When mutantkind established its own sovereign nation on Krakoa, it established three new tenants for the newly-unified species to live by: Make More Mutants, Murder No Man, and Respect This Sacred Land. For the most part, give or take a few loopholes, the Krakoan Age was defined by these tenets until last week’s shocking Hellfire Gala. Now? Not so much.
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This week’s X-Men #25—written by Gerry Duggan, featuring art and colors by Stefano Caselli and Marte Gracia, and lettering by Clayton Cowles—the first issue of this new, darker age for the X-books, is largely about tablesetting for this new status quo for mutantdom. Well, old-new. After all, the story of the X-Men is one of resilience and resistance, and rarely has that resistance been from a place of global strength as they saw on Krakoa. But the heart of that is Kitty Pryde, née Kate Pryde, née Shadowkat (among many, many other names and identities in her long history)—one of the few remaining mutants on Earth and the greatest weapon the resistance has.
While Orchis sealed off Krakoan’s teleportation network during its audacious assault on the Hellfire Gala, Kate—who had spent this era unable to use them for some long-unknown reason—has suddenly become the only mutant who can use them. Re-adopting her ninja persona and becoming the scout of the X-Men is one thing, but it’s made clear throughout X-Men #25 that the toll of seeing the home that never quite made itself home for her on Krakoa has now all but been wiped out—as Orchis ascends to celebrity-occupier status as humanity’s supposed vanguard against the turncoat mutant threat. Withdrawn from what little of the team is left, always isolating herself, Kate has gone from the charismatic leader she was with the Marauders to a lone wolf plagued by survivor’s guilt, one only amplified by her sudden importance to what few mutants are left on Earth.
But there is something else, as we learn when Emma Frost confronts her during a check-in, that has changed Kate in this new era. In the Hellfire Gala 2023, issue, we the audience saw that Kate discovered her newfound access to the gateway network by accidentally falling through one and into Jerusalem, surrounded by Orchis footsoldiers. We didn’t see anything beyond that, and it turns out Kate hasn’t told anyone about how she got back either, and it’s been long enough between Hellfire and X-Men #25 that people are concerned about her reluctance. And maybe they should be, as we learn just what Kate did to survive: slaughter her enemies in vengeance.
It’s an excellent sequence—gory, brutal, scary, and clever with its use of Kate’s phasing powers. It plays with the paradox of what Mutants have always been capable of in their quest for existence, how even the most esoteric of powers has to be limited, because if you push someone far enough, they’re capable of defending themselves in deadly fashion as Kate does. Beyond the action and the fear though, it’s also a mournful sequence. Kate doesn’t relish in what she does here, even though it’s an act of revenge for the horrors she’d just witnessed at the gala. By the end of the fight tears are streaming down her face, for much the same reason—she tried to settle things firmly but peacefully, but Orchis kept pushing until this was her only recourse. “That’s what the X-Men do. They save everybody they can, even their enemies,” Kate tells the final guard after he pleads mercy. “A shame—those X-Men are dead now,” she adds, with a snap of his neck.
With it she falls to her knees and weeps before cleaning up the chaotic path she’d just carved. In a moment of violence, Krakoa is gone, and its laws with it—and perhaps the assimilationist ideals of Charles Xavier “Murder No Man” most represented. What Kate was in that era is gone in that moment too. Even though Krakoa’s gates closed themselves to her, Kate was one of the nation’s biggest believers; her work in the Marauders was about giving the mutants they saved a paradise that was always cut off from herself. In its place there is only this violence, and Shadowkat is more than okay with that.
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