A Retrospective on House of X & Powers of X (2019)
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the X-Men comprise some of the most extensive history within comic books. Consequently, it can be difficult to keep up with every iteration and every run focused on the superhero team and their various offshoots.
Over the last few years, the X-Men have undergone numerous changes. For example, Jean Grey resurrected after over a decade of being dead. Cassandra Nova made her comeback, and a plethora of new characters made their introductions and subsequently joined the iconic team.
With this, the X-Men runs over the last couple of years have comprised a mixed bag. Some titles stood out, others faltered in their lack of ingenuity.
This all brings us to today.
In July of 2019, House of X #1 was released. From writer Jonathan Hickman, this installment features a total, and much-needed, revamp of the X-Men mythos. Alongside artists Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva, the world that both House of X (HoX) and Powers of X (PoX) build is quite uncanny.
As a result, readers find themselves enthralled in a completely innovative X-Men saga that reads like a breath of fresh air.
So, without further ado, let's dive into these two series and assess the way they have changed the game for our favorite mutant squad.
The Once and Future Moira MacTaggert
Moira MacTaggert has been a persistent figure in X-Men comics since her debut in 1975. However, it would not be until 2019 that the character would undergo its most significant development yet.
In Powers of X #1, Hickman reveals that Moira is actually a mutant with the ability to reincarnate. In fact, she is currently living her tenth life.
Of course, this particular ability alone is incredibly fascinating. However, it is the context of the ability, and thus each of Moira's lives, that really drives the nuance of her character in HoX and PoX.
Without giving too much away, each and every one of Moira's lives has encompassed a different perspective on mutants' relationship with humankind. In one life, Moira finds herself combatting mutant nature by developing a cure. In another, Moira finds herself fervently fighting by Charles Xavier's side for the sake of mutantkind. In other instances, Moira Is a radicalized mutant, fighting alongside the likes of Magneto and Apocalypse.
Ultimately though, each and every strategy Moira has taken on has resulted in the defeat of mutants, no matter the circumstances.
This continuous mutant fate brings one to ponder the inevitability of their eradication. Perhaps the extinction of mutants is imprinted across the very fabric of space and time. Perhaps every civilization whether mutant, machine, or human are innately inclined to engage in violence and, thus, domination. Therefore, one can assume that peace is an impossible standard to attain as destruction is unavoidable.
Thus, in her tenth and current life, Moira arguably takes her boldest approach yet.
Upon her first interaction with Charles Xavier, in this tenth life, Moira reveals her past lives to him. Through this, she reveals the nine previous fates of mutantkind, and Charles comes to the conclusion that he must stand with Magneto in order to potentially accomplish peace.
Consequently, the two forge an alliance with Magneto, an alliance that catalyzes the establishment of Krakoa as a mutant stronghold.
Now, Moira has been harboring the memories and lessons from each of her lives to ensure the livelihood of mutantkind. Though, one cannot help but ponder the gravity of this information Moira holds.
In Powers of X, it is revealed that Moira will reach a permanent fate if she dies prior to developing her mutant gene. Therefore, yes, Moira is an integral key in influencing the hope of mutantkind's prosperity. However, her days are certainly numbered as there are only so many lives she can live.
Mutantkind tends to be at the brunt of destruction, but with Moira's foresight there is hope. However, that hope dangles by a thread as there is no way to know when Moira will meet her own fate.
The Right of Unity
One of the primary pillars of the HoX and PoX saga is the establishment of Krakoa as a mutant nation. Of course, having the world recognize mutantkind as a legitimate body of people has long been a struggle for the X-Men and mutants in general.
So, how does mutantkind succeed this time around?
Well, in House of X, Charles Xavier offers the human world an opportunity. Through Krakoa, mutants have developed cures for humanity's worst diseases, remedies that promote the extension of one's lifespan, and a universal antibiotic.
However, he clarifies that this offering is not a gift to humanity. He asserts that humans do not deserve such a gift as most of them have either actively tried to destroy mutants, or they have passively stood by as mutants experienced genocide and prejudice.
Consequently, one can perceive Charles to have given up on humanity in a way. However, this abdication is not necessarily negative.
For Charles, peace is still an option.
However, the channels by which he pursues peace come from within his own community. Charles no longer trusts humanity to be an ally, so he has forged a new way amongst those he knows he can trust.
Therefore, Charles proposes an exchange of sorts. He promises to provide humanity with the medicine if humankind acknowledges Krakoa as a sovereign nation.
Humans agree to this exchange and, thus, find themselves coexisting with mutants.
Because of this, Krakoa becomes established as a mutant nation, a sanctuary. One can then assume that Charles Xavier's vision of a peaceful future for mutants has been fulfilled as he has co-pioneered the creation of a mutant utopia.
Though, one cannot help but wonder if doom is still inevitable.
Long Live Krakoa
As aforementioned, Krakoa itself operates as a sentient utopia for mutantkind. As a result, Krakoa exemplifies mutant culture, even conveying a language that is embedded in the minds of all mutants upon their entry into the land.
Another awesome aspect of HoX and PoX is this portrayal of mutant culture through subtle details. Yes, the language is one aspect, though the way in which mutants interact with each other is another.
In various sequences, we find mutants referring to each other as "brothers" and "sisters". Charles even refers to various mutants as his children. In the context of HoX and PoX, most mutants understand that the only way to forge peace is to respect one another and exist as a harmonious unit. Thus, establishing these familial bonds only strengthens the tethers mutants have to each other and Krakoa itself.
Now, with any sovereign land and its respective culture, it must be managed by some sort of council.
Oftentimes, the depiction of political matters in literary mediums can come across as drab. In the context of House of X and Powers of X though, these political developments are actually engaging.
For example, as Emma Frost oversees international trade relations, we witness the expansion of Krakoa's reach from within its own setting to the outside world. Additionally, the diverse Krakoan council itself promotes an interesting play between characters.
We witness characters such as Sebastian Shaw sit across Jean Grey, both maintaining the same authority on Krakoan law.
Ultimately, Hickman excels in his worldbuilding throughout HoX and PoX. Every aspect of Krakoa is constructed with creativity and boldness. Additionally, most aspects of the story and Krakoa's own development is intertwined.
The politics, the character developments, the evolution of mutants, the time jumps, and all the interlocking narratives merge fluidly as they create this incredible and unparalleled saga in the X-Men mythos.
Revamps are always risky as new interpretations tend to initially be met with skepticism. I myself was a skeptic as I did not expect anything particularly new to come out of House of X or Powers of X.
I expected convoluted stories that gave readers more of the same.
I am so happy I was proven wrong.
House of X and Powers of X certainly provide the X-Men with the new dawn they so desperately deserved.
So, if you are looking to engage with some of the latest iterations of the X-Men, I cannot recommend House of X and Powers of X highly enough.