X-Men #5 by Jonathan Hickman and Powers of X artist RB Silva is a fantastic continuation of the series first issue, and the Mike Carey written run of X-Men from the mid to late 2000’s.
Today I’ll answer:
+ Who the heck are the Children of the Vault and why are they such a threat?
+ Who is Synch and what do his resurrection challenges mean for Krakoa
+ Why one small character moment between Laura Kinney and Logan is such a big deal
As the recap page reminds us, in X-Men #1 by Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu, the X-Men’s raid of an Orchis mutant prison also revealed and freed Serafina, one of the Children of the Vault. The issue opens with Wolverine (Logan) hunting Serafina through Ecuador, before eventually losing the temporally accelerated and enhanced individual in the jungles and to the fabled Vault.
In a striking image by RB Silva – whose style absolutely slays throughout this issue, to the point that I’m desperate for Silva to take over as the ongoing series artist – the Vault door used by Serafina is under what appears to be a defunct Master Mold, presumably the same one the Children were hiding out in that was previously used as a base by Cassandra Nova. As Wolverine tells Cyclops, the X-Men will have to find another way to get Serafina in their custody.
The first and most obvious question here is “The children of the what now?” Hickman and company didn’t attempt much over-explanation for Serafina’s appearance in X-Men #1, but here we get to hear Hickman summarize the elements of Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo’s work in the pages of X-Men #192 to #197 (in a story titled “Supernovas”).
Of course, in order to explain The Vault, Hickman uses another X-Men reference, calling back to “The World,” which is a Weapon X isolated environment created during Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men (A Hickman favorite). The World is used to run evolutionary experiments in rapid time, creating a space where an entirely contained reality can play out while only moments of time on Earth actually pass.
When I think of the World I tend to think of Fantomax, as the Weapon Plus Program survivor and debonair thief brings Wolverine and Cyclops to The World facility during New X-Men, and also uses the World during Rick Remender’s run on Uncanny X-Force in order to raise En-Sabah Nur like he’s Clark Kent (for real! But we don’t need to dig into that right now).
There’s a really interesting line in X-Men #5 where Professor X says “I cannot stress this enough – the Children of the Vault represent the single greatest existential threat to mutantdom… and we know nothing about them. Not really.”
Assuming the Prof isn’t just full of his usual hyperbole and bluster, it begs the question how the Vault is really all that different from known concepts like The World, and why that would contribute to mutantkind’s “single greatest threat.”
Hickman makes the distinction that the Vault is based on “human adaptation along technological lines,” which sounds very much the most substantial threats identified in House of X / Powers of X: Omega sentinels, Master Molds, Nimrods, and eventually the likes of the Phalanx. It’s actually a very interesting distillation of one of the series broadest themes, this idea of evolution vs. technological advancement. Humans merging with technology is a threat to mutants, whether it’s the Omega Sentinels and spawning religions of 100 years into the future, or the desire to assimilate with the Phalanx 1000 years into the future.
Looking back at the Carey / Bachalo story, the Children of the Vault definitely do fit into Professor X’s fears of the ultimate threat. The Children consider themselves Earth’s superior inheritors, and plan to wipe the planet clean so their enhanced kind can ascend. It’s a clever dark mirror of motivations we’ve frequently seen from mutantkind, most commonly from the likes of Apocalypse or Magneto.
There’s a hard sci-fi angle to the Children that can definitely lead to a deep dark rabbit hole of trying to explain precisely how their enhanced nature is different than mutant evolution, but if you’re willing to just take the comic book science as it stands, Carey and now Hickman are very intentionally stating the Children are still another kind of species, close-ish to human, but definitely not mutant.
It’s worth calling out too, that although the X-Men led by Rogue ultimately prevail against the Children of the Vault in their first encounter, they also frequently get their butts kicked, and actually have to resort to Lady Mastermind and Mystique killing some of the Children, which is obviously not the typical “X-Men” way (although if you’re reading X-Force these days let’s just say that “kill no human” rule is getting mighty flexible).
Serafina is one of these original Children of the Vault, although many of the core original Bachalo designs die in the original story arc. According to the Vault, though, there are many Pods of new Children at the ready, which is of course a clear parallel to Krakoa’s own pods, or even Mister Sinister’s Chimeras from the pages of Powers of X.
Again, the Vault has more similarities than differences with Krakoa. Honestly, if the Vault’s mission statement was simple acceptance and sovereignty, instead of, you know, genocide, they’d basically be Krakoa.
I do love, too, how Silva and Hickman’s techno-data design of the Vault pages instantly feels like a continued thread from the pages of Powers of X. Pages set inside the Vault are like entering a machine reality, with its own set of dimensions and rules, a la those first Steve Ditko magical realms in the pages of Silver Age Doctor Strange.
I do think it’s interesting to consider who the “villains” of the X-Men universe can be in a Krakoa era where the most familiar rogues gallery is a part of the community. With the knowledge of House of X / Powers of X, certainly the most interesting threats are those that aren’t just current threats, but threaten to prevent mutant safety hundreds if not thousands of years into the future.
Given the focus on Nimrod, Sentinels and Orchis in the event kickoff, it makes a ton of sense to move to another form of non-mutant technological enhancements with the Children of the Vault. If you look across the Dawn of X lineup as it stands, the threats are either internal (in the case of Marauders and the schemes of Sebastian Shaw), magical (in the case of Excalibur), or tied to this same vein of human genetic enhancement. X-Force is full of militant human groups surgically weaponizing their own bodies to approximate mutant abilities, and Fallen Angels biggest threat is a literal god of technology designing competing drugs.
In order to infiltrate the Vault and end this threat, Cyclops and team select three very specific mutants fit for the task: Wolverine (Laura Kinney), Synch, and Darwin. The selections are made based on the mutants ability to cross the “temporal” threshold. So in Laura’s case, her healing factor, and for Darwin (and Synch mimicking Darwin’s abilities) the ability to adapt to any environment.
A lot has been made of the “Death of death” in the Krakoa era, but yet again, the Vault supplies another compelling way to complicate the apparent paradise. It’s pointed out several times that the team infiltrating the Vault will be exposed to hundreds if not thousands of years of accelerated time, and that the X-Men will not be able to monitor their progress until they escape with the desired intel. This is a tremendous ask, barely comprehensible, and completely outside the safety net of Krakoa’s resurrection protocols. I imagine will reach a stage of exceptions, but remember too that without a proven death, resurrection protocols cannot even begin!
In terms of Krakoa-wide updates, there are some particularly intriguing details included in Synch’s medical report. Synch, aka Everett Thomas, is a mutant introduced in the mid-90’s and most typically associated with the Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo era of Generation X. It’s also worth noting Synch’s origins in the Marvel Universe are tied to the original Phalanx saga, which is of course relevant given the Phalanx presence in Powers of X.
One of the biggest takeaways for me was that during resurrection, The 5 actually improved Synch’s natural physical ability – as the data page says the resurrected version is operating at a “four percent increase.” What this tells me is that the 5 are changing mutants as they bring them back, which feels significant.
We haven’t really seen the Dawn of X dig too deep into the impact of resurrection – for the most part, it just works. Here, though, we see this idea that mutants are evolving through the process of resurrection. These tie to questions I’ve had most directly with Professor X, who has experimented with variance in mental backups and “husks.” So already we have Professor X who can walk, Jean Grey seemingly devoid of the Phoenix, Wolverine with adamantium reupholstered… the question for me becomes how custom-fit can Krakoa take the resurrection process? Likewise, given the assessment of Synch’s psychological challenges upon resurrection (the character died in Generation X #70, which is a LONG time ago in the Marvel Universe), there’s so much to explore about what it means to be resurrected! I can’t wait for Leah Williams and David Baldeon’s X-Factor.
Finally, I can’t walk away from this issue without at least mentioning the most discussed panel, with Laura Kinney asserting her roles as Wolverine, and Logan returning to his role as proud father figure who also happens to be her clone origin (a classic role in literature).
This is meaningful because after 2014’s Death of Wolverine, Laura Kinney grew into the role of the Marvel Universe All-New Wolverine until about 2018. In this series written by Tom Taylor, Laura Kinney, the one-time X-23, truly became one of Marvel’s best legacy characters, impossibly well suited for the role she was filling. Since that time, though, Marvel’s overarching editorial vision has clearly focused on returning Laura to the X-23 “up and comer” role, in order to make room for the original Logan as Wolverine.
For anyone who has actually read All-New Wolverine this is an absurd sell – it’s like Dick Grayson returning to the Robin pixie costume – and the characterization of Laura has reached all-time lows in the pages of Dawn of X’s own Fallen Angels. So yes, it’s heart-warming and feels like an enormous victory to see Hickman and Silva validating the All-New Wolverine experience! For me, it’s yet another instance that Hickman gets what’s good about X-Men throughout the franchise’s history, and has the narrative weight to restore it to being in the Marvel U.