“Nothing stays dead in this world…” -Joshua Foley, Elixir
Once upon a time during the age of the newsstand, the “Annual” comic was a periodic installment of importance in the comics industry. Often times it was either a jumping on point, a culmination, or an overview of the continuety carried in that title over the previous year meant to hook in readers and give them a brief but full synopsis that would allow them to latch onto the title without being lost in a sea of literary progression. However, over the past few decades, the relevance of the Annual has wained. Some Annuals are over-sized, multi-storied litmus tests for new writers and artists. Other times, the books are little more than rabbit trail tangent one-shots that hold no consequence to the main title. Regardless, non-completist readers (calm down, you know they exist) have had little incentive to pick up the yearly installments that debuted characters like Rogue.
Marvel just put an end to the impotence with Uncanny X-Men #1. Well, that is, at least for X universe, or maybe just the Uncanny title, or maybe just this particular book. Or maybe not at all, its too soon to tell. For those of you who aren’t caught up on recent X happenings, heres a brief recap: The terrigen crystals that turn humans to Inhumans became the terrigen mists, clouds of terrigen that roam across the globe and are poisonous to mutants, causing an(other) extinction level event for the mutant species. Also, Cyclops killed professor X. Also, also, Magneto is leading a team of X-Men featuring Monet, Sabertooth, Archangel, and a now separated Psylocke under the mission of finding a way to put an end to the terrigen crisis and save mutant viability in the world. Previously in the Uncanny X-Men title, Eric and his team investigated and put an end to a series of mutant healer murders at the hands of Dark Riders. One of the victims was Joshua Foley, formally of the anti-mutant Reavers (See: New Mutants vol. 2) also known as Elixir, who came to a brutally unfortunate end when he was shot by Gauntlet.
The Issue: Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun, Harrow County) opens the Annual with Elixir’s empty grave, wherein Sabertooth has determined that Joshua has clawed out of his own grave, his healing abilities having apparently revived him. Monet uses Cerebro to find the Omega level mutant and the team finds him reanimating and torturing the corpse of Gauntlet. In a series of absolutely stunning panels by Ken Lashley and Nolan Woodard, Magneto and Monet convince Elixir to accompany them to a mutant refugee medical camp in Kansas City where he can test the boundaries of his unstable powers and attempt to control them. The duality of Elixir’s power allows him to both give and take life, and the team quickly discovers that the delicate balance has also affected his mental stability and he brings the team to its knees before regaining control and stopping the assault. He did heal some mutants affected by the M Pox, btw.
This issue also contains what I believe to be the first appearance of Domino since the Secret Wars reboot. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Under the patronage of Roberto Da Costa, or Sunspot, and the new A.I.M., Domino engages in an all out assault of an anti-mutant militant group in Ecuador in a fast paced, thrilling display of her probability power and black ops abilities in a brilliant one-shot by newcomer Anthony Piper, who undertook the herculean task of writing, drawing, and coloring the entire story himself.
The Theory: (The following is simply an opinion that could be very right or completely off base. I do not personally have any insight to Cullen Bunn nor Marvels plan for the future.) In this Annual, Cullen Bunn toys with the concept and potential found in Elixir’s power to return life to fallen mutants, or to say it another way, to resurrect dead X-Men. In a similar vein, Marvel has just announced “ResurreXion,” which will be a back-to-basics of sorts. The Gold and Blue teams will be restored, familiar titles will return to shelves, and the return of deceased characters has been teased. I believe Elixir will be a key element in this plot, and will play a much bigger roll in the future of the X-Men. Cullen Bunn is a master of his craft, and if you’ve read his other works, he is a very big fan of foreshadowing. With major characters in the X bullpen being dead, I think that what we will see is Magneto using Elixir to bring back characters like Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and the beloved Professor X.