It’s Not a Dream If It’s Real: Answering 12 Important Questions About The First Krakoan Age, Now That It’s Over

And like that, it’s over.

The First Krakoan Age is now complete.

X-Men #35 closed the doors on that status quo with a giant-sized issue that gave the era as satisfying a conclusion as it possibly could have, especially on the heels of its turbulent approach to that final chapter. That’s a good thing, because readers were desperate for some sense of closure from this momentous run. The creators involved assuredly knew that, if only because the five-year journey that began with Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller’s House of X and Powers of X 29 proved to be the most fertile land of debate and concentrated attention amongst fans of single issue comics throughout its existence.

There was love! There was hate! There was sadness! There was joy! It was a rollercoaster run, one that married the most passionate fanbase in direct market comics with concepts and execution that were certain to polarize at times — especially when considered in the context of House and Powers’ looming shadow. And with the era being so big, both in terms of its length and the size of the line, there was simply no way a consensus could take hold about its merits. It was the superhero comic equivalent of a Rorschach test, where your interpretation might say more about you than Krakoa itself.

That doesn’t mean readers lacked opinions. They had plenty, with some of the takes being so scorching that the word “hot” barely could do them justice. I’m no different, except my takes are probably a bit less spicy than the average. Also, mine needed a little time and space to cook, with a recent reread of key books helping solidify my thoughts on this period. But now that we have a little distance from its conclusion and with the open to the next era 30 coming in just two weeks, it feels like the right time to consider the era as a whole.

There’s no right way or wrong way to do that, but the symmetrical one is to use the same structure I from when I analyzed HoXPoX at its conclusion: by answering 12 questions about this era and what went into it. Given that it was built from the ideas of Hickman, choosing symmetry as my guide just felt right. So, today, we’re going to do just that, as I explored my thoughts and feelings about the Krakoa Era through a series of questions about what worked and what didn’t, now that it’s come to a close.

Did the First Krakoan Age live up to the expectations created by House of X and Powers of X?


But that’s okay!

If your starting point is one of the best stories in Marvel’s history, there is no shame in not living up to the expectations it creates. More than that, I believe some made the mistake of thinking House and Powers were a promise. I’m not sure that’s what they were meant to be. Those stories were a foundation, an establishment of an environment for creators to operate within. What followed was always destined to change and evolve, at least to some degree. So, why fault something for behaving how it was designed?

That doesn’t mean it’s unfair to be disappointed by certain storylines not being sufficiently paid off. Moira’s arc is a perfect example of that. It’s impossible to not have wanted more from that after such an incendiary beginning. It doesn’t help that much of the ending was incredibly rocky either, and with recency bias being easy to fall into, it’s made the (mostly) great work of the preceding four years a little foggier in our memories than it might have been otherwise. Because of that, the view of Krakoa took a fall for some when most hoped it would rise. It’s completely understandable to feel letdown by that — especially through the prism of how it started.

Ultimately, though, a five-year period of change for characters oriented on evolution shouldn’t eternally be defined by its beginning. Starting points are little more than an establishment of possibilities. From there, journeys can take on a life of their own. This one assuredly did. It resulted in a lot of good comics, and really, that’s all one can hope for from an effort like this. Because of that, I’d call the Krakoa Era a success, even if it may not have lived up to the expectations created by House and Powers.

Ivan Shavrin’s cover to X-Factor Vol. 4 #1

Okay, so you’re saying the Krakoa Era succeeded. If that’s the case, what was its greatest success?

That’s a great question, and there are a ton of options to pick from, so let’s quickly go through some of the best.

  • Launching with a creator-driven vision
  • Delivering a variety of stories across its line
  • Creating palpable excitement in both new and existing readers
  • Mark Brooks’ teaser art
  • Making everyone wonder if they were pronouncing “X” right 31
  • Introducing data pages into Marvel comics and (mostly) making them work throughout
  • Valuing design as a whole more than the average Marvel book
  • Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, and Marte Gracia’s art in House and Powers
  • Elevating an array of characters into bigger roles
  • Breeding real and rare collaboration within the X-Office
  • Rarely playing it safe, and doing so in interesting ways

Those are all strong choices, as are the ones you’re currently thinking about that I didn’t mention. But my pick isn’t one of those. 32 Instead, it’s something that ties into my previous answer. One of my favorite parts of this larger exercise is that it wasn’t a relaunch without meaning. It wasn’t a Fresh Start or something All-New All-Different that was really just a bunch of #1s that reminded us of what existed before. Instead, House and Powers was meaningfully different, and it created a space for writers and artists to do something new — and to do so together.

In short, Krakoa’s greatest success was its existence as a storytelling environment.

It allowed creators like Gerry Duggan and Vita Ayala to ask questions like, “How would the mutants manage the distribution of their new pharmaceuticals?” or “How would younger mutants fit into this new society?” so they could find the answers within their stories. That was always the quiet superpower of House and Powers. It was a great story. But more than that, it was a sandbox filled with new toys — resurrection, Orchis, the drugs, Krakoan society itself, the threat of AI, etc. — for the talent to turn into something we haven’t seen before. It was a place for creators to be additive, not destructive, and to find out what that means for a line more famous for the latter idea.

And that’s far more interesting to me. That’s why this era is ultimately much more than its strong beginning. Krakoa was a place, but it was also a laboratory, one that allowed for unique X-Men stories that reflected the present far more than what we’ve read in the past. You couldn’t get something like Leah Williams and David Baldeon’s X-Factor any other way, as it was the response to a question that HoXPoX asked — how do the mutants prove someone is dead so said person can enter the resurrection protocols? — that the creative team built on in marvelous ways. Unlike so many of superhero stories, Krakoa wasn’t a cover song. It was comic book jazz, a land where creators had the space to plant ideas and nurture them together in a way that’s rare for superhero stories.

That’s why the “collaboration” point would be my second pick for this question. It was a huge part of how this storytelling environment worked. I believe I saw a creator say something along these lines before, but the way everyone in the X-Office worked was similar to a mutant circuit. Each person’s gifts united to create something new, turning Krakoa itself into a storytelling circuit. And the ideas it reflected were often chimeras themselves, as many concepts reflected the whole as much as any singular creator.

At its best, this era was a massive collaboration designed to operate within a unique storytelling environment, one that presented the chance to build something great, and to do so together. That makes it incredibly difficult to replicate. But it also made it special, and something I hope to see again someday.

Russell Dauterman’s variant cover to X-Men Vol. 6 #7, minus the trading card elements

Which character had the biggest glow up?

This is a tough one. How do you pick between stars that became something even more, like Storm and Magneto, or new characters that turned into favorites like Rasputin IV or my beloved Hordeculture? It’s a challenge! But these kinds of things always are, which is also what makes them fun.

We can start by striking some options right off the bat. One variety is easy. All new characters are out. You can’t have a glow up during Krakoa if you’re new here. So, apologies to the aforementioned Rasputin IV and Hordeculture as well as other faves like Explodey Boy and Nimrod the Lesser. The stars are gone as well. Magneto, Storm, and others like Kate Pryde and Apocalypse have decades of stories to their name. While they may have had good Krakoas, they only went from “great” to “slightly greater.” That’s valuable, but maybe not as impressive as what others did.

It comes down to characters that already existed but weren’t considered elite quite yet. Any of The Five might fit here, if only in terms of importance. Exodus has a case. Sinister easily could win. Destiny too, but she already knows she’s out. It breaks my heart to not have Cypher at the top, but he mostly earned shine from Hickman and was dialed back in importance once the former Head of X departed.

In the end, it came down to two characters: Magik and Synch. Both were easily amongst my favorite characters during the era. Both had an array of standout moments. But it has to be Synch. His essential role in one of the era’s best stories — his rather lengthy vacation in The Vault with Wolverine/Talon and Darwin — the exploration and escalation of his powers, his elevation to the X-Men, and his relationship with Talon were all favorite beats that reflected a greater understanding of and interest in the potential of the character than we had seen…ever before? Quite possibly! The character was often forgotten after Generation X. But Krakoa maximized his potential in ways we hadn’t seen, which makes him the pick.

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  1. Which will largely be referred to as HoXPoX or House and Powers from here on out.

  2. That’s Jed MacKay and Ryan Stegman’s X-Men #1.

  3. Some might consider this a negative. I think it’s hilarious, so I love it.

  4. Well, it might be one of the ones you’re thinking of. I just don’t know what those are.

  5. Which will largely be referred to as HoXPoX or House and Powers from here on out.

  6. That’s Jed MacKay and Ryan Stegman’s X-Men #1.

  7. Some might consider this a negative. I think it’s hilarious, so I love it.

  8. Well, it might be one of the ones you’re thinking of. I just don’t know what those are.

  9. While going to fancy food places in fancy food cities, as she scolded Magneto and Xavier about in Inferno.

  10. I do want to note: I loved the Moira Engine idea. This commentary isn’t me being down on that idea. It’s just an example of how limited her impact really was.

  11. It began as an X-Factor storyline but Marvel wanted Leah Williams to write it as a standalone event for sales reasons.

  12. Particularly for the Cypher bits.

  13. It should be noted that the Krakoa Era did not create these kinds of data pages, either within superhero comics or outside of them. More than that, other Marvel titles eventually picked them up. But the X-Men line had the broadest and most consistent adoption of them.

  14. Particularly the Group Chat one from New Mutants #19.

  15. At least later on in Bowen’s case.

  16. Per Popverse.

  17. Some might say X-Men Vol. 6 was the flagship book in the second half. I would disagree.

  18. A decision that was so inexplicable that my wife, who made these graphics, even asked me if I didn’t want more comics on this tier.

  19. Or even a partial reread, as my recent experience proved.

  20. People really turned on Game of Thrones.

  21. One that Comic Book Herald’s Dave Buesing suggested to me.

  22. I originally had these as separate eras but it can be tricky to cleanly disentangle them, so I kept them together.

  23. I thought Extermination was pretty great, and…I guess Operation: Zero Tolerance was alright.

  24. A lot of Astonishing X-Men is great, X-Factor was especially good then, and I have an unusual amount of love for the simultaneous launches of Ed Brubaker and Billy Tan on Uncanny X-Men and Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo on X-Men.

  25. Maybe my single favorite X-Men title.

  26. Particularly the Dark Angel Saga.

  27. A very underrated series.

  28. Which was a great crossover, especially as it was going down.

  29. Which will largely be referred to as HoXPoX or House and Powers from here on out.

  30. That’s Jed MacKay and Ryan Stegman’s X-Men #1.

  31. Some might consider this a negative. I think it’s hilarious, so I love it.

  32. Well, it might be one of the ones you’re thinking of. I just don’t know what those are.