Oh, X-Men, you lovable but convoluted train wreck. Ever since the famous 1981 storyline, “Days of Futures Past”, introduced time travel to the X-Men, its borderline become a stable of the series plots ever since, both good and bad. The bad is that if one were to examine...
Oh, X-Men, you lovable but convoluted train wreck. Ever since the famous 1981 storyline, “Days of Futures Past”, introduced time travel to the X-Men, its borderline become a stable of the series plots ever since, both good and bad. The bad is that if one were to examine all the stories and creative teams work on X-Men, Uncanny, New Mutants, Excalibur, Legacy, New X-Men, X-Force, and 200 other X-spin-off books the timeline as a whole is mountain of conflicting timestreams and continuities. The series has come and gone with various creative teams shifting the X-Men timeline again and again.
Enter Fantastic Four and Avengers scribe, Jonathan Hickman, who’s been out of mainstream comics five years. Returning to Marvel, Hickman has gotten has hands on the X-Men and, oh boy, it’s one hell of a reboot gamechanger for the mutants that we haven’t had since 2001’s Grant Morrison’s X-MEN. This is ambitious stuff.
HOUSE OF X/POWERS OF X collects issues #1-6 of each series.
Long time human X-Men supporter character Moira MacTaggert has made a shicking discovery: she’s really a mutant. Her mutant power is having 10 lives. After each death, she is reborn with all previous knowledge even in the womb. After various lifetimes, Moira knows all that is true across them is that mutants will be extinct thanks to human developing Sentinels over years into the perfect mutant killing machine, Nimrod. Moira has tried every conceivable way to prevent this in each life to no avail. Now on her final life, Moira decides to go big: recruit Charles Xavier and Magneto at start of their careers and form an alliance that all mutants, both good and evil, will live on the island known as Krakoa, free from all human problems in exchange a new revolutionary drug to human to make Krakoa a mutant government. Things look good for mutant and even human kind. But that much power in one spot is still enough to unnerve most governments, so much like all mutants under one banner, the governments of the worlds have united together to stop mutant kind in their own way, one that will affect the future by not only 100 years, but 1000 years in the future.
If that sounds like a lot to take in, that is because it is. Jonathan Hickman’s HX/PX is a daunting, dense, ambitious, and wide-effecting book that demands to be read slowly. It’s not to be taken lightly as a few hours of your time. There is a lot of reading here for the better as Hickman builds up a massive political thriller and sci-fi story mixed together, with shades of good and bad. 50+ years of mutants having to survive in the Marvel landscape has made it where mutants have had enough this is them putting the foot down on the world. A good majority of X-lore shows up one way or another as Hickman himself said 92 Heroes appear, with 91 villain appearances as well, all having a part (small or large) to the whole thing, specifically the newly retconned Moira MacTaggert, Charles Xavier, and Magneto. Hands down, Hickman’s best portrayal is Magento and Xavier being akin to Reed Richards and Doctor Doom. Both are cold and subtle in their actions, but they truly are the heart of this new series going forward. Xavier walks around looking with Cerebro (strangely looking an awful lot like The Maker, Reed Richards evil counter-part) that you never see his face giving vibes that he may or may not be doing the right thing this time. Even Magneto walks the line on this new order, even mentioning my favorite piece in the whole book near the end where everything comes together and Magneto admits he should be crying from seeing his vision of Mutant superiority and independence, yet it doesn’t feel right (referring to the numerous actions Xavier and many others take over the course of the book as Xavier has always been the good guy against Magneto’s evil actions). There is plenty of that and other psychobabble about technology and pseudo-science fiction. This is a dense read about the X-Men like never before, which is interesting because this isn’t really an X-Men book by any means. It’s really a Mutant themed book with certain X-characters leading the charge into the greater Marvel 616 Universe.
Hickman has it all designed to be digested with the story as it jumps between four time periods. You know the title Powers of X is a pun of the numerical number, 10 (you know the math basis 10 to the X number? 10 to the 0th power is 1, 10 to the 1st power is 10, 10 to the 2nd power is 100, and 10 to the 3rd power is 1000). So X0 is Year One, where Xavier can still walk and planning on starting his school for mutants, X1 take place in the present day, X2 takes place 100 years in the future, and X3 takes place 1000 years from now. Hickman does a little Quentin Tarantino in making the story jump forward and behind in time, while also some jumping to Moira’s various lifespans. It’s a lot to take in, but I think Hickman makes it come full circle reasonably well.
Hickman posits Moira as a guide to the whole X-Men lore from the various story plots writers have put her. Each of her lifetimes is explained as happening as being X-Men canon if one were to really examine it. It makes it so just about every event in X-Men history has happened.
The only reason I’m not giving this a 5-star rating, and I’m awfully tempted to do so, is this is still a continuity nightmare. I’ll give Hickman the credit where credit is due for the massive number of main X-stories and characters are presented and streamlined for this new era, but it still feels massively convoluted. X-Men stories have been geraniums. The main story takes place during Moria’s 10th life, but it’s as if Hickman looked at the greatest hits of X-Men lore and didn’t really study them. Many characters who were dead are alive with no explanation, certain characters have surprise powers never followed up on like Moira or Mister Sinister, and because we don’t know if these characters are clones, copies or from possible time periods or dimensions. I get it Hickman hasn’t gotten to that point yet further down the line, but he explains so much of the inner workings of this new series internal systems, he leaves many characters without any real preface to who or what they are.
I’m no aficionado on X-Men, yet I’ve read my share of X-Men comics, so I understood many references and character powers and inner workings. Yet if your someone is really new to the X-franchise, you have to suspend your disbelief on most of the cast and their purpose because it never gets explained in favor of the massive picture Hickman has here. Most culturally significant characters like Wolverine, Cyclops, Charles Xavier, and Magneto are known thanks to the films, but the other 80% of the cast barely get explanation. You might see a cool looking character like Exodus and think “what makes this guy powerful enough to be one of the elites on Krakoa?” X-fans know who he is and why that makes sense, but if you’re not a reader of X-Men lore, you won’t know anything further about him and plenty of other characters as well.
I can easily see the day when another writer takes over and just sweeps everything away and just put the Hickman Timeline in its own Universe. As much as Hickman put into cleaning up such a convoluted timeline that is X-Men, if you really start connecting all the timelines and characters, it still doesn’t quite add up to the X-Men history as a whole. I really wish a writer will come along and just go back to Days of Futures Past and work from there without time travel or other dimensions. It’s become such a crux for the series anymore that I’m tired of it as it’s the go-to method of trying to clean up X-lore, but it just impounds further. For example, many of these characters died just before being relaunched under Hickman and are here alive and well. Now Hickman does explain a certain plot point at the possibly why this happened (it’s a spoiler moment that I don’t want to give away), yet it still doesn’t explain everything because Hickman is using the same MacGuffin time travel/Space piece to clean things up, which also creates new problems in its place. There are various time lapses that happen here and happened during other famous X-arcs that are acknowledged by characters, and it just doesn’t fit when you look at it making sense.
Still, HOUSE OF X/POWERS OF X is a damn good new beginning for the X-Franchise that hasn’t had this kind of clarity in two decades at least. It’s ambitious, well-written, and means monstrous business in terms of the status quo for here on out. With the addition of Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva’s lush and gorgeous artwork to convey Hickman’s grandiose dense script. It’s a work of massive proportions that works on most levels, but the paradox of explaining character personalities and powers to characters leaves a hole in making it seem like it’s the main 616 Universe that until Hickman can explain down the line, it’s just looking more like another X-timeline offshoot that will be called the Hickman timeline or alternative Earth due to the ramifications that Hickman is notorious for. Still, this is a great opening volume that really changes the status quo of the X-Men in a long time. Even if the follow path lead by Hickman on numerous creative teams and books may not live up to what he has setup, it’s still an impressive new beginning for the Children of the Atom.