Storm’s Stuck Cleaning up the Mess in Immortal X-Men #11

In the wake of the Sins of Sinister timeline being reset, Storm returns to Krakoa to clean up Xavier’s massive fuckup in Immortal X-Men #11, written by Kieron Gillen, drawn by Lucas Werneck, colored by David Curiel and lettered by Clayton Cowles. 

Mark Turetsky: Hey, Austin! Sins of Sinister has ended, and we’re back in the “main” X-Men timeline, where the leaders of Krakoa aren’t monstrously terrible, just the regular kind of terrible.

Austin Gorton: This issue definitely puts in some effort suggesting the difference in leaders between the two realities isn’t *that* different, but nevertheless, it’s nice to be back in the “real” timeline, where Xavier, Emma, etc., are at least their own unique kind of screwed up instead of Sinister-screwed up. 

Status Quo Ante Ruina 

Mark: Before we dive into all things Krakoan, I want to take a moment to look at the epigraph. It’s taken from Johan Huizinga’s 1938 book Homo Ludens, which is a foundational text in game studies. This paragraph in particular is pretty often quoted, because it’s where the notion of a magic circle comes from. No, I don’t mean an actual conjuring circle for magic, I mean the notion of a magic circle in game theory. 

What a magic circle means in game studies is a space where the normal rules of society are set aside in service of a game. The game’s rules become the new laws, sort of like how a stage becomes a sacred space in the theater, set aside for a game/ritual. The circle described in the quotation is from the Mahābhārata, a Hindu mythic epic, wherein a game of dice forms part of the major action described. Gillen cuts off the quote with, “all sorts of precautions being taken against cheating,” which gives you some idea of what this issue is about. It’s about the immense care Storm takes to prevent cheating within the council’s sacred circle.

Austin: First of all, love that you knew this reference. Second of all, love the way giant gaming nerd Kieron Gillen is pulling this kind of stuff into the series. 

Mark: I blame this on the research he did while writing Die

OK, so things pick up pretty soon after last week’s Sins of Sinister: Dominion, whose ending was done by the same creative team. But one of the major developments from that issue is immediately undone, as Storm, with security provided by 2019’s favorite new character, Rasputin IV, pulls Xavier, Emma, Hope and Exodus out of the pit.

Austin: I’m a little surprised, and honestly, a little disappointed that their exile ended so quickly. I didn’t expect Gillen to sideline a third of his cast for terribly long, but I thought we might get at least a few months (real world time) before they came back. As you and Rasmus laid out so elegantly in the Dominion review, the storyline did ultimately leave its marks on the overall narrative, but this undoes one of the ways it did so awfully fast. It almost feels like if in X-Men Prime, the first issue back from “Age of Apocalypse,” all the characters who crossed over into the “main” reality were immediately sent back. 

Mark: But it’s not without consequences. These Quiet Council members are under some serious probationary restrictions. They’re effectively frogmarched from the pit to Forge’s lab, where they undergo a de-Sinisterization process. 

One of the most effective things this sequence does is to remove Xavier’s Cerebro helmet, which has been a mainstay of his character for this entire era. Without it, he seems lessened, a weakened little boy without his security blanket. It’s been a major theme of this series, of the whole Krakoan era, really, that certain of its characters hide their motivations behind masks, namely Xavier and Destiny, while others wear their emotions so outwardly (Mystique and Exodus come immediately to mind). Later in the issue, when Storm returns Xavier’s mask, he’s shocked that she’d trust him with it. It’s an embodiment of his power, of the imbalance of him being able to see into your deepest thoughts while you can’t even see his expression. And of course he immediately puts it on and doesn’t take it off again.

Austin: A point is made of the fact that, sure, Forge’s process sure SEEMS like it washed all the Sinister right out of their hair, but they can’t really KNOW that for certain, so various administrative functions will have to change. I appreciated that, both for the way it does, as you say, help keep the consequences of Sins of Sinister from completely disappearing, and because I found myself thinking the same thing when they explained what Forge was doing. 

Also, the ’80s/’90s era X-fan in me appreciated the callback to Storm and Forge’s previous romantic relationship, something that doesn’t get brought up very often for as big a deal as it was once. 

In other Sins fallout, Hope is even more done with Exodus’ messiah-worship than ever before, after learning what their relationship led to in the alternate reality. Just as with Xavier, Storm must stage manage the pair a bit, reminding Hope not to let her anger and frustration come out so publicly, given their roles within the Krakoan community and recent events. Storm is basically telling Hope to be more like Xavier and Destiny, and hide her emotions behind a mask, for the sake of the common good. 

Mark:  It’s funny, because so much of this issue is about how the council must change its ways, how the Sins of Sinister timeline grew out of the current status quo, but on the other hand, Storm wants to keep things hushed up from the general Krakoan public. It’s admirable that she’s steadfastly against just letting them go right back to how things were, but she’s also advocating for more secrecy, more obfuscation. With the Sinister Four becoming non-voting members of the council without telling anyone, the average Krakoan citizen literally doesn’t know who their leaders are, in addition to being unable to choose them. Not exactly a great look for a free and open society.

Austin: You could even say this issue is all about Storm putting a mask over the face of the entire Quiet Council. 

Ororo in Charge

Austin: Speaking of Storm, this is obviously the Storm issue of Immortal, as Gillen returns to his rotation of viewpoint characters. Building off her large role in the Sins of Sinister event, she’s presented here as, basically, the only adult in the room, forced to oversee the transition into this new era of governance and the rehabilitation of the Sinister Four. Storm has long been a character defined by the contrast between her wants and obligations — to remain a benevolent god in Kenya vs. joining the X-Men, for example — something this issue underscores both directly (by referencing the example I just used) and more subtlety, through the kind of weariness Storm exudes throughout the issue. She doesn’t want to be doing this, doesn’t want to have to oversee this transition, to put a mask on the council and cover up the full extent of what happened, but she also recognizes it needs to be done and she’s the best person for the job. 

Mark: And she frames her conversation with Professor X in Giant Size in such a different way than it’s presented in that issue. Professor X comes to her in Kenya telling her that he’s expanding her horizons. Here, we see that she considers what happened as her being pulled away from where she’s needed to save others from Xavier’s failures as a leader. I kinda love that framing, not least of which because Storm expresses a lot of the issues I’ve had with Xavier in this era (NB, I’m not saying Xavier shouldn’t be written this way, because comics characters should be imperfect). 

Austin: The moment where her internal dialogue scoffs at the notion that Xavier, of all people, once chided her for her hubris is pretty great. 

Mark: We see her gain hope for the future, only to have it crushed moments later a few times throughout the issue. I think it’s most effective in her wanting to talk to Xavier about Magneto (Let’s not forget Magneto’s dying wish to her was to keep an eye on Xavier), where Xavier tells her, “I will contact you when I want to talk.” As if she’s his petty underling to call when he feels like it, and not a leader in two planetary governments. Nandor the Relentless said it best: 

Austin: That push and pull between desire and duty comes into play at the end of the issue as well, as Emma reminds Storm that, based on their viewing of Mother Righteous’ “files,” it still took her alt self five years to realize the Sinister Four had been corrupted. Emma uses this barb to remind Storm that, with the Sinister Four’s role in governance basically neutered for the moment, Storm is needed more than ever on Krakoa, but she is preparing to return to Arrako, to choose her desire over her duty. I like that this is coming from Emma, another character with a notable relationship to the contrasts between desire and duty. 

Mark: It’s not desire! It’s just more duty!

Austin: Of course, Storm still has another series to headline, so what Emma is really doing is prompting Storm to take a … curious action.

Mark: Our issue-ending splash page is of Storm’s newly-appointed proxy, Colossus. Remember when Xavier brought Colossus onto the council, essentially deciding he’d be a pushover and would vote however Xavier wanted him to? Well, maybe that’s not going to happen now. Now, Colossus effectively gets two votes (his own and Storm’s) and Xavier gets none. Colossus has so far been the least interesting of this series’ ensemble, but maybe this new turn will add some much needed flavor to this bland blin of a man. I guess we’ll find out when we get his showcase issue next month.

Backroom Skullduggery

Mark: In addition to Storm’s deal with Colossus, we also have a few more scenes of court intrigue: Hope battling Exodus in the skies above Krakoa, Storm and Xavier confronting Destiny, Mother Righteous giving Mystique a message from the aborted timeline and Shaw making a deal with Righteous to sell out Krakoa. 

Let’s start with the one I find most interesting: Storm and Xavier interrogating Destiny about her role in the SoS timeline. First off, it has Destiny describing what it was like to live with the Moira engine. She says it was like seeing “scenes in a larger movie, out of order.” We also now know that, of the possible timelines, we’re now no longer on course for the Empire of the Red Diamond, which means that the possible timelines before us are a Nimrod Extinction Event, “The Broken Sword” or “A New Krakoa.” I won’t venture to guess, but these all seem possible in the coming Fall of X status quo. 

Austin: They frankly all seem possible collectively, meaning more than one may come to pass. 

Mark: It also shows us how the hierarchy of power has changed in the Krakoan universe. While Xavier has to be re-granted his mask, Destiny has kept hers. While Xavier only begrudgingly accepted Destiny onto the council, Xavier has no voting power anymore. And Destiny spends most of the meeting sitting calmly behind her impassive mask, while Storm rants and rages at her.

Austin: Destiny’s declaration that the meeting was over (taken as a threat by Storm but actually just a statement of fact due to the Hope/Exodus fight) was a great bit of precog humor.

Meanwhile, the Hope/Exodus fight was a nifty inversion of their Sins of Sinister battle, with Hope using her power to effectively nullify Exodus’ power and kick his ass thanks to her Cable training. Storm intervenes to make their fight less overtly public in the interest of morale (another mask), but Hope’s reaction to the actions of Exodus’ alternate self represents another post-SOS power bloc shifting. 

Mark: We also see another stable alliance potentially undermined in Righteous visiting Mystique. We get the beginning of Destiny’s wax cylinder recording to the Sinister of SoS1000, but we leave the scene before the truly important bit of Destiny’s message. So, from Immoral X-Men #3, it is, “Nathaniel: If you get back to your Moiras and you return to the past, come to me. I will join you.” 

These are probably the only words that might turn Mystique against Destiny. They also, crucially, give us a slight glimpse into Destiny’s current motivations and loyalties. Still, she might have recorded the only message that would lead to Sinister finding his Moiras and resetting the timeline, and has no intention of cooperating with Sinister in the present. Or she might be so distraught about the prospect of losing Mystique that she might side with him. We just don’t know.

Austin: I love the idea of the offer to join him simply being a ruse to get him to act, because it IS the one circumstance where her doing so would be believable. I’m also curious about Mother Righteous’ angle here, what she’s hoping to accomplish by revealing this to Mystique. Meanwhile, the Shaw/Righteous alliance seems much more straightforward, as Shaw is always looking for an angle to personal power and wealth. 

Mark: Well, her grand plan is the same as the other three Essexes: Dominion. We’ll have to wait and see how the Krakoan Council gets her there. As to why she reveals the recording to Mystique, I’m guessing it has to do with swaying enough council votes to her favor. I think next month might be the issue we’ve always dreamed of: all council business, all voting, no filler.

Austin: All while Colossus just sits and nods along with Storm! 

X-Traneous Thoughts

  • Mother Righteous’ “A load of magic circles connecting the world” takes on a special significance taking into account the content of the issue’s epigraph.
  • So if Forge snipped off the extra Sinister DNA into another dimension, untethered from time and space, will that errant DNA be accessible to the Dominion, which famously resides outside of time and space?

Austin Gorton also reviews older issues of X-Men at the Real Gentlemen of Leisure website, co-hosts the A Very Special episode podcast, and likes Star Wars. He lives outside Minneapolis, where sometimes, it is not cold. Follow him on Twitter @AustinGorton