While A.X.E.: Judgement Day is still not over the X-Men franchise has already moved on to finally try to get their franchise to deal with the new status quo post-Hellfire Gala 2022. The timing has certainly hurt the new direction for the main X-Men series in particular. The new X-Men team announced during the Hellfire Gala 2022 has not had the chance to work as a team like the previous incarnation of the team. Now that the team can move into dealing with things like addressing the Children of the Vault situation. Let’s find out what Forge and the team’s mission in the Vault to save Darwin turns out in X-Men #16.
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Joshua Cassara
Sometime ago Forge and Mister Sinister make an agreement for the latter to help him with information on three names.
In the present Forge and Caliban disguise themselves as Perro to get through all of the Children of the Vault’s security.
Outside the Vault, tensions run high when Havok confronts Cyclops about letting Forge go into the Vault alone. This brings up how Forge was the one who selected Havok for the team and Cyclops believes it was to get back at him.
This pisses Havok off and punches his brother. The punch causes Cyclops’ visor to come off and accidentally lets Perro free from his stasis pod.
Jean Grey, Iceman, Magik, and Firestar act quickly but are quickly overpowered by Perro. When Perro is about to make it back into the Vault Iceman makes a wall out of himself to give Jean, Cyclops, and Havok the opening to subdue Perro long enough for Magik to get Perro back into his stasis pod.
As things settle down Scott and Jean psychically talk about the state of the team.
Back inside the Vault, Forge makes it through where he believes Darwin is being kept captive. When Forge opens up the stasis pod he is shocked to find the original aged Laura Kinney that went on the Vault mission with Synch and Darwin. End of issue.
A big thing that Gerry Duggan wasn’t able to do during the A.X.E.: Judgment Day tie-ins is get the chemistry of the new X-Men roster down. While this new arc does leave out one major team member in Synch you can see that Duggan does have a plan in place for the chemistry with this X-Men team. X-Men #16 shines more of a light on that chemistry, or lack thereof, that he is planning to play with.
Specifically addressing Havok’s membership being Forge’s way of making a dig at Cyclops worked much better than expected. This being brought up in this way provides interest in this sub-plot with Cyclops and Havok’s current standing as brothers. The way it went down set up things for Cyclops and Havok to have greater roles in Dark Web as we know Madelyne Pryor is a major antagonist. Even if they ended up working well together the icy relationship the Summers brothers have is apparent.
This chemistry between Cyclops and Havok extended to the rest of the current X-Men team. Even though they looked like they were fighting Perro together it was apparent they don’t have chemistry as a team. They were all merely trying to stop Perro with their individual powers rather than how they can complement one another. That’s why we see Iceman crushed and Magik teleporting Firestar away when they get in each other’s way. Joshua Cassara’s artwork highlights how even several months removed from Hellfire Gala 2022 that team chemistry has a long way to go.
While that dominated the middle of X-Men #16 big developments were with Forge. The opening highlighted how Forge has been more involved in things going in Krakoa than the initial years of this direction showed. We saw that in X-Men #15 with his meeting with Charles Xavier. Now we see it with his agreement with Mister Sinister. All of this highlights some of the key dialogue Forge has that he made sure to investigate what Xavier and Magneto were planning with Krakoa before fully investing his heart and mind in this direction.
Knowing this about Forge going into the mission made his infiltration something that your more intrigued by. The way Forge went about it was fitting to his character as he did not mess around with his direct approach to reach the bio-vaults to find Darwin. There was no trying to convince others in the Vault that he was Perro or sneaking around. Forge simply disguised himself as Perro and got right in. That efficiency was refreshing and fitting to Forge who, as Havok stated, isn’t a powerhouse in the normal sense.
The big swerve ending that Forge did not find Darwin but the Laura Kinney that went in the earlier Vault mission still alive did its job of catching me off guard. This development creates so many questions as to where Duggan can take not just this development but also personal character arcs like Synch’s. This made Forge’s transcript that ended X-Men #16 have greater importance as he is requesting Quiet Council to make immediate changes to the plan for Darwin. It all adds interest in what is to come next in this building storyline.
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Gerry Duggan and Joshua Cassara get this series back on track with X-Men #16. From the chemistry of this new team to the surprising ending X-Men #16 pushes this series forward in multiple ways. It all works to build intrigue about where this series will go next.
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10