This article is part of the Beat’s Week of X; a collection of writing looking back at the past few months of the Dawn of X and the new era of mutants. That said, beware of spoilers!
With the first wave of Dawn of X reaching its end, I’m left with complicated feelings. Although following just about every story is rewarding in some way, the reboot ignores its defining aspect; Krakoa. The promise of a new mutant society is left unexplored and, in some cases, totally broken. Thematically, the mutants face problems similar to our own, but instead of posing answers to those issues, Krakoa only reflects them.
Over twelve issues of House and Powers of X, the creation story of Krakoa was unveiled. Mutants gave their lives, came back to life and gave them again and again in the hopes of finally achieving a utopia, complete with its own language and culture; a society outside of society. After thousands of years’ worth of fighting and political string-pulling, Moira, Xavier, Magneto and Apocalypse were successful. Cue fireworks. End scene on HoX/PoX.
Then, the dawn breaks. It brings six new titles: X-Men, Marauders, Excalibur, New Mutants, X-Force and Fallen Angels. In just a few issues of each of those stories, the dream of Krakoa implodes. Specifically, X-Force #1. In its pages, a strike team invades the supposedly impenetrable island nation and assassinates one of its most prominent leaders, Professor Charles Xavier. Over in X-Men, Krakoa is invaded again, this time by eco-terrorists hoping to get an edge on the mutants’ drug market (the only thing giving them political sway on the global scale). Cyclops and his kids are handily defeated and the invading octogenarians escape as quickly as they arrived.
Fast forward to X-Force #6, in which Xavier confesses he was hoping to be assassinated all along. In the zenith of his Claremontian characterization, he admits his belief that mutants must experience tragedy in order to understand what it is that they’re fighting for. Without that bitterness, they’ll fall into a lull, proving Moira McTaggert’s House of X #6 prediction correct.
As readers, we (should) know that ideology is flawed and harmful. Based on how ominous Xavier has been portrayed thus far, it’s likely that will be shown textually as his intent becomes more clear – but with the first arc of Dawn of X almost finished, that remains to be seen. His intentions remain secret and, therefore, unopposed. There’s certainly an argument to be made for a Xavier who genuinely believes these things (not to mention the sinister “to me, my X-Men” that begun this entire movement). However, as most villains go, Xavier’s logic is conflicted.
What the Professor is unaware of, and what the entire reboot forgets, is that mutants experienced tragedy for their entire lives until they came to Krakoa. As he hopes to remind his people of the hard times and as Krakoa falls apart before it can ever come together, the new society is undermined, along with the twelve issues of prelude before it. Instead of giving readers and mutants even a glimpse of what a mutant society might look like, the conflict over these first arcs dismiss that hope.
As someone who uses comics to explore optimistic futures, Dawn of X has certainly never laughed at me, but it’s definitely never acknowledged me either. Rather, in this first arc, Hickman seems to be more interested in pointing out the issues in both human and mutant societies rather than spending time in the one that’s just been created. Especially through the voice of Magneto, it’s presented compelling dialogue and interesting character choices – but at a cost. Behind the Dawn of X curtain is the notion that a perfect society does not exist, listing reason after reason as to why the Krakoan utopia is destined to falter.
The mutants, in spite of their superhuman efforts, cannot succeed. In juxtaposition to Xavier’s philosophy, not even the thousands of years of tragedy presented in HoX/PoX results in utopia.
Xavier and Apocalypse both run secret side projects, unable to trust the every-day citizen with the knowledge they hold. The supposed harbingers of a new world are, in reality, some of the most deceitful. While it’s realistic that those with power misuse it against those who follow them, it’s a dismal reminder for a comic published during an election year. In compromising its leaders, Dawn of X is compromised, too.
What’s left is problems with no solutions – no reimagining. From those come questions. How is Krakoa providing for its people? What about the refugees the Marauders are saving? Do mutants have capital, and if so, what does labor entail? In a story founded on the creation of a new society, published in a time where society’s issues are already viscerally prevalent, they beg for answers. Instead of considering those, Dawn of X points out what’s already clear. Yes, change on this scale is difficult. Yes, trusting a powerful few to do the good of many is risky. Yes, there will always be those who oppose progress. It even makes for good entertainment. But what do we do?
The irony of the situation is that this improved society, removed from bigotry and turning capitalism against the ruling class, can only go as far as the company’s head will allow it. In that way, the Dawn of X is a prime example of the constraints of the Big Two.
Any hopes for a progressive, liberal society of mutants must be tempered with that fact. And it’s that realization that’s the most disappointing. The problems that I have with Dawn of X, I’ve come to realize, are not unique to this reboot, franchise or even this company. Its issues are the issues of corporate fiction, and those are far from new.
Fiction follows reality. For this era to be a true Dawn of X, the leadership must change. Looking at Hickman’s track record, he’s known for the long-game, which bodes well for my perspective of Xavier as a villain. As far as corporate leadership – that’s a different story. But, until then, I’ll do what all X-Fans do, taking what I’m given and filling the blanks with stories of my own.