Over a year into Johnathan Hickman’s reimagining of the X-Men world, most titles are finally beginning to move past the “worldbuilding” stage and form their own, individual longstanding plots. Hickman’s X-Men, however, still seems to be interested in worldbuilding and issue #16 is no different.
With the reclamation of Arakko, many questions arose out of the possibilities presented. X-Men #16 does a good job of answering some of those off the bat, as well as introducing new and intriguing ideas. Many assumed the two islands would rejoin, reforming Okkara instantly. However, X-Men #16 proved that wasn’t the case. With so many years apart, the islands have become different, deciding they are incompatible. X-Men has always had relationship drama at its forefront and with the new open relationship norm on Krakoa, that plot element hasn’t been seen with our usual mutant players. It’s interesting then, that the hallmark “relationship drama” of the series is now between the islands themselves.
Isca the Unbeaten was a standout character in the X of Swords event, so it’s nice that X-Men #16 reaffirmed her place in this new world. When Charles and Erik approach Arakko, she says Arakko isn’t compatible with Krakoa’s government and that they have their own. On Arakko, the Great Ring is the government –and it looks like we’ll be meeting a new crop of Arakkii mutants because of it.
Since House of X/Powers of X, Hickman seems to have dropped several hints that Omega mutants will play a big role in his reimagining for the world. Not only did he finally explicitly classify who is and isn’t Omega, but certain interpretations of Scott and Kurt’s conversation in the Crucible issue subtly raised the question of “what if mutants wanted to be reborn in Omega bodies?” On Arakko, the government is comprised entirely of Omega mutants, and Sebastian Shaw wishes Doug and his wife, Bei, to have their firstborn child be Omega. All signs seem to be pointing toward some hierarchy with Omega’s considered the best society has to offer — and that these characters will play a big role in Hickman’s story eventually.
Isca’s conversation with Erik and Charles is easily one of the highlights of the issue, presenting many interesting parallels and juxtapositions between Arakko and Krakoa. It’ll be interesting to see these two populations interact moving forward. The other highlight was Jean and Scott turning down the offer of Council seats, deciding to move forward with their plan of remaking the X-Men instead.
It’s certainly been odd that, within a year of X-Men stories across several titles, no X-Men have actually existed. Jean and Scott seek to rectify this, claiming that the X-Men are for the people — and because they’re for the people, an election will take place. Just who will be on their team has yet to be seen since that will be decided at the election at the Hellfire Gala, though readers surely have their own dream teams in mind (I know I do). An election deciding who is and isn’t on the X-Men is a unique approach to the team, one that certainly feels odd though not unwelcome — this new X-Men world is entirely different after all, so a new approach to the team’s formation does make enough sense.
It can be a bit frustrating that 16 issues into the game, Hickman’s flagship title still seems to be quite stagnant, though anyone familiar with his writing from past runs knows that he certainly plays the long game with his writing. Seeds are still being sewn, but it’s just a matter of time until the plot really kicks off — it’s a game of patience at this point. Still, X-Men #16 is one of the better issues in this title because it feels like it’s going somewhere and the questions that have risen are wholly intriguing and thought-provoking. There’s something totally interesting about Arakko being incompatible with Krakoa and the approach of developing the nations separately — the prospect of meeting more Arakkii mutants is some truly palpable worldbuilding as well.
As usual, Phil Noto’s art simply doesn’t miss and he’s certainly a welcome addition to this issue. Additionally, the X-Men election is a new, different approach to the X-Men and it’s hard not to be excited at the idea of what the results will bring. The Hellfire Gala is shaping up to be quite an important event, it seems. This issue is very much another “table setting” issue, though it sets up an interesting picture.
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