Excerpt from the cover of House of X #1, with Cyclops, Jean Grey, Magneto, Wolverine, and an unknown 5th X-Man

House of X/Powers of X: Comic Review

A while back I gave some thoughts on my concerns about the upcoming X-Men series House of X and Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman, and where the X-Line was going to go from there. Well, Hickman’s first two series – House of X and Powers of X – are now out and I’ve read them, and now it’s time to re-assess some of my analysis, as we’ve gotten into the series coming out of those series.

Mutantkind and Humankind

So, one of the concepts in X-line prior to House of X and Powers of X, particularly coming out of Grant Morrison’s run, was the idea of “mutant culture” – that mutants, being an oppressed minority, would congregate together, and basically form their own approaches to things. The idea was to take the mutant metaphor and expand on it one step further in order to apply that metaphor to ideas like the LGBT, Jewish, and ethnic minority communities.

Some of probably the most distinct examples of this were with the introduction of the idea of “Mutie Town” – a district in New York with a heavy mutant population, with businesses run by mutants, a mutant pride parade, and all that sort of thing. And then Decimation happened and a lot of that went to crap as the machinations of Marvel Editorial to make mutants more “special”, ended up forcing this implementation of the metaphor on the back burner. By some apocryphal accounts, this was somewhat deliberate, as the execution of these concepts were the thing that motivated Editorial to action – that the attempts to make mutants more familiar by including concepts from the real world, it made them less special.

Near as I can tell House of X and Powers of X are the result of Hickman taking that criticism, and then trying to find a way to show the concept of “Mutant Culture”, without becoming too familiar. In the process, I’m concerned that Hickman may have over-corrected.

The Many Lives Of Moira

The premise of the books are, together, based around the idea that Moira McTaggart, Charles Xavier’s old flame and one of Mutantkind’s longest Human allies before her tragic death from the Legacy Virus – is both not dead, and is actually a mutant. Further, her Mutant Power is basically reincarnation and memory transfer between lives – when she dies, all her memories of that life carry over to the point her power re-awakened originally. Further, once she reached adulthood she would have de-facto immortality (like Destiny) until the day she died, at which point the cycle would begin again.

Because of this, she was able to learn the horrifying truth: Xavier’s dream will fail. So will Magneto’s. So will Apocalypse. So will the dream of members of Humanity who want to wipe out Mutantkind through the Sentinels – the Sentinels will turn on them too.

Further, Mutantkind is itself something of a dead end – Humanity, through the research of scientists like Tony Stark, is moving towards transhumanism, and with Mutantkind’s cultural attitudes, they aren’t, so Humanity, while initially outpaced, will eventually leave them behind.

So Moira has a new plan. Krakoa. Yes, the living Mutant Island from Giant-Size X-Men #1. The idea is with the help of Krakoa, combined with the help of several other mutants: Goldballs (from Grant Morrison’s Run), Doug Ramsey, and some of the various psychics who Xavier has allied with (Jean & Rachel Grey, Emma Frost), they can make the metaphorical mutant death revolving door less metaphorical, by allowing any mutant whose brain wave patterns has been backed up by Cerebro back from the dead.

Further, in an effort to keep humanity’s governments from unleashing their full powers of destruction onto the new mutant nation of Krakoa, they have to sell (not give away), a powerful array of drugs that will benefit mankind as a whole – curing diseases, serving as an adaptive antibiotic that will solve the problem of superbugs, and serving as a partial anti-agathic by expanding human lifespans by at least 5 years.

Hazy Picture

The metatextual implication of all of this is clear. With House of X and Powers of X – Hickman is trying to create a completely new era of what the X-men line will be, and is making shout-outs to earlier works to use the past as the building block of this new future, through the contributions of four major turning-points in the X-line: Krakoa & Giant-Size X-Men, Chris Clairmont with Doug Ramsey and Moira McTaggart, ’90s X-men through references to Moira’s death and the transition of Emma Frost into a more heavy protagonist, and Grant Morrison through taking the theoretical joke character of Goldballs and turning him into the crux of Mutantkind’s future.

The catch of all of this is that it puts a serious question on how the Mutant Metaphor is going to be executed going forward because the Metaphor works best when Mutants are part of general society – and the whole concept of Krakoa is that is a total rejection of the rest of society. Now, stuff like this has happened in the past – but it hasn’t worked well – see the complicated messy history of various “freed slave” colonies in Africa like Sierra Leone and Liberia.

However, those case studies aren’t Krakoa – which complicates things further. It also muddies the metaphor, the Mutant Metaphor that is, because for the metaphor to work you need to have parallels and connections to overall larger human society – hence my earlier piece about the need for diverse voices on the X-line. Over the course of House of X and Powers of X, Hickman doesn’t pursue those parallels – and indeed eschews them entirely.

However, as Hickman is the show-runner of the X-Line and its ancillary books, there’s room for other writers on spinoff books like Marauders, Fallen Angels, New Mutants, and X-Force to spackle over the cracks that this framework has introduced, with Hickman’s presence making clear that these ideas are ones that he wanted to put under consideration.

That said, making the reader rely on ancillary books to make sure the initial story survives the reader’s first impressions is not necessarily ideal. House of X and Powers of X ultimately are in the position where, whether Hickman intended this or not, they have to serve as a foundation for the X-line to come, and I’m not entirely sure how firm that foundation is.

House of X and Powers of X are both available for purchase from Amazon.com. Buying anything through those links will help support the site.