Credits: Kieron Gillen writes; Lucas Werneck draws; David Curiel colors; Clayton Cowles letters; cover by Mark Brooks
Another chapter in the X-Men mythos titled “Hated and Feared”—huzzah!
I suppose the twist this time is that by the end we’re to understand that it’s merely Xavier himself who’s being referred to here, for he wants to be hated and feared—even by his own fellow mutants!
Now, I can see that for newer readers, or those less familiar with Xavier’s inward trajectory over the decades, this issue might feel authentically revelatory. It could also be that I’ve long tired of ol’ Chuck! But while there was little surprising about how Gillen portrayed the good Professor in this Xavier-spotlight chapter (remember, that Stan and Jack’s X-Men #1 explicitly lays out Professor X’s mission as combating powerful evil mutants, like Magneto), it feels, for this reader at least, somewhat at odds with his current portrayal elsewhere, as in Legion of X, where he seems much less aware of how he’s coming across, even to old friends like Nightcrawler (much less toward his own son). There’s no sense there that Charles is trying to be suspicious with them. In other words, Gillen’s portrayal here gives Xavier too much a sense of self-control. But I’m not saying that’s his intent—which would mean something is missing from this specific issue’s portrayal.
Gillen revealed in a recent very excellent interview with CBH editor-in-chief Dave Buesing that he actually wrote this issue before any of the other Immortal X-Men material, so maybe that’s why it slightly clashes with the way Xavier has increasingly been portrayed as an arrogant idiot. Here, his arrogance is masterly, even, apparently, supremely well-intentioned. However, this is, after all, Xavier’s own view of himself—so fair enough! But again, in other titles currently, he does not seem aware of how suspicious or disingenuous he’s acting; his bald-faced lies are fooling no one. So, maybe this portrayal works better as shedding light on older representations of Professor X, but once more, if you’re deeply familiar with his character history, it’s unsurprising. However, it is nice to see his self-awareness, especially after seeing none of the Professor’s interiority since, well … the Mike Carey run?!?!?! That is a long time. Since his 2018 resurrection, he’s been simply gnomic.
The thing is, though, I like ol’ Chuck portrayed as entirely bumbling in his idiot hubris—and that is the only way I enjoy reading him. I believe to my core that one of the great misses of the Claremont run (and this is no fault of Claremont!) is that Claremont’s wish to permanently send off Charles, not even halfway through his 16-year tenure, never came to pass. With a largely nostalgic creative staff and chief editorship during that era, it’s no surprise this didn’t happen; and yet that doesn’t mean some of us aren’t justifiably tired of Xavier’s continued existence. The man should be laid to rest!
What’s most noteworthy about this issue for this reader, aside from the brilliant twist at the end of course(!!!), is that Immortal X-Men is at its best when Gillen is spotlighting those characters less defined. My least favorite issues, although all of them are great relative to at least 98% of current superhero fare, are the spotlights on Emma, Kurt and, above all, Kate (issue #9 was not a spotlight for her in any meaningful way). I’ll now include this Xavier chapter in this list too. Again, they’re not bad issues by any means; however, the ones for me to revisit many times are the rest: those that focus on Hope, Exodus, Shaw, and above all Destiny (and Mystique) and Sinister.
(Sinister and Irene really were the stars of Mystique’s issue, which is why that one succeeds amazingly, despite Raven being firmly in the backseat there (even as Sherlock Holmes!); yet she had already come into focus very refreshingly for Destiny’s spotlight, where she’s of course Irene’s other half. My top favorite issues have been #s 1, 3 and 8; after that, it’s #s 2, 5 and 6. Of course, the rest are strong on dynamic plot and plot-wise surprises, but they don’t have the character craft of my favorites—although they have it in spades compared to most superhero comics. A clear exception here is Nightcrawler, who since Legion of X #5 has been coming across much more interestingly in that title from Si Spurrier.)
Okay! On with the rest of the very good (but not, for me, astoundingly) issue #10…
Despite some brief hemming and hawing at the start about the viability of Krakoan Resurrection sans Hope, she—and Exodus, Emma and Xavier—are of course quickly resurrected, courtesy of Synch syncing up with Hope’s corpse—a nice twist! Is this a misstep? It might end up being one if we learn that the most essential individual of the Five wasn’t as absolutely critically necessary as she’s been built up to be, and in this very title!
This issue also features the return to Mister Sinister’s Sinister London, a kitsch pocket-city of cod Victoriana stashed away in some Moloid caverns beneath Alaska—which, yes, involved Sinister exterminating the locals, though it was in turn destroyed shortly after its debut (see Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men #14-17), and on top of it was built another villain town (in 2014’s Iron Man vol 5 #27-28, also by Gillen). In the aftermath, it appears its original faux-aristocratic lord rebuilt (that man’s virus’s resources are impressive).
Speaking of Sinister being a virus, how exactly does one imprison such an entity?
Well, given this issue’s surprise ending—you can’t!
How much of a surprise is this, though? Gillen is clearly writing in homage to Mike Carey’s classic story wherein Sinister is revealed to have embedded his essence or “psychic matrix” or whatever is the DNA of several children, Charles Xavier, Cain Marko, Sebastian Shaw and Carter Ryking, to safeguard his bid for immortality—and perhaps with stolen powers to boot, predicting that at least a couple of these kids would grow into powerful mutants (see 2008’s X-Men: Legacy #211-214, an arc titled “Sins of the Father,” which certainly resonates with we’re about to venture in 2023).
Unfortunately, this time Werneck’s art felt a bit rushed, though it’s still impressively dynamic and moody where appropriate. But there’s something oddly muted about the action, which goes by very quickly; probably this is due to Xavier’s deadpan narration—and the fact that all his (and Gillen’s) nods to history, schematic references to Magneto, the original X-Men and then the 1975 iteration, don’t give us anything radically new or surprising.
Is it that surprising that Xavier has placed a psychic kill-switch in those world leaders who could easily launch nuclear missiles? Not really! In fact, that is the least nefarious thing he’s ever done! It’s down right commendable, of course it is!
What’s more surprising is that Xavier actually wants to appear suspicious because he does consider himself a real global threat. The icing on the cake here is the implication that he put together the X-Men to combat not just the obvious “evil” mutants we’re used to, starting with Magneto—but potentially the good Professor, as well, in case he does go bad (and, of course, we’ve seen this old chestnut before).
The real surprise here is saved for the end: not even so much Sinister captured and imprisoned in the Pit with relative ease…
No, the real revelation here is Sinister’s possession of Xavier, the last-page reveal.
Of course, Xavier has just spent the entire issue telling us, the readers, how potentially dangerous he is and that the X-Men are trained in taking out the most powerful mutant baddies. Ergo, Sinister’s possession is certain to be unsuccessful—but oh, the damage we’ll get to enjoy along the way.
In other words, I do not believe that Sinister is merely monologuing through Xavier in Xavier’s narration this issue, although it’s possible some of the sinister tone is perhaps Sinister’s—but has the good Professor ever needed outside help in that department? Nope!
Now, I won’t bet the barn on this. After all, we don’t know how Charlie got to be possessed by Sinister. What if he did it on purpose? Maybe he’s more in control here than we think. That’s something to ponder on!
Perhaps Claremont’s dream of giving Xavier the funeral he’s long deserved will finally bear fruit? (Clearly, this reviewer has never been much of a fan of dry ol’ Chuck.)
It’s also interesting that the imprisoned Sinister doesn’t seem to suspect that “he’s” possessed Xavier. Deploying the scare quotes is a way of underscoring that we don’t know Sinister-as-system is located. Remember, we’ve seen Sinisters slay each other and stand in each other’s place with none the wiser. So, what the hell do the Krakoans really think they’re doing by just throwing one Sinister body in the Pit? Surely, his clonal nature is no secret to them.
Yet presumably, someone on Krakoa gets up to something between now and Sins of Sinister #1, unless that’s where we see how we get from Earth-616 to whatever supposedly “Age of Apocalypse” style reality we’ll be visiting for what I hope a few glorious months of gonzo yet sublime dystopic weirdness.
Here’s a starting guess: The Sinister-possessed Xavier visits Sinister’s Moira farm and instantiates the reality he believes best suits him; along the way, we’ll see Charles fighting for his soul à la Dan Slott’s Peter Parker (back when Doc Ock did that deathbed bodyswap).
There is a nice subtle moment toward issue’s end, just after Sinister has been consigned to the Pit, when Nightcrawler (currently horned) sighs in relief at Sinister’s incarceration, not merely showing how universally loathed and feared the villain is (for Kurt is the last person we’d expect to be relieved about anyone going to Krakoan jail, right?)—but this image is juxtaposed with Destiny telling his mother it’s time for them, just the pair of them, to get out of Dodge. Irene is seeing something she’s not going to share with anyone else. And we better believe it’s real bad.
If there’s one clear misstep this issue, it’s a forgettable passage early on about being a father, primarily an adoptive one, as with Xavier toward his younger wards, Cable, seen here carrying a dead Hope to her resurrection, and even Sinister, who hasn’t experienced true fatherhood since he, or the human he once was, lost his young boy well over a century ago, but has been a twisted creator and/or overlord to myriad mutants and clones. Gillen seems to be reaching for something that doesn’t quite bear out in these pages, again contributing some sense of last-minute compression—before the big event!