X-Force #9 and the Dawn of X
"The Moral Jungle," this week's issue of X-Force (written by Benjamin Percy), takes place in an particularly intriguing location in the release schedule. At this point in time, all of the first wave of Dawn of X #1 have reached 9 issues (with the exception of one (1) which has concluded and one (1) that I'll get back to later), we have had a taste of some new ongoings (Cable and Wolverine), and we have seen the first of four (so far) Giant Sized X-Men issues written by Jonathan Hickman, the Head of X (as we're told) himself. It's interesting to me that this issue falls in what I'd consider to be the first phase of Dawn of X, and how much of what occurs in this book is symbolic of the larger initiative.
Domino died in X-Force #8 after having suffered great pains since the start of this run to recover her full self, taken from her all the way back in X-Force #1, and in this issue, right before "Phase 2," she is reborn. Rebirth as a concept has been central to Hickman's run on X-Men, since the reveal of The Five and the resurrection protocols, and has been mentioned repeatedly throughout the various X-books, though perhaps none more so than X-Force. Charles Xavier is assassinated in X-Force #1, various members of the task force are KIA'd throughout the book, and finally, Domino.
After having had her skin removed and used to create cybernetic knockoffs of her, Domino went and fought her way through knockoffs of her until last issue, where she, alongside Colossus, fought their way to the moving laboratory producing these abominations, and Colossus destroyed it, with Domino perishing in the act. The final moments of Domino's life are spent begging to Colossus to let her remember the pain after the resurrection, but in this issue, we see that those memories aren't all there.
There has been focus shed on the memories mutants keep after their death and resurrection, and the modifications that occur to them; in New Mutants, Ed Brisson uses Maxine and Manon to modify Beak's memories of his past, in Marauders (Gerry Duggan), Shinobi Shaw is resurrected without memory of his death. How Hickman intends for his team to continue to use this as a dramatic force is yet to be seen, but it will surely continue to be a plot point, especially considering that Domino's memories have been removed despite her urging not to. Is this the doing of Colossus and the kinship they share pushing him to ask for their removal? Is this Charles' doing, removing some trauma from newly resurrected mutants? Domino seems to think it was her own choice, despite us knowing that it was not. We'll have to see.
Another point of interest in this issue is in the opening scene in the Green Lagoon, Krakoa's resort-like bar, where Daken and Logan wind down by performing a sort of Russian roulette with their claws upon their own heads. The fun here is, of course, that they can't die, so it's cheered on by a large crowd. Back in House of X, the mutant haven that was promised by Charles and Erick was visible, but here it is seen in full force, in a stunning spread by Joshua Cassara (artist) and Dean White (color artist). Mystique, Colossus, Banshee, and Goldballs look upon the wolverines' demented game, Erik Charles and Gentle commune near the bar, Dazzler performs to a crowd including Guido and Warpath, Scott and Jean sit with Apocalypse, Anole serves drinks, Forearm has four drinks, Madrox is seen in several places, it is a full on celebration, not only of the paradise they are in but of every single era of X-Men. Cassara's pencils are lighthearted but defined, as they have been in previous issues, and in tandem with White's colors, are both vibrant, and when necessary (as they often are in an X-Force book), gritty and striking.
Benjamin Percy, of whom I was a fan of since his work on DC Rebirth's Green Arrow, is very good at writing both character drama and thrilling stories. Perhaps that's why he sticks to writing characters low to the ground like Green Arrow, Nightwing, Domino, Wolverine, and James Bond. His work here is great, mixing the inherent blurred morality in the mutant's CIA with the thrills of a supernatural, yet still grounded, mission.
The latter portion of the issue deals with Terra Verde, a country X-Force had previously been involved with earlier in this volume to erect an alliance, despite the country's reliance in telefloronics, an organic technology rendered obsolete with the rise of Krakoa. X-Force went in, did what they do, and established an alliance with the country's president. "And no problem ever came from Terra Verde again," thought Beast. Of course, as it happens, their interference simply caused a larger problem, and the hubris of Beast didn't see the angry flower god that arose from there, that Kid Omega, Wolverine, and Domino will have to deal with next.
Funnily, this is a continuation of the previous Terra Verde plot that Beast thought was finished, and that we as readers saw it wouldn't be at the end of X-Force #6. That issue ends with Beast narrating that he is committing a small wrong to make a greater right, as their threat begins to unfold before our very eyes, because of his own interference. The hubris of the X-Men has been an undercurrent theme in the Dawn of X, also being shown in the inciting assault of House and Powers of X, the attack on the Orchis station to destroy the creation of a Nimrod possibly accelerating the process as a side effect, as shown in the pages of X-Men. Hickman himself has previously written Beast into the Illuminati, Marvel's greatest minds, who were also eventually brought down by their collective hubris.
It is also a good sign that this showcases continuing opposition to Krakoa. After the resurrection protocols were revealed, I heard many a cry that they were basically invincible, that there was no point in anyone standing up to the X-Men now. I'm glad that we're continuing to see a roster of foes building up, from the Homines Verendi in Marauders, the telefloronics here in X-Men, the Fantastic Four in Chip Zdarsky's X-Men/Fantastic Four, the Brood and possibly the Shi'ar in New Mutants, and the Children of the Vault, Hordeculture, Orchis, and other governments in the flagship title, among others, such as vampires (!) in Wolverine, and that's not even getting into the upcoming Empyre, or X of Swords. Hickman has played all the pieces in the right place, from putting the right creative teams on different books, to the characters within and all of their threats, to usher in a bold status quo that keeps surprising at every turn.
The Dawn of X seems to keep going strong, with next week's X-Men #9 (I told you we'd get back to it), the final #9, seemingly sending the X-Men to space. And as we all know, the X-Men going to space is only ever good news. Next week also brings us more of Percy in Wolverine #2, Zeb Wells' first foray into the Dawn of X with Hellions #1, and Hickman's own Giant Sized X-Men: Nightcrawler with art from the classic Alan Davis (Excalibur, Avengers, Uncanny X-Men). Like with X-Force #9, it seems to be an endpoint of sorts for the first arc, with the continuation being fraught with unknown dangers, but just as often, dangers we’ve seen before, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what else this new direction has to offer us.
X-Force #9 is written by Benjamin Percy with art by John Cassara and Dean White, design by Tom Muller, letters by Joe Caramagna, and cover by Dustin Weaver, with a variant cover by Marcos Martin. Dawn of X is overseen by Head of X, Jonathan Hickman.