Even in the mutant utopia of Krakoa, can Mystique be trusted? Given her history, almost certainly not... but the X-Men have forged many once-questionable alliances as they forge a great mutant tomorrow.
Will things be different with Mystique now that everything is different for all mutants? Or will she revert to form? A long-ago conversation with Destiny may hold the key...
***CAUTION! SPOILERS AHEAD!***
Mystique is a lot of things, but trustworthy isn’t one of them. Given half a chance, she’ll stick a knife in the back of just about anybody – to the point that it’s become a trope for the character, something to be expected regardless of circumstances. And if that’s made her a little predictable, writer Jonathan Hickman digs deep into Raven Darkholme’s psyche and motivations to show that sometimes, even the most tried-and-true character beats have legitimacy.
Hickman is fleshing out events from his House of X miniseries as well, which on top of kicking off the X-Men’s current “Dawn of X” cycle also featured the swift, gruesome deaths of several beloved characters – Mystique first and foremost, sucked out of an open airlock and into the killing vacuum of space. But there was a lot more going on than readers knew at the time, as the mutants’ resurrection process hadn’t been revealed yet, so there was a lot of bewilderment.
Mystique, though, is ever playing her own game, even in this enlightened age of mutant togetherness. More than anything else, she wants Destiny returned to the land of the living, and Xavier and Magneto will only give that to her if she runs a covert mission for them – the implantation of a Krakoan portal onto the Orchis space station, which is manufacturing Nimrod sentinels. Mystique did, and paid for that act with her life (at least temporarily) – but Xavier and Magneto refused to honor her boon on the grounds that she did not kill the lead scientist of the Nimrod development. Mystique is understandably outraged; Xavier and Magneto are understandably suspicious that she didn’t do something that would have been severely beneficial to mutantkind and that is utterly in her nature. At loggerheads, they part ways, and it is revealed that prior to her death, Destiny revealed in an oblique way that these events would occur, and that she would have to resurrect Destiny herself. Thus the seed is sown for Mystique’s (latest) betrayal of mutantkind.
There’s a lot of subtext to unpack in X-Men #6. On the surface of it, Mystique is a woman in love desperate to get her wife back (has it ever actually been revealed that Destiny and she were married?), but whose untrustworthy past makes it difficult for those in whom she’s placed her trust to believe she’s acted in good faith. On the other hand, and more overtly, Xavier and Magneto come across as condescending and demeaning, even though Raven desperately asserts she did no deliberate wrong. Hickman’s X-run has run afoul of some accusations of leaning in favor of the patriarchy (my colleague and usual reviewer of this title, the fantastically talented Bethany Pope, is first in line to make this assertion), and it’s because of scenes like this. I’d add though that in Hickman’s hands, Xavier and Magneto are pretty condescending to basically everyone, so there’s more to it than just that one particular argument, depending on the reader’s perspective. Nonetheless, it’s not too difficult to get from Point A to Point B where accusations of inherent sexism are concerned.
But it’s a no-win situation either way. Xavier and Magneto are 100% right in that they shouldn’t trust Mystique, especially when her own inaction in this instance runs so contrary to her established nature. I mean, no one should trust Mystique at this point. Hickman smartly makes the argument, though, that the one time you can trust her is when it comes to her love for Destiny. And by not considering that, they have set themselves up for betrayal from within. (It should be noted that some of Krakoa’s other morally-questionable guests are doing the same thing in other titles, most notably Sebastian Shaw over in the great Marauders. So that’s an undercurrent running through all of the X-books right now, that maybe placing all their eggs in one basket wasn’t such a hot idea.)
The plot this issue moves briskly and expansively, helping build the overarching framework that Hickman’s gradually building throughout his grand “Dawn of X” experiment. Hickman is a master of staging scenes, and creating atmosphere that breathes. The sequences where Mystique is creeping through Orchis move like a particularly well-made spy thriller, silent and deadly. There’s one page in particular where Mystique is disguised as a tech worker, and the rest of the page is black and white except for her being blue. It’s an awesome, inspired effect. Matteo Buffagni’s art complements the script very, very well, rising to the occasion in every sense. The flashback scenes with Mystique and Destiny (beautifully colored by Sunny Gho) are warm and calm and project the love between these two women despite nothing overtly sensual going on – just their body language saying all the words for them. This flashback scene bookends the issue and provides great context for everything else that, in the hands of a lesser writer, might have felt more tacked on or even an afterthought. But Hickman knows what he’s doing, and is a plot-first kind of writer, even to the detriment of proper characterization or human-sounding dialogue. That in and of itself makes the tenderness of the Mystique/Destiny scenes all the more potent, knowing that emotional intimacy isn’t in the author’s usual wheelhouse.
All things taken in equal measure, X-Men #6 is another stellar entry into the "Dawn of X" world. The staggered issue-by-issue pacing and shifts in focus might be frustrating to some who just want a straightforward tale, but those people don't know Jonathan Hickman. He plays the long game, plants seeds, and lets everything come together slowly, organically, with amazing payoffs. Even if you're not a hardcore X-fan, don't miss out on these books.
X-Men #6: Motherless Orphans ***SPOILERS***
Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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