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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.)  

This scene isn’t explicit about precisely when it takes place relative to events in Uncanny X-Men.  Xavier is now in his wheelchair, and he and Magneto regard each other as estranged old friends, but that doesn’t really narrow it down much.  However…

Island M: Magneto’s island base in the Bermuda Triangle.  I believe the name is new, but the island itself isn’t – it’s the place where Magneto was based in Uncanny X-Men #147-150.  It’s also the same island where he was based in Moira VIII’s timeline, as seen briefly in House of X #2.

In Uncanny #147-150, Magneto had only just raised this island from the sea bed.  It’s not to be confused with the island where he was based in the early Silver Age issues, which which much more mundane (and X-Men Index confirms that they’re different).  Uncanny #150 is generally taken as the turning point where Magneto’s face turn begins, after he injures Kitty Pryde, has a crisis of conscience, and runs off to brood about it.  He doesn’t appear in Uncanny again until issue #188 – however, by the time of his next appearance in Vision & Scarlet Witch #4, he’s already talking about “reassessing my values.”

This scene can’t take place before Uncanny #147-150, at least without heavy retconning.  It wouldn’t fit with Xavier’s thought balloons, especially in issue #149, where he spends two pages reminiscing about how he hasn’t seen Magneto in ages.  So the neatest place is for this to take place after issue #150, with Magneto returning to the island once the X-Men are gone.  He did in fact return later, so that isn’t a problem.  Admittedly, his behaviour here sits a little awkwardly with the Kitty Pryde scene having happened already.

The design of the island includes details that are directly redrawn from Uncanny #148.  It’s meant to look Lovecraftian, though neither Magneto nor the X-Men seemed to get the reference in the original story.  The implication was that Magneto had inadvertently raised R’Iyeh, the sunken city where Cthulhu was imprisoned in the 1928 story “The Call of Cthulhu”.  Claremont dropped a couple more hints about the island being ancient and ominous, but never really did anything with the plot.  The R’Iyeh thing was finally confirmed in Wolverine: First Class #12, though it uses one of Marvel’s own-brand Cthulhus, Quoggoth.  Whether any of this actually matters to Hickman’s story, or whether he’s just using the island for visual interest and easy timeline placing, is impossible to say.

Magneto’s visions: Moira shows Magneto what happened to him in various previous lives.  We see five: Magneto being blasted by a Sentinel (possibly from the life of Moira IV or V), Magneto in chains (resembling his trial from Uncanny #200), Magneto being generally angry (probably all of them…), Magneto held in some sort of suspended animation tank by Nick Fury (presumably after being defeated in the life of Moira VIII), and Magneto fighting a hideous monster (something to do with Apocalypse in the life of Moira IX?).

PAGE 8: The credits.  The small print in the bottom right reads “The world of Moira and the man called Magneto.”  Last issue, it was “The world of Xavier and the woman called Moira”, so perhaps we’re getting a chain here.

PAGES 9-12: “Year 10.”  On the face of it, an extremely straightforward scene in which Professor X and Magneto explain the plot to Cyclops (and demonstrate that they’re very much on the same page now).  The data that Mystique and Toad stole from Damage Control in House of X #1 turn out to be the plans for the “Mother Mold” Sentinel factory that Orchis are building in outer space.  Magneto and Professor X want Cyclops to lead a strike force to stop it.  They say they’re afraid that this is the point in history where a version of Nimrod emerges, picking up on the idea from House of X #2 that some version of an anti-mutant Sentinel AI always appears.

PAGES 13-19: The “Year 100” sequence.  On Asteroid K, the surviving X-Men similarly discuss the data that Cardinal and Rasputin retrieved last issue.  Basically, it’s an “indexing machine” which is a doohickey that tells them where to find the “Genesis Protocols” that they’re actually looking for.  These seem to be in “SalCen” which, as pointed out in the comments for last issue, is probably short for Salem Center, the town nearest the X-Men Mansion.  Unfortunately, Percival – the one who died last issue – was the one with cloaking powers, so attacking without him is going to be a suicide mission.  There’s a couple of pages in here that check in with Nimrod too, but they mainly serve to establish his mad child emperor persona.

Apocalypse: The data pages in issue #1 said there were eight mutants on Asteroid K, but the issue only identified six.  Number seven turns out to be Apocalypse, now allied with the X-Men.  They treat him as a leader, and he seems to be working with other mutants to resist the machines.  He’s also noticeably more reflective than usual, which may have something to do with his upcoming role in Excalibur – he certainly doesn’t act villainous, beyond the obvious bit of being called Apocalypse.  He raises a very good point: sure, artificial intelligence emerges in every timeline, but why does it always turn on mutants?

Krakoa: The plant guy on the asteroid is indeed Krakoa.  He says that his “body once belonged to a mutant who could communicate with anything”, and that he retains that mutant’s powers.  This is pretty obviously Cypher.  Having first become techno-organic thanks to Warlock, does Cypher wind up repeating the exercise with Krakoa?  As the first man/machine bridge in the X-Men mythos, Cypher seems to be an important character for Hickman, particularly given what happens in the “Year 1000” sequence.

PAGE 20: A data page about Nimbus, a worldmind created in the far future of the Year 1000 (so evidently these data pages aren’t written at any precise time frame after all).  This essentially has future humanity (“post-humans”) creating their own version of the Kree Supreme Intelligence, putting it in a Nimrod body, and sending it out into space to take over the planet Nibiru, where it eventually becomes a Worldmind.

The Kree Supreme Intelligence: a long-running Marvel Universe concept, and described fairly straightforwardly here.

The “Badoon infestation of the early 31st century”: this was the set-up for the original Guardians of the Galaxy, as introduced in 1969, and a familiar Marvel Universe future element.

Nibiru: Nimbus takes over the planet “Nibiru”.  According to the theories of “ancient astronaut” proponent and pseudohistorian Zecharia Sitchin (1920-2010), Nibiru is a giant planet which visits Earth every 3,600 years, and is responsible for creating ancient Sumerian culture.  More recently, the name has become associated with a pseudoscientific doomsday theory in which Nibiru is supposedly going to crash into the Earth imminently.  (Sitchin himself did not subscribe to this theory, not least because on his calculations, the planet isn’t due back until 2900).

PAGES 21-24: Year 1000.  Nimrod and the Librarian discuss how Nimbus was a plan to attract the attention of a higher civilisation, which duly arrives in the form of the Phalanx.  The Librarian explains that humanity want “Ascension”, and all this is explained further in the data pages immediately following.  We see more of the future city, and the written language seems basically Asian in style.  It certainly isn’t Krakoan.

PAGES 25-27: Data pages on “types of societies”, both “planetary” and “galactic.”  This sets out a scale of interstellar societies based on the extent to which individual minds have become hives – the general implication is that progress up the ranks means becoming giant planetary hiveminds.  This isn’t exactly the sort of progress that most people would be keen to achieve.

The Kardashev scale: Nikolai Kardashev (1932-2019) was a Soviet astrophysicist, and his scale was a hypothetical three-tier scale of civilisations, essentially based on whether a society had harnessed the energy of its planet (Type I), its solar system (Type II) or its galaxy (Type III).  Earth, on his definition, was not quite at Type I yet.  Kardashev’s scale is basically about technological progression as measured by energy use.  Given that we’ve just finished talking about Nibiru, it’s maybe worth stressing that Kardashev was a mainstream SETI thinker.

The Technarch and the Phalanx: Having set up the man / mutant / machine trio in the previous issue, Hickman evidently has an interest in the X-Men’s longrunning notion of techno-organic creatures who straddle the machine line – and note again that Cypher, long associated with this kind of thing, was one of the handful of characters who got proper attention in issue #1.  The techno-organic concept stems from Warlock in New Mutants, and his race, the Technarch, were introduced at the same time.  The Phalanx are very similar, with more of a hive mind, and come from the Nicieza/Lobdell era in the 90s.

Inverting the original explanation of how they interacted, Hickman has the Phalanx as the superior beings (presumably because in his scheme, hives are superior).  If the Phalanx like a world, then they assimilate it into the collective.  This is “Ascension”, which the Librarian was asking for.

If they don’t like a world, then they infect it with the techno-organic virus which eventually leads to a Babel Spire being built, and a Technarch being summoned to wipe out the world.  This refers to the plot of the 1990s crossover “Phalanx Covenant”, as supplemented by the short-lived Warlock solo series from the M-Tech imprint.  In those stories, the Phalanx were supposedly trying to contact the Technarch, not grasping that the Technarch would wipe them out.  It’s not quite clear how those Phalanx fit into Hickman’s description; perhaps he would view them as Phalanx-infected people rather than true Phalanx.  At any rate, Hickman seems to be retconning the original Phalanx/Technarch relationship into simply What The Technarch Believe.

The name “Kvch” for the Technarch’s home comes from the 2008 Nova Annual – though in Hickman’s version there are plenty of them, all called “Kvch”, and all unaware of the other.

PAGE 28: The Stan Lee page.

PAGE 29: Closing quote from Xavier about the importance of unity – obviously taking on new implications in the light of all that material about hive minds.

PAGES 30-32: Finally, the reading order again, and the previews.  They read: “NEXT: THIS IS WHAT YOU DO” and “THEN: ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH”

Bring on the comments

  1. YLu says:

    ^ By which I mean to say, in case it’s not clear, that in-story Krakoan is probably a bona fide language with its own grammar and vocabulary.

  2. Joseph S. says:

    Honestly I think the idea of “mutant culture” can go either way, depending on the writer. The difficulty in ascribing such a culture is in all the reasons Dazzler has pointed out. However… mutants have always been utilized as a metaphor, and that metaphor stands in (sometimes ambiguously, sometimes not) for real world groups (black civil rights, disability activists, LGBTQ, etc). All of these at the very least have constituted, via their groupness, some amount of sub-culture (while the broader cultural markers such as language and cuisine reflect the individual cultures these subgroups are a part of.

    Post Morrison, mutants were written as having a culture. It may. It be well fleshed out or articulated but it’s there on the page. Anyone remember Mutant X and Mutant Town? With the years of Mutant separatism post Decimation, Utopia was the location of 99% of all mutants, and this again we can squint and say, ok, for the sake of the metaphor they can be said to have a “culture.” More recently with Iceman, there was the Mutant Pride Parade. Here the metaphor is obviously meant to overlap with LGBTQ pride, and if you think about it too hard (or try to square it with some other books) it doesn’t make much sense again for the reasons Dazzler points out but also others. I mean, humans birth mutants, humans and mutants procreate. This is partially because sometimes the metaphor leans into race, other times sexual orientation, other times disability, etc. just go with it.

  3. Thom H. says:

    I get that mutant culture hasn’t been explored very fully in the X-books, but that is probably a limitation of the format rather than the concept.

    Given their physiological diversity, it only makes sense that mutants would discover new ways of interacting with music, art, fashion, food, etc. But none of that makes for a very good superhero story, so we don’t get to see it except in glimpses.

    But if you group all mutants in the world together, like in Faraway (from Moira V’s timeline) or the Krakoan habitats, I suspect that would accelerate the development of new cultural forms.

    So yes, mutant culture largely has to be “in my head” because it’s not highlighted on the page very much. That doesn’t mean it isn’t viable as a concept.

    I mean, I can think of two mutants off the top of my head who can sculpt light, dozens who can fly, another who has an external digestive system. It doesn’t take a lot of creativity to imagine the impacts those abilities might have on visual arts, dance, and food respectively.

    But that’s not the focus of most X-Men stories because it doesn’t sell books like a big fight with aliens or demons or whatever.

  4. Chris V says:

    If you look at the fact that mutants have dealt with “developing their powers” and “being hated and feared by a wider humanity” due to the development of those powers, then mutants do have similarities which can bring them together and start to develop their own culture.
    It is based on shared experiences.

    The same way that many gay people all relate to the realization of their blooming sexuality, as well as the fact that many straight people are going to judge them negatively based on their sexuality.
    This opens the door for the creation of a shared culture.

    Obviously, gay people may speak the same language as the wider culture, or share the same taste in cuisine as the culture they were born.
    However, they have shared experiences that have allowed this minority group to develop their own cultural norms also.

    So, yes, Scott Summers may be an American male who grew up in the state of New York.
    However, he shares with fellow mutants the experience of “coming out” when he developed his powers, and being “hated and feared” for the fact that he can shoot lasers from his eyes.
    These shared experiences set him apart from Joe who lives down the street.
    He may share some culture with Joe, but that doesn’t preclude Scott from developing a shared sub-culture that he has in common with only his fellow mutants.

    Plus, now, with Krakoan, as YLu points out, mutants have begun to develop a wider culture of ther own in this current story.

  5. Chris V says:

    Also, Morrison’s run (while not really going deeply in to the particularities), explicitly made the point that mutants were creating their own fashions and music (at the very least).

    These types of culture were coming to be considered “cool” by the majority human youth.
    So, mutants were moving beyond being “feared and hated”, through culture.
    The wider humanity (or at least the youth) wanted to listen to mutant music or dress in mutant fashions.

  6. Dazzler says:

    “Also, Morrison’s run (while not really going deeply in to the particularities), explicitly made the point that mutants were creating their own fashions and music (at the very least).”

    Yes, the hollow words “mutant fashion” and “mutant music” have been lazily name-dropped maybe once each, but there is no substance to any of it. It’s all in the heads of readers. I don’t even think it exists in the heads of these writers or editors, or else you’d think they would have translated at least some of it to the page, which they never have. And with that I’ll leave this dead horse alone (until somebody makes another casual comment about this concept as if it exists).

  7. Dimitri says:

    Dazzler, have you ever considered the possibility that the reason “mutant culture” is so vague has less to do with laziness and more to do with it being more interesting that way?

    A mutant culture that could be anything “in the heads of the readers”, as you put it, makes it appealing for young readers to fantasize about being a mutant.

    However, a mutant culture that is made up of very specific things a writer comes up with will only appeal to those readers who share that writer’s interests or vision. What’s more, it runs the risk of breaking some metaphorical or fantasy elements other readers might have grown attached to, and next thing you know, we’ve got a gazillion think pieces about how that writer, with their latest iteration of mutant culture, just “doesn’t get it” and is part of the problem (which could be an entirely legitimate complaint or not — that’s not the point).

    Vagueness can be a storytelling tool. Not every story element is best served by fleshing out every detail of it for the eventual Wiki page. Here, the concept of the existence (as mentioned in the books) of a mutant culture is what matters. The exact details of said culture would only serve to demystify it and distract us from the appeal of its existence (as mentioned in the books).

    As an aside, anyone has their own in-the-head-of-the-readers version of mutant culture? Let’s all talk about it as if it exists.

    In my head, Kid Omega and his peers went through a phase of wearing faux restriction collars ironically. When it caught on and humans started wearing them just for fashion, there was a big hubbub about it.

    Oh, and regarding cuisine, there’s this delicious chicken dish cooked with a plasma eye-beam in a barrel. It started back when the 198 were put in an internment camp during X-Men Civil War, but has since spread when Forge invented an oven that allows humans to make the dish without powers. If you call now, you can get your shipping fees waived.

  8. Chris V says:

    If I’m not mistaken, Morrison was also stating that the costumes that the X-Men were wearing during his run were part of mutant fashion.
    He was making a point about the X-Men not being superheroes, but were science fictional

    He explained away the fact that they wore costumes as being part of mutant fashion, rather than costumes in the sense of the Fantastic Four or Avengers.

    Plus, it’s pretty damn hard to show what music sounds like in a print medium.
    Try explaining what Mozart’s music sounds like on a comic book page.

  9. Nu-D says:

    How, pray tell, would a comic book writer give more substance to Mutant music? A dissertation on dissonance?

    These ideas have been seeded, and there’s some material to develop them. They’re not developed as thoroughly as, say Tolkien’s elvish languages. But neither Morison nor Hickman are Tolkien, and HoX is not the Silmarillion.

    It’s an overstatement to say mutant culture is not “real” and “doesn’t exist.” It’s fair to say it’s not well developed yet.

  10. Taibak says:

    I’d look again at how Morrison portrayed Kid Omega and his buddies. A group of teenagers defining themselves in relationship to the majority and subscribing to a specific aesthetic sounds like “culture” to me.

  11. Dazzler says:

    “Dazzler, have you ever considered the possibility that the reason “mutant culture” is so vague has less to do with laziness and more to do with it being more interesting that way?”

    Not even for a second, because it isn’t interesting at all because something needs to have been invented in order to exist and be interesting. To say nothing of the fact that mutants are no different from you and me being the entire point of the X-Men.

  12. Dimitri says:

    Dazzler, I find it fascinating that you take so much pride and self-righteousness in not considering even a possibility (note that I never asked you to agree, just whether you can consider), as if not considering another point of view “for a second” makes you superior to others somehow.

    Oh, and thanks for ignoring the crux of what I wrote just to repeat your one talking point. Good way to feel like you’re winning an argument, I suppose. Makes for a shit conversation though.

    By the way, “you and me” have our respective cultures, so if the point of the X-Men is to be like you and me, then they would have to have a culture too, by that logic. Feel free to ignore that too.

  13. Nu-D says:

    @Dazzler,

    You know that people from different cultures are “the same” as the rest of us in most meaningful ways, right? There can be a mutant culture without undermining the X-Men’s theme of integration and tolerance. Just like there can be a Queer culture and yet we can accept LGBTQ+ people as members of our communities. Just like Guatemalans have a different culture than Norwegians, but they deserve the same respect and rights.

    The “sameness” is not about food, music and art preferences, or even table manners and family structures and the language you speak; it’s about capacity for love and suffering, and the right to dignity and to be judged as an individual on the content of your character, rather than your birth into a group. In that, we are all the same.

  14. Dazzler says:

    Guys, mutants just clearly lack the commonalities that are necessary to breed culture. The only thing that distinguishes them from other people is one stupid gene that manifests in seemingly infinite different ways. If you want to think like Magneto and Apocalypse, you can sit and come up with your own ideas of what may or may not constitute the culture of these disparate people who some from all over and have nothing meaningful in common. Still, whatever ideas you have about this culture exist only in your head because none of it has been brought to the page in the, what 18 years since the first time I saw mutant culture discussed in a vapid interview, and it was being discussed as something Grant Morrison and Joe Casey were bringing to the books, which never showed up in the pages outside of the lazy references I mentioned earlier

    Also, I knew nobody was going to like me talking about this issue, but it needed to be discussed. I saw a great comment on a message board where someone compared the idea of mutants claiming they’re not bound by human laws to people with green eyes making the same claim, and it was a brilliant comment. I wish you guys could understand

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