Review: Immortal X-Men #13
“It’s a testament to creative teams like the one on Immortal X-Men that make us wish [this chapter] of the X-Men [lasted] a little longer.”
Immortal X-Men #13
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Creative Team: Kieron Gillen; Lucas Werneck; David Curiel; Clayton Cowles; Tom Muller; Jay Brown
Release Date: Wed, July 12, 2023
This autumn, all of Marvel Comics’ mutants will see another seismic shift in their status quo during the “Fall of X” storyline that will run through the X-Men titles and will begin during this summer’s “Hellfire Gala.” We’ve seen the cracks in the paradise that Charles Xavier and prominent figures from mutantkind built on the living island of Krakoa since the House of X and Powers of X miniseries in 2019, but now things are rapidly coming to a head.
This is seen most pronounced in Immortal X-Men #13, written by Kieron Gillen, with art by Lucas Werneck, colored by David Curiel, lettered by Clayton Cowles, and designed by Tom Muller with Jay Brown. While the members of the Quiet Council—the ruling body for the mutant nation on Krakoa—argue and bicker and wring hands about the internal turmoil and betrayal and mistrust that infects the Council, we get to see a good deal of the proceedings from another Council member. Doug Ramsey, the mutant hero known as Cypher, has played an important role since the HoX/PoX miniseries due to his ability to communicate with Krakoa, often acting as intermediary between the mutant inhabitants and the living island. This role has given Cypher a unique perspective on how the nation has been governed by the mutants and how their relationship with Krakoa hasn’t always been the most balanced.
This is no clearer than when we open on issue #13, as Cypher reflects on the often-tumultuous history of the young nation, from political jockeying for control by Council member Sebastian Shaw to the machinations of Selene to Mr. Sinister’s betrayal of mutantkind and beyond. Cypher even examines Charles Xavier’s leadership and concludes that Xavier’s failures and the aforementioned tumult is the reason that the being that is Krakoa is fading. Krakoa, he explains, feeds on the balance of its mutant inhabitants, and with the strife and discord permeating the island, Krakoa is directly affected. This leads to more argument and, ultimately, upheavals in Krakoa’s government and the future of the nation’s mechanism for mutant resurrection.
Of the many storytelling choices made in this “Age of Krakoa,” one of the most satisfying as a reader is the emphasis on letting moments breathe. Some of the best X-Men tales in the heroes’ 60-year history focus on the quieter moments, stopping to assess the situation from a perspective not always allowed to have voice. Cypher has been one of the biggest standouts of this era, taking a background character whose power has too often been mocked as useless and making him an A-lister who, frankly, made this Krakoa age a possibility for mutantkind.
While Jonathan Hickman’s writing brought Cypher to the big leagues, Gillen ran with that groundwork and made Ramsey a fan-favorite among readers, myself included. Gillen is one of those top-tier writers who can balance characterization, plotting, and allegory so well, crafting tales where none of those elements suffer. Take Krakoa itself. The island is easing into its fall (or autumn), just as we know from press releases that all the X-Men have recently built in its nation will do the same. However, Gillen doesn’t hit readers over the head with the metaphor; rather, he lets Cypher use Krakoa’s biological changes as a way to reflect on not just the island who has become his friend, but the fraught nation that Xavier and Magneto built. A nation built on as many compromises as those two men and others have made will cause an internal rot—in the island, in its governance, and in the trust the people have in their Council and each other. A garden that is not properly tended to and cared for will wither. A state whose leaders don’t keep each other in check will know nothing but discord. Attack from without and within leads to a need to tear out the whole system and start anew. Gillen never projects this in big, bold letters, but his meaning is there, and it’s deftly executed.
Likewise, Werneck continues to be a joy on this book. He knows how to compose dynamic action well, but not at the expense of the interpersonal relationships. Again, I go back to Cypher. For a character so versed in language and the play of words, Werneck doesn’t need them to let you let know exactly what he’s thinking; many times, the voice-over isn’t even necessary. In a sea of well-composed X-books, Immortal X-Men is consistently one of the prettiest and a dazzling treat for the eyes. Curiel’s colors make Werneck’s linework pop when needed and subdue the scene when called for. And Cowles is always a standout in whatever book he letters; this time in particular, when the mutants are attempting to communicate with Krakoa. The written language on the page is fictional, but alternately looks natural and unnerving as things get heated at the issue’s climax. Finally, Muller and Brown’s design work on these X-titles make the books feel so polished and clean, like something we’ve never seen before in the X-Men universe—which is saying something.
Issues like Immortal X-Men #13 make me equal part happy and wistful. The issue leaves me wanting more, but it also makes me mourn the passing of the Krakoan Age. As are all comics, this era was certain to be another chapter in the story of Marvel’s mutants. But it’s a testament to creative teams like the one on Immortal X-Men that make us wish the chapter was a little longer.
Immortal X-Men #13 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.
From the official issue description:
LISTEN CLOSELY. Time is running out. Fall is here. Doug Ramsey is the voice of Krakoa. It’s time for Krakoa to speak.