The X-Men are back. After years of being sidelined in the Marvel comic book universe, the X-Men have returned to their rightful prominence. Heralded by the twin six-issue series House of X and Powers of X, the X-Pantheon is back with a full-line up of comic book titles consisting of X-Men, New Mutants, Excalibur, Marauders, X-Force, and Fallen Angels.
Thanks to a clever deux ex machina involving Cerbero, genome sequencing, and a truly epic backup strategy, fan-favorites like Cyclops and Professor Xavier are resurrected (and mostly sane!). Pretty much every major X-Men character, as well as many of the minor ones, have returned as well as the mutants of the world unite in a new nation located on the living (and mutant!) island of Krakoa. The sentient landmass worked with its mutant inhabitants to create three elixirs – one that extends life for five years, one that acts as a super antibiotic, and a third that cures diseases of the mind – which they, in turn, used to buy their way onto the world stage. With these gifts – and formal political recognition by the human governments – the X-Men initiated a new golden age.
That golden age has some potential conflicts. The idea behind the nation of Krakoa is that all mutants are welcome, including old enemies like Magneto, Mr. Sinister, Apocalypse, and the White Queen. These mutants, along with the best of the X-Men, serve on a ruling council for mutantkind that decides the course of the new nation.
House of X sets the table for the mutant resurgence by introducing the Krakoa nation-state and a new mutant-hunting Sentinels storyline. Powers of X looks at the resulting future history through centuries worth of time.
House of X
House of X uses a unique story device [SPOILERS, though you learn about this in Issue #1 of House of X]
Moria McTaggert, mutant researcher extraordinaire and Charles Xavier’s former love, is herself a mutant. Her hereto unknown power is one of resurrection; when she dies, she is reborn as herself, with all of her previous memories. As House of X, progresses, Moria experiences multiple lives, Groundhog Day-style, with mutantkind encountering disastrous ends in every timeline. Through trial and error, she builds different alliances meant to create, if not a utopia, then at least a future in which mutants survive. That leads to some unexpected alliances as she approaches traditional X-villains like Apocolypse and Mr. Sinister in a desperate attempt to avoid the seemingly inevitable doom of mutantkind.
Powers of X
Moria’s variant futures play out across Powers of X, which shows the near future, mid-future, and far-future of the X-clans. The immediate future sees the X-men up against new mutant-hunting Sentinel and their human collaborators. The intermediate future sees the Sentinels ascendent and hunting mutants to extinction, while the far future sees the return of the civilization-devouring techno-organic threat known as the Phalanx.
As you might expect, time manipulation plays a role in the Powers of X storylines, as the X-men and their descendants try to find/steal the technology and knowledge needed to avert catastrophe.
I loved the setup for Powers of X, in which we see how the various mutant futures play out. The execution wasn’t quite there, as the story could get confusing as you leap between epics and try to keep up with the myriad of new mutants being introduced. There’s no stand out among these futures (not like the original appearance of time-jumping Bishop), mostly because Powers of X doesn’t linger on any one era. It jumps so quickly between the different times that it’s difficult to become familiar with any of the cast.
That said … it’s a cool story technique and I’m thinking the new ongoing series may explore some of the in-between spaces left by the series.
House of X and Powers of X are meant to be read in tandem; reading one series but not the other would be confusing at best. Having read through it, I’m not quite sure how I feel about the twin storylines. It certainly sets up a powerful – and well-thought-out – foundation for future X-stories, but I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop … and it never did. Aspects of the new storyline don’t quite fit right – would the X-men really start working with a newly-benevolent Apocolypse? How could they possibly trust Mr. Sinister, given all that’s come before? The answer, at least, based on the twin mini-series, is that they don’t have a choice. In all the other timelines, the mutants failed by not working together. In this one, they have a chance, but only if they work with their enemies.
Meanwhile, Professor Charles Xavier is creepy in a New-Age-cult-leader sort of way. Heck, the whole Kartoka set up seems a little too good to be true, leading me to believe it’s all going to fall apart in spectacular fashion. For now, though, it should provide a solid foundation for re-building the X-Men franchise. The relaunch and its formula for resurrecting X-Men means that all of the fan favorites who’ve been killed of over the years can be restored, returning the franchise to its previous state while still advancing the story.
As someone who felt that the X-Men had veered too far from its roots over the years, this is a welcome return to form.