The Vault arc has been one of the most highly anticipated arcs of X-Men and for good reason too. In just two issues (maybe three if you count X-Men #5), the arc has taken the flagship title from a book where almost nothing happens to a title where all the action is.
The way Hickman has constructed the Vault is quite similar to his work with The City in the Ultimates universe, which no doubt served as inspiration for his story here. The Children of the Vault are quite different than the last time we saw them in X-Men titles, and Hickman does a good job explaining why, taking these enemies and making them greater threats than they’ve ever been before. That’s what X-Men #19 does so well — it has real stakes which the current X-line was in dire need of. A lot of what’s presented here with them is really interesting stuff that propels the entire story of this era of X-Men further.
Another huge strength of Hickman’s approach in this issue is focusing on Synch, a character who has been gone for years and hasn’t had the chance to be the focal point in any existing X-titles for obvious reasons. The main X-Men title often lacks when it comes to character development and real character moments, but X-Men #19 is a huge step in the right direction otherwise. Synch gets incredible development — his best in years — as his psyche and desires are explored.
He even develops a romance with Laura Kinney that has some poetic tragedy to it. The current X-line tends to just throw people together without explaining how these relationships happened –Jean and Scott are suddenly remarried, Jean is certainly dating Logan, Emma and Scott seem to have made up, Doug and Bei seem enamored with each other despite hardly knowing one another — but Laura and Synch reads a little different because they’ve had years inside the Vault to know one another. They were quite literally, all each other had all those years, saving each other and serving as their lifeline for one another. It makes sense that in such dire times, two people might lean on each other. And there’s a sadness to the ending, knowing that Synch remembers their time together though Laura does not seem to.
It’ll be interesting to see where Synch and Laura’s characters go from here, both as a unit and separately. It’s also interesting that Charles and The Five specifically brought these characters back in their younger bodies, not the bodies they actually died in.
Mahmud Asrar’s art is beautiful as always and he certainly elevates the issue to new heights. Even the data pages feel like the more necessary ones of the bunch, evoking House of X/Powers of X’s data pages in many ways. They’re more visually striking and the information being given feels more necessary, like pieces of a puzzle to put together.
X-Men #19 might just be the best issue of this series thus far, introducing high stakes and great character work. It’ll be interesting to see how Krakoa reacts moving forward — and how the Children of the Vault will reappear.
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