[cover by Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer and Frank Martin Jr.]
Here it is, folks—the finale of one of the most provocative Marvel titles in recent years. But does it fully deliver on the promise of its narrative? We’ll get to that below.
Needless to say, though, the artistry of Leonard Kirk and Rain Beredo deliver with crisp, beautiful storytelling.
Per usual with these Destiny of X reviews: Spoilers ahoy!
The Council of Devils
First off, it’s interesting that the issue opens an epigraph from the epic Protestant poem Paradise Lost by John Milton, who was an agent of massive social change (as the others that LaValle’s quoted before have been), albeit from a very different society, but one in the midst of the very first large-scale revolution of modernity:
“Our torments also may in length of time become our elements,” meaning What pains and tortures us but doesn’t kill us, will become the very air we breathe, the basis of our diets—swimming in toxicity.
Drawn from Satan’s first parliament in the newly created Hell, this line isn’t one of the more well-known since readers are usually more struck by the more fantastically hellish imagery and drama among the devils. The fallen angels were seduced by the chief rebel angel’s overweening pride and resentment toward humanity, God’s next creation, along with Paradise, after the angelic hosts. Hell’s origin was in the mind of those whose egos swelled with the Shakespearean eloquence of Satan, an Iago neglected by his master, or so the wounded ego alleged.
Hmm. Iago (who really was Milton’s inspiration for his portrayal of Satan)—as Victor Creed? Makes sense! Both share a deadly combination of cunning, stupidity, jealousy and brutality.
Here’s another line from Paradise Lost that’s all too apt for those Krakoans making a mess of paradise: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” We’re looking at you, Professor X!
But note the subtle connection between a newly empowered Parliament during the English Revolution* (masterfully parodied by Milton with his vision of a Hell run – badly – by the avarice of bickering devils) and the revolutionary Krakoan Quiet Council – betraying their own revolution’s ideals.
(*Revolution is the more incisive term for this upheaval, rather than merely “Civil War” – which was what those who came haughtily marching back in to clean up the revolution’s failure called it, to help sweep it all under the rug as quickly as possible, declaring, “the King lives, everything sparkles once more!” essentially.)
Of course, Iago as a fictional character at least had the redeeming quality of having a fiery way with words. Sabretooth? Not so much. What’s more, the notion that audiences are being told this sexual predator is capable of doing some good, despite his nature or not, isn’t a great message.
We’ll get to what Destiny saw below. It’s—funny.
And yes, Birdy is returning! I hope that’s handled with care (history would be against this notion, however).
Now admittedly, I was a little confused initially with the finale’s opening in the immediate aftermath of Mole’s recruit Magma having caused a volcanic eruption beneath Krakoa, critically endangering the island to the point that it had to knock out her and everyone around nearby, to drain enough of their life-force for its own survival. When Sabretooth suddenly appears, it seemed like Magma’s volcano had allowed for Creed’s release—but a handful of pages later, we do have Doug appearing before the remaining prisoners admitting it’s his fault; he did release Creed in last issue’s cliffhanger, with Krakoa’s apparent blessing.
So, what was the point of Magma’s rather bungled disruption? Just so Creed could steal a boat? (And Magma will stop being lame when? 😉)
Named for the first time here, “Nanny’s cove*,” which shelters Bling’s patrol boat, is also nearby, and so Bling and Shark-Girl are both out cold as well.
(*Named for Nanny of the Maroons, the Ashanti warrior who led the First Maroon War against the imperial colonial Brits in Jamaica, which is awesome.)
Creed is about to steal the boat (which appears to have sails made of solar cells, which is also awesome) when Mystique attacks, handily taking him down by surprise—but then Destiny whispers something to her (a vision) convincing Mystique to allow Creed’s freedom, because “We choose chaos.” Well, of course, Mystique would.
Bye-bye, Bling’s boat! Poor Bling—Xavier’s taken from her and now so has Creed.
I’m still confused about why and what Magma was doing in this book. We’ll return to below to how some of this wrap-up issue feels rather rushed, as if it’s not a complete story after all—because of course it’s not! But that begs the question, as it always does with comics: Will we get satisfying resolutions on individual stories, most especially those characters who had previously been in comics limbo, or should we expect the perpetual extension of certain characterizations that quickly freeze in place? The latter would be the expected pattern, unfortunately.
Nanny Again! (And OG Brotherhoodite Mortimer Toynbee)
In the austere prison as mental hologram inside the Pit, Doug admits to letting Creed free but now wants the other prisoners to go after him. Before they all leave, we have a last look at Creed’s hell, which is apparently permanently a part of Krakoa’s body—which is ick.
Surprisingly, Oya is taken aback that Creed was happy to leave them all behind without a backward glance.
And then Nanny charges in! Followed by Peter the Orphan-Maker, she gets dropped real quick by Oya and then her boy is knocked out by Nekra. And it sounds as if they’ve only recently arrived. But they’re all to be released, as part of Doug and Krakoa’s deal: Release for hunting down Creed. And that includes Toad! (Recall that he took the fall for Wanda’s murder, which was committed by Wanda and her father—yeah, let’s just call it like it is; see Trial of Magneto.)
Doug makes clear that he and presumably Krakoa don’t want Sabretooth back, ever. Rather, he gives Nekra a skull-like seed that will make Creed’s life a living hell—more than it already is, I guess!
Private Prisons—Orchis Horror-Show Style
However, Creed himself plans on returning to Krakoa, with an army—except, in a totally unexpected turn, the stolen boat suddenly rises out of the water not far from Krakoa’s shores; an Orchis craft has lifted it via some kind of beam, though we never see the vessel, just a slave collar descending out of the light, to clamp around Creed’s neck. The anonymous voice from above announces that he’s simply a mutant to be imprisoned, in “Station Six, a for-profit prison” where Orchis’ experiments on mutants are conducted. “Welcome to Purgatory.”
(Don’t worry, though! We all know Sabretooth won’t actually be in comics purgatory.)
A data page tells us that Orchis’ new private prison venture has led to contracts with all the usual tyrannies, but also the UK (probably under the Clan Akkaba’s influence). It’s surprising the US isn’t on the list, but perhaps that dystopia in denial is blacked out here. Whatever entity this is, they may have “misappropriated” prison Station Five.
Other mysteries for the future include Station Two, which is focused on Orchis’ “chimera protocols”(!); Station Three, which had been used for “astral plane mining” but is now lost; and the “infernal nursery” Station Four immediately calls to mind the original “Inferno” event, the mutant babies kidnapped by the demon N’astirh for a sacrifice that would create a permanently open portal between Earth and Limbo, allowing the latter to overrun the former; after his defeat, Madelyne Pryor as the Goblin Queen sought to complete the rite, offering up her own baby Nathan in the ritual, as well. Obviously, it didn’t work out, and the babies were handed over by X-Factor to the US government.
And yet those traumatized babies, as Zeb Wells would tell us in his masterful New Mutants run, 2009-2010, never did return home; they ended up in something of an infernal nursery, wards of the state growing into the state’s own monsters. The foreshadowing here with Orchis’ current experiments certainly feels pretty strong.
As for Station One, we learn, very cursorily, that that was the Dungeon that was indeed destroyed by Juggernaut and Deadpool in Fabian Nicieza and Matt Horlak’s recent X-Men Unlimited Infinity Comic #17, in the midst of their “Paradise Lost” arc (an interesting but probably happenstance literary connection between these two carceral narratives). Orchis’ involvement here is a small surprise but not a big revelation.
Finally, as to the nature of Station Six, Creed’s new home, it’s presumably set up for “recycling” mutants—whatever kind of dreadfulness that means! Of course, if his experience in the Pit is anything to go by, Orchis will rue the day…
Exiles? Exiles? For real—or just in nominal homage?
Indeed, Destiny’s vision of Creed’s future inside Station Six shows much more than a defeat for Orchis. We’re going to get the rebirth of the beloved Exiles! Unfortunately, it looks like Sabretooth won’t just be the star but also in the title. In all likelihood, we won’t get classic Exiles characters or the reality-hopping setup. No, this will probably be just like all the other recent title names that pluck on our nostalgia but delivering something totally different. That’s usually a good thing, but I won’t be buying any more Sabretooth comics.
The Magnificent Eight
(This issue’s title is more a hint of what’s to come, I think, given the homage to classic action/adventure.)
When the motley eight set off in pursuit, we find that Madison has somehow transformed himself into a kind of speedboat, “from the microplastics teeming in the waters around Krakoa.” Of course, that’s a nod to what terrible condition Earth is in currently in our own world. But this power of, um, techno-transformation has, I think, usually been confined to his interaction or relationship with his Box robot armor; this feature of his powers is rarely depicted. Then again, Madison’s appearances have overall been pretty rare!
It’s too bad that Nekra’s declaration that she and Oya are never returning to Krakoa means we won’t get to see more of them interacting with other Krakoans outside this motley group of exiles on a mission.
Then again, it may be a hint that there might not be a Krakoan nation for too much longer!
Suffice to say, that this miniseries dismantles what was still the fairly nascent carceral aspect of Krakoa, which is good.
But what about these fascinating supporting players we were given? Third Eye, Oya, Nekra, Madison, Melter, even Mole, Skin, Blob and Bling: We don’t need closure necessarily, but there should’ve been, I don’t know, something—the felt sense that an inflection point had been reached and some knowledge and wisdom gained from it. There’s clearly a nod in that direction with Nekra’s closing promise to Oya (“self-exile” for lack of a better term).
As a successful novelist whose prose fiction is only standalone narratives, LaValle must know this is missing from his Sabretooth mini. The finale here suffers from the editorial and corporate aspects of comics writing, pure and simple. Certain aspects of characterization and consequence are postponed while the most basic narrative threads are tidied up (no more prisoners in the Pit; the inmates are freed). Hopefully, all the major themes touched in this title will return in Sabretooth and the Exiles, or whatever the next series is called. Realistically, the jaded comics reader might not expect significant follow-up any time soon when it comes to the wonderful character nuances we were treated to here.
Frankly, this issue is disappointing in not progressing those nuanced characterizations we saw in prior issues. Instead, we get pretty swift resolution and setup. That definitely knocks it down a few pegs for me.
There is, however, room for a little humor this issue, one of the real treats this time around, especially when Nanny and the Orphan-Maker arrive.
We can now confirm that LaValle knows how to write Nanny humor—which is all that really matters.
There’s pathos as well: Creed’s throne in hell is now a feature of Krakoa’s insides, and Doug doesn’t want to leave anyone behind to take up that seat and restart the vicious, diseased cycle that Creed established there. But this is more conceptual or ideational than centered on any one character.
The biggest flaw this issue is a single splash page that, sadly, feels like a rushed or mediocre attempt to frame the fate of Xavier’s reputation. He is, after all, basically the villain of the series, and yet this is his one showing in the finale—and it’s really kind of a nothing.
Is Xavier’s reputation destroyed? We have a montage of rather stock disapproving faces. Well, okay, color me convinced! And what are the actual thoughts of, say, Bling, Blob or Skin at this point in the story? Who knows. We already knew they felt betrayed. But that’s just a baseline from which to begin further characterization. Why do we not see other recognizable mutants also wrestling with the unearthed secret of Krakoa’s hidden prison? There’s no real conversation, no debate, nor even any impassioned speechifying.
Again, we know why: Everything had to be wrapped up and set up for the next miniseries, which apparently won’t even take place on Krakoa. There’s definitely a lot missing here at the end—because Marvel can always convince us there are no endings; ugh.
It is amusing to see Sabretooth’s name replace Magneto’s in the classic slogan “Magneto was right,” but that’s as far as it goes. And I’m certainly not buying this messaging. This montage of mostly unknown Krakoan faces, except for Bling, Mole, Shark-Girl, Skin and Blob, looking down on an Xavier who just looks silly feels obligatory, as if there was more there but in lieu of that, there had to be a token nod to the series villain.
Will we actually see fallout from this in the other titles? Sure, there’s bound to be problems of Xavier’s own making coming from all corners in most of the books. But as I noted in my last Sabretooth review, this series featured Xavier, as an institution unto himself, at his most heinous, by a very long mile. It’s really a difference in kind rather than degree. And we’re left with this lame splash page that really doesn’t give us anything substantive, as story.
Also, Sabretooth has never been right about anything, and while the supporting cast was wonderful, courtesy of wonderful work by writer Victor LaValle and artist Leonard Kirk, I’m not interested in pursuing Sabretooth’s story any further.