"Welcome to the X-Men. Hope you survive the experience!"
It's become something of a joke in X-Men circles, but #Marvel's merry mutants probably have the highest death-and-resurrection rate of any superhero team. Whether you're talking about Cyclops or Storm, Jean Grey or Cable, almost every X-Man has had their brush with death and resurrection. Right now, some of the key mutants — Professor Xavier, Cyclops, and Wolverine — are believed dead, but nobody's expecting it to last.
This week's Uncanny X-Men Annual, though, turns that trope upside-down in a fantastic way...
In the comics, the most powerful type of mutant is an 'Omega' — signifying that their powers have unlimited potential. Although the term has never been properly defined, the comics have insisted that the healer known as Elixir is one of them.
Elixir's origin is fascinating. He was introduced in New Mutants #2 as an anti-mutant protestor, but after his powers developed, he was abandoned by his family. He soon learned that he had the power to rewrite the body down to a genetic level. You're talking a mutant who can heal a broken bone, rewrite your DNA on the fly, and even cure the common cold. But we soon learned there was more to Elixir than that; he essentially has control over life and death. He can give life, or he can take it. Significantly, if he takes life, his skin loses its traditional golden hue and turns deep black; his own brain chemistry actually seems to rewrite itself. In other words, Elixir is basically the living embodiment of Yin and Yang. No surprise, he has a philosophical, meditative bent.
Here's the catch: in recent years, poor Elixir has been quite ill-fated. He was killed off over in the pages of 2015's Wolverines comic, only to be mysteriously resurrected — and recently killed again. In this year's Uncanny X-Men Annual, Cullen Bunn has revisited the character.
What Happens Now?
Right now, the X-Men are in a very difficult place. They're partway through the latest in a long line of 'extinction' plots, with Magneto running a black-ops team to save the mutant race. They failed to protect Elixir from the Dark Riders, but this annual opens with them learning that he's alive again. They soon trace Elixir to the ruins of Genosha, an island nation where 16 million mutants were slaughtered by the Sentinels in one fell swoop. There, Elixir reveals that his powers have developed more than ever before; he even attempts to resurrect all those fallen mutants!
What follows is a fascinating issue, one that plays Elixir's expanding powerset against the X-Men's current status quo, where mutants are dying because of a disease tied to the Inhumans and their Terrigen Mist. It's a fascinating, philosophical issue, one that explores the duality of Elixir's powers while continuing Bunn's excellent character-work with his main cast.
I freely admit that I'm not a huge fan of the current run of X-Men comics; for me, the 'extinction' plot has been overused. Still, the writers have been doing their best to work with what they've got, and Cullen Bunn's Uncanny X-Men run is fantastic. This annual is probably the best X-Men comic I've read all year. Ken Lashley's art is tremendous, and you can tell he's having a blast.
A Second Plot
Anthony Piper steps in for a second story, "Lady Luck", that features popular X-Force superhero Domino. This is everything a bonus story should be; steeped in quality characterization, with an entertaining plot and quite a few humorous moments. It uses Domino's trademark luck powers in a way that's really enjoyable — and pretty much unique in X-Men history.
Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of this story is an in-joke that every superhero fan will get.
- The X-Men And The Inhumans Are Finally Going Head-To-Head!
- Roll-Call: Meet the Superheroes of Fox's 'New Mutants'!
- 5 Comic Book Deaths - A (Glorious?) Tradition In Superhero Comics And Films
All in all, this week's Uncanny X-Men Annual is easily worthy of the title #ComicOfTheWeek. It proves that the best writers can make any status quo work for them, and is all the stronger because it focuses on lesser-known mutants, using them in original and creative ways. Cullen Bunn has a strong reputation among X-Men fans, and this book will only enhance that reputation. It also leaves me eager to see more from Anthony Piper. Don't miss it!
What do you think of the X-Men's current status quo? Let me know in the comments!