For as long as they’ve existed, the X-Men have had to deal with bigoted groups who yearn to eradicate mutant life so homo sapiens can “thrive.” X-Men #3 — written by Jonathan Hickman and penciled by Lenil Francis Yu — flips that idea and introduces a new, mischievous group of humans called Hordeculture who are hellbent on eradicating not just the mutants, but the humans as well. But now that mutants and Krakoa’s flora are impeding their plant-based scheme to wipe human life from the planet, Hordeculture is forced to pivot their focus and confront the empowered mutants to move forward with their plan.
Oh, did I mention that the group is comprised exclusively of elderly women whose 200 collective years in the biotech and agrotech industries have left them disgusted with those pesky capitalists and people in general? Yeah, this issue is delightful.
It’s a refreshing change of pace to have human villains in an X-book who hate all life in general, not just mutants. Similar to Thanos’ plan in Infinity War, Hordeculture wants to restore a prehistoric sense of balance on Earth. This time, instead of rapturing half of all life to allow the remaining lifeforms a better chance to thrive, they simply want to kill all 7 billion people on Earth — through a manipulative seed process that will see them control the world’s food supply in a decade — and allow the planet to re-achieve its pristine, pre-human status. To ensure their mission continues unabated, they decide to harvest and study Krakoan flora — putting them right in the X-Men’s path.
Hordeculture is a huge threat to Krakoan society. Now that mutants rely on fauna so heavily — to produce medicine that gives them leverage over other nations, as well as to create gates for mutants to teleport through — what happens now that those flowers are compromised? Furthermore, what can the X-Men even do to these little, old ladies after the Quiet Council already declared mutants aren’t allowed to kill humans? As Emma Frost says at the end of the issue, they have “a bit of a problem” and only time will tell if this new threat will compromise the young nation’s declared values.
The ladies of Hordeculture are clearly bitter and misguided, but they’re also incredibly sassy. Slightly based on the iconic leads from The Golden Girls, each one of them converses and bickers with their acquaintances in an intimate fashion that hints at just how comfortable everyone is with one another. Even though they have no problem using swear words, quaint phrases like “a-word” and “s-word” are constantly thrown out, resulting in these salty ladies coming across as much cuter than they should.
Augusta Bromes, Opal Vetiver, Lily Leymus and Edith Scutch may use language fit to make a sailor blush, but they are still members of a certain generation. Despite the in-fighting amongst the group about who was potentially the most loose in their younger years, these ladies stand unified against a common threat: tarts. That’s right, as if spraying their goo on young, innocent mutants wasn’t bad enough, Hordeculture is also coming for our White Queen, Emma Frost. Judging her solely based on her outfit, the ladies say Emma is in need of a washing — a comment that leads to one of the best reaction panels I’ve probably ever seen. As if realizing that the new mysterious threat is actually a group of cranky senior citizens isn’t awkward enough, the fact that they have no shame being so direct and rude with their words makes them unlike any foe the X-Men have faced before.
Even if you find Hordeculture somewhat hokey, this issue illuminates that the creative team is clearly having a lot of fun here. Hickman excels at creating creepy villains, and the fact that he is capable of making even a group of wrinkly ladies feel like a major threat speaks to his immense talents. He’s already proven that he can give a wide cast of characters unique, singular voices, and his ability to produce menacing yet silly dialogue makes every panel featuring a Hordeculture member something to behold.
This issue only works as well as it does thanks to Yu’s detailed pencils. Not only does his design work mentally trick the audience into thinking the attackers are younger, bulkier individuals due to their steampunkish armor, but even after the group’s identities are revealed he zeroes in on facial details to retain their sharp, threatening image. Don’t let their old age fool you: Hordeculture is primed to be a major thorn in Krakoa’s side for quite a while and I, for one, am here for more back-handed insults and polite curse words from these environmentally-charged ladies.
X-Men #3 may be getting the spotlight, but this week’s X-titles also featured enjoyable issues of Excalibur and Marauders that continue to push the Dawn of X forward in strange, exciting ways. It seems that Christmas has come early for X-Men fans this year though, as the 11th sees another three X-books drop while the 18th has a jaw-dropping four X-issues dropping simultaneously.
Make sure to check out last week’s HiX-Men Moment of the Week , all about the narcissistic wonder that is the New Mutant’s Sunspot, to prep for the marathon X-reading sessions we have coming up!