Welcome to “Off The Shelf”, our comic book reviews of recent titles. These are designed to be brief reviews of current books and series that we think you should check out.
Today, Sam reviews Planet-Size X-Men #1 Written by Gerry Duggan, Art by Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia; Jonathan Hickman, Destroyer of Worlds
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Planet-Size X-Men #1 “Fireworks”
Written by Gerry Duggan
Art by Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia
Jonathan Hickman, Destroyer of Worlds
From here on out, spoilers abound, because that’s the only way we can talk about this.
I feel that I should read this entire review in the voice of the “angry Claremontian narrator”, from “Jay and Miles X-plain the X-men”.
“Well, now you’ve gone and done it haven’t you. You invited the dignitaries of the world to your fancy dress party, and while they sipped champagne and nibbled on h’ors d’oerves, you terraformed Mars. I certainly hope you’re proud of yourselves.”
Because, dear listener, that’s exactly what they did. And oh, they are.
The Hellfire Gala promised “fireworks” for its guests, as well as for all of the gathered mutants of Arakko and Krakoa. The reader as well is left standing a bit agape at what transpires in the issue. There have been many hints that Mars was going to be involved in the evolving story of the mutants, and some readers apparently felt that a bit too much was let out from Marvel’s marketing department which ruined the surprise for them. For me though, ignorance was relative bliss, as I did not expect things to play out as they did. Honestly though, in retrospect we should have seen this coming from the second Magneto announced to humanity that they had “new gods now”.
While Way of X was touted to be the “religious X-title”, at least initially, Planet Sized X-Men comes as close to creating the basis for a mutant religion as anything. It’s a modern creation myth written in real time for mutantdom, designed to shock and awe the entire world and place the mutants in a completely different level over the humans of Earth. The mutants ask no permission and offer no apologies in doing so.
How all this transpires is presented with a casualness that amazes even the mutants watching. Magneto gathers tons of iron from the Kuyper Belt surrounding Mars. Vulcan injects it into the heart of the planet, increasing its gravity and ability to develop an Earth-like atmosphere. Proteus stabilizes the planet while Iceman expands its ice caps. Two Arakkan mutants, Sobumar and Kilo, feed the planet with oceans and land teeming with life. Storm then creates and tames the Martian atmosphere. Finally, Exodus and the Arakkan Lactuca teleport the whole island of Arakko to Mars. Even the forever self-absorbed Quentin Quire is left impressed. This all happens in the span of a few hours, while those gathered at the Hellfire Gala watch with either amazement or silent dread.
In the past, this would have all been done with Silver-age exposition and evil cackling. The mutants, especially Magneto, have tried and failed to take over the world many times. They’ve tried force, they’ve tried politics, they’ve tried peace. All of this was predicated on the premise that mutants could either live in peaceful coexistence with humans or rule over them. The competing visions of Xavier and Magneto began with X-Men #1 and still were never fully reconciled all these decades later. The mutants have now had a massive paradigm shift in their philosophy. They can peacefully coexist with humanity, certainly, but it will be solely on their terms. This is not an arrangement between peers or equals. Mutants now recognize that while earthers may continue to need the medicines that they provide, the mutants themselves now no longer require the recognition of human agents – though they will continue to demand it anyway.
This is also primarily about mutants now looking out first for themselves. Magneto states that their plan to terraform and colonize Mars will solve many problems simultaneously. He presents to the Quiet Council that there future can really only be in the stars and away from the incessant problems of Earth. Mars also creates a place for the lost mutants of Arakko to call home, which both pays back a debt according to Hope Summers while also keeping them at a safe distance from Earth. It provides a base of operations from which they can reach out even further into the cosmos, especially diplomatically as we see in SWORD #6 which follows. But most of all, it serves to display the pure raw and political power of mutant kind.
This power is going to be an issue very soon of course. Already we see some humans at the gala whispering about Orchis to others who see this as a kind of planetary liebensraum. No doubt that Orchis, and maybe even groups like the Avengers, will not take kindly to this hard move by the X-Men.
While PSXM is certainly awesome and game-changing not only for the mutants but really for the entire Marvel universe, I can’t help but have a few issues and concerns for what lies ahead.
One aspect of the current state of the X-Men universe right now is that they are exceedingly overpowered. Part of Hickman’s vision was to see mutants not only acting collectively but using their powers collectively in what they call “mutant circuits”. The notion was first introduced by The Five, but is now used across the board by the mutants. By enhancing and combining powers, their limits have been shattered. This not only leads them to a bit of a god complex, but making them functionally immortal (in most cases) and functionally omnipotent (as far as we know) makes them pretty much unapproachable now as characters. They are leaving behind their humanity, which may involve leaving behind their readers a bit. Magneto most of all seems to have already shed his humanity in favor of godlike detachment as he tells the group prior to the terraforming project “If we fail, the human emotion of embarrassment will be the least of our concerns.” Emotions like fear and shame have no place in mutant hearts now.
Pride however has a big place. Interestingly enough, reading PSXM reminded me of the HoX/PoX story. I’m becoming more convinced that as the mutants continue to flex their power in godlike ways, they are actually contributing to the likelihood of the success of organizations like Orchis and their Nimrod sentinels. In their effort to avoid the catastrophe that Moira saw in their far future, they seem primed in their short-sightedness to bring it to fruition.
It’s also interesting to see that the transhumans in that story shared the same eagerness to ascend beyond their physical and moral boundaries with our mutants here.
Finally, the X-Men universe has become so populated with mutants of various odd powers that it recalled to me the old iPhone commercials where if you wanted to do something, “there’s and app for that!”
Need a way to create an entire oceanic ecosystem from a drop of blood? There’s a mutant for that!
Need to boost someone’s power to do the thing you need them to do that they couldn’t do before? There’s a mutant for that! Need to create exactly the nutrient and biological foundation you need for planetary survival on a dead planet? There’s a mutant for that!
A lot of this falls into the problem of when nothing is hard, it ceases to be interesting. I’m convinced though that this will all certainly be interesting in the foreseeable future because of the reasons I mentioned prior. We’ve also been shown plenty of reasons why the Krakoan experiment may fail: secrets, lies, broken promises, arrogance, and apparently Onslaught. And frankly I’m surprised that I’d ever have to utter that name again.
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