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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.

“Genosha – Sentinel | Trask | Mummudrai Genocide”: The mutant nation of Genosha was wiped out by Sentinels in New X-Men #115-116 (2001). The “mummudrai” was Cassandra Nova Xavier, the main villain of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run, who activated the Sentinels using DNA which she copied from a minor member of the Trask family, Donald Trask III.

The number of mutants lost in the genocide is given here as 16,521,618. That figure comes from the body count credited to Bolivar Trask, the Silver Age creator of the Sentinels, in X-Force #3. That was obviously intended as a reference to the Genoshan slaughter, since New X-Men also gave a Genoshan population figure in that ballpark. (The New X-Men figure was slightly lower, but the attack was already underway by that point.) The implication seems to be that Trask’s Sentinels only killed people at Genosha, which is a bit odd.

Crediting Trask with the millions of deaths on Genosha is more symbolic than logical, since his involvement with that attack was limited to building the technology which Cassandra Nova went on to use, and his original Sentinels mainly aimed to capture and contain. Trask died in X-Men #16 (1965) when he sacrificed himself to stop the Master Mold. After being revived by Bastion, he seemingly died again in X-Factor #206 (2010) when he took advantage of a brief lapse in Bastion’s control to commit suicide by shooting himself. Quite how that works when techno-organics are involved… well, maybe we’ll find out.

Hickman also has the attack wiping out 94% of mutants, though New X-Men #116 put it at simply “more than half the world’s mutants”.

“Decimation – Mutant Erasure by the Pretender Wanda Maximoff”: This refers to the Scarlet Witch de-powering most of the world’s mutants in House of M #7-8 (2005), which led to the “Decimation” and “198” storylines in which the X-Men were guarding the 198 mutants that still had powers. Hickman has 986,420 mutants being depowered here; House of M just had the X-Men speculating on numbers ranging from “tens of thousands” to “a million, maybe”. Though it’s not mentioned here, mutants were re-powered in Avengers vs X-Men #12 (2012). Unlike the others on this list, the Scarlet Witch merely de-powered the mutants (though some did die when they dropped out of the sky and such like), but the list seems to treat the two as equivalent.

Scarlet Witch used to be a mutant and the daughter of Magneto, but that was retconned in Uncanny Avengers #4 (2015), and she’s now a human who was given powers by the High Evolutionary. That’s why she’s described as a “pretender” and included on the list of human villains.

“The Lights”: New mutants have often been referred to as “lights” in earlier stories, more in reference to the visual for Cerebro than anything else. Hickman uses it specifically to refer to an increased number of mutant births since new mutants started emerging again.

Steven Lang and Project Armageddon: Steven Lang was an anti-mutant bigot who obtained access to the Trasks’ Sentinel designs through the US government and built his own Sentinels under the auspices of Project: Armageddon in the early days of Chris Claremont’s run. The “mutants killed” figure of 29 comes from X-Force #3, and it’s not entirely clear what it really refers to, since it doesn’t seem to come from his published stories.

Mister Clean and the Church of Humanity: Mister Clean was a maniac who was killing mutants in the tunnels beneath London in Uncanny X-Men #395-398 (2001). He’s not a very notable villain, but he certainly killed more people than Lang’s credited body count of 29, which is probably why he’s on the list. He was a follower of the anti-mutant Church of Humanity, who were introduced properly in the following arc, and proved more to be more enduring villains. He seemingly died in Uncanny #398.

Graydon Creed and the Friends of Humanity: Creed was the son of Sabretooth and Mystique, and the Friends of Humanity were a grassroots anti-mutant organisation who appeared regularly in the 1990s. Creed is meant to be dead at the moment.

Cameron Hodge and the Right: Hodge was a childhood friend of Angel who manipulated the original X-Men into their ill-advised “posing as mutant-hunters” phase, and ran the paramilitary “Right” group, before turning into a mad techno-organic thingie. Big in the 80s and 90s.

The Leper Queen and the Sapien League: A hate group from Peter Milligan’s X-Men run circa 2006. When the X-Force list was prepared, they were a lot more prominent.

Donald Pierce and the Reavers: Major cyborg villains of the late 80s and 90s who, unlike the other villains on this list, continue to appear sporadically – most recently, they were in Matthew Rosenberg’s Astonishing X-Men run. Despite that, Pierce’s body count apparently hasn’t increased since X-Force #3. In fairness, their interest seems to have drifted off the anti-mutant agenda in recent years.

William Stryker and the Purifiers: The villain of 80s graphic novel God Loves Man Kills and his religious bigots. Stryker continues to show up periodically, most recently in the last Weapon X series.

PAGES 5-6: Professor X, Magneto and other X-Men in Krakoa work together to make psychic contact with the X-Men attacking the Orchis Forge. The Stepford Cuckoos, Storm and the Beast need no introduction. Trinary joined the X-Men in X-Men Red and she’s a technopath (she psychically speaks to machines). Aside from cameos, I think this is her first significant appearance outside that series.

The Krakoan team are shown merging their minds together in order to communicate with the team in space, fitting the repeated theme of individuals forming a greater whole. The captions seem to say that the Beast contributes “observation”, Trinary “analysis”, Storm “invocation” and Professor X “connection”. Beast and Trinary seem to be the wrong way round there, and it’s vague what Storm is actually contributing – animating the water, I suppose.

Arecibo, a few re-tasked SETI radio telescopes and the Dyson solar observatory: Arecibo is a radio telescope in Puerto Rico. SETI is the search for extraterrestrial life. The Dyson solar observatory doesn’t ring any bells.

PAGES 7-8: The remaining X-Men regroup to complete the mission. Alarm bells should be ringing at the casual declaration that “Archangel and Husk are dead” – you might just about casually kill off Husk, but surely not Archangel. This obviously feeds into the speculation that, given the “pod people” scene in issue #1, these might not actually be the X-Men. (In which case, where are the real X-Men, and what’s happened to them?)

PAGES 9-11: Omega gives Dr Gregor a pep talk, while the X-Men attack the station. The parallels between the two sides are very obvious: Cyclops said in the previous scene that they have to finish the mission “or this was for nothing”, while Omega gives exactly the same speech to Gregor about the death of her husband.

Omega says that she’s “just an observer”, which begs the question of who she’s working for, if she has no formal status within Orchis. The data page in issue #1, giving details of the Orchis Project, listed her affiliation as unknown.

PAGE 12: The Stan Lee page.

PAGES 13-14: M holds off the attackers while Marvel Girl escapes. M switches to her Penance body in order to fight the attackers – which is interesting, if she’s a clone, because that’s not an aspect of her powers. It’s something that was inflicted on her by her brother Emplate. Penance doesn’t normally speak, but apparently can here.

PAGES 15-26: Everything builds to a climax with the X-Men apparently getting wiped out, and the Mother Mold falling into the sun. Xavier is distraught (more so than you might expect if you were figuring that he was an impostor).

Mystique is conspicuously late in getting to her assigned task, which she vaguely explains by “I got turned around.” That feels like something which is going to matter later – despite her getting ejected into space.

Prompted by the X-Men’s attack, Gregor decides to bring the Mother Mold online even though it’s not yet guaranteed to be sane. Omega is appalled by that decision, which seems to fit the theme that mutants and humans are in a mutually reinforcing cycle of destruction – reinforced when the Mother Mold does wake up, and promptly declares itself to have transcended humans and mutants alike. Incidentally, Omega seems to have seen all this coming, given that back in issue #1 she was already talking about the Orchis Forge as a large-scale mistake.

Nightcrawler and Wolverine discuss whether there’s an afterlife. At face value, this is a straightforward discussion between the Christian Nightcrawler and the atheist Wolverine. However, both these characters have literally been to the afterlife – not only that, but  entire storylines were devoted to it, specifically the opening arc of Amazing X-Men (2013) for Nightcrawler, and the opening arc of Wolverine (2010) for Wolverine. On the other hand, if these aren’t the real Nightcrawler and Wolverine, perhaps they’re discussing whether they have souls. (“You still think there’s something waiting for us on the other side?” “Worried about your soul, Logan?” “Just wondering what someone like me should expect.”)

Nightcrawler certainly dies – we see him burning up after he teleports Wolverine into position.  Mystique, Wolverine, Cyclops and Jean certainly appear to die as well, though they have a bit more wiggle room in terms of seeing the body on panel. But hold on – there’s no way all these major characters really die here, halfway through the prologue to Hickman’s run. Plus, several of them are listed in upcoming solicitations. Something’s up here, and again, the obvious candidate is the pod people from issue #1.

The closing “No more” captions are apparently meant to be Professor X, since the quote is attributed to him in the epigraph – but it’s always possible that somebody else is speaking here.

Greek mythology: The Mother Mold’s opening speech is… a bit confused. The general thrust is that she positions the machines as the creations which have outgrown their parents, just as humans outgrew the gods. She specifically addresses the humans and mutants as “Olympus” and draws an analogy with the theft of fire by Prometheus. On the other hand, she also claims that humans are gods and mutants are “titans, their spoiled lineage” – which kind of works, since the cyclopes were titans. But in Greek mythology, the titans followed from the primordial gods like Gaia and Uranus; and the following generation wasn’t humans, it was Zeus and the Olympians. So the Mother Mold’s classical references are a bit muddled. But then, she is mad.

PAGES 27-29: Not so much data pages as a howl of rage, with the “no more” line repeated over repeated images from earlier in the book, very much at odds with the usual clinical tone of these pages. The two new elements are newspaper clippings about the Genoshan genocide and the post-House of M Decimation, but they don’t add any more information. Both articles are credited to Trish Tilby, the Beast’s journalist girlfriend from late 80s X-Factor who continued appearing as a supporting character into the 90s.

PAGES 30-32: The reading order again, and the trailer pages. “NEXT: SOMETHING SINISTER” and “THEN: SOCIETY.”

Bring on the comments

  1. Dave says:

    I’d be more inclined to believe it was a screw-up, if this issue wasn’t also ‘forgetting’ Nightcrawler died before, and Wolverine only recently came back.

  2. Mordechai Buxner says:

    Chris V: Your count of potential X-Men series is off. We’ve got one core book and five tie-ins in Dawn of X. So even if each phase added exactly the same number of tie-ins as the others, that would be 6+5+5=16, not 18. But even that is assuming that the series for Phase 1 continue on into Phase 2 and even Phase 3, which seems unlikely. More probably some of these are planned from the start as miniseries they’re pretending are ongoing. My uninformed guess is 8 books in Phase 2 (“X-Men”, two of the other Phase 1 books, a Wolverine ongoing and four new series) and maybe 10 in Phase 3.

  3. Chris V says:

    Regardless, sixteen books is way too many also.

    However, the fact that most of these titles would seem to be mini-series adds even more to the feeling that “Dawn of X” is just another detour from a true status quo for the X-books.
    It’s reminiscent of Age of Apocalypse or Age of X-Man…especially if the next chapter is taking place in another alternate world.

    Once Hickman’s plans run their course, will it just result in another relaunch?

    Maybe it’s not though. Maybe “Dawn of X” will take place on Earth-616. Maybe there are certain core titles meant to continue, while the minis will simply serve to flesh out the new status quo….

  4. Mark says:

    For me, the repeated “No more!” recalls the old Fatal Attractions storyline — Xavier yells that at Magneto as he’s mind-wiping him after Magneto yanks Wolverine’s adamantium out. Back then it seemed to signify Prof. X crossing a moral event horizon, acting out of despair to do something he swore he’d never do.

  5. Brian Michael Caffrey says:

    A few things spring to mind – given how the books have jumped around in time, are all events as we see them happening within the same timeline? I keep thinking on on Kurt meeting Karima, yet only identifying her as an Omega Sentinel to the other X-Men when they reunite. It’s possible that we’re seeing the first and second attempts at taking out the Orchis Forge in two different timelines, but with specific cues being hinted at to distinguish what happens when.

    Alternatively, this is timeline 6…

  6. Alex Hill says:

    Chip Zdarsky hinted pretty heavily in his newsletter that he’s doing a 12-issue miniseries involving the X-Men, so not all of the series may be ongoing. We could also be seeing much less series launching in the second and third wave, perhaps with the lower selling titles going away to make room (with the best will in the world, will Fallen Angels make it to a second year in the current market?).

  7. Chris V says:

    I don’t think it is life six, because the timelines seem to be evolving to this point.
    Her seventh timeline carries over from her fifth timeline, in that she is fixated on the Trask family in timeline seven.
    So, it doesn’t really make sense that an Orchis Protocol scenario could be the focus of life six.

    I’m wondering if life six has something to do with Hickman’s Secret Wars.
    Like, something that occurred in her sixth life has been wiped from all existence due to the events of Secret Wars.

  8. CJ says:

    Yeah, I doubt this is life 6. The timeline infographic in HOX #2 pretty much says House of X starts in her tenth life, and we know from HOX #3 that Moira IX’s knowledge is giving Xavier and Magneto advance warning of how Nimrod comes about.

    Moira V gets put into a coma on Faraway and we see the “to be continued” lines there, probably setting up the next big reveal about what happened there to set up Moira VI.

  9. Jason says:

    “Chip Zdarsky hinted pretty heavily in his newsletter that he’s doing a 12-issue miniseries involving the X-Men, so not all of the series may be ongoing.”

    Ooo, X-Men: Life Story?

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