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Oct 14

House of X / Powers of X

Posted on Monday, October 14, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

But is it any good?

Pretty much everyone would agree that the X-books needed a shot in the arm. House of X and Powers of X are certainly that. People are talking again, in a way that they haven’t been talking in years. Not only that, they’re talking about the plot. Jonathan Hickman has begun his X-Men run by bringing out the high concept ideas from the off – Moira’s multiple lives, the mutant island of Krakoa, the apparent immortality through back-up copies – and for the most part, people have bought it. In both senses of the word. So, as an opening arc, job done. Nothing in the X-Men has produced this sort of reaction since the start of the Grant Morrison run, back in 2001.

A book like this is inevitably going to divide the audience to some degree. For one thing, it’s very different in tone and focus, which means it’s not necessarily what attracted some readers to the X-books in the first place. And more fundamentally, this is the sort of story where you either trust that it’s heading somewhere, or you don’t – and if you don’t, you won’t be having much fun with this. But so far, for the most part, Hickman seems to have kept people on board.

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Oct 10

Powers of X #6 annotations

Posted on Thursday, October 10, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition. This is the final issue of Powers of X, and an actual review of both series will follow later.

COVER (PAGE 1): Moira standing over a pile of dead mutants on Krakoa. This includes characters from the “Year 100” timeline, so it’s evidently symbolic. The flowers resemble cherry blossom, traditionally a symbol of life’s ephemeral nature.

PAGE 2: The epigraph quotes Professor X: “And now we build.”

PAGE 3: The credits. The title is “House of X”; the small print reads “When they learn the truth.”

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Oct 3

House of X #6 annotations

Posted on Thursday, October 3, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, this post is full of spoilers, and page numbers are according to the digital edition. This is the final issue of House of X, but I’ll be reviewing it and Powers of X together once both are complete, since they’re functionally a single book.

COVER (PAGE 1): Storm, Emma Frost and Exodus, on Krakoa, with Storm apparently addressing an audience. There are more people watching from the balconies in the background.

PAGE 2: The epigraph simply has Professor X proclaiming an imperfect but good start. That applies not just to his plan with Krakoa, but to the Hickman run in general – House of X is more of an extended prologue to establish the Krakoan status quo than it is a story in itself. The line comes from the Council meeting scene later in the issue.

PAGES 3-7: One month ago, Professor X dons the Cerebro helmet and makes his speech to humankind – the one that he gave shortly before issue #1.

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Sep 26

Powers of X #5 annotations

Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers refer to the digital edition.

COVER (PAGE 1): Mister Sinister stands over some of the eggs from which cloned mutants are hatching. Once again, this is an odd choice of cover, since it has nothing to do with the issue (in which Sinister doesn’t appear).

PAGE 2: The epigraph is a very on-the-nose quote from Professor X saying that the real plan is something else entirely. Without context, it’s not clear who Xavier is referring to when he says that “they” will get it wrong, but Hickman’s run has been full of hints that all is not what it seems here. You’d expect Xavier to be referring to humans, but it could as easily be mutants…

PAGE 3: The credits. The title of this issue is “For The Children”, and Xavier has treated the X-Men – and mutants generally – in a very paternalistic way throughout Hickman’s run. But here, it’s a line of dialogue from Emma later on, when she decides to join Xavier’s plan. The small print reads “Once more I need three.” This might refer to the three back-up units that Xavier mentions in the next scene.

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Sep 19

House of X #5 annotations

Posted on Thursday, September 19, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, this contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

COVER (PAGE 1): Apocalypse walks through the reeds. Not much to do with the content, aside from the fact that this is where he enters the modern-day story – so far, we’ve only seen him in the future time frame of Powers of X.

PAGE 2: The epigraph sees Professor X stressing the differences between humans and mutants – very different from his traditional approach of emphasising the similarities.

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Sep 13

Powers of X #4 annotations

Posted on Friday, September 13, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, there will be spoilers, and page numbers are going by the digital edition.

PAGE 1 (COVER): Professor X, wearing Cerebro, surrounded by the floating heads of various X-Men from the present and “Year 100” timelines. Most of them are recognisable, and perhaps the others are more of the “Sinister line” mutants from Year 100 (Rasputin and North are both there, for example). The solicitation version of this cover shows that the guy partly obscured by the logo is orange and has a fin on his head, so I’m drawing a blank there. None of this has anything much to do with the story inside.

PAGE 2: The opening epigraph is another Professor X quote, not taken from anything in the issue. The significance isn’t clear, beyond the obvious point about making difficult choices driven by need.

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Sep 5

House of X #4 annotations

Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, this contains spoilers, and page numbers are going by the digital edition.

PAGE 1 (COVER): The X-Men fighting the Orchis Project footsoldiers.

PAGE 2: The epigraph comes from the captions in which Professor X reacts to the apparent deaths of the Orchis Project team, later in the issue.

PAGE 3: Straight into the credits this time. The issue title is “It Will Be Done”. That refers back to Cyclops’s dialogue in Powers of X #2 when he was briefed on this suicide mission. (“Does it need doing?” “Yes” “Then it will be done.”)

The small print reads “The House of Xavier and the way we treat our children.” “Children” here seems to refer at the same time to mutants in general (the Mother Mold compares mutants to the titans, the children of the primordial gods); the X-Men in particular (Xavier seems to have them in mind in his closing monologue); and the machines themselves (the Mother Mold says that “while you war, we children sit in judgment of those above us”). As others have pointed out, Hickman seems quite keen on mother imagery in this series.

PAGE 4: A data page on previous events which have led to the near extinction of mutants. The banner – “Look at what they’ve done” – cuts across the usual matter-of-fact tone of these pages. The list of anti-mutant criminals and their body counts is largely drawn from X-Force #3 (2008), which had a double-page spread introducing the Human Council of the Purifiers and giving their affiliations and body counts. The Human Council were former big-league anti-mutant villains who had become infected with the techno-organic virus so as to become part of Bastion’s collective, so it’s a story that fits quite well with Hickman’s broader themes. He’s added two names to the list: the Scarlet Witch and Mr Clean. (more…)

Aug 29

House of X #3 annotations

Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, this post contains spoilers.

COVER (PAGE 1): The X-Men and the Mother Mold (apparently coming to life, given the light in her eye), and the sun behind. All pretty straightforward, though note that Mystique is absent from the team on the cover.

PAGE 2: This issue’s epigraph is Professor X praising Cyclops on page 4. The common theme with the closing quote (from Magneto) seems to be the X-Men’s symbolic value to Professor X’s project. They may think they’re the heroes but they’re not the ones driving the plot here – after all, this is the sixth Hickman issue and the first time we’ve actually seen an X-Men team.

PAGE 3: The credits page. The text in the bottom right reads: “The house of Xavier and the eternal war of man.” The other Krakoan text just reads “House of X” and “Three”.

PAGE 4: Professor X and Magneto’s final pep talk for Cyclops, which is decidedly paternalistic in tone. Even though they’re sending Cyclops on an apparent suicide mission, Professor X sounds like he’s talking to a small child (“Such a brave face you’re wearing for me…”), and it’s not the first time we’ve seen this sort of “there, there” tone from him – see issue #1 where he’s talking to Jean. The less than reassuring message is that Cyclops and his team won’t die, in the sense that they’ll be remembered for ever as the founders of a nation. In other words, they’re going to die, but boy, it’s really going to help Professor X and Magneto’s political project. In fact, when we get to the attack at the end of the issue, Orchis turn out to be rather underprepared for the most part. (more…)

Aug 23

Powers of X #3 annotations

Posted on Friday, August 23, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, this is going to be full of spoilers, and I’ll be using the page numbers from the digital edition. But before we get to the detail, let’s look at the big picture for this issue.

After two issues following the same pattern – Year 1, Year 10, Year 100, Year 1000 – Powers of X breaks from that format entirely to give us an entire issue set in the Year 100 time frame. This issue has a straightforward plot: as promised last issue, the Year 100 “X-Men” embark on a heroic suicide mission to recover vitally important data, which turns out to be the details of when and how Nimrod came into existence. Moira is woken from suspended animation and given the data, and then she allows Wolverine to kill her. The narrator then reveals that this is Moira’s ninth life – the one before established continuity, where she was allied with Apocalypse.

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Aug 15

Powers of X #2 annotations

Posted on Thursday, August 15, 2019 by Paul in HoXPoX, x-axis

As always, there will be spoilers, and page numbers reflect the digital edition.

COVER (PAGE 1): A montage of Magneto, Mystique, Toad, Sabretooth and Emma Frost against the background of Krakoa.  Most of these characters don’t actually appear in the issue.

PAGE 2: The epigraph quotes Magneto, and once again, it’s new dialogue.  Clearly, it’s superficially at odds with the next scene.  More to the point, though, is the contrast between Magneto’s opening quotation about unbridgeable differences and Xavier’s closing line about togetherness.  As we’ll see over the course of the issue, this story seems to be interested in a rather more permanent form of togetherness than Xavier would normally have in mind.

PAGES 3-7: Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert visit Magneto and form an alliance with him.  This is presumably the scene which was listed in the House of X #2 timeline as “Moira and Xavier recruit Magneto”.

The timeline: This issue repeats issue #1’s structure of having four scenes, set respectively in “Year 1”, “Year 10”, “Year 100” and “Year 1000” respectively.   This particular scene is listed as taking place in “Year 1”, but so was Xavier’s first meeting with Moira in the previous issue.  But according to the House of X timeline, Moira and Xavier met in Year 17, while their recruitment of Magneto didn’t take place until Year 43.  That’s 26 years apart, yet  for Powers of X it still hasn’t bridged the gap between Year 1 and Year 10.  So either the “Year 1”, “Year 10” stuff is figurative, or there’s something weird going on with time.  (Or Hickman has made a mess of his timeline, but that doesn’t seem very likely.)   (more…)