“Our Nine-Hundred-Years-and-Counting Mission”
Credits: Kieron Gillen writes; Alessandro Vitti draws; Rain Beredo colors; Clayton Cowles letters; cover by Leinil Francis Yu and Jesus Aburtov
A millennium into the Sinister Era—or rather, 900 hundred years into the Exodus Dominion (speaking only in the religious sense)—and our plucky heroes, Mister Sinister and his devoted servant Rasputin IV, are winding dramatically toward the conclusion of their centuries-long star romp, whose grim relentlessness must surely echo in tone the source of this issue’s epigraph, literature’s most embittered picaresque, Voltaire’s Candide. The 1759 French novella is most pointedly a rebuttal of Leibniz’s belief that our world must surely be the best of all possible worlds; this is actually the opposite a “multiverse” theory, since Leibniz was saying only one world is, it is this one and since God made this one world, why, it must surely be the best there could possibly be—so, Candide’s cast parades through a sequence of real-world horrors, which they mostly happily rationalize as simply integral to God’s miraculous natural order. And if our reality is so great, what does that say about the lesser options that might have been? Here’s an answer:
Welcome to Sinister X-Men: Warhammer!
Imagine the most loathsome anti-life tendencies of religiosity multiplied throughout the galaxy via Prayerworlds, each a world engine of mindless devotion wrenched from tortured meatpuppet prayerbots to feed a giant Exodus—whose greatest enemy is the next closest Exodus on his own Prayerworld. Warhammer goodness, indeed. The Warhammer universe Emperor is somewhat akin to what we see here from Exodus, in that each day, a thousand souls are sacrificed to sustain his immortality and thus his endless war against heretics, and even mutants! There is no individuality left in this war-ravaged reality (A few years ago, Gillen himself wrote a Warhammer title for Marvel).
But Gillen also continues with his little nods to Star Trek—with the “mission log” narration and even the title (though Star Trek’s missions were typically only five years). The Marauder starship Sinister and Rasputin IV fled in last issue has lost the rest of its crew almost a millennium later. And the survivors are looking ragged. Vitti’s scratchy, shadowy art sells the decrepitude of this grim nowhere future (It’s not clear, though, what we’re supposed to make of the Marauder’s the organic-looking encrustations. Perhaps they’re small bits of the Uedo growths eating up Sol System? Ick).
In the opening scene, the Marauder is in low orbit around an Exodus Prayerworlds, and Rasputin IV teleports into what seems to be its central “cathedral” (for lack of another word) following a clue, which she does glean, telepathically, from one of the tormented clones in endless prayer in their fluid-filled sac—“We should be on the same side.” Sinister remembers Destiny’s words all too well. Again, this was basically just homage to Warhammer, although Vitti also draws a neat parallel between Exodus on his throne and Sinister ensconced in his pilot’s seat: ultimately, each in their own way seems broken, without a real future.
Indeed, the entire universe at this point seems without a real future: Xavier brain fleets battle Sinister bots deployed by Emma’s Red Diamond; the “Materialist Colossus’ citadels” guard against demonic incursions from Magik’s Limbo; and Kate Pryde and her marauding “packs” are literal space pirates—these days, she sounds like a real jerk. Odd Quiet Council additions, Namor and Beast aren’t up to anything special (Beast’s abject subjugation to Emma, as her “Court Scientist,” is somewhat amusing. But really, everything has come to very little cause for amusement).
Destiny’s message sends the Marauder to a moldering satellite that’s survived for a thousand years. From it, Rasputin IV retrieves a wax cylinder whose encoded message can be played via a phonograph—just as Sinister had left one for Destiny in the late 1800s (as seen in Immortal X-Men #8). However, it doesn’t seem like she had an actual vision of her death at that earlier point, only assuring him that she must be dead and his lab hidden again if he’s received this ghostly echo out of the deep past.
Although Destiny has called for her and Sinister to be on the same side in the past, this is the first time she’s flatly stated, “I will join you”—should he succeed in resetting the timeline. She’s desperate, but I doubt that she wouldn’t still have plenty of tricks to play on this diamond fool.
In the message, she refers to Nathaniel Essex’s grief in losing his young son to illness, which, as seen in Peter Milligan’s Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix (1996), is what triggered his embrace of Apocalypse’s (Celestial) technological transformation into Mr. Sinister.
Rasputin listens in on Destiny’s message, which calls out Sinister’s ultimate goal “to become a Dominion,” which Destiny assures him is doomed to failure. Her final words of advice are “Give up,” as in figure out how to reset this reality. Until now, his right-hand warrior had been under the impression they were going to save the universe, not destroy it. Rasputin’s shattering sense of betrayal, followed by abject abandonment, neatly parallels Wagnerine’s fate over in Spurrier’s Nightcrawlers.
To be clear, then, if we’re rooting for the heroes in this event, we the readers should be hoping their reality, however horrific from our standpoint, survives and wins, against all odds, some kind of rebirth.
And isn’t “against all odds” exactly what makes our pluckiest heroes most sympathetic to us?
Interestingly, the last page gives us a voice that must belong to Mother Righteous calling out to Rasputin drifting in the void…
The real surprise this issue is that Moira is still alive, and once he’s rid of Rasputin IV, Sinister finds her, following “Irene’s dance steps.” Emma, grown gloriously vapid in her Cyttorak ruby form, learns from Court Scientist Beast that the fugitive pair are alive and pinged.
This will undoubtedly lead the Red Diamond forces to the World Farm, where the Marauder has been downed by a now Odin-like Jon Ironfire—and Sinister, Moira and the last remaining Doombot seem to be his captives. Although surely, Sinister’s conniving ways could get the better of him…
NEXT time in: Storm & the Brotherhood of Mutants #3