Though X-Factor was quite busy with its own contained story about its team discovering the latest, most grotesque programming to come out of Mojoworld, the onset of X of Swords has shifted the series in a drastically different direction. It’s established a terrifying complication for the X-Men’s carefully constructed plans to ensure immortality for all mutants.
Today’s X-Factor #4 — written by Leah Williams, penciled by Carlos Gomez with colours by Israel Silva, and Joe Caramagna lettering — opens just moments after the group of mutants who ventured into Otherworld by way of Apocalypse’s external gate learned that Apocalypse’s grandson Summoner was actually in league with the four original Horsemen and plotting to invade Krakoa. After witnessing Rockslide’s death, and both Apocalypse and Rictor being seriously wounded by the Horsemen and their horde of demons, the X-Men haul arse back to their island where their allies can presumably be revived in the healing gardens. But what they find back in their home reality is that deaths in Otherworld function…differently.
As part of their plan to ensure that mutants never face extinction again, Charles Xavier and the rest of Marvel’s mutants have developed a complicated system through which any mutant can be brought back to life when Hope Summers, Elixir, Tempus, Egg (formerly Goldballs), and Proteus combine their powers and create what’s essentially a genetic duplicate of the dead mutant. Thanks to an enhanced Cerebro that periodically creates backup saves of a person’s mind, the newly created mutant shells typically wake up with all of their memories — but when the Five come together to resurrect Rockslide, something goes terribly wrong that none of the X-Men anticipated.
While the Five are able to successfully bring Rictor back after his “first” self dies in the healing gardens on Krakoa, the Rockslide who emerges from his resurrection egg is…wrong, not through any fault of the Five per se, but because of the way Otherworld’s magical energies fiddle with reality. The moment Rockslide is reborn, each of the cradles (essentially the servers where the mutant mental profiles are stored) around the world shorts out, and for a few minutes, Xavier passes out, and Rockslide quite literally crumbles into an assortment of rocks before reforming himself and making clear that he doesn’t properly remember who he is.
In their initial panic over what’s happening to Rockslide, the Five make the snap decision to destroy all of the already-prepped eggs out of fear that they might somehow be tainted, but Hope is able to deduce somehow exactly what went wrong as Xavier comes to.
Because Otherworld functions as a nexus between all possible realities, Rockslide’s death there more or less blended together a number of different versions of his consciousness that caused each of the different Cerebro servers to short out. The Rockslide who’s been resurrected is technically him, but not the exactly the man the X-Men once knew. Emma Frost is the only member of the Krakoan Quiet Council who seems to be properly alarmed at the reality that Xavier’s grand plan for immortality has a massive flaw in it.
Under normal circumstances, it would be relatively easy to warn mutants not to be foolish enough to die in Otherworld, but because X of Swords is building toward a major battle against the Horsemen there, it means that going forward, there’s a very good chance other X-Men will fall, only to be brought back as new versions of themselves. To Emma’s point, this means that there’s a real chance that some people are going to straight-up die and never be brought back as they were, which gives X of Swords a wholly different kind of gravity.
The question now is who will be the next, and just what sort of people they’ll become should the X-Men choose to revive them.