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People’s History of the Marvel Universe, Week 21: X-Men Blue Origins and the Power of the Additive Retcon

(WARNING: heavy spoilers for X-Men Blue Origins


If you’ve been a long-time X-Men reader, or you’re a listener of Jay & Miles or Cerebrocast or any number of other LGBT+ X-Men podcasts, you probably know the story about how Chris Claremont wrote Mystique and Destiny as a lesbian couple, but had to use obscure verbiage and subtextual coding to get past Jim Shooter’s blanket ban on LGBT+ characters in the Marvel Universe.

Likewise, you’re probably also familiar with the story that, when Chris Claremont came up with the idea that Raven Darkholme and Kurt Wagner were related (a plot point set up all the way back in Uncanny X-Men #142), he intended that Mystique was Nightcrawler’s father, having used her shapeshifting powers to take on a male body and impregnate (her one true love) Irene. This would have moved far beyond subtext – but it proved to be a bridge too far for Marvel editorial, and Claremont was never able to get it past S&P.

This lacuna in the backstories of Kurt and Raven – who was Kurt’s father? – would remain one of the enduring mysteries of the X-Men mythos…and if there’s one thing that comic writers like, it’s filling in these gaps with a retcon.

Enter the Draco

Before I get into the most infamous story in all of X-Men history, I want to talk about retcons a bit. As I’ve written before:

“As long as there have been comic books, there have been retcons. For all that they have acquired a bad reputation, retcons can be an incredibly useful tool in comics writing and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Done right, retcons can add an enormous amount of depth and breadth to a character, making their worlds far richer than they were before. Instead, I would argue that retcons should be judged on the basis of whether they’re additive (bringing something new to the character by showing us a previously unknown aspect of their lives we never knew existed before) or subtractive (taking away something from the character that had previously been an important part of their identity), and how well those changes suit the character.”

For a good example of an additive retcon, I would point to Chris Claremont re-writing Magneto’s entire personality by revealing that he was a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. As I have argued at some length, this transformed Magneto from a Doctor Doom knockoff into a complex and sympathetic character who could now work as a villain, anti-villain, anti-hero, or hero depending on the needs of the story.

For a good example of a subtractive retcon, I would point to…the Draco. If you’re not familiar with this story, the TLDR is that it was revealed that Kurt’s father was Azazel – an evil ancient mutant with the same powers and the same appearance (albeit color-shifted) as Kurt, who claims to be the devil and is part of a tribe of demonic-looking mutants who were banished to the Brimstone Dimension, and who fathered Nightcrawler as part of a plot to end this banishment.

I don’t want to belabor Chuck Austen, because I think that Connor Goldsmith is right about his run actually being a camp cult classic in retrospect. However, I think we both agree that the Draco was a misfire, because of how the retcon undermined Kurt’s entire thematic purpose as established in Giant-Size X-Men that Nightcrawler was actually a noble and arguably saintly man who suffered from unjust prejudice due to the random accident that his mutation made him appear to be a demon, and because of how the retcon undermined the centrality of Mystique and Destiny’s relationship.

X-Men Blue Origins

This brings us to the Krakoan era. In HOXPOX and X-Men and Inferno, Jonathan Hickman had made Mystique and Destiny a crucial part of the story in a way that they hadn’t been in decades: they were the great nemeses of Moira X, they were the force that threatened to burn Krakoa to the ground by revealing the devil’s bargain that Xavier had struck with SInister (and Moira), they were the lens through which the potential futures of Krakoa were explored, and they ultimately reshaped the Quiet Council and the Five in incredibly consequential ways.

This throughline was furthered after Hickman’s departure, with Kieron Gillen exploring the backstories of Mystique and Destiny in Immortal X-Men and Sins of Sinister, and both Gillen and Si Spurrier exploring their relationship with Nightcrawler in AXE Judgement Day, Sins of Sinister, Way of X, Legion of X, Nightcrawlers, and Sons of X. One of the threads that wove through the interconnected fabric of these books was an increasing closeness between Kurt and Irene that needed an explanation. Many long-time readers began to anticipate that a retcon about Kurt’s parentage was coming – and then we got X-Men Blue: Origins.

In this one issue, Si Spurrier had the difficult assignment of figuring out a way to “fix” the Draco and restore Claremont’s intended backstory in a way that was surgical and elegant, that served the character arcs of Kurt, Raven, and Irene, and that dealt with complicated issues of trans and nonbinary representation, lesbian representation, disability representation, and the protean nature of the mutant metaphor. Thanks to help from Charlie Jane Anders and Steve Foxe, I think Spurrier succeeded tremendously.

I don’t want to go through the issue beat-by-beat, because you should all read it, but the major retcon is that Mystique turns out to be a near-Omega level shapeshifter, who can rewrite themselves on a molecular level. Raven transformed into a male body and impregnated Irene, using bits of Azazel and many other men’s DNA as her “pigments.” In addition to being a deeply felt desire on both their parts to have a family together, this was part of Irene’s plan to save them both (and the entire world) from Azazel’s schemes, a plan that required them to abandon Kurt as a scapegoat-savior (a la Robert Graves’ King Jesus), and to have Xavier wipe both their memories.

Now, I’m not the right person to write about what this story means on a representational level; I’ll leave it to my LGBT+ colleagues on the Cerebrocast discord and elsewhere to discuss the personal resonances the story had for them.

What I will say, however, is that I thought this issue threaded the needle of all of these competing imperatives very deftly. It “fixed” the Draco without completely negating it, it really deepened and complicated the characters and relationships of both Raven and Irene (by showing that, in a lot of ways, Destiny is the more ruthless and manipulative of the two), and it honored Kurt’s core identity as a man of hope and compassion (even if it did put him in a rather thankless ingénue role for much of the book).

It is the very acme of an additive retcon; nothing was lost, everything was gained.

I still think the baby Nightcrawler is just a bad bit, but then again I don’t really vibe with Spurrier’s comedic stylings.

Evolution is inevitable, but extinction is optional. Get a look at Fall of the House of X and Rise of the Powers of X

 In 2019’s House of X and Power of X, writer Jonathan Hickman reshaped the X-Men mythos with the founding of Krakoa, the discovery of mutant resurrection, the reveal of Moira MacTaggert’s past lives, and a glimpse into a shocking future where mutantkind was crushed under the might of the Sentinels, Nimrod, and post-humanity! In January, these critical plot threads and more come to a head in the finale of the Krakoan age: Gerry Duggan and Lucas Werneck’s Fall of the House of X and Kieron Gillen and R.B. Silva’s Rise of the Powers of X. This all-new pair of interconnected series crafted by some the X-Men’s chief world builders will deliver the climactic ending to over four years of revolutionary mutant storytelling and positions the X-Men for their next great evolution! The saga kicks off with two pivotal battles as a classic lineup of iconic X-Men have their long-awaited showdown with Orchis while in the future, a small band of surviving X-Men struggle with their stolen destiny.

Krakoa, the living island nation that’s welcomed, protected, and advanced mutantkind, has fallen! Now, the scattered X-Men recover and regroup in the Fall of X era, bracing themselves for the fight to restore hope! It’ll be a war across space and time that will be fought on two fronts: the present-day in Fall of the House of X and the not-so-distant and the far future in RISE OF THE POWERS OF X. All of mutantkind has a role to play but two squads of X-Men will be at the forefront in the opening issues.

Fall of the House of X #1 will follow a team of Xavier’s most dedicated students—Shadowkat, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Gambit—as they seek to crush Orchis, the group of villains that brought down Krakoa. Set 10 years into a dark future, Rise of the Powers of X #1 will introduce a new team of X-Men—m Shadowtiger, Iron Man, Synch, Captain Krakoa, and Wolverine— who are ready to make a bold sacrifice to prevent an even more tragic fate for mutantkind. Epic in scale with stakes beyond measure, both missions are vital in the struggle not just for mutant survival but for all existence!

Fans can get a sneak peek at all that’s to come in never-before-seen artwork from Fall of the House of X #1 and Rise of the Powers of X #1. The new preview showcases both present and future X-Men teams in action against Nimrod and Omega Sentinel, plus a look at dramatic moments like Cyclops’s trial, Professor X’s desperate call for help from Krakoa, Emma Frost’s last stand, and Moira MacTaggert mapping out her endgame. 

Be there for the latest mutant milestone in the X-Men’s 60 year history when Fall of the House of X and Rise of the Powers of X hit stands in January.

Preview: Immortal X-Men #17

Immortal X-Men #17

(W) Kieron Gillen (A) Juan Jose Ryp (CA) Mark Brooks
Rated T+
In Shops: Nov 22, 2023
SRP: $3.99

Xavier swore he would stay on Krakoa and defend its memory. He’s leaving. There must be a good reason to leave one doomed island for another – and the dark secrets that await beneath Muir Island. Meanwhile, something is very wrong with Jean…or is it something very right?

Immortal X-Men #17

Krakoa’s last hope joins the fight in Fall of the House of X #2 and Rise of the Powers of X #2

It’s the beginning of the end of the X-Men’s revolutionary Krakoan Age! Just like Jonathan Hickman boldly kicked it off in 2019 in twin series, House of X and Powers of X, the finale of the Krakoan Age will be told across two intertwined series this January in Gerry Duggan and Lucas Werneck’s Fall of the House of X and Kieron Gillen and R.B. Silva’s Rise of the Powers of X! It’s a who’s who of current mutant mastermind storytellers, and together, they’re bringing Krakoa down in epic style!

The two five-issue limited series will deliver a breathtaking saga across mutant history and future as the X-Men of today and tomorrow wage the final war against extinction across their entire existence! Today, fans can peek ahead at the covers for Fall of the House of X #2 and Rise of the Powers of X #2, both arriving in February.

In Fall of the House of X #2, the X-Men may be at their lowest spot, and they may be on the brink of complete eradication…but they are not going down without a fight! Polaris returns to guide the X-Men home, bringing a wicked surprise for Orchis! This epic tale split in two continues as the Krakoan Age nears its conclusion!

Outside time and space comes mutantdom’s last hope in Rise of the Powers of X #2! Floating between dimensions, hiding from a Dominion who wishes to crush them. Can Xavier and his crew survive? And when we find out their plan, will we want them to? The end of the Krakoan Age continues in this epic tale split in two!

Check out both covers now and stay tuned for more Fall of the House of X and Rise of the Powers of X news in the weeks ahead.

Kieron Gillen and Luca Maresca unravel the final mysteries of the Krakoa era in X-Men: Forever!

Since it began in 2019, the Krakoa era has been full of hope, transformation, and MYSTERY. As the final stories of this bold age arrive in Fall of the House of X and Rise of the Powers of X, one of Krakoa’s chief storytellers, Kieron Gillen, will team up with artist Luca Maresca to deliver long-awaited answers behind Krakoa’s darkest truths and set the stage for mutantkind’s spectacular rebirth in X-Men: Forever.

X-Men: Forever will be a four-issue limited series launching in March where Gillen will build upon the dramatic developments currently unfolding in pages of Immortal X-Men, including the quest for Dominion, the interpersonal conflicts of the Quiet Council, the escape from the White Hot Room, and of course, the divine intervention of the Phoenix! The series will provide pivotal insight into the shocking events of Fall of the House of X and Rise of the Powers of X as a new omnipotent threat to mutantkind is introduced and the final secrets of Krakoa burn to ashes!

HAUNTED HOUSE OF X! How can you kill a digital god? What do you do when the Phoenix is bleeding out into nothing? There’s been questions that have haunted you since the end of Immortal X-Men. Finally, some answers. There’s also been some questions that have haunted you since the START of immortal X-men. Finally, some answers, too. But not the ones you’re expecting…

Check out Mark Brooks’ haunting X-Men: Forever #1 cover now and stay tuned for more news about the final chapters of the X-Men’s Krakoa age in the weeks ahead! 

Mark Brooks' X-Men: Forever #1 cover

Magik draws her Soulsword to fight for Krakoa in Argerm’s Fall of the House of X #1 cover

This January, the epic finale of the X-Men’s revolutionary Krakoan Age will take place across two milestone series: Gerry Duggan and Lucas Werneck’s Fall of the House of X and Kieron Gillen and R.B. Silva’s Rise of the Powers of X.

Out of the darkness of Fall of X, the X-Men must reunite for a dramatic battle across time and space that will decide the future of mutantkind. Today, fans can check out an all-new variant cover for Fall of the House of X #1 by best-selling cover artist Stanley “Artgerm” Lau. Artgerm once again depicts one of the X-Men’s most iconic members and popular cover star, Magik—this time in her latest costume!

Throughout the era, Illyana Rasputina served as one of Krakoa’s War Captains, defending the island nation with her mutant sorcery. Following the Hellfire Gala, Magik found herself stranded in Vanaheim with a small band of mutants in Realm of X. Caught in a fierce conflict of prophecy and experiencing mysterious power malfunctions, will Magik make it back to Earth to join the X-Men’s final stand?

Check out Artgerm’s spellbinding cover below and inquire at your local comic shop regarding availability and preorders!

Fall of the House of X #1 Artgerm variant cover

2023 Hugo Awards Winners Announced

The winners for the 2023 Hugo Awards have been revealed. The reveal was made on October 21 during a ceremony at the Chengdu Worldcon..

The full list of nominees can be found here and the winners below with the comic category highlighted.

Congrats to all.

The comic category is below with the winner in bold and “Winner” next to them:

  • Cyberpunk 2077: Big City Dreams, by Bartosz Sztybor, Filipe Andrade, Alessio Fioriniello, Roman Titov, Krzysztof Ostrowski (Dark Horse Books)Winner
  • DUNE: The Official Movie Graphic Novel, by Lilah Sturges, Drew Johnson, Zid (Legendary Comics)
  • Monstress vol. 7: Devourer, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • Once & Future Vol 4: Monarchies in the UK, by Kieron Gillen / Dan Mora (BOOM! Studios)
  • Saga, Vol. 10, by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Fonografiks (Image Comics)
  • Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, by Tom King, Bilquis Evely, and Matheus Lopes (DC Comics)

The full list of winners:

Best Novel

  • Nettle & Bone, by T. Kingfisher (Tor Books)

Best Novella

  • Where the Drowned Girls Go, by Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)

Best Novelette

  •  “The Space-Time Painter”, by Hai Ya (Galaxy’s Edge, April 2022)

Best Short Story

  • “Rabbit Test”, by Samantha Mills (Uncanny Magazine, November-December 2022)

Best Series

  • Children of Time Series, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Pan Macmillan/Orbit)

Best Related Work

  • Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes, by Rob Wilkins (Doubleday)

Best Dramatic PresentationLong Form

  • Everything Everywhere All at Once, screenplay by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Sheinert (IAC Films / Gozie AGBO)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • The Expanse: “Babylon’s Ashes”, written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Naren Shankar, directed by Breck Eisner (Alcon Entertainment)

Best Editor, Short Form

  • Neil Clarke

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Lindsey Hall

Best Professional Artist

  • Enzhe Zhao

Best Semiprozine

  • Uncanny Magazine, publishers and editors-in-chief: Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas; managing/poetry editor Chimedum Ohaegbu; managing editor Monte Lin; nonfiction editor Meg Elison; podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky

Best Fanzine

  • Zero Gravity Newspaper, by RiverFlow and Ling Shizhen

Best Fancast

  • Hugo, Girl!, by Haley Zapal, Amy Salley, Lori Anderson, and Kevin Anderson

Best Fan Writer

  • Chris M. Barkley  

Best Fan Artist

  • Richard Man

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

  • Akata Woman (The Nsibidi Scripts), by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking Books for Young Readers)

Astounding Award for Best New Writier

  • Travis Baldree  

Also presented during the ceremony.

Big Heat Award

  • Bobbi Armbruster

NYCC 2023: The Rise and Fall of the X-Men’s Krakoa Age Revealed

The beginning of the end of the X-Men’s revolutionary Krakoan Age was just revealed at the Marvel: Next Big Thing Panel at New York Comic Con! Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief C.B. CebulskiX-Men writer Gerry Duggan, and X-Men Red writer Al Ewing shared shocking details about the pair of intertwined series that will close out mutantkind’s current era this January, Fall of the House of X and Rise of the Powers of X, as well as one of the tie-in series spinning out of these events, Resurrection of Magneto.

Also debuting at the panel was the startling X-Men: Fall & Rise trailer which gives fans a peek at never-before-seen artwork from these upcoming series. And it wouldn’t be a new chapter for mutantkind without a gorgeous promotional image from superstar artist Mark Brooks. In the spirit of his unforgettable art pieces drawn for Krakoan milestones like House of X and Powers of XX of Swords, and Destiny of X, Brooks once again spotlights the current stars of the X-Men franchise as they brace themselves for what’s on the horizon!

In 2019, fans witnessed the dawn of the Krakoa age in Jonathan Hickman’s groundbreaking House of X and Powers of X, two interconnected five-issue limited series that spanned mutant history and future. Now, the Krakoa age ends in the same dramatic fashion in Fall of the House of X and Rise of the Powers of X. Each delivering half of the story that will bring the Krakoa Age to its conclusion, the pair of series will feature the X-Men of today and the X-Men of tomorrow as the wage the final war against extinction across their entire existence! Evolution is inevitable. Extinction is optional!

The two series are fittingly crafted by some of the Krakoa’s defining architects, writer Gerry Duggan and artist Lucas Werneck delivering Fall of the House of X and writer Kieron Gillen and artist R.B. Silva delivering Rise of the Powers of X, plus covers by House of X superstar artist Pepe Larraz.

And mutantkind’s survival hinges on the return of their greatest leader and the X-Men’s former archenemy—Magneto! Following Magneto’s tragic death in last year’s A.X.E.: Judgment Day, Storm embarks on an epic quest to restore him to life in Resurrection of Magneto. Spinning out of his masterful work on both characters in X-Men Red, Al Ewing brings fans this heart-wrenching four-issue saga alongside artist Luciano Vecchio with a cover by Stefano Caselli.

Krakoa has just begun to fight in Fall of the House of X #1! Mutantkind has never had a greater fall. From the highs of Krakoa – their own glorious nation, a place where they were safe and happy – to the lowest of lows. Outlawed, hunted, killed, most of their kind missing or dead, and now, one their greatest leaders, Cyclops, is on trial facing a death penalty. Ready or not, the time has come for the X-Men to make their final stand against the forces that have struck them low. The day is now. The place is here. The tale of the house Xavier built will long be told…and few will forget this darkest chapter.

And the fight for Krakoa has been lost in Rise of the Powers of X #1! Ten years ago, the mutants returned from their exile to try and reclaim the Earth from the forces of Orchis. They failed.  Now, within the victorious Orchis with their gauntlet choking the world, Nimrod and Omega Sentinel put their plan within a plan into action. They are to summon their binary god to consume everything in their accession. All that stands between them is the X-Men. What can they do? They’re the X-Men. They’ll find a way. That’s their power. So begins a story beyond time and space, with the rise of powers beyond our petty human intelligence.

It’s a tale of Lifedeath in Resurrection of Magneto #1! On Krakoa, resurrection from the dead was as easy as completing a circuit – but Krakoa fell. The time of easy miracles is over, and only the hard roads are left. Now it falls to Storm – as the epic conclusion to the Krakoan age looms – to bring their oldest enemy home to fight against the FALL OF THE HOUSE OF X…but after all he did, and all that was done to him, can Magneto bear to return?

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