By Steve Morris
I mean, it’s objective fact. Mike Carey is the best writer the X-Men ever had, and in no way am I saying that just because his run was the first one I ever read.
Jonathan Hickman has said several times that Carey’s tenure as writer was an influence for him in writing the Dawn of X books – and especially the “Children of the Vault” concept. They’re a group of superpowered characters who live in a Vault and are destined to wake up one day, step out into the world, and rule it all.
It’s the same concept Moira has stolen to use for Krakoa. The X-Men have now stepped back onto an island for a little while, and one day they’ll walk back onto the mainland and rule the world, as they were meant to. But with mutants as the definitive next step for Earth’s ruling species, that does then put the spotlight right back on the Children of the Vault again. Unfortunately, as well, one of the characters was accidentally woken back up and is now aware of exactly what the X-Men are up to. Something must be done about it! And so this issue is dedicated to tracking down The Vault, scouting it, and then sending some mutants in to see what’s going on inside it.
Hickman has used Carey’s concept before as part of his time writing the Ultimate Universe, but here you can see the clear respect being paid: the characters who appear in this issue are the exact same ones Carey created years ago during his “Supernovas” storyline. And Hickman’s use of the characters matches up really smartly to his use of Synch and Darwin, two long-absent mutants who return to the fold this issue. Hickman likes to build up a lot of potential energy in his narratives early on, so he can then smash things together later on and create a bigger explosion. Issue #5 sets up a lot of explosives for the near future.
It’s a running joke in X-Men fandom that each new writer for the X-Men creates a bunch of new characters, ultimately finishes their run, and then those characters never show up again. The “potential” for each character is abandoned and they only appear in background characters whilst the new characters created by the new writer steps up into the spotlight. Some of the most popular characters are the ones who haven’t spoken for a decade, because fans see all the potential which was built up but then never realises moving forward. Synch and Darwin would both fit into that category, having been created for Generation X and Deadly Genesis respectively. Synch has been dead for a while, against anyone’s best interests, whilst Darwin has… been somewhere, I’m sure.
Bringing them both back into this storyline returns their potential, but the issue also makes sure to use them lightly. Teamed up with X-23 (or Wolverine, as she still calls herself), the trio are sent off on a mission to infiltrate The Vault itself, and see what’s going on inside there. It’s a canny use of the characters, which gives them a shiny new storyline to work with without making them the focus characters for what’s actually going on. They get briefed on their mission, head into the Vault, and then disappear. They’ll obviously emerge at some point in future, but for now they aren’t needed. It’s a way to weaponise that background potential they’ve always had: while they’re gone we know something important is happening, and that makes all three characters more important as a result. When they come back it’ll be a big deal. They’re still essentially in limbo, but now that limbo has a purpose and an effect.
It’s a similar trick to “The Five”, who are similar characters without much forward momentum. None of the five arguably had any kind of story to be told about them, but grouping them together and making them “The Five” harnesses their potential energy as storytelling conduits and builds something bigger and more spectacular – there are a lot of options for how you’d use those characters now, whereas previously they’d probably just walk around in the background. With Krakoa aimed at showing how mutantkind has a longer-term dream, it makes sense to take these short-term characters, created and then forgotten about, and give them something to do for the years to come.
Even if all they’re going to do is… explode.
X-Men #5 “Into The Vault”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: R.B. Silva
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Designer: Tom Muller
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.
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