“The Bond Age” (with the dad puns, Kieron?!)
Credits: Kieron Gillen; writes; Paco Medina draws; Walden Wong and Victor Olazaba ink; Jay David Ramos and Chris Sotomayor colors; Clayton Cowles letters; cover by Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho
Immoral X-Men #1 (of 3) is another excellent set-up chapter for “Sins of Sinister”—though to my surprise, it’s not as immediately strong, for me, as the previous two entries, Storm & the Brotherhood of Mutants #1, the sublime follow-up, from Storm’s perspective, to the opening Sins of Sinister one-shot, and Nightcrawlers #1, which introduced the surprisingly affecting Nightkin and threaded in an intriguing occult magic element to a future dystopian venue that typically goes all in with the post-cyberpunk sensibility without the leavening that fantasy tropes lend to the everyday Marvel Universe; indeed, magic is a kind of x-factor for this sort of event, which we’ll see play out throughout the Nightcrawlers mini. In any case, this is Gillen’s second entry, and it really does read like Chapter 2, with Gillen settling into the groove of his new Sinister-ized Council, giving us a wicked character study of the Sinister-twisted Emma.
While every page doesn’t feel essential in the way that the opening oversized one-shot had, this issue does some fine character work, not just with Emma but the Sinister-ized Xavier and of course Sinister himself. This chapter opens with what seems to be the very last remnants of resistance, led by Nick Fury, Jr., preparing for a bold assault—that immediately turns out to be their death courtesy of Xavier’s telepathy, never used so dastardly as here: While the targets are desensitized, they’re sent plummeting to their deaths from the heights of a skyscraper. Obviously, the moment has nothing to do with them and everything to do with poor ol’ Chuck, still partially himself, holding to the dream, but unable to see another way but Sinister’s.
But we’re effectively reminded this issue that these once majestic heroes are not under the sway of Sinister himself but the Sinister virus—and exploring the ramifications of this, increasingly to Sinister’s own dismay, will be the remit of the Immoral X-Men miniseries.
And the way Gillen recasts Emma, under the Sinister thralldom, is boldly unpleasant. Readers who don’t remember Claremont’s original White Queen, or who’ve been happy to forget she ever existed, might be taken aback that their diamond-skinned fave has taken such a (delightfully) nasty heel-turn here. But I think it works; after all, Emma’s character has never been free of cynicism, and she did once gleefully participate in much of the nastiness of the Hellfire Club of her own accord (contra the best forgotten Bollers solo series that gave early 2000s readers a damnably inauthentic account of this complex powerhouse), however much she did come from a place of trauma. Note in this reversion, her condescending view of “the children,” which folds her profound latter-day protectiveness (over her charges and by extension all mutants) back into that deep cynicism of old.
Of course, she’s been taking full advantage of Sinister’s chimera work, hilariously unbeknownst to Sinister himself. There’s a delightful inevitability of character here, but regardless, it’s still a surprise to see Emma regrow her shattered arm from her “Logan patch,” an inspired pun that isn’t too obvious (Her reference to Sinister “disarming” her before is to Gillen’s classic “Everything Is Sinister” arc, Uncanny X-Men vol 2 #1-3, 2011).
(Interestingly, she also doesn’t see Sinister’s chimeras as sentient beings; they’re just “living statues” to her, and indeed, except for the Nightkin over in Nightcrawlers, what we’ve seen in this alt future so far seems like a far cry from those we saw in Powers of X quite different reality. I wonder if we’ll get to explore this contrast, or whether some version of POX’s chimeric Rasputin will emerge out of this new paradigm. Immoral X-Men #1 briefly introduces us to the Nasty Boys, from X-Factor #75, 1992, each amalgamated with Cyclops, a fun callback to a particularly cartoonish, and fun, Sinister creation of the ’90s.)
Also crucial to this miniseries, however, is that the Quiet Council doesn’t know that Sinister still has at least one advantage up his tasselly cape: They’re entirely clueless about his Moira lab, which if they knew about, as he acknowledges to his ill-fated clone (always keeping a one on hand as a sounding board that is wretchedly easy to dispose of)—they’d all want their hands on. So, he is perhaps unintentionally heroic here in withholding the most frightening reality weapon imaginable from a fractious council of Sinisters.
Still, the hilarity of this situation remains fresh and surprising as the consequences of Sinister’s coup d’etat continue to evolve: It is astonishingly dim-witted for a mad scientist to turn everyone he’s surrounded by, most of them much more powerful than himself, into eccentric amalgamations of his own amoral self. Obviously, that’s going to backfire!
Hopefully, the next two issues give us other perspectives on what remains of the far-future Quiet Council.
This issue does give us some tantalizing set up for what the next one is likely to have in store: The data page from Hope clarifies what we’ve already been expecting since Sins of Sinister #1: The expectation that intergalactic imperial superpowers will inevitably gang up on the runaway Sinister-ized Earth, which Sinister of course doesn’t care about, much to the bafflement of his supposed minions, because they don’t know about his reset option. In any case, we should expect to see in Immoral X-Men #2 at least the aftermath of an attempt by a vast alliance of Shi’ar, Kree and Skrull forces to destroy the world Sinister has created, whatever the cost.
The only real knock against this issue, if I must quibble, is that Paco Medina’s art feels rushed this time. There was a hint of that in Nightcrawlers #1, but it was so minor, it didn’t merit bringing up in review then. And I really enjoy what Medina has to offer, especially in his past work with Al Ewing (U.S.Avengers), so this is actually just a critique of industry work scheduling. I know what three consecutive Medina issues can look like, and this isn’t it—meaning there was a rush to get these books through production. And that seems strange since one would think there would’ve been plenty of time set aside for this fairly self-contained event production-wise. Any artist doing three books in a month is very impressive, but the ideal of course is that they’re given time to make each one a home run.
This not being the case by the time we get to Immoral X-Men #1 is attested to by the necessity of not one but two inkers stepping in this issue, when Paco Medina typically inks his own pencils. There’s also credit for an additional colorer, the excellent Sotomayor; still, the extra hands are telling.
I’m quibbling about this now to get it out and not harp on it again when we get to Andrea Di Vito and Alessandro Vitti’s respective third issue in a month (March and April, respectively). In fact, I would rather wait for the best an artist can do than rush them to keep to an industrial schedule. How many fans feel likewise? It’s hard to say. My entry into comics as a small child was as a budding artist taught by my father, (who had once drawn the fashion section of the Chicago Sun-Times when that was a thing artists did). But neither Marvel nor DC is the place for the healthiest long-term schedule for the typical artist (not everyone can be a Mark Bagley).
Yet we can reasonably expect the event’s final issue, Sins of Sinister: Dominion #1, to be a visual knockout, though I’m curious to see how the art duties are going to be split up between the two credits we have for it: Lucas Werneck (who drew the opening chapter, as well as Immortal X-Men) and Paco Medina.
NEXT: Nightcrawlers #2!