I. HOX 5 Cover, Epigraphs, Title Page
A. Apocalypse Cometh
Wading ashore through reeds, Apocalypse could be equally emerging from some Krakoan lagoon as from the Nile of Ancient Egypt. The ambiguity is mythopoeic—evoking a sense of his impossibly deep past.
Alas, this specific mythopoeism isn’t the subject of HOX 5.
Previously: More in the Hickman X-Men Re-Read!
B. Sovereigns’ Epigraphs
Xavier’s opening epigraph is from his speech justifying the Krakoan project not to humans but to mutants themselves, meant to elicit a palpable sense of mutantdom’s “imagined community”—which, inevitably, will prove various, as it always has.
Erik’s closing epigraph is from his speech calling mutants the world over “home” to Krakoa—regardless of previous alignment. All will be welcomed equally and treated as such, in theory.
Subtitled “Here They Come,” this issue promises what the cover does: All kinds are headed for Krakoa. But this is also how Magneto announces the debut of the Resurrection Five in the first scene. The title works as well for the United Nations scene, with the clear implication for the rest of the world: Run! Run! The Krakoans are coming!
This chapter finally gets to what longtime fans really want: a look at this new mutant society. After all, socializing with mutants is what we love most. This is a reminder and a bold statement from Hickman that he understands how different X-Men comics are from typical superheroics; these are comic books of another caliber. What other Marvel title would have such a straight-faced issue title? This isn’t a satire of human society; it’s a look at a different kind of society that’s evolved out of the franchise’s various creations and decades of many kinds of fandom (out of which creators themselves emerge). In other words, this otherwise dry abstraction as a header holds much excitement—even two years later if you’re current!
II. The Five as Bedrock of Mutant Society (pgs2-5)
But credit where it’s due! Even Magneto acknowledges “the one good thing that humans taught us: Society.” Though it’s no innocent statement; the thing he picks out from this teaching is territoriality:
Other than this uneasy moral ambiguity, this is a nice father-daughter moment, I suppose—if only because it’s been so rare between Erik and Lorna. Granted, it remains a strange quasi-relationship.
Regardless, the fundament of this new mutant society isn’t simply a remote island territory, it’s also the Five and the Krakoan Resurrection Protocols. Both sovereign security and the resurrection of so many dead—especially those who died because they didn’t have the super-strength or aggression to protect themselves—will allow mutantkind’s “intelligence, ingenuity and creativity” to flourish on Krakoa. (Many also died when Wanda Maximoff depowered the vast majority of mutants in the ineptly-named Decimation, or when depowered mutants were assassinated for what they’d once been; human supremacists still considered them subhuman. More on this next time when we finally get to the HOX 4 data page on “anti-mutant criminals.”)
However, this issue is focused on laying out the fundamental groundwork for mutantkind’s new society: systematized resurrection; geopolitical diplomacy; and radical amnesty—all on mutant terms.
We begin with the debut of the Five—Fabio Medina (née Goldballs), Proteus, Elixir, Eva Bell (Tempus), and Hope Summers.
Beyond being fairly young (though Proteus might be called a man-child with quite the old soul, though still immature), the Five have one other thing in common in that few longtime fans are going to be miffed that they’ve been definitively taken off the battlefield—although there are a fair number of stans who love Hope as a child soldier. They’ll be fine hanging back in the Arbor, doing their thing, getting the good work done, allowing mutant society to flourish.
Even so, it’s hard to imagine these versatile mutants (well, excepting poor Fabio!) will forever be in service of mutant resurrection… Future creators/fans might justifiably chafe at such severe constraints.
A. Fabio Medina
Looking at each in order of the resurrection process, let’s first appreciate Hickman’s ingenious retcon of Fabio’s mutant powers. Going back to his debut in Brian Michael Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men vol3 #1 (2013), you can see the silliness of his cartoonish proliferation of bouncing gold balls. So, fairly useless until now, and nothing is more important in the Hickman era than mutants proving themselves instrumental somewhere in the burgeoning infrastructure and technology of mutant society. (Hopefully, the bold type is playing up the current narrative’s inherent ambiguities/contradictions/ambivalences!)
[X-Men #128 by Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Terry Austin, Glynis Wein, Tom Orzechowski, 1979]
The presence of Omega-level reality-warper Proteus is far more surprising. In X-Men #104 (1977), he was first mentioned by his mother Moira MacTaggart as living in solitude in secure lockdown on Muir Island due to the inherent instability of his powers. Damage to his cell caused by an X-Men/Magneto battle killed the power to his life-sustaining energy feed; despite the rapid withering of his body—never seen on panel—preteen Kevin as a now shapeless, psionic, reality-warping entity leapt into possession of a hapless intruder one night while everyone else was away in issue #119. The drama kicks into high gear in issues #125-128.
Across the Scottish mainland toward Edinburgh, “Mutant X,” Moira’s own codename for her son, hopped host bodies to replenish himself on their vitality until reaching his father, the abusive, narcissistic politician Joe MacTaggart. Kevin had already renamed himself Proteus—meaning “primordial” or “firstborn”—after the shape-shifting Greek god of rivers and seas. Confronting Moira, with the X-Men close behind, the child now possessing his father’s body, enacted a twisted Oedipal drama even while beginning to severely warp surrounding reality and fending off his pursuers. As the street battle climaxed, Proteus’ most durable host succumbed, burning out, just as Piotr in his non-metallic form struck, inadvertently annihilating it. Risen from the ashes in his humanoid energy form, Proteus lashed out, but the now metalized Colossus charged, smashing his fists into the matrix of energy holding Proteus together, apparently killing the boy: “scattering every fabric of the villainous being—to the four corners of the Earth” (#128).
[X-Men #127, ibid]
Already, Moira had shown how vulnerable her son was to metal—when she’d fired sniper rounds at him as Kevin fled for Edinburgh. The weapon was of her own making, specifically designed to take him out, despite her avowed love for the vampiric boy. Post-HOX 2, this can’t help but recall Moira’s seventh life as a singularly obsessed assassin of the Trask family.
Beyond this early classic miniepic, readers don’t see Moira grieve until a backup in Classic X-Men #36 published a decade later and written by Fabian Nicieza. Set in the immediate aftermath of Proteus’ demise, this brief story looks at Moira’s sorrow and regret as the mother of a severely disabled child. In her grief, she wondered if Kevin could clone himself out of his original remains, which she’d vacuum-preserved, but her lover Sean talked her out engineering the cloning process herself, arguing that if her son had the ability to resurrect himself, he would’ve already returned. Accepting Kevin’s fate, she allowed his corpse to decay.
This didn’t stop villainous attempts to regather Proteus’ dispersed energy from across the globe. Successfully achieving this revealed that his self-awareness had never ceased despite being discorporate, but the limbo (not Magik’s Limbo!) he’d been stranded in had provided a peaceful fantasy existence. Confronting the re-embodied Proteus, the X-Men—desperate to stop his reality-warping of Edinburgh—persuaded him that he’d be happier back in that other dimension than struggling to warp Earth to his will (see 1991’s “Kings of Pain” crossover). He was reincorporated in Wanda Maximoff’s “House of M” reality, again in 2009’s Necrosha event, and finally in the story arc that brought back Xavier as well, “Life of X” (Astonishing X-Men vol4 #1-6, 2017).
[Astonishing X-Men vol4 #6 by Charles Soule, Mike Del Mundo, Marco D’Alfonso, Clayton Cowles, 2017]
In this penultimate return, it was first revealed that Proteus’ consciousness on the astral plane had been trapped, tortured, and utilized by the energy entity the Shadow King, forcing him to experience millennia of subjective time—just because, I guess. With his primary target Xavier reembodied, the Shadow King enthralled countless Londoners with fragments of the enslaved Proteus to destroy Xavier/Fantomex. After the Shadow King’s defeat, however, these pieces of energy left their hosts and reconsolidated Kevin—appearing now as an ordinary-looking young man—who assured the X-Men that his inconceivable torture had led him to repentance and enlightenment.
But “X,” as the Xavier in Fantomex’s husk called himself, didn’t trust Proteus, and so conflict ensued. Essentially recreating his “Kings of Pain” strategy of remolding reality into the utopian vision he’d enjoyed during all those years stranded in limbo, since X-Men #128, the young man was defeated once again—with the X-Men creating a kind of proto-mutant power circuit as they’re now called in the Krakoa era (see Astonishing X-Men vol4 #7-11). His last words before Bishop explosively dispersed his form were:
[Astonishing X-Men vol4 #11, art by Ron Garney and Matt Milla, 2018]
And yet somehow, here he is again, purple now, on Krakoa, looking completely copacetic, apparently content to serve as one of the Five, giving each of Fabio’s eggs an amazingly restrained “little warp of reality” so they become capable of sustaining life. On the page-18 data page, the deadpan technical prose reveals, shockingly to us readers, that Proteus’ host is a “husk created from the genetic base of Charles Xavier,” and he’s got an endless supply of them since he still inevitably burns through hosts, “the direct cause of all physiological and psychological deviance over the years.” Apparently all that’s been solved by having this wardrobe of ready-made husks. Apparently.
But on the very same page, we have a separate note on mind backups: “There has been no experimentation regarding what happens when you combine a mutant MIND with a HUSK that is not their own.”
What?! Well, notice the distinction: Proteus’ husks are created from Xavier’s genes, but the implication seems to be that during the resurrection process, they somehow develop without the X-gene particular to Xavier. In other words, Proteus isn’t a telepath. But really: Who. Knows. The apparent contradiction remains, and the strange gaps in explanation in these data pages seem intentional to keep these matters ambiguous. Certainly, there’s no explaining how this erstwhile Omega-level threat got so chill.
How temporary will his low-key placidity prove? After all, now that he can be communicated with rationally, Proteus must’ve been told that his mother was dead—which he’s almost certain to discover to be a lie. And really, the likelihood that he’ll still have an endless supply of clonal husks years from now is … unlikely.
[New X-Men vol2 #27 by Craig Kyle & Chris Yost, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, Brian Reber, David Sharpe, 2006;
Elixir being very uncharacteristic here!]
It is nice to see Elixir being put to active use again. When Josh Foley first appeared in New Mutants vol2 #5 (2003), he was a new recruit of the human supremacist terror group the Reavers, run by the Hellfire’s own Donald Pierce, an industrial baron and mutant-hating cyborg.
In Josh’s first terror mission gone awry, his mutancy manifested as he inadvertently healed a fellow Reaver; shortly after he saved the mutant Laurie Collins (who later died), outing himself as a mutant. But now rejected by his friends and family and loathing himself for being the very thing he’d been taught to despise, Josh reluctantly put himself in the care of the Xavier Institute, though he hadn’t lost his knack for thoughtless arrogance and entitlement. In time, he overcame this attitude—and thankfully lost his soul patch even sooner!
[NM vol2 #6 by DeFilippis & Weir, Mark Robinson, Pat Davidson, Avalon Studios, Rus Wooton, 2003]
For years, however, his motivation was to seek approval from others and be superficially admired. Typical teen drama, sigh. New Mutants vol2 writers Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir made things far worse, though, when veteran New Mutant and new schoolteacher Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane) fell hard for Josh, which only further damaged Rahne’s already long mishandled characterization. (Thereafter, her reputation was never rehabilitated.) But when he accidentally triggered her feral transformation at close quarters, Elixir was grievously injured, and his self-healing triggered a secondary mutation turning his skin shiny gold. And that was it—a change much less meaningful than, say, Beast’s, much less Emma’s. An explicit commentary by the authors on this adolescent personality wanting to be the glossy “golden boy.” I know there are DeFilippis and Weir stans out there, but I’m glad they moved on when they did, leaving for future creators interesting characters they’d really put through the wringer …
And hey, who says all Marvel characters always revert to some baseline? Josh has matured over the years, and he’s never settled back into the irritating pseudo-manga superficiality of much of the Academy X kids. Of course, with the creative-team switch to the much grimmer sensibilities of Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, “Childhood’s End” had arrived (with New X-Men vol2 #20, 2006). This was post-Decimation, and Elixir and peers watched in horror as the human supremacist Purifiers slaughtered dozens of students who were trapped on a bus leaving the Institute because they’d been depowered by Wanda Maximoff.
[NX vol2 #24 cover by Mark Brooks, 2006]
This and further traumas in the coming years stripped away Elixir’s youthful idiocy—oh, Marvel, no one could ever blame you for being subtle! This period saw his skin turn metallic black from shock; as such, Elixir’s touch could be fatal. This somewhat awkwardly handled development would at least contribute to deeper character growth over time. When covert black ops team X-Force needed his healing abilities, Josh found himself a fish out of water amidst heroic mutantdom’s most hardened killers. But the bond that he developed with Laura Kinney (then, X-23) proved a turning point for both characters.
[X-Force vol3 #10 by Kyle & Yost, Mike Choi, Sonia Oback, Cory Petit, 2009]
Elixir’s nadir came with the Necrosha event, near the climax of which he brutally annihilated longtime rival Wither. The late 2000s were a dark time—and then Elixir disappeared from publication for several years!
[XFOR vol3 #25 by Kyle & Yost, Clayton Crain, Cory Petit, 2010;
Elixir being very uncharacteristic here, too—or is he???]
One thing from the earlier period I do wish had been explored, at least a little bit, is Dani Moonstar’s adoption of Josh as her legal ward. We never see this mentioned anymore.
In 2017’s Uncanny X-Men Annual, having self-resurrected, he discovered that he’s functionally immortal. This issue reconfirmed his status as an Omega-level healer. But he was in shock, and Josh’s dark trajectory henceforth seemed wholly unmoored from his initial “Academy X” characterization by DeFilippis & Weir. He even became quite friendly with Exodus, erstwhile religious Acolyte of Magneto (Uncanny X-Men vol4 #19 and X-Men: Blue #28, 34). So despite Elixir being safely behind the lines, his character arc remains another dangling thread that deserves further exploration in the Krakoa era.
D. Eva Bell
[All-New X-Men #1 by Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, Marte Gracia, Cory Petit, 2013]
Eva Bell (Tempus) is another Bendis creation that quickly faded into the background after Bendis’ UX run. First appearing in his All-New X-Men #1 (2012), she always had the same immense power to stop time locally—as well as accelerate or displace it—but she’s appeared quite a bit less than goofy Goldballs. Bizarrely, Bendis very questionably put her through the hell of her out-of-control powers temporally stranding her in 2099, where she stayed for seven years, during which time she married and had a daughter. After accidentally landing back in the present, cut off from her family, she later discovered that this future had been overwritten by a different one (Uncanny X-Men Annual vol3 #1 and All-New X-Men Annual #1). This character was put through absolute hell in these two brief and peripheral X-Men chapters, and it’s never been addressed since. Not great! At least she’s off the battlefield, where she’d mostly been a liability?
E. Hope Summers
And then there’s Hope, the “great unifier,” which is sort of true. Yes, she was meant to be the messiah of the endangered mutant race post-Decimation. She did prove absolutely critical in reawakening the X-gene in dormant teen mutants across the world. But this was a time when Marvel was masochistically suppressing their mutant franchise in their corporate rights tussle with Fox. And what should’ve been the rebound of mutantkind came across as distressingly muted.
—In fact, the Krakoa era now is what the post-Messiah Complex, or at least post-AVX age should’ve been!—
Hope first appeared as a newborn in X-Men vol2 #205 (2008), about halfway through the crossover event Messiah Complex. Whisked away from the present to escape the Purifiers, Sinister’s Marauders and, oddly, Bishop to be raised in the far future by (of course) Cable, she was given the name Hope after her adoptive mother and Cable’s lover.
[X-Men vol2 #205 by Mike Carey, Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Brian Reber, Cory Petit, 2008]
She was the first mutant born post-Decimation/M-Day, as detected by Cerebra, which was highly unusual not just because Hope’s X-gene began undoing Wanda’s curse: X-genes rarely manifest before puberty, and Hope registered as an Omega from the moment of her birth.
In 2010’s Second Coming event, the last of the trilogy of Hope-centric events, it was revealed that Hope had a unique connection to the Phoenix Force, which in conjunction with her natal powers manifested and activated other previously unexpressed X-genes. The first five new mutants were detected simultaneously, registered by Cerebra as five twinkling stars; they became known as the Five Lights. Beyond this point, further manifestations came more slowly and sporadically. And the overriding problem was that the curse hadn’t been fully reversed, most mutants were still depowered, and the emerging mutants had little control over their powers. Hope’s presence, however, helped stabilize and modulate them. Avengers vs. X-Men (2012) saw the Phoenix possessing her with the purpose of completely reversing M-Day’s effects. And so it did, at last—with (surprise, surprise!) Wanda Maximoff’s reality-warping assistance…
[AVX #12 by Jason Aaron, Adam Kubert, John Dell, Laura Martin, Chris Eliopoulos, 2012]
Of course, a serious problem, still, for future creators is that Hope can duplicate only mutant powers. But with 2015’s Uncanny Avengers vol2 #4 by Rick Remender, Wanda was discovered to have always been engineered into a metahuman by the High Evolutionary and merely disguised as a mutant, even to herself. (Aaron’s seemingly willful misinterpretation of the Phoenix is potentially more problematic!)
As a young child, she actually met X-Force during Messiah War (the second Hope-centric event) when they traveled into the future, during which time she befriended both Laura Kinney (Wolverine) and Elixir. So, exploring her friendship with the latter now that she’s about Elixir’s age would be interesting to see more of.
As for being integral to Krakoa’s premier mutant power circuit, Hope would be perfect for any such group dynamic: Not only can she duplicate the powers of other mutants in close proximity, she can amplify them far beyond the source mutant’s ability if they’re not also an Omega. And unlike Rogue, she doesn’t siphon power/energy, at least not in a way that depletes the source. Further, she can apparently keep stacking on others’ abilities without limit, as long as they’re near enough.
She can pass out from actively engaging too many “borrowings” at once (as in Uncanny X-Men #541, 2011), but the consequences are brief and superficial. Given distance and time, her borrowed abilities taper off relatively quickly.
[UX #541 by Kieron Gillen, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Justin Ponsor, Joe Caramagna, 2011]
So, yeah, it really would be cool to see her back in action again, at least occasionally! But the Five are now absolutely mutantkind’s most valuable assets.
F. Sustainable Transcendence?
As Magneto tells his awestruck daughter, together, the Five are “transcendent.” But how interesting, ultimately, is transcendence?
My prediction: Mutant resurrection via the Five will be around long enough to get back all the mutants whose lives were cut short too early, for the doldrums of Wanda’s curse (I mean, er, the Marvel/Fox feud) to be a distant memory, and that mutant society has a robust foundation for a sustainable culture distinct in every way possible from humanity—or at least for having endlessly fascinating and dynamic cast shakeups. 😊
Beyond meeting these thresholds, over time it’ll become increasingly difficult to justify keeping the Five, or at least exclusively as such. Hickman and co. are surely aware of this and have planned accordingly…
Turn to page six—and we’re right back at the start of House of X #1! The mystery of these pod mutants is clarified, and this particular circle of the Year 10 narrative is closed.
Next time we carry on from page eight—with Lorna’s question of shells and souls, with Storm as MC of Krakoa’s first publicly celebrated resurrection—and thence to questions of the ultimate limits of diplomacy and amnesty, with a rundown on all those baddies stepping through the gates.