Jonathan Hickman has changed everything about the X-Men, but at the same time, he’s kept it familiar. Working with R.B. Silva and Pepe Larraz, these creators have invigorated the mutant storyline and started all anew. They’ve done this in the 12 part story across House of X and Powers of X, which has led to the current Dawn of X line of X-Men stories. How’d they pull it off? With clever, hard science fiction ideas taking place over multiple periods in time, an epic journey of multiple lives lived, and the always valiant ideal of never giving up. Even after death. If you entered a comic shop just once between July and October you’ve probably heard fans and shop owners deem this one of the best superhero stories to come out of comics in decades. They’re not wrong. Collected for the first time today, you’ll find 488 pages of delightfully clever, concise, and invigorating science fiction storytelling.
This hardcover comes with a dustcover with art by Pepe Larraz that imbues the sense of blockbuster cinema we’ve come to expect. Inside is a simple but oh so effective design by Tom Muller that cleverly uses his circular X design with House of X on the front and Powers of X on the back. Take a peek below.
Muller’s design can be seen in the opening pages as well as the credits page. I love the basic, up-close nature of the design which is both loud and yet subdued.
Outside of these fine details, the hardcover comes with back matter that includes all the variant covers (with four per page) as well as four pages of sketches. The first two are by Pepe Larraz and feature designs of Karkoa and the Hatchery, with the final two by R.B. Silva consisting of character designs for Hunters, the Librarian, Theta Sentinel, Nimrod the Lesser, and Sylobel. Not necessarily deep dive extras, nor are there any words from the creators, but they are nice additions.
From there, the book is organized as you would read the single issues. The only difference is instead of full-color covers separating each issue, they are given a bit of extra design work (I assume by Tom Muller) that helps connect the cover art to the design via the use of solid color. Again, these are subtle yet very effective ways of making this book look and feel top of the line. Take a look below.
When read in one sitting, the reading experience is even better. I’m a huge science fiction fan and can say without hesitation Hickman has done excellent work blending hard science fiction ideas with superhero storytelling. Sure, there may be elements that go over your head upon first read, like the Phalanx, but it’s all very riveting and thought-provoking. What puts a smile on my face is how Hickman has taken a very bloated X-Men history and narrowed it down and given it a new purpose. All the stories you love still exist, but they also don’t if current creators decide not to tackle things. It’s a clever way to take back the series from fandom and put creators back in control of the narrative without fans being angry about it. Sure, they can and will still disagree, but for what it’s worth, utilizing Moira and her hidden powers have enabled the mutant corner of Marvel to flourish anew.
I reviewed three of the 12 issues of the series for AIPT and loved nearly every minute of it. My favorite issue by far is House of X #2, which explains the mechanism by which this series reset things. This issue has the science-fiction sensibility 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.
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 seeing it entirely differently. It’s a narrative structure that makes you think about your own life and wonder if things might have gone differently if you had hindsight or different context.
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. These are the kinds of details the richness of the series lives by.
Possibly one of the weaker chapters is Powers of X #3, as it has one of the smaller stories to tell in all the chapters. Its implications are huge, but it takes place over only a few minutes and doesn’t tell us as much as other chapters in the series. When read as part of the bigger story in one sitting, though, it reads like a high-octane action scene. The art by R.B. Silva, colors by Marte Gracia, and inks by Silva and Adriano Di Benedetto should not go unnoticed in the Powers of X chapters, though. Silva does a wonderful job of telling a story for every character on the page. Magneto in Powers of X #2, for instance, is first cast in dark shadow behind his helmet, making him seem the supervillain we all know and love. After a revelation of sorts, he’s clearly seen and looks young and almost hopeful in his demeanor. Xavier meanwhile, with his mask that covers his eyes, is somewhat forceful in his body language and in one scene is almost telling Cyclops what to do rather than asking. A new alien threat is revealed near the end that’s hauntingly realized and yet is reduced to black with gray blobs and only a silhouette and the shine of light to realize the danger. Sharp stuff.
This is a bold new direction for X-Men and superhero comics in general — you just don’t see the type of impact this story made often. Not only did this require Marvel to have complete faith in Hickman, Silva, and Larraz’s vision, but it required fans to strap in for 12 weeks and take it all in. As Dawn of X continues each week and we get further away from HOX and POX, it’s easy to forget how groundbreaking this series was. This hardcover is the perfect opportunity to realize we’ve read nothing like this before, and are unlikely to ever again.
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