Since the introduction of a new mutant homeland in House of X #1, it’s been easy to forget how exactly mutants went from the brink of extinction to their own island paradise.
The key, we were told back in that monumental issue, was the creation of life-saving drugs that cured humans of cancer and other rare diseases. In exchange for that medicine, mutantkind was given sovereignty and the ability to develop its own society free of humanity’s laws.
Now mutants want more than just freedom. In X-Corp #1, writer Tini Howard and artist Alberto Foche reintroduce the X-Corporation, a business enterprise set up to produce Krakoan medicine and solidify the island’s wealth.
Formerly a mutant lobbying group in the Grant Morrison era, X-Corp functions here as a corporate powerhouse headed by Warren Worthington III (Angel) and the supremely competent Monet St. Croix (Penance).
Like any nascent business, there are advertisements to be filmed, a board of directors to be filled, and rivals to intimidate. Angel and Monet find themselves criss-crossing the globe ahead of the moment when X-Corp is finally revealed to the world. The result is a book that reads like an episode of Billions set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
For an oversized first issue, the story reads briskly, though diehard fans will want to labor over Foche’s panels, which build out X-Corp’s headquarters and hint at the company’s broad roster.
Howard (Excalibur, Thanos) stocks that roster of mutants with characters who belong, in an immediate plot sense, because of either their family wealth or a power set that is useful to X-Corp. No one feels out of place.
Previews for future issues suggest that Howard is going to dive deep on the supporting cast, but at least for now, this is the Monet and Angel Show. And, dear reader, I could not be more excited about that.
Monet and Angel have popped up all over Krakoa in recent months, most notably in a delightful issue of Empyre: X-Men that reads like a backdoor pilot for this X-Corp series.
Both characters come from rich families, but it is a shared history of trauma that binds them. Monet, a creation of the Generation X series, has one of the more convoluted backstories in comics, involving an evil brother and a monstrous figure with razor-sharp skin named Penance.
For most of her early comics appearances, Monet was confined to the Penance form while her two younger sisters pretended to be her. Howard wisely sidesteps this laborious history while treating Penance as something akin to Monet’s Hulk. When the preternaturally put-together Monet gets frustrated, Penance peeks out. Some of Foche and colorist Sunny Gho’s best work in the issue is when she is caught between her two forms: part Monet, part Penance.
Angel, the bland pretty boy of the 1960s X-Men, has been to hell and back in the decades since as one of Apocalypse’s horsemen and a member of X-Force. He is one of Charles Xavier’s prized pupils and an elder among the mutants on Krakoa, but Monet is undoubtedly the alpha in their partnership. “I don’t do this corporate boardroom crap because I like rules, Warren,” she tells him at one point. “I do it because I’m hungry. And this is what I eat.”
David Aja’s perfect cover captures the duality of these characters well. In the top right corner, Warren and Monet stand in their well-tailored suits, holding briefcases and looking fit for a day on Wall Street. But it is their shadow that dominates the cover, showing Monet as Penance and Angel with the blue, metallic form he took under Apocalypse’s influence.
As Howard put it to AIPT’s Chris Hassan in a recent edition of X-Men Monday, “Both of them have that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing about them, where we know there’s another guy under the surface. And they differ in their approach–Warren is more disciplined, Monet thinks it’s good to let the beast out for a run.”
Many of the best Krakoa stories have centered around characters who aren’t sure what to make of paradise. Si Spurrier and Bob Quinn’s Way of X has Nightcrawler pondering what the invention of resurrection means for the culture and spirit of mutankind. X-Corp is attuned to the impact of a post-scarcity economy on mutants who have either only known scarcity or, like Angel and Monet, were born into families that benefited from the central unfairness of the human economy.
No longer are mutant stories only about physical safety or the survival of the species. Howard has the ability to get at, ironically, more human ideas: what does it mean to be happy, to get everything you have ever wanted? What will you do to protect it? Angel all but sums up the thesis of the series when he is confronted by a shady businessman and responds, “Our needs are met. Our desires are within reach. You cannot buy our kind.”
If Way of X taught us anything, however, it is that eternal life and an island paradise will not solve all of life’s problems. They just move the goalposts. Howard had the opportunity to reckon with this idea in a fascinating way when she brought Apocalypse onto the Excalibur team. Here was a mutant who had everything he had ever fought for: mutants, together at last, not bending to humanity’s whims. She and the rest of the X-Office turned that idea into the stunning drama of X of Swords, where readers discover that Apocalypse has a family of older, more hardened, mutants on the neighboring island of Arakko.
Like Apocalypse, Angel and Monet are characters who should be satisfied simply being in paradise. For so long, they have not been permitted to relax or grow beyond the difficult events in their past. To Howard’s credit, X-Corp is not weighed down by the thorny continuity of its central characters or preoccupied with answering unanswerable questions. This book might be set outside glitzy racetracks and in boardrooms, but it never forgets how to be a superhero comic.
Monet, as Howard put it to AIPT, is “Superman, but psychic.” Angel is an Adonis with wings. X-Corp headquarters is…well, now I’m getting ahead of myself. You’ll have to read the issue first. And once you do, you’ll want to read it again and again.
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