House of X and Powers of X had many spectacular attributes: Fantastic art, of course, by R.B. Silva and Pepe Larraz. Hard-hitting, emotional character moments, each of which was the culmination of long, emotional arcs in other stories and other books. And mysteries – Jonathan Hickman loves himself a mystery, a long confusing arc with a whole lot of seeding throughout his stories. Usually explained by a mysterious pale person, with pitch black eyes.
X-Men #12 is not really different: it hits all of those classic Jonathan Hickman story beats. There is a mysterious pale man, saying mysterious non-sequiturs, and both answering and raising mysteries. It’s a standard, common Jonathan Hickman story structure.
It’s also very, very good. It turns out that this Jonathan Hickman guy is pretty good at this comics thing!
Issue #12 is the mysterious backstory of the Summoner, the agent of Arakko – the lost sister island of Krakoa – who was rediscovered by the X-Men in the second issue of the series. It turns out that the summoner is arriving as part of a desperate plea for help from the lost mutant society that lived on Arakko, who are now beset by some evil army resident to the dimension where they now reside. Apocalypse, the issue reveals, has been secretly working behind the scenes over in Excalibur to build a portal to reach Arakko. It’s a prelude to the upcoming X of Swords, but does more than just scene setting in its own right.
Leniel Yu’s art is perfectly suited for the story, as well. Yu’s usual problem is that he has a problem portraying motion – he usually draws as if it were still images, over and over again. For many comics, that’s a problem, because the portrayal of motion is a critical part of what separates comics as a medium from just a series of paintings or drawings. But the framing of this issue – as a series of vignettes, related by the Summoner to Apocalypse – means that the way that Yu draws, the sort of motionless limbo that his art evokes, is actually perfectly suited to the story.
As usual, it’s hard to review a Jonathan Hickman book as a floppy. His stories are long, years-in-the-making mysteries, each with many subplots and mysteries that aren’t likely to be resolved for the next fifty issues. His books often read better as trades, or even as omnibuses. But, taking the single issue here for what it is, and analyzing it as just a single snapshot of a larger story, it’s a fascinating read.