This article contains spoilers for X-Men #14 by Jonathan Hickman, Mahmud Asrar, Leinil Francis Yu, and Sunny Gho.
The X-Men are engaged in a duel to the death against the Swordbearers of Arakko in “X of Swords” – and even if they win, they lose. Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men relaunch has seen the entire mutant race gather on the living island of Krakoa. Unfortunately, it’s now clear they were almost completely unaware of Krakoa’s history and heritage – and that lack of knowledge has proved problematic to say the least.
Millennia ago, there was a land named Okkara, which seems to have become home to the first mutant community. This land was torn apart by a demonic invasion from the world of Amenth, which exists on another plane of reality; the one became two, Krakoa and Arakko. In order to defeat the invaders, Apocalypse was forced to sacrifice his wife and his First Horsemen, along with Arakko itself. They were transported to Arakko, doomed to spend an eternity in war against the hordes of Amenth. Now, they have returned – in part because of Apocalypse’s own efforts to reunite his family – and the X-Men have been forced to fight against the champions of Krakoa and Amenth.
X-Men #9 reveals the true scale of the threat, and features a shocking revelation that reframes the entire conflict. The issue is centered upon a conversation between Apocalypse and his wife Genesis, who he must battle in a duel to the death. It seems the demons of Amenth are led by a being called Annihilation, who they consider their god. Unfortunately, according to Genesis, the golden helm of Annihilation must be worn by the strongest. If the current host is defeated in combat, the one who bested them will inherit the mask, and become Annihilation’s new servant. “Whoever defeats the helm claims the helm,” Genesis explains.
To wear the helm does not appear to mean you lose your self-awareness, for Genesis still remembers all her past with Apocalypse. But she is under Annihilation’s thrall all the same, unable to resist it, and now she is unable to resist the call to conquer. “It wants it all,” she observes chillingly. “And because it wants it all… I do as well.” Apocalypse insists she can fight it, but Genesis rejects that advice. “No one is that strong,” she replies. “No one.“
Once again Apocalypse is keeping essential information from the rest of the X-Men. The truth is that the X-Men cannot win this battle. Even if they best the Swordbearers of Arakko, that will mean someone has slain Genesis, and they therefore become the next helm of Amenth. Annihilation’s will continues to exert itself, and the armies of Amenth advance under a different leader – one of the X-Men themselves.
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