In this age of Krakoa, I’ve often felt distanced from the X-Men, from those first pages of House of X #1 all the way to now. That’s not to say that the books have been bad, far from it but I have felt like these characters who I have loved for most of my life have isolated themselves from me.
The X-books that I’ve really loved in this age often feel like a distant world and that’s far away from the X-Men I fell in love with– Jubilee in the animated series being chased by the Sentinels hooked me instantly because it felt like it was happening in the world I lived in. Krakoa and the idea of paradise is fascinating, but alien. Which by no means is a slight or meant to detract from Krakoa– it’s beautiful to have a place where you can be you. I may be a “flatscan”* but I’ve always had a hard time being myself.
What immediately attracted me to X-Men: Before the Fall- Mutant First Strike #1 was the mention of a small New England town in the solicit (Greetings from Connecticut!). I was very interested in how the creative team would handle that aspect and I was surprised from the first page where we see humans (and dogs!) going about their lives.
In this issue, we see Bishop leading a relief team to Milford, New Hampshire after a supposed mutant terrorist attack. This is one of the four one-shots that is meant to lead right into the upcoming “Fall Of X”, and there are some implications as to what this may be the start of, as Orchis wages war for hearts and minds of humanity. We could be heading into a new era of the X-books where the “hated and feared” angle is updated in a big way. While the whole of that is thrilling, what I found far more valuable about this issue was the breath of fresh air.
I’m only casually acquainted with Steve Orlando’s work. Most recently I bounced off his Marauders run, but after this issue I may go back and revisit it, because Orlando managed a delicate balance here that is really impressive. Not only is the plot a story of a relief effort, but the issue as a whole made me feel relieved. I read this issue the evening of Tuesday June 6th 2023 after venturing about my day under the terrifying red sun and thick haze as a result of the recent Canadian wildfires. For us on the East Coast, such things are new and I was not expecting to be consoled by this book. Even now, as I write this, the sun coming through my window looks wrong but then I tab over to this comic and I feel better. I mean, look at the red and white jackets the mutants are wearing! What’s not to love?
Speaking of love, Valentina Pinti drawing Penance. More please! The X-line house style continues, but to my eye, I can see Pinti having fun with Penance and Bishop more than the others. At least, they are more fun to look at, in this issue overflowing with appearances from those we don’t see often like Eye-Scream, Wicked, and Thumbelina. With their ability to tackle this many characters in one book, I think they are a perfect fit for more! I hope to see Pinti drawing more X-books in the future.
While Mutant First Strike may not be the most propulsive or consequential story in the grand scheme of things, it is an issue that acts as balm for my weariness. I think it works really well as an independent issue, which is no small feat in the world of X.
Sometimes all we need at the end of a long day is a colorful story that is reassuring.
*Editor’s Note: “Flatscan” is a term used by mutants to refer to humans, but Connor Goldsmith of the Cerebro X-Men podcast has popularized its use as a cheeky shorthand for “cishet”. Go listen to Cerebro if you aren’t already.