X-Men Dawn of X: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
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With the X-Men’s first big event in the Jonathan Hickman era on the horizon, now would be a good time to look back on some of the highlights, missteps and just plain bad decisions that the scribe and his team of artists, editors and other collaborators have managed to cobble together in a little less than a year.
Dawn of X : The Good
The main X-Men title has been used as something of a springboard for the major themes and ideas that Jonathan Hickman wants to explore in the new normal that is Mutant Sovereignty. With that comes the various new villains like The Hordeculture, a group of octogenarians bent on killing all human life on Earth and XENO, a new group of mutant haters that utilize mutant DNA and abilities to infiltrate the new nation of Krakoa.
Beyond that, there are dangling plot threads like the Fire inside of the third Summers brother, Vulcan that caused him to become the evil Emperor Vulcan before fighting Black Bolt in War of Kings (2009). There is also the brewing conflict between The X-Men and the Children of the Vault who hadn’t been seen since Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo’s run in 2006.
Aside from that, numerous other titles have managed to expand the influence of the mutants to the outer reaches of space (New Mutants), the realms of magic (Excalibur), black ops to protect Mutantkind (X-Force) and even some crime noir (X-Factor).
One of the things that Hickman, Benjamin Percy, Tini Howard, Gerry Duggan, and the numerous other writers have managed to accomplish is the reinvigoration of characters that have been pretty stagnant for the better part of a few years now. Even when Matthew Rosenberg tried to take Uncanny X-Men in a new, edgy direction that had promise, I felt that it too would become passe after a while.
Domino, who usually stands out as being pretty lax because of her luck powers has recently taken a dour turn since XENO captured her and flayed her alive to put her skin and powers on their anti-mutant soldiers. Alongside an equally depressed Colossus, the pair make for an interesting dynamic of what near death can mean for mutants now that they’re functionally immortal.
Kate Pryde, for whatever reason, was never able to pass through the Krakoa gates which led her to captain The Marauder ship under Emma Frost. This allowed her to trade in the more under the table Krakoan Drugs and rescue mutants trapped in anti-mutant countries and thanks to her relationship with Wolverine, she’s taken on many of his qualities, like being a badass.
One of the best character changes actually came about from Jim Zub’s Mystery in Madripoor (2018) when Betsy Braddock separated from Kwannon’s body. Dawn of X has actually given her a character again by allowing her to retake the role of Captain Britain from her brother Brian while Kwannon, now taking the Psylocke name, leads the Fallen Angels and Hellion teams.
The X-Men line of comics definitely has some of the best looking comics that Marvel’s printing right now and it’s by a landslide. Stand outs include the main X-Men title, Wolverine and Excalibur.
Leinil-Francis Yu is probably one of my favorite artists of the last decade or so because of how highly detailed and stylized his art is. He can craft an amazing action scene or tense meeting between characters and helped set the tone for the early days of Dawn of X with his fellow artists in R. B. Silva, Matteo Buffagni and Mahmud Asrar and colorists Sunny Gho and the late Gerry Alanguilan.
Wolverine always has the best artists for his books and this volume is no different with Adam Kubert taking the reins for his first arc and Victor Bogdanovic picking up after him. It’s incredibly violent as always, but also plays on Logan’s suspicion at the concept of peace and both artists are able to give Logan the somber looks of a man that’s seen war and survived.
Marcus To and Erick Arciniega are the perfect team with stunning visuals of magical environments, various lights from things like Gambit’s kinetic energy charge to Betsy Britain’s psi-sword and every explosion that happens during the series because there are many. Not only is the writing good, but this art goes above and beyond when it needs to.
Dawn of X : The Bad
When the main focus of a series is worldbuilding, like so much of Hickman’s work is, there’s also a higher chance for some of the writing to be muddy, inconsistent and almost nonsensical. In the long run, this will all make sense because of the greater pay off, but in the moment, some of the decisions made just seem disjointed.
Fallen Angels definitely suffers from this with its plot centered around a strange biomechanical entity named Apoth that wanted to convert humans and mutants alike into beings like themselves. Bryan Edward Hill is a great writer, but this book felt inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, at least for now.
Wolverine’s stories almost always revolve around his journeys of self discovery, old enemies and pessimism at the idea of peace and his newest series is no different. Don’t get me wrong, it is good and Adam Kubert and Victor Bogandovic’s art only serves to elevate the already visceral nature of Wolverine’s violence, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
And finally, the main X-Men series is REALLY good, but with almost every issue having a different focus that will only be expanded on in future plots and issues, it makes it really hard to keep track of every individual threat, theme and set of characters, which is again the point, but for some readers will seem like an inconsistency.
Dawn of X: The Ugly
Ugly doesn’t necessarily have to mean unforgivable comic sins that just ruin the books and will mostly be referring to the more jarring aspects of Dawn of X that haven’t really been expanded upon or that personally bug me.
Havok’s Broken Mind
One of the better things to come out of AXIS was the inversion of certain heroes and villains like Iron Man, Sabertooth and especially Havok, Alex Summers. His transformation into a villain plagued him for years after and he was the last of all of these characters to be reverted back to his past self in X-Men: Blue (2019).
This of course continued to leave him scarred, but then he sacrificed himself towards the end of Uncanny X-Men (2019) to save Scott and other hunted mutants from continued persecution while the rest of the Mutant Population was trapped in X-Man’s pocket dimension.
However, with the X-Men’s current Resurrection Protocols, what should have been a temporary mental defect continues to rear its ugly head in the pages of Hellions despite no other character continuing to struggle with their Inversion aside from Alex. So the question is, why?
Religion of X
One of my favorite issues of X-Men was #7 where Nightcrawler began to have a crisis of faith since he and the other Mutants would never see the paradise of Heaven and he began to see the need for a Mutant Religion. Of course this is more of Jonathan Hickman sowing the seeds for a later story, but it’s definitely one of the more interesting things to come from a single issue.
One of the best ways for the X-Men to take certain characters off the board when they need to is the Prison that the island itself has created by just pulling Mutants who break the laws of the land into a sort of stasis within its roots underground, but they’re still able to see, feel and hear everything.
It’s absolutely horrific as a concept and seems to have been used as a threat against certain Mutants, like the rest of the Hellions team because of their mostly sociopathic urges and likeliness to kill humans. But the question is, how long will the ones that are currently imprisoned be held there?
Sabretooth is too good of a character to just be locked away from the world and it’s only a matter of time until he’s able to escape or allowed to escape, so could there be a possibility for rehabilitation and then revenge? Will Selene be sent there after her actions within the pages of Captain America and be the new person to hold Creed’s leash? The possibilities are endless.
X-Men Dawn of X has had its ups and downs, but in terms of overall storytelling, it’s still in something of an infancy. Jonathan Hickman has already set a standard when it comes to this kind of long form story with his Fantastic Four and Avengers tuns which had seeds planted in the early years of Secret Warriors (2008) and paid off by the time his Secret Wars event (2015) came to an end.
While I certainly hope that it doesn’t take nearly eight years to come to a good resolution, I am excited as to where all of this will go. Everything from Vulcan’s potential insanity to every single scheme that Apocalypse has up his sleeve, Jonathan Hickman and the rest of the X-Team are doing everything right.
Hopefully this hot streak will continue and with X of Swords promising to shake things up for The X-Men, at least for right now, hopefully this is just the first step on the path to the Dusk of X.
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