I’ll get this out of the way early: there’s no way to write about this issue without explicitly referencing issue #17 and it’s jaw-dropping conclusion. If you plan on reading that but haven’t yet: this is your SPOILER WARNING…
Okay, now that all the trade-waiters are gone, let’s talk about how Rick Remender decided that, in flagrant disregard for the sanctity of continuity, blew up Earth via a Death Celestial, taking almost every single human with it. Let’s talk about how that happened and now here we are, years later on Planet X (not to be confused with Earth X) and it makes House of M look like a human vacation destination. Alex Summers and Janet Van Dyne are two survivors of the destruction of Earth and some of the only resistance to the newly formed X-Force: an enforcement group tasked with destroying threats to the new mutant order. It includes some familiar faces, one of which is fairly surprising, but Remender does an incredibly economic job of establishing this new, terrifying world and why certain people would work this fervently to make Apocalypse’s dream a reality, even while doing horrific things. It really is incredible how quickly the world and its character’s voices come into sharp relief considering how alien it all seems, and it’s a credit that all the characters still sound exactly as they should.
Daniel Acuña is back on art, and when I say “art,” that’s what I mean: pencils, lines, colors, all Acuña and all look fantastic. I’ve previously, on this title, praised his ability to merge the look and tone of both fantasy and sci-fi stories, something that has often been demanded of him on this title, and while this issue in particular skews far, far more in the sci-fi direction, the visuals are murky, but never confusing, and lend the world the kind of beauty that juxtaposes the horror wonderfully.
I know a lot of X-Men were feeling particularly put-upon and the shock of losing their entire planet likely didn’t help things, but it’s asking a lot to have us believe that Beast was the ONLY mutant, besides Havok, who question Eimin’s notion that humanity deserved complete obliteration. Cyclops was going down a dark, angry path, but he was far from advocating this kind of thing. He doesn’t actually appear in the issue, but there’s a passing reference to it and that rang a bit hollow without more details.
This is an incredible start to what will, no doubt, be a very strange arc. There’s a goal they’re working toward that will, of course, undo the horrific events of last issue, but it was something that was planned and telegraphed last issue, so it doesn’t feel like the author is pulling a solution out of the ether for the sake of having a shocking finale that only gets undone later. Everything feels like it fits together and this has been the story that was going to get told from its introduction in issue #6.