Children of the Vault #1 Review: Questioning the Cost of a Better Tomorrow

Children of the Vault #1 reveals new threats for the X-Men as Cable and Bishop prepare to take on another dark future.

Throughout Jonathan Hickman's X-Men run, the Vault served as the centerpiece of the single most enticing sci-fi thread. It centered around a concept first introduced by Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo nearly 20 years ago – a time-dilated space allowed years to pass inside in the course of mere moments for the outside world and, as a result, populated by a highly evolved race of mutants labeled the Children of the Vault. Hickman reintroduced by considering the terrible capacities such a concept would pose and setting three nigh-immortal mutants against those Children. Subsequent events threatened all of Earth, but the Children were restrained by Krakoan technology… until the pages of X-Men: Hellfire Gala 2023 which caused it to fail and unleash these idiosyncratic and incomprehensibly advanced super beings.

Their impact upon the world as detailed by writer Deniz Camp and artist Luca Maresca in Children of the Vault #1 is entirely unexpected with a debut that will likely remind readers of The Authority. The Children emerge as saviors empowered to provide humanity solutions to ailments ranging from global warming to homelessness. It's a concept that has been considered many times in superhero comics since The Authority, recently in the X-Men line with the miracle drugs and forceful commandments delivered in House of X and Powers of X. What's impressive here is how that concept is updated.

That comes through forcefully in an initial framing that looks at some of the ugliest modern consequences of globalization, capitalism, and colonialism. It seeks to place the reader in the shoes of those seeking help, first and foremost, which makes what comes next seem all the more necessary. There is a very palpable fear that the future has betrayed future generations, which makes the promise of solutions coming from the (Vault's) future all the more wondrous, even if we as readers know to always expect another shoe to drop in superhero comics.

Cable and Bishop are the deuteragonists of this series and serve as an excellent echoing of that concept as they're both returned from apocalyptic futures to improve the past. It would be enough for them to serve as hulking 80s action film leads with bad blood providing a pulpy thread to counter the cerebral elements in this series, but they instead deliver both brain and brawn for what's to come.

Their skepticism of the Children serves to explore what they are doing across the Earth and to reveal the generally poor state of that Earth. The genocidal threat of Orchis remains ever-present in these pages and make the readiness for saviors all the more sympathetic. Camp's data pages provide some of the best since Hickman's as well – never slowing the story, but providing plenty of vicious details and scope for readers when they investigate.

All of this provides framing for a potent story ahead with the conflict only emerging on the very last page, but the landscape surveyed throughout the first issue is impressive enough to demand further attention. The Children showcase a variety of fun designs that are well detailed by Yanick Paquette's cover but primarily glimpsed in more removed montages throughout the issue besides a single splash. Their feats cover the Earth and it's in the montage of so many places and accomplishments that artist Luca Maresca displays a much-needed versatility.

There is nothing inherently flashy about Maresca's style, but there's never any doubt about what is unfolding in one of the strangest comics published by Marvel this year. That clarity pays dividends in the down and dirty action sequences featuring both Cable and Bishop. They channel the bulk and grim determination of Predator's cast with guns (and metal arms) to match. Even as Children of the Vault seeks to evoke essential questions and tackle grim fare, there remains a genre joie de vivre that prevents the narrative from ever dragging.

Children of the Vault #1 lands with an energy, relevance, and sense of big comics fun that compares favorably to the heights of Wildstorm 25 years ago. Its eponymous heroes (?) arrive to confront a problem that complicates any notions of black-and-white morality. Paired against two of the X-Men's most stalwart anti-heroes with giant guns, they promise to tackle the existential terrors of our moment in a bold fashion that will manage to entertain with a wry smile and dark sense of humor. This series is shaping up to be the silver lining of Hellfire Gala 2023 and perhaps a whole lot more.

Published by Marvel Comics

On August 9, 2023

Written by Deniz Camp

Art by Luca Maresca

Colors by Carlos Lopez

Letters by Cory Petit

Cover by Yanick Paquette and Guru-eFX