House of X and Powers of X have been exceptionally written and drawn comics. They’re also exceptional at making you think — not just about mutants, but about time, the coexistence of mutants and humans, and most importantly, what Jonathan Hickman is really up to. It’s hard not to postulate and think about what these two six-issue series mean to the X-Men, mutants, and Marvel Comics in general given how the Marvel marketing department is tantalizing us. Just look at this ad from May:
These panels popped up in Powers of X #1 and fully had readers wondering what was going on. This second issue delivers an answer and it’s a satisfying one. It only took an entire issue to make us see why.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Learn the truth about one of the X-Men’s closest allies…and then begin the fight for the future of mutantkind! Superstar writer Jonathan Hickman (AVENGERS, SECRET WARS, FANTASTIC FOUR) continues reshaping the X-Men’s world with Marvel Young Gun artist Pepe Larraz (EXTERMINATION, AVENGERS)!
Why does this matter?
If you haven’t heard about what Jonathan Hickman is up to with artists Pepe Larraz and R. B. Silva have been up to you might live under a rock! That said, check out my interview with Hickman where he said, “We’re going in a radically different direction” for a bit of insight into what this new direction for the Marvel mutants is all about.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Marvel did not release a preview for this book and it’s immediately obvious from the start. It all hinges on a huge reveal about Moira. The issue begins when she was only 13 years old and plays out her entire life. She dies. Like any good novel, you turn the page and a shock reveal occurs that rattles you. She is reborn. Your imagination immediately runs wild to figure out what is happening. Hickman and Larraz then cleverly cut to Moira on the park bench speaking to Xavier as we saw at the beginning of last issue (and saw in the marketing image above). The story immediately has you grasping at the meaning and what is that’s being told to you. Hickman then punctuates the last page with the words, “Moira was a mutant,” and gets your imagination running wild again.
This issue has the science-fiction sensibilities to only peel back the curtain so much so as to drive your interest and increase the implications of what it is you’re learning. Hickman has you in the palm of his hand. From there the comic goes into two pages of prose (after the beautifully crafted credits page by Tom Muller) which efficiently catch you up to speed on Moira’s understanding of what her powers mean. As a woman of science, and this is the main way she’s been written in the past, she must figure out if these are powers or if she’s crazy. Naturally, she comes to the right conclusion seeing as she’s super smart and the comic runs free from there.
The book is going to be compared to Groundhog Day (it’s more like “Groundhog Life”) and while I don’t blame anyone for making that connection this is far deeper and more interesting. In only a few short pages Hickman has relayed a complex and difficult idea in a clear way so that you’ll run with every twist and turn from there. It’s also fascinating to see how Moira can change course in different lives first hating Xavier and seeing a god complex in him, but then later see it entirely differently. It’s a narrative structure that makes you ponder about your own life and wonder if you had hindsight or context things might go differently.
The art by Larraz, with colors by Marte Gracia, is clean and detailed. There are details here and there that add to a panel like Moira’s sweater when she first meets Xavier or the details of a Sentinel we’ve never seen before. There’s a dark edge to the work too that suits the low level of dread and gloom that hovers over the bigger story where in the future humanity is lost. Just look at a close up of Xavier telling the world “And I am a mutant,” and you can see subtle shadows on his cheekbones and a shadow to the edge of his face.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
I really don’t see any problems with this issue. It can be read by anybody although it is safe to say the weight and purpose would be lost if you haven’t read the prior issues.
Is it good?
The beauty of this issue is how it stands alone and could be read by anybody and be appreciated for what it does. At the same time, the implication of what we learn is so big it changes everything if you’ve been following along. In many ways this issue, and by extension, these series, are creating a new direction for the X-Men that is the seminal focus and timeline to pay attention to.
This book, and the two issues prior to it, are very good at showing you something and then building on that. It’s a structure that gets more interesting as you turn the pages. There is a lot of payoffs here with key lines of dialogue we’ve seen before popping up. It’s remarkable how tight the creators have control over the reader. This is an absorbing sci-fi drama not to be missed. This is edge of your seat comics storytelling.
Listen to the latest episode of our weekly Comics podcast now to hear more of our thoughts on Jonathan Hickman’s new direction for the X-Men