Spoilers ahead for this week's X-Men #11.
Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu continue their Empyre tie-in with X-Men #11. Krakoa is under attack by the Cotati and now the X-Men must defend their home in an action-packed issue that celebrates the vast powers of the mutants in a fun and exciting way. Tie-in comics don't always work, but X-Men #11 seems determined to have a fun time. And it works, mostly.
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The issue begins with a prologue as Anole, Loa, and Rockslide approach the mysterious Summoner. Summoner invites them to play a game, and between the enigmatic nature of the character and color artist Sunny Gho's use of shadow and low-light, the scene grows increasingly foreboding. Gho gives Summoner a ghastly pale image, with only hints of pink and red to suggest life. Because of how bright Summoner appears, it gives the impression that they are the only source of light in a forest that seems to grow around the mutants. It's a creepy scene that builds dread as the Cotati army arrives.
We then get a few pages of text supposedly from the Captain Commander (Cyclops) to the Quiet Council. Writer Jonathan Hickman has a bit of fun, setting up various plans for the defense of Krakoa, building the sense of preparedness the X-Men have to defend their new home. And from there, X-Men #11 really gets started.
The issue focuses on the battle between the Cotati army and the X-Men remaining on Krakoa, led by Magneto. When informed by Magik of the attack, Magneto abandons his all-white regalia and takes up his crimson and purple attire that is so readily identified as his villainous attire.
Hickman and Yu relish in the opportunity to unleash Magneto on an army of unsuspecting intruders. There's an unabashed sense of fun here, as Magneto orchestrates various X-Men to assist him in the battle, using their powers in combination like a video game.
Very few artists can do large-scale battles as Leinil Francis Yu can. The panels here are grand in a way that fits Magneto, and packed to the brim with cameos from a number of characters as they fight to save their home. The big play comes when Magneto calls upon Magma and Iceman to assist him to create weapons from the island itself. It's a creative use of all three characters' powers that rewards the reader.
Hickman adds further depth to the action sequences by placing it as a narrative being told to the children of Krakoa by Exodus. This gives the action a mythic feel.
Hickman's X-Men run has thematically focused on endless cycles of rebirth, whether it's the lives of Moira in Powers of X, or the resurrection chambers created by Goldballs, or the way Mystique desires to bring back Destiny. And while it's fun to speculate on what that might mean for a franchise that cyclically brings back the Phoenix Force, one has to wonder what it means for Magneto to find himself back in his villainous colors leading the way for the children. Is there a return to evil in his future?
The one shortfall of the issue, however, is that it does not return to the prologue with Summoner. The opening scene helps set the table, but otherwise feels disconnected from the rest of the issue.
In many ways, it highlights the tie-in nature of X-Men #11 in a way that feels unnecessary. In one sense, it'd be tempting to call X-Men #11 filler, biding time until Summoner makes their move, presumably in the upcoming X of Swords event. But once the reader is past the prologue, Hickman and Yu deliver such a fun ride that it doesn't matter. This is an exciting book with some creative action beats, and it plays well whether you're reading the larger event or not. It would have been nice if the issue simply focused on that.