Since mutants formed their own nation-state, the idea of “security” has been a necessarily fraught one. What does it mean to guarantee security for a people who can resurrect themselves? What license does it give the people’s protectors to hunt internal threats?
The fulcrum for these debates in the Krakoa era is X-Force, where writer Benjamin Percy (Wolverine, Green Arrow) and artist Joshua Cassara have made a monthly exercise out of showing the latest despicable thing that Hank McCoy has done in the name of “security.” Beast is no longer a heroic character. He’s not even a particularly redeemable character, but his moral decline is central to Percy’s story and a reminder that Krakoa’s threats stem from within as much as without.
That idea is made literal in this issue as X-Force is forced to confront a parasitic offshoot of Krakoa, which has already wiped out a band of nearby mariners. The parasites—beautifully rendered by Cassara—look like something out of the Lovecraft pantheon. Certainly X-Force is not shy about leaning into body horror, but what I like about the art team’s approach here is that the scares depend on a sense of pacing and suspense, rather than just gross-out images.
As Wolverine, Forge, and a lovesick Quentin Quire descend into the depths beneath Krakoa, colorist Guru-eFX expertly shows the ocean turning from light blue to pitch black. When the monsters inevitably appear, Cassara focuses on their bulging eyes. If X-Force can be considered Krakoa’s “eyes and ears,” these parasites are a dark mirror into the team’s rotten core.
For as horrifying as the ocean monsters look, any dedicated X-Force reader knows that they are just a prologue to what Beast has cooked up next. Looking at a parasitic specimen early in this issue, he is reprimanded by Cecilia Reyes, who deserves some paid time off. “Don’t even,” she tells him. “You’ve got that glimmer in your eye.”
Of course he does. So far in this series, Beast has facilitated a genocide, locked up his teammate Colossus without cause, and forced the Five to manipulate Omega Red’s resurrection process to suit X-Force’s selfish ends. Moira may be pulling the strings behind Krakoa’s government, but Percy has written Beast to be one of the island’s most influential power-brokers, rivaling even the Quiet Council.
The long game Percy has with Beast is among the more compelling threads of this second era of Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men relaunch. Reign of X, which has its own ominous connotation, is about “foundation” and “expansion,” Hickman told AIPT’s Chris Hassan in a recent X-Men Monday interview. How does Beast play a part in that wider world? Will anyone credibly challenge him?
Seeing what Beast has become, I was reminded of that scene in Grant Morrison’s New X-Men when a very different Hank, recovering from Cassandra Nova’s psychic torment, mournfully says, “I’m so scared I’ll just wake up some day like Gregor Samsa in his bed and find I’ve mutated into a bug or a virus.” He’s mutated into something much worse.
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