Krakoa represents a brave new world for mutants, one where young individuals can think about things other than fighting for their survival… or so they think until the end of X-Force #1.
X-Force’s premiere issue, by Benjamin Percy, Joshua Cassara and Dean White, is a jolt to the system after the somewhat tranquil, personal feel of the Dawn of X line so far. While everyone goes about their daily lives on Krakoa, an emboldened threat parachutes onto the island and initiates a bloody massacre of innocent civilians with Charles Xavier as their primary target. Even with the new mutant resurrection techniques firmly established, this attack is a traumatic event — one that will likely shake the entire community’s mental health and their sense of security well into the future.
At the heart of the issue thematically is a conversation between Beast and Wolverine. The ultimate representation of book vs. street smarts, the two characters have fundamentally different understandings of Krakoa and how it impacts mutantkind. Beast looks at the island as a “refuge,” one that protects and insulates its inhabitants from outside threats. Wolverine, on the other hand, sees the island as a representation of the most elemental version of nature, one where predators slyly stalk around and turn the nation into their personal “salad bar.”
Krakoa may serve as a protective beacon for mutants around the world, but Wolverine is already worried about feelings of complacency that will arise from this island-sized security blanket. As he tells it, “When you’re safe, your soft,” because the constant reflex to look over one’s shoulder and prepare for future fights slowly eases away in a mundane life.
The events in this issue in particular — especially Xavier’s somewhat lackadaisical response to Black Tom Cassidy’s fears about easy entry into Krakoa — show that Wolverine is right in this instance; no matter how secure the community may feel, mutants always have to be alert and protect themselves. Even Jean Grey, a character whose long history is intertwined with feelings of guilt for causing pain to others, acknowledges that they were slow to recognize their perilous position and that now is the “time to be smart and swift and violent.”
X-Force arguably has the most “classic” cast of all of the new X-Men titles. With beloved and easily recognizable characters like Jean Grey, Beast and Wolverine serving as the center of the book, it’s especially jarring that something so devastating could happen under their watch. We’re used to this holy trinity saving the day, not necessarily standing watch as a tragedy unfolds in their own backyard. Krakoa is supposed to symbolize a new era for mutants, one where they can live peacefully, but this issue serves as a sharp reminder that there are still many people in the world who want the species — and Xavier in particular — eradicated.
Marauders #1 already showcased how certain nations respond to Krakoa’s establishment — with Russian hit squads and Brazilian monsters guarding the zones from any emigrating mutants — but this issue allows readers to see how more dangerous, nimble groups who won’t have to suffer legal repercussions from the new nation are reacting.
X-Force has a long, dark history but they have since moved out of the shadows to assume the quasi designation as Krakoa’s CIA. The group may no longer be fully running off the books, but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily be transparent either. Beast and Wolverine represent the twin pillars of this new security network — brain and brawn — but they are far removed from the top-brass of Krakoan leadership on the Quiet Council.
The CIA and its members have performed extremely manipulative actions in the real world —propping up dictators or selling weapons to foreign governments — to slyly advance what they perceive to be American interests globally. Perhaps, regardless of the X-Force’s good intentions, they will be manipulated to advance mutant interests around the world by larger forces no matter how benign or deadly these interests could be.
Likewise, there’s no reason to doubt that the entire attack on Krakoa could have been a directive from key Council members to stoke mutant fear and establish a more alert society. Yes, Jean is a member of the council, but — like with real political organizations — there are often in-groups and selfish schemers who shield their true intentions from others. Someone predictably menacing, like Mr. Sinister or Mystique, could have plotted this up to spook the young nation for kicks, but it’s just as plausible that someone recently presented with good intentions, like Magneto or Xavier, set this up to shock and prepare their fellow citizens for taking the offensive.
If the U.S. can manufacture outrage over the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine to start the Spanish-American War, there’s no reason to think mutants can’t do something similar with a staged event.
The fact that Domino — an X-Force member who is literally blessed with never-ending good luck — is the one who gets caught and has her blood extracted by terrorists is likely a red herring. Beyond her fan-favorite appearance in Deadpool 2, the character just starred in her own mini-series written by the one-and-only Gail Simone, so I have a feeling that there’s more to uncover about why this newly resurgent individual was at that specific event in the first place.
It’s interesting that X-Force and New Mutants debuted on the same week. New Mutants also has an extremely enjoyable start this week courtesy of Jonathan Hickman, Ed Brisson and Rod Reis, but its swashbuckling, spacey vibe strikes a starkly different tone than its counterpart. In many ways, the books land on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Sure, the New Mutants will definitely face some obstacles in their quest to bring Cannonball back to Earth, but the team is fortunately spared from most of the turmoil and anger currently being channeled at the mutant community. The members of X-Force, on the other hand, aren’t far away in the stars; they’re down on the ground exploring the muck as they work to help a fragile community.
To help us gluttonous fans prep for Thanksgiving, readers will be getting another double helping of mutants next week with Fallen Angeles #1 — the final debut issue in the Dawn of X’s first wave — and the second issue of Hickman’s core X-Men book, so make sure to check out next week’s piece as we break things down!
If you’ve been a fan of this column so far, check out my video about how House of X and Powers of X reignited my love for the entire X-Men franchise in general: