Jonathan Hickman and the rest of the Dawn of X crew have done great work with villains since the post-House of X/Powers of X status quo emerged. Orchis somehow got better in X-Men than they were in House of X/Powers of X, while Morgan Le Fay and the Marauders in Excalibur and X-Force are great tone-setter baddies for first stories. And perhaps the neatest trick Hickman’s pulled so far is turning late stage capitalism into an antihero in X-Men #4. But a promo and the story title for the next issue are combining to make a quick, throwaway moment from the first issue be the most exciting thing to happen to the X-Men since Wolverine gutted Moira MacTaggart an entire lifetime ago: the Children of the Vault are back!
No, not the Children of Tomorrow (but that’s close). Nor the kids born to inmates at The Vault, the maximum security facility destroyed for the last time back in the ‘90s. The Children of the Vault, a group of X-Men antagonists introduced by Mike Carey before the Messiah era started, and left almost completely untouched since then. But while they’ve been ignored for the better part of a decade, they’re such a perfect fit into what Hickman has already done that it’s impossible not to get excited for this.
WHAT ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE VAULT?
Introduced in the “Supernovas” arc of X-Men, the Children of the Vault are not humans or mutants. They’re a new species, evolutionarily distinct from either branch, created by scientists and then cycled through normal evolutionary processes over the course of 6,000 years inside a time-accelerated cargo ship off the coast of Peru.
They were created to be the heirs to the planet after collapse or catastrophe eliminated humans and mutants. Their cargo ship was supposed to stay sealed until the planet was empty for them to take over, but the energy discharge from M-Day – the moment when the Scarlet Witch’s “No More Mutants” pronouncement sent a wave of mutant depowerings across the globe – opened their vault early.
They were discovered by Sabertooth, who was hired out of guilt by one of the scientists who created the Children and instructed to kill everyone involved in their creation. When he discovered them, they tried to kill him to keep their existence secret, and he fled to the X-Men, where a team of them, led by Rogue, fought off their attack.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THEM?
There are about 3000 Children in total. Several of them were killed in their first run in with the X-Men – Lady Mastermind tricked Fuego into incinerating Aguja before he himself was killed; Mystique pumped Sangre full of thermite and evaporated him.
Beyond that, only a few have been named or given powers. Luz can control and manipulate light, even turning her body into light to travel. Piedra Dura’s body is made of stone, and she’s super strong. Martillo carries a JRPG-sized hammer. And Serafina can control minds and computers.
We know that while powered, they are an evolutionarily distinct group. They’re not mutants or any mutant offshoot, or even biological sentinels like the Weapon Plus program. They’re very evolved baseline humans. They’re not like the Children of Tomorrow from Ultimate Comics Ultimates, because they’re not technology based. They’re not like Weapon XV, Ultimaton, because while artificially evolved through time manipulation and definitionally opposed to mutants, they weren’t created specifically to destroy mutants. And they’re not like the Neo because…they’re actually good?
We also know that they require a massive amount of energy to survive. The last time they showed up in the comics was towards the end of Carey’s run on X-Men: Legacy. Their city, Quitado, existed just out of phase with Mumbai, and energy discharges from it were causing electrical storms. Rogue, Magneto, and a group of students traveled there to investigate, and ended up in a pretty decent sized brawl with the Children before everyone retreated back to their non-contiguous dimensional homes.
WHY IS THIS A BIG DEAL?
The Children of the Vault fit almost seamlessly into what Hickman was trying to do in X^3 in Powers of X. As you might recall, the X^3 timeline was Moira MacTaggart’s sixth life, and approximately 1000 years past the present day equivalent. In it, Homo Novissima, a new evolutionary offshoot of humanity that appears to be a merging of humans and technology, is trying to get the Phalanx to absorb the solar system.
It looks like X-Men #5 features X-23 teaming up with recently resurrected Darwin (from Deadly Genesis and the First Class movie) and Synch (from Generation X) for a mission into “the unknown,” in an issue that X-Men #4 teased as titled “Serafina.”
Laura’s powers are pretty commonly known, but Darwin’s power is “reactive evolution” – he spontaneously evolves whatever power is needed to survive a thing – and Synch has an aura he can extend around other mutants to gain the same powers as them. If you’re building a scout team to go poke around the Children of the Vault’s extradimensional home and maybe plant a Krakoa gateway there, you could do worse than the woman who can heal back from a single drop of blood, a mimic, and a guy whose power is basically “offensive macguffinrey.”
The return of the Children also raises some questions about Sabertooth. He was the first person on Earth to discover their existence besides their creators, and his flight from them led directly to the X-Men getting involved. He’s also trapped in a Krakoan gulag at the moment, so it feels like Hickman added a second barrel to that Chekhov’s gun.
And finally, the return of the Children of the Vault gives us all a great excuse to go back and reread the other two arcs they’ve been in. “Supernovas,” Carey’s first arc, runs from X-Men #188-193 and is legitimately incredible. It’s got a huge cast with distinct voices, and Chris Bachalo doing some of his best superhero work ever. It’s weird Bachalo, but it’s also clear, clean storytelling and hyperkinetic action. And it’s got dope corner boxes! They’re so good even Marvel Unlimited reprints them. The Mumbai storyline, “Collision,” runs in X-Men Legacy #238-241. It’s got amazing Magneto and Rogue interactions, and art from Batman/Catwoman’s Clay Mann long before he turned into a superstar.
Of course, every time we think we know where Hickman is going with something, he jerks the wheel to one side and we get something completely different. What we do know is this new status quo for Marvel’s mutants is sticking, it’s selling, and it’s giving us some great comics. Beyond that, stay tuned.
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