Comic Book Review: House of X and Powers of X

Above is a short interview with the author, Jonathan Hickman.

Details: More information can be found at https://www.marvel.com/comics/issue/72991/powers_of_x_2019_1 https://www.marvel.com/comics/issue/72984/house_of_x_2019_1

Score: 8.7/10

Powers of X just published its sixth and last issue, thus ending the twelve issue miniseries that was House of X and Powers of X. Marvel recently got the movie rights to X-Men back, which means that they can freely write good X-Men stories again without worrying about promoting a movie franchise they don’t own. As a result, Jonathan Hickman (wrote Avengers, Fantastic Four, Secret Wars) was enlisted to relaunch the X-Men franchise and tell some new stories. The resulting X-Men stories are some of the most revolutionary in the history of the X-Men franchise. House of X and Powers of X add massive changes and new ideas to the franchise while reminding us of the classic themes of what the X-Men have always been about. When you read these two miniseries, you get the sense that they were written by a longtime X-Men fan with a wide ranging knowledge of the details of the franchise, and who also wants to make a statement about what the X-Men are really about.

There will be spoilers ahead.

If you haven’t read the books, here’s a brief synopsis. Moira MacTaggert, former lover of Professor Xavier, has secretly been a mutant this entire time. Her power is that when she dies, the timeline resets and her fetus gets perfect memory of the past lives she’s lived. As of Powers of X issue #6, Moira is currently living her tenth reincarnated life which is also the same timeline as the current Marvel comics continuity.

Over the course of Moira’s past lives, mutants always lose and end up being enslaved or exterminated by mankind. It is in this current tenth life that Moira decides to do something radically different and let’s Xavier read her mind and the memories of all her past lives. With this life changing knowledge, Xavier enacts an immense plan to unite all mutants, good or bad, under the banner of a single nation and, through cloning and memory implants, brings back to life every single mutant that has died in the X-Men franchise. In fact, any mutant who dies going forward will be cloned and memories implanted, thus providing a very meta way that allows Hickman to bring characters back to life while also making their deaths meaningful. Hickman has made it clear that these are clones, which means that the original still dies with all the emotions that come with that.

This is just a few of the radical changes and retcons that Hickman has employed to change the X-Men and make them fresh again. What’s most amazing to me about these two books is that Hickman dives deep into X-Men lore, making tons of references and call backs to old X-Men moments and obscure X-Men characters. For instance, Goldballs was mostly a joke character whose power was the ability to make an infinite amount of gold balls. Hickman has taken this character and turned him into one of the essential five mutants necessary to clone dead mutants and bring them back to life. The “gold balls” were in actuality embryos which can be repurposed to create human life. Combined with the powers of four other mutants, Goldballs has now become a central character in the franchise. It’s things like this where Hickman takes this weird joke character and turns him into a mutant messiah that shows just how much thought has gone into this series. House of X and Powers of X feel like they were written by an X-Men fan for X-Men fans.

House of X and Powers of X are often very meta with many plot points that seemingly have full awareness of the flaws of the franchise and comic book tropes in general. The cloning and bring back to life is one of these plot points. Every comic book fan knows that death is temporary in comic books. Heroes and villains constantly die and come back to life. Whereas here, Hickman spent a whole issue showing that even though they were cloned back again, the deaths of the original characters was still painful, gruesome and tragic. The death is not undone, but the character goes on. Hickman has seemingly found a way around this comic book trope of dying and bouncing back a few issues later.

There’s also a lot of character moments throughout the books that re-explores many longtime X-Men characters and their role in X-Men history, and then repurposing those character for Hickman’s greater narrative. The character of Destiny also comes to mind. She used to be a much more minor character, but Hickman has given her new life and made her one of the most dangerous mutants that currently exist in the X-Men franchise. Even though she’s dead.

With all this said, these books are still undoubtedly Hickman stories through and through. There are still the many diagrams and pages of text Hickman loves to employ. Usually in comic books, you show story through pictures, not text or pie charts. Hickman instead loves to employ these methods and somehow, they work. Then there’s the high brow science fiction that turns old, obscure Marvel bad guys into technological, galaxy spanning gods. While this was sort of cool to see, I’m glad that they weren’t part of the main House of X book and were left to the side, because this story needs to remain about the X-Men and what happens to them in the main continuity. It reminds me of one of Hickman’s biggest weaknesses which is that he loves to dive into hard science fiction while introducing a bunch of plot points that he later either forgets about or ends unsatisfactorily. I hope he stays focused while working on the X-Men and so far, he mostly has.

The art for these books has been stupendous. Not much more needs to be said about this except it’s some of the best art out there. I wouldn’t say that it’s the best art aesthetically, but the art just meshes with the story really well. It’s clear that many conversation were had between author and artist in order to get this level of synergy where the art does such a great job of conveying such a complex story with so many details and moving parts.

Overall, House of X and Powers of X is immensely rewarding for X-Men fans. It introduces a lot of new ideas while revisiting the history of the franchise. These two books do the amazing job of enacting real change within the franchise while feeling like those changes were earned. It felt like the changes were built upon the foundation of the X-Men’s history rather than having that foundation completely torn apart and having a new foundation constructed. This is the same X-Men house, Hickman has merely added a new level to it. I am immensely interested in where Hickman takes the franchise and look forward to the upcoming X-Men books.

…Which leads to the Dawn of X launch of new X-Men books. Marvel is launching at least six new X-Men books with this relaunch of the franchise. The main book is titled “X-Men” and will be written by Hickman himself. That’s the only book I care to read as of now. The other books are written by other authors. They may be good or bad, but I just want to see Hickman’s vision right now. Hickman is also writing New Mutants, but that just feels like a fun project for a longtime New Mutants fan. As someone who didn’t read New Mutants, I could care less. The only other book that looks interesting in the relaunch is Excalibur, but that’s only because Apocalypse is in the book as a good guy. I can’t wait to see that team fall apart as Apocalypse is too much of a crazy bitch for things not to fall apart in that book.

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