Details: More information can be found at https://www.marvel.com/comics/issue/72985/house_of_x_2019_2
After the end of the Batman Who Laughs, I was worried about what my next must read book would be. I didn’t have much to worry about because that new book is this one. House of X is a companion book with Power of X, but I feel like this book is the true main book.
House of X #2 takes one of the primary characters in the X-Men franchise and rectons her history, thereby retconning a lot of the X-Men’s history. It’s quite the trip as we not only explore this characters history, but we get to explore the intricacies of her powers, which is one of my favorite kinds of stories when it comes to superpowers. There will be spoilers ahead.
So as it turns out, Moira MacTaggert, the one time lover of Charles Xavier, has been a mutant this entire time. Her power is that when she dies, she is sent back in time and reborn all over again back into the fetus in her mother’s womb. The book describes it as reincarnation, but it’s really more of a Groundhog’s day that takes place over the course of a person’s life instead of only for one day. This is a superpower that has been exhausted ad nauseum in many different forms of fiction. It is a particularly favorite superpower to be used in anime and manga, except they usually describe it more like having real life save files (like in a video game) rather than as a form of reincarnation.
This issue primarily explores the history of Moira and her past lives as well as the nuances of her power, and boy do I like nuanced powers. There are few things I like more than a tale that explores superpowers, especially when it establishes some very clear limitations on those powers. Moira’s powers seemingly make her immortal at first, but we quickly learn that is not the case.
Destiny, a very powerful mutant with the ability to see the future to an amazing degree, finds Moira in her second or third life, right before Moira creates a medicine that can get rid of mutants. Destiny kills Moira’s entire staff and destroys the medicine. Right before killing Moira, Destiny tells her that if Moira ever tries to create the stuff again, Destiny will know and stop her again in any of her subsequent reincarnations. In fact, Destiny tells Moira that if she dies or is killed before she becomes a teenager (which is when her powers manifested), she would die permanently and never come back. Even crazier, Destiny’s ability to see the future is so powerful that she tells Moira that she will only reincarnate ten or eleven times before dying permanently. It’s a crazy moment that not only showcases how powerful Destiny is, but gives weight to Moira’s actions. At the present time in the story, Moira is living her tenth reincarnation, which also happens to be the same reality as the primary Marvel continuity. It’s a little confusing as to whether each reincarnation creates another dimension/timeline or whether Moira is actually rewriting the main continuity every time she reincarnates.
What is most impressive is that Hickman has somehow managed to retcon X-Men history without really changing anything. The events that took place still took place. It’s just that with this new bit of information, we get this trippy tale about how Moira secretly masterminded and altered the overall history of the X-Men. And it is a great science fiction story. It’s not really time travel because we aren’t going back in time. It’s more of a parallel dimensions story, except that we aren’t dealing with any parallel dimensions anymore since everything takes place in the primary Marvel Comics continuity. Every thing matters and will have an effect on the rest of the Marvel universe. Moira knows this is very likely her last reincarnation and so her actions matter.
The art here is just fantastic. It matches the story and tone well.
Undoubtedly, it is the story that shines here. It works on two levels. The first is the exploration of Moira’s powers. There are some detailed glimpses in to the nuance of how her powers work that I really love. For instance, in Moira’s first life, she didn’t know she had powers, married, had some kids, and died a happy old lady. When she reincarnated, she could no longer marry her prior husband because she knew him too well and could not help but resent all the character flaws she had learned the last time around. It’s such an unnecessary detail towards the overall story, but adds so much color to the story and Moira’s character.
The other part of the story that works is how it seeks to retcon X-Men history into something a little more coherent for Hickman’s purposes. Some people hate retcons, but if you like comic books, I think you should just get used to it. It’s a symptom of the genre. Author’s jump on and off franchises. They don’t always respect each other’s story arcs, especially when there are decades of history to familiarize yourself with. In this second issue, Hickman does a great job of navigating details of X-Men history and blowing our minds off with a new piece of information (Moira’s powers) that changes everything as we have understood it. Hickman does not cover every details. There aren’t enough pages in the world for that. But he does do a decent enough job to prove that he is an X-Men fan who has done his fair share of research into the history of this franchise.
Overall, House of X is a great book so far and easily my must read book right now. If you like X-Men at all or Hickman’s writing style, you need to get this book. It is a great time to be an X-Men fan.