If things were nefarious in X-Men before, they’re approaching downright evil and cultish by now
When Cassandra Nova sent Sentinels to attack Genosha during Grant Morrison’s New X-Men (2002), she ended the onslaught with a total kill count of about fifteen million mutants – just because she knew it would break the heart of her brother Charles Xavier to see so much Mutant death. Things got even worse when the “Pretender,” Scarlet Witch, depowered an additional 1.6 million.
What stands out about both of these Other Mutant Massacres is that, thanks to The Five’s process of Resurrection, the Victims of Genosha can be brought back to life with their powers intact and reintegrate into Krakoan society with ease. The depowered Mutants, however, cannot unless they were to die and this informs the Quiet Council’s decision to implement “The Crucible.”
The Crucible? More like the Kool Aid
The Crucible is a challenge of dedication – a challenge to see who will be willing to give their life when the time comes for Krakoa to defend itself. For those mutants that lost their powers in the Decimation, it’s an event to prove why they deserve to be reborn with their Mutant names and abilities if they prove their worth and die by Apocalypse’s sword.
What Jonathan Hickman is doing with the main X-Men series is a lot of seed planting, foundation laying and world building in this new era of mutants and this issue is no different. Though, while it is no different, it continues to add on to the layers of darkness that is acting as the mortar to the bricks of Krakoa.
The subjects of the issue are Melody Guthrie, a character that hadn’t really been seen since shortly after Decimation, Cyclops and Nightcrawler. Melody is chosen for what I believe is the first Crucible and the two old friends philosophize about the implications of the Crucible and the ramifications of their resurrections.
Nightcrawler and Cyke psychoanalyse the Crucible
Leinil Yu returns to the art after issues with pencils by RB Silva and Matteo Buffagni and he absolutely smashes it with excellent landscapes, panel sequences, symbolism and amazingly dynamic shots throughout. Honestly, I do believe that this book might have suffered if anyone else but him drew it because he manages to bring out so much emotion.
Nightcrawler, who usually has a shadow covering his face, but still has his glowing orange eyes showing, is depicted here mostly without his signature glow. This is to symbolize how blind Kurt feels as a Christian in the face of functional immortality and emergent questions of his mission on Earth now that Krakoa has become something of a paradise.
There’s an excellent page of five panels in which Cyclops arrives on Krakoa from his home on the moon and finds Douglas Ramsey, Cypher, appearing to have a conversation with Warlock and Krakoa itself. He looks in disbelief before we cut back to Cypher with his techno-organic Warlock arm and Krakoa having disappeared into the trees as if Scott were seeing things.
This is Hickman’s way of reminding readers that Krakoa is full of secrets and that everyone has something to hide. If I’m right, this is Warlock’s first reappearance since New Mutants: Dead Souls (2018), so the question is, why is he returning now? Is it to remind us of the looming Technarchy of which Warlock is a part of and was hinted at in Powers of X?
Sunny Gho also stuns with amazing colors throughout, such as the heavenly bright lights of the crystalline citadel that Kurt teleports into or the ominous oranges and reds of creepy fire that Exodus tends as he fills the minds of kids with propaganda in support of The Crucible. He looks genuinely terrifying as the fire dances to his will as he speaks.
The most beautiful and impactful shots, however, are during the Crucible itself. Apocalypse giving an impassioned speech about how humans envy mutants is made better with an upward shot, making him seem imposing and frightening set against the petite frame of Melody Guthrie, the lowly “human” seeking to regain who she was.
Apocalypse with his massive Sword shaped… Sword!?
Their sword fight is absolutely brutal. Gho utilizes striking colors for the mostly solid backgrounds with some jagged shadows as Apocalypse swings his sword at the far weaker Melody. He brutally backhands her and just lays into her with punch after punch as the camera pulls in closer and closer to his stoic yet savage face.
Yu’s inks sell the intensity of the situation as shadows paint his face with a brimming rage. Melody buckles to the ground, but has a Steve Rogers moment as she picks herself back up and proves that she’ll never stay down. This is what Apocalypse has always wanted, mutants that valued survival, fitness and inner strength.
He grants Melody the gift of death to be resurrected as a true Mutant.
What’s most unsettling about this are the tears of happiness as she comes out of her egg and the thanks that she gives Apocalypse with tears and a smile. The last few pages are framed like the coming of a new Mutant Messiah as she ascends to the sky, Gho’s bright oranges shining down with her as the outer focus of the panel.
X-Men #7 is available now. Unless you’re a part of a cult. In that case, it will be available in 50 years time.