One of the major storylines that Jonathan Hickman introduced early on in his run on the X-Men franchise is the concept of the Children Of The Vault. We finally returned to this storyline as we got to see Laura Kinney’s Wolverine, Synch, and Darwin’s mission inside the Children Of The Vault in X-Men #18. In that issue we started to delve more into how The Vault works in Hickman’s narrative for the X-Men. But while Wolverine, Synch, and Darwin were able to survive a big encounter with the Children Of The Vault there mission is far from over. Let’s find out how things go next inside The Vault with X-Men #19
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Sunny Gho
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: As the dust settles from the explosion caused by Aguja maxing out her powers Wolverine touches Synch so he can use her healing powers to recover from his near-death state while Darwin adapts to recover as well.
Wolverine, Synch, and Darwin use the fact that the Children Of The Vault likely believe they died from the explosion to sneak around The Vault. As they hid from builders patrolling the area Darwin adaption powers allow him to create a Child gene replica to hide their presence. They then spend an extend period of time studying various cycles The Vault goes to in order to better understand its evolutionary process.
They eventually make it to the Child Replica Center known as Crèche where they meet Madre (a Post-Human whose existence is inverted from the Children of the Vault and is her job to oversee the resurrection protocols of The Vault). Wolverine, Dawing, and Synch immediately run away to better prepare. As they make their escape Darwin loses part of his right arm from an attack by the builder drones. The Children Of The Vault end up finding Darwin’s severed arm in their search for the X-Men.
After regrouping and planning out their next strike Wolverine, Darwin, and Synch once again infiltrate Crèche and this time are able to take out Madre. They then use the time they have to accumulate knowledge on Crèche where they find Diamante (a living repository of The Vault history).
Through their research they learn about the different generations of the Children Of The Vault that have been created (with the versions of the Children of the Vault the X-Men original fought in 2006’s X-Men #188 were the first generation). This gives them all the information on The Vault they were searching for before going back Krakoa.
When they attempt to go back to Krakoa they discover they can’t return. Because of this Wolverine, Darwin, and Synch are forced to bide their time for an unknown period of time until they can infiltrate the City’s hear.
A much older Wolverine, Darwin, and Synch attempt their infiltration but The Vault was ready for them. An army Children Of The Vault ambush the X-Men and are able to capture both Wolverine and Darwin.
Synch is able to escape capture and is forced to escape The Vault’s accelerated timeline as he no longer can use his teammates powers to lengthen his life.
With Darwin and Wolverine being held prisoner Synch tries to save them but he fails with each attempt. Synch is forced to bide his time so he can collect resources, including kidnapping Children Of The Vault member Terramoto in order to use their powers.
Eventually Synch is able to pull resources together and create a weapon that allows him to get passed all of the Children Of The Vault members guarding a prison. When he opens the prison he only finds Laura but they are unable to find Darwin.
Synch and Laura then spend time together building a closer relationship, falling in love in the process, while also searching for Darwin. After some time passes Synch and Wolverine are able to capture Children Of The Vault member Serafina and get the data needed to find Darwin’s location.
Synch and Wolverine find Darwin in an energy field inside a doom like building. Synch immediately realizes that Darwin’s adaption powers are being atomized by The Vault in order to successfully create the fourth generation of Children Of The Vault that will be newly evolved.
Synch and Wolverine immediately attempt to escape from The Vault again. Synch activates a device that uses the stasis DNA of Merbavon (a Children of the Vault member with disruption powers) to get him and Wolverine through the shield that has been blocking their way to the door back to Krakoa. Even with the device working Synch and Wolverine are severely injured.
When they recover Synch and Wolverine turn around to see that the Children Of The Vault are following them. With no other option left Laura tells Synch she will hold the Children Of The Vault back while he makes a break for it back to Krakoa. While this breaks his heart to leave Laura behind Synch agrees and makes a run for the door back to Krakoa.
Synch successfully gets back to Krakoa and is able to contact Professor Charles Xavier. Suddenly Synch is blasted from behind by the Children Of The Vault and is killed.
Synch then wakes up out of the resurrection egg after The Five brought him back to life. Professor Xavier then gives Synch back the last memories he had backed up, which was from when he returned to Krakoa. The Five then bring back Laura and Darwin but unlike Synch, Professor Xavier has to use the back-ups from before they entered The Vault.
As Laura regains consciousness Synch realizes what his dad meant about love. He is left to wonder how he will be able to tell Laura about their relationship and how their time together turned into love. Laura notices Synch staring at her and asks what he is looking at, while popping out her claws. Synch can only smile. End of issue.
The Good: X-Men #19 may very well be the most Jonathan Hickman, Jonathan Hickman comic books around. This is the best example of what Hickman both does best and can frustrate when it comes to developing his stories.
One thing that I really appreciate about Hickman’s work is how much he does trust his artists to help tell the stories he is writing. X-Men #19 is a great example of that as Hickman shows great trust in Mahmud Asrar ability to tell the story he is writing. Because for the most part Hickman has Synch as our narrator for this story. That leaves Asrar to do a lot of the heavy lifting so Laura Kinney’s Wolverine, Darwin, Children Of The Vault, and The Vault itself are developed alongside Synch.
To Asrar credit he steps up big with making sure all the characters and setting play an important role in the narrative of X-Men #19. His action set pieces get over how larger than life this reconnaissance mission is. But where Asrar artwork shines best is in the quieter moments. He does a great job making you believe in the growing love that occurs in Laura and Synch’s relationship. The same goes for how we see Laura, Synch, and Darwin’s powers evolve to get across how a lot of time as passed inside The Vault for our heroes.
Asrar’s strong artwork really helps Hickman framing X-Men #19 around Synch as our narrator well. We can get a lot of great character development from Synch as we do see how he is established as a character that can be the heart of any team. Even with how much time he spends inside The Vault with Laura and Darwin we understand that he can maintain his own humanity because of core values. Those core values allow him to stay in touch with his emotions so that he can connect with Laura and Darwin beyond just using their powers to extend his own life and help in being an asset in their fights.
The likely centuries that Laura, Synch, and Darwin spend inside The Vault also worked well to develop how well these three worked as a team. They all show an adaptive nature as they can figure out the best ways to gather information while not getting caught. It all helps to cement why Professor Xavier and Cyclops chose these three because they are all able to adapt to the situation, they are in without giving up and going on full strike mode.
Showing how the X-Men trio were able to adapt to their surroundings made The Vault come across as an even more dangerous place. Because even for all the information they gathered and how prepared they became The Vault was able to adapt much faster in order to get the jump on them. Which helps in making the moment when it is revealed that The Vault was after Darwin hit extremely well. Just like Synch, you have a light bulb moment that The Vault was after Darwin this entire time and the X-Men just fell into the Children Of The Vault’s plans. This revelation makes how dangerous The Vault will be in the future even more impactful to the future of the X-Men because even with Synch returning with this information it may be too late.
The ending with Synch realizing that he is the only one that remembers the experiences they had inside The Vault was heartbreaking. Hickman did a wonderful job getting you to buy into how naturally Synch’s relationship with Laura grew during their time inside The Vault. At the same time, Hickman leaves enough room for you to believe this isn’t the end of their story. Hopefully we see Laura and Synch’s relationship developed more in the future, possibly after the X-Men team is announced during the Hellfire Gala.
The Bad: For as much as there is to enjoy about X-Men #19 it is tough too look past how much Hickman relied on the info graphics in this issue to tell the story. Normally these info graphics or character reports act as a complimentary piece to what we see go on in the actual story. That is not the case with X-Men #19 as at least half of the story in this issue is told through the timeline-like graphic.
That decision is enough to make the way these extra pages were used frustration. But what really makes these extra pages poorly used is the fact that there is certain information that spoils what happens in upcoming pages. Synch saving Laura and being unable to find Darwin is an example of that. We learn that in the info graphic before it is shown taking place. That steals all dramatic tension from seeing Synch’s rescue efforts.
On top of that there are a lot of events in these info graphics that we just never see happen. Events like how there was a time Laura split off on her own as Wolverine or how the trio spent time mapping out The Vault are just not shown. Hickman uses these infographics as a crutch to not show us scenes that would have been more impactful if we actually saw them.
The only explanation for not seeing this is because that would have meant breaking away from Synch narrating the entire story in X-Men #19. Which would have not been a bad thing to be honest. It would have added to how much time past inside The Vault by showing Laura as Wolverine hunting alone or Darwin’s powers adapting to isolation. Unfortunately we just get it in text form only.
Overall: With X-Men #19 Jonathan Hickman and Mahmud Asrar delivered a captivating narrative that elevates the importance of the Children Of The Vault within the franchise. The trust Hickman shows in Asrar’s talents really helped elevate everything going on inside The Vault from the character relationships to the bigger concepts. Unfortunately, the heavy reliance on infographics did keep the story in X-Men #19 from reaching its full potential. This did not take away from the enjoyment had in X-Men #19 but was certainly a bummer that certain character moments were only told in text form.
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