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X-Men #18

Review by Paul Bowler.

The secrets of the mysterious Vault are finally explored in X-Men #18 from writer Johnathan Hickman, artist Mahmud Asrar and colorist Sunny Gho. It has been a long time since this team of specialist agents were sent by the Quiet Council of the Mutant nation of Krakoa to investigate the Vault – a place where time moves differently and a chronal lock makes it impossible for anyone to rescue them. 

Along with the central premise of establishing the new Mutant Island nation of Krakoa, Johnathan Hickman’s relaunch of the X-Men, which began with House of X and Power of X, also revealed that Professor X’s long-time friend, Moria MacTaggert was really a Mutant with a Groundhog Day style power that allowed her to relive multiple irritations of her timeline. Having spent many lifetimes trying to advance the X-Men’s cause and rebooting the timeline each time to learn from their setbacks, House of X and Power of X saw Moria discover that the ultimate threat and suppression of Mutantkind rested with an artificial intelligence that would be created in the distant future – Nimrod. 

So when a Child of the Vault managed to escape from the Vault – a technological marvel that uses time dilation and advanced technology to alter humans — the X-Men sent the Mutants Darwin, Wolverine (Laura Kinney) and Synch to South America to enter the Vault and assess the potential threat, along with the capabilities of the children, and uncover any inherent weaknesses in the children’s powers or the Vaults remarkable technological infrastructure. The only trouble is the team never returned. They’ve been gone for months, but as time moves differently inside the Vault, Darwin, Wolverine and Synch have now actually been inside the Vault for centuries!

The ongoing narrative of Hickman’s new X-Men run has sometimes felt less of the compelling blend of fresh ideas and innovative character arcs that spun our of House of X and Power of X, and more like a case of two-steps forwards and two-steps back as branches of the storyline unconsciously folded back over itself or became diluted with meandering events like X of Swords. Hickman is keeping a lot of plate spinning — some more successfully than others — but so far its been enough to keep everyone guessing and excited about where all of this is essentially  going for the X-Men.

Darwin, Wolverine and Synch entered the Vault way back in X-Men #5, now with X-Men #18 Hickman is finally addressing this tantalising plot thread, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint with the often bizarre and mind-boggling revelations that are divulged thick-and fast throughout this issue with almost serendipitous glee. Having this issue narrated via Synch’s recollections of events is also a clever move by Hickman which organically drives the plot from key selective viewpoints, with the inner machinations of the Vault and the motivations of the Children of the Vault converging on parallel lines with the X-Men’s incursion, and the series’ now iconic bullet-point style info-graphics filling in the blanks — especially the insightful information concerning the evolution of Synch’s powers post resurrection and what this could mean for mutant kind going forward.

This team was selected for their unique survival abilities: Darwin can adapt to any life-threatening situation, Wolverine has her healing-factor, and Synch can duplicate their powers. They were ideally suited to this mission, especially as there was no way back if things went wrong (which of course they did), and X-Men #18 details what happened in the initial moments of the relative 537 years that the team have effectively been missing. The Children of the Vault are purportedly the true heirs of the world, meant to be vastly superior to humans and Mutants, so how they react to the “wild gods of the outside world” proves decidedly disturbing, and the technological wonders of the  Vault are an uncanny challenge in itself for the X-Men’s team to experience — let alone  fully comprehend. 

Artist Mahmud Asrar and colorist Sunny Gho give substance and clarity to the finer vagaries of Hickman’s storyline, with hauntingly futuristic landscapes, advanced machinery and technological interfaces, and the almost palpable mix of awe and trepidation the team experience permeates every page. Asrar does a fantastic job of rendering these powerful emotional moments as the mysteries of the Vault begin to unfold, with intricate, sweeping page-layouts seamlessly condensing the narrative, there’s an action-packed encounter between the X-Men and the Children of the Vault that is also impressively realised, while Sunny Gho’s subtle use of delicate tones and shade brings an almost spiritual quality to the teams journey into the unknown and the ensuing centuries of discovery that await.

It has felt like a hell of long wait for Marvel’s flagship X-Men title to finally get back to addressing the mystery of the Vault and the fate of Darwin, Wolverine and Synch after they failed to return. In that respect X-Men #18 certainly gets the ball rolling again, even though it frustratingly poses just as many questions as it answers. However, if you’ve stuck with Hickman’s new X-Men this far your patience is rewarded as X-Men #18 finally gives us a clear sense of progression, and in that respect above all it delivers in spades. 

Publisher Marvel Comics

Writer Johnathan Hickman / Artist Mahmud Asrar 

Colorist Sunny Gho / Letterer VC’s Clayton Cowles 

Design Tom Miller / Cover Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho

About The Author

Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook