the clearest danger to the entirety of Krakoa and the world. Everything we might have thought could potentially lead to the upcoming Sins of Sinister event, with this issue standing as a prelude, just got thrown out the window with this unexpected curveball. See, I told you, expecting the unexpected still isn’t enough with Gillen or this series.
No matter what is happening on the page, expected or unexpected, there is no way that it won’t look beautiful and colorful as hell with Lucas Werneck and David Curiel doing their thing. In just this issue alone they tackle so many locations and moods, switching things up left and right in order to make every panel and every page stand apart while creating a cohesive story along the way.
All of the characters are just so wonderful under Werneck’s care, wearing their emotions on their proverbial sleeves as we feel the dire nature of things as well as the calculated feelings that arise through the issue plainly from the characters. It’s etched upon their faces, every emotional or body language beat that we see feeling real and powerful. We’re not just moving through the moments in order to get to more action or superhero moments, it’s allowed to rest and weigh on us and remind us of what is at stake and help us keep empathizing with these characters we love, hate, or love to hate.
Truth be told, and I’ve mentioned this before, there was a time in the past when I paid little attention to so much about what art can bring to a comic including something as simple as panel choices. Plenty of comics were doing things beyond the standard boxes as I read but I didn’t take the time to really think about it all and appreciate it. That’s not the case these days, because I see things like the intriguing choices that Werneck makes with panels that just make a page hit so differently than if they were just the usual rectangles/square type of standard.
One of the early pages with members of Krakoa searching for a solution to resurrection with Hope dead is a perfect example. We see Mimic feeling the pressure of trying to fill in for Hope with her body in the center and that panel sort of being a rectangle taking up the top space, but the bottom is curved in a sort of way. These curve segments are meant to be roots of Krakoa, since they are standing within one of the major trees, but the way they curve the two panels underneath they almost also resemble the spread wings of Mimic (borrowed from Angel) as he moves away, and we turn to Synch. It’s a glorious page among so many other pages that are so well thought out and crafted, elevating this comic so much.
Curiel sets the mood with colors that are so smooth with such weight to them. Right away we go from the reveal page of the aftermath of the Quiet Council murders where the chambers are on fire with colors overwhelmingly darkened with shadows, right into the outside of Krakoa which is so bright and almost hopeful but also stands in contrast to the dark moment we’re witnessing of a nation mourning one of the five and potentially their loss of resurrection. This keeps up as we move along with some scenes really pulling into the whites and cooler colors while others are darker and warmer with shadows dancing all around.
There is something so seamless about how Curiel switches back and forth, none of it jarring or feeling unnatural, the contrasting nature of the tonal changes done on purpose to showcase the emotional journey our characters are going through currently. Having colors toned down in many of the panels allows for big huge moments to really hit harder when there is that one big vivid burst of color, drawing the eyes right to the moment that is supposed to be where our eyes land.
Also, many of the more somber moments stick to this formula, before switching up as hope (both the character and the feeling) returns and an army of Krakoan mutants goes and does big action things to take down Sinister.
Xavier’s narrations are one of many things weaving in between the bevy of characters and moments happening in this issue, as Clayton Cowles deftly navigates the lettering in ways that create a great focused flow of information. Lettering isn’t just about getting the dialogue on the page, it’s about doing so in ways that coexist and collaborate with the art rather than detract from or take over from it. Like how Narrations about the original X-Men slide around the page near the member they are referring to so that our eyes follow the narration right to the characters and therefore we end up taking in the whole panel in a fashion that leads right into the next, and so on.
It would have been easy to just do some wordier caption boxes to centralize Xavier’s narration to one space or portion, and that would work and be great in its own way, but instead, Cowles gives us bite-sized boxes that are scattered around with few that are on the beefier side when necessary. The same goes for the times when there is actual character dialogue popping into the page, it shows up where needed and drives the story forward while helping bridge moments within the artwork.
Immortal X-Men #10 is now available from Marvel Comics.