It is here.
There has always been discourse around the X-line of comics. Whether that be about the outcome of the X Of Swords tournament with character fates being theorised or about the (in?)famous X-Men election, the conversation has been never-ending. For those new to these characters, this is the era of X-Men comics they will remember 20-25 years from now. This is the era that invested them in the characters.
It may be the penultimate issue, but X-Men #20, by Jonathan Hickman, Francesco Mobili, Sunny Gho, and Clayton Cowles, promises to be an issue with consequential moments. Seeds planted a year ago slowly come to fruition. If the cover is any indication, what implications will the creation of Nimrod have for Krakoa and the future of mutantkind?
And what did the elusive and ever-changing Roundtable have to say about this issue? Let’s find out!
Despite having an outer-space reach, X-Men #20 tells a contained story with long-lasting consequences. Readers follow Mystique, as she attempts to destroy an Orchis base. However, as par for the course with Raven Darkholme, her motives lie elsewhere.
The issue suffers with the disjointed storytelling style that the current X-Men ongoing has become known for. That said, Hickman’s script maintains a tone that feels appropriately understated yet dramatic. The plot moves forward steadily, until it ends at a startlingly consequential conclusion. Given X-Men #20 is the penultimate issue of the series, it is anyone’s guess as to what the ramifications will be in the next release.
Francesco Mobili’s art manages to capture individual character expressions well. Sunny Gho’s colors notably contrast the nature-based resources of Krakoa with the technological density of the Orchis base. The art slightly falters in the final pages, but overall does well to keep up with the hushed atmosphere of the issue.
Ever since House of X and Powers of X the new story of X under Hickman has been one of divergent evolution: humans into mutants, contrasted with humans into techno-beings, leading to the final conflict between what naturally evolved of man into mutants versus the created mechanical post-humans. Now we see the parallel more clearly as Mystique enters through a gate, darkly.
X-Men #20 is at its core a story of two wives—widows really. As the mutants of Krakoa have mastered resurrection, so too have the humans by way of Dr. Alia reviving her husband as Erasmus, who becomes Nimrod. She and Mystique act out of love for their late spouses, desperate to bring them back. Ultimately neither is able to do so.
The hatred and fear building in all the players here is exciting. When the thread of Mystique and Destiny began in X-Men #6, Matteo Buffagni’s smooth lines and heavy contrasts sold the romantic scenes very well, both in the flashbacks of the living Destiny and the final pages of Mystique toasting to her late wife. With Francesco Mobili, it’s different. Opening exactly as #6 ended, the thinner lines—as well as a subtly different approach to color rendering by Sunny Gho, who colored both issues—show us a harsher reality. This is a world without love; only people desperate to revive it.
Jonathan Hickman’s run on the main X-Men title has been characterized by an anthology-like nature, creating several plots designed to be fulfilled in the long term. This has been Hickman’s style at Marvel in general, but it also harkens back to the way that X-Men in the 1980s would set up plotlines far in advance.
This issue follows the thread set-up in X-Men #6, and involves Mystique infiltrating the main ORCHIS base to ensure its destruction. Thematically, the issue slots in perfectly with the post-human conflict introduced in Powers of X.
For a deceptively simple story, it has a lot of ground to cover, but the pace is never an issue and it hits all the beats it needs to. Francesco Mobili’s art in the book does a good job of selling the stakes, and Sunny Gho’s colors work well to contrast Krakoa and the ORCHIS base. The issue’s impactful conclusion promises monumental consequences in the near future.
X-Men #20 is three things in one; a continuation, a conclusion, and a prologue.
In the space of one issue, Hickman furthers the plotline of Mystique fighting to get her wife, Destiny, resurrected while simultaneously closing the door on the chapter of this story concerned with the birth of Nimrod. At the same time, as these two feats are accomplished, Hickman guides us into what comes next. After continually being denied access to her wife, Mystique is ready to follow Destiny’s command and burn Krakoa to the ground, something we’ll see either come to pass or come to a screeching halt this Fall in Inferno.
Regardless of how this plays out, I’m excited to see what happens. It promises to be messy and I love mess.
Bobby Varghese Vinu
A notable theme in Hickman’s work has been the concept of the “great man” and how their belief in solving “everything” arises from an arrogance that harms everyone. True to form, we see that with Xavier’s and Magneto’s exploitation of Mystique when she goes to Orchis in a thrilling sequence of events to stop Nimrod, who is akin to the harbinger of death for mutantkind. Hickman excellently delivers on the implications introduced in House of X/Powers of X, with there being more to come.
But I do have a criticism of the art. Mobili’s pencils are serviceable at best and unremarkable at worst, with Gho’s colours elevating it. And the exploitation of Mystique can understandably upset some readers, especially with regards to the unfortunate lack of other wlw romances in the X-line, but this issue makes it clear that this is not the end of her story, which is reassuring.
One of the long standing plot threads of the new era of X-Men comes to a boil in this chilling 20th issue. Hickman once again charts Mystique on a mission of a love lost and attempts to be found again but will doom everything Krakoa has to offer. Francesco Mobili on art gives a colder, more uneasiness as we move to conversations between Mystique, Professor X, and Magneto and then later on the ORCHIS Station where all Hell breaks loose. The last time we focused on this plot line, it felt more akin to a ticking time bomb and Hickman promptly has reached zero as we reach a new shift in this specific narrative thread.