RSS Feed
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.

PAGES 3-10: The Five use cloning to create new bodies for the X-Men who died in the space mission last issue, and Professor X… well, restores them from back-up. The final pages are a repeat of the pod-person scene that opened issue #1.

We already knew that the X-Men were bringing people back from the dead – that was clear when all five of the Stepford Cuckoos showed up in issue #1. There’s more on the mechanics of all this later in the issue, so I’ll come back to the broader implications then. In the meantime…

Lorna Dane: This is Magneto’s daughter, Polaris, who was already hanging around with him in X-Men: Blue prior to the relaunch. Like a lot of characters, she’s become much more separatist in tone under Hickman – Lorna has lived most of her life among non-mutants, not least her foster parents, and used to be an “extended supporting cast” X-Man who lived a basically normal life, so it’s curious for her to be questioning whether there’s anything good in humans at all. Lorna is also playing up the father/daughter relationship much more than usual; she wasn’t raised by him, didn’t know him all that well until X-Men: Blue, and generally hasn’t thought of him as a father figure.

(If you’re saying “Hold on, wasn’t Polaris introduced as the daughter of Magneto only for that to be revealed as misdirection within the same storyline”, then yes, she was – but she was retconned into being the actual daughter of Magneto during Chuck Austen’s run, and it’s stuck.)

“Society”: This is the title of the story, and its major theme. As Magneto tells it, the mutants have been on the run for years, but now, with an island to call their own, they can build their own society and develop their own culture. Of course, this has happened before, with Genosha – a story Hickman has gone out of his way to mention several times – and it didn’t end at all well. Magneto chooses not to mention that.

Much of what we see in this issue is about the mutants of Krakoa developing their own social rituals; you can decide for yourself how much everyone is comprehensively buying into it and how far it’s a performative exercise in bonding the group. Bear in mind many of these mutants have recently arrived, presumably leaving behind friends and family. On the other hand, mutants have been showing up at the X-Men’s school for years without showing much interest in the life they left behind… What’s very clear throughout this issue is an emphasis on the group over the individual; Storm’s public ritual with the revived X-Men validates them as the real thing, but also immediately stresses their mutant-ness as a bigger deal. And the Five – established characters all – really do and say nothing beyond acting out their socially-mandated role. Their status in mutant society has become more important than their individuality.

“The Five”: The five mutants whose powers, combined, can rapidly grow new clone bodies to revive dead mutants. There’s an echo here of the “Five Lights”, the first new mutants to emerge after M-Day. For the benefit of those of you who aren’t regular readers…

Goldballs: Fabio Medina is a character from Brian Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men run, where he was a student of Cyclops’ breakaway “mutant revolution” group under the name Goldballs. Something of a comic relief character, he basically had the power to fire golden balls every which way and hope that the confusion favoured his own side. He was more recently used as a supporting character in the Miles Morales Spider-Man series. The idea that the golden balls are eggs is entirely new.

Proteus: Uh-oh. Proteus is a reality-warping mutant who first fought the X-Men back in X-Men #125-128 (1979). He’s usually a dangerous maniac and not somebody that you want to trust your species to – the data pages will address this later on. Proteus was last seen in Astonishing X-Men #11 (2018) where he blew up, but he’s an energy being and it wouldn’t be the first time he’s returned from the dead. More to the point – and not mentioned here – Proteus is the son of Moira MacTaggert. Given how important she is to Hickman’s story, that feels like it should matter. Proteus was also on the list of Omega level mutants in issue #1.

Elixir: Josh Foley is a high-powered mutant healer who’s been associated with various second-tier X-Men teams since 2003. He was on issue #1’s Omega level list too. Before House of X, Elixir was hanging around with Emma Frost.

Tempus: Eva Bell is another of Cyclops’s trainees from Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men run. She hasn’t been used since. She wasn’t on the Omega level list in issue #1, but she has previously been described as “nearly” Omega level (in Uncanny X-Men Annual #1, 2014).

Hope Summers: A regular in Uncanny before House of X, Hope is the quasi-messiah figure who was the first mutant to emerge after the Scarlet Witch removed all mutant powers on M-Day. Her main power is the ability to copy the powers of other mutants in her area, but she’s also been shown stabilising and controlling mutant powers in the past, so her co-ordinating role here is nothing new. In Generation Hope, there was a suggestion that her minds of her team were becoming linked in some way, which would fit with Hickman’s themes. The data page later suggests that something similar has happened to the Five, who “have become an inseparable family unit and are almost never apart from one another.” Note that her syringe has Mr Sinister’s diamond logo.

“Separate, yes, they are great mutants…”: Magneto is being really generous to Goldballs here, to make the events fit his preferred narrative.

“Together, these five mutants have made us whole”: Presumably because, as we’ll see, they’re engaged in a systematic attempt to revive the dead of Genosha.

“Temporally evolved to their desired age…” A similar device has been used in the past to explain why Xavier and Magneto are both younger than their back stories would suggest. Xavier got a new cloned body from the Shi’ar after being infected by the Brood; Magneto was turned into a baby and aged back to adulthood. It helps with the sliding timeline.

Cerebro: Magneto seems to be claiming here that since some unspecified time in the past, Professor X has been using Cerebro not just to find mutants, but to copy their “mind – the essence, the anima”. This is… frankly creepy, since there’s no suggestion that he’s asked anyone’s permission for this. And later on, the data pages will tell us that Xavier has a copy of the mind of every mutant – yet he can’t possibly have got everyone to agree. Admittedly, Cerebro has always had dubious privacy issues, but this is something new.

Magneto is keen to stress that this procedure absolutely, definitely results in the new cloned mutant acquiring not just a back-up copy of the original’s mind, but the original’s “soul”. As we’ll see, the Krakoans have a whole ritual later on to stand around chanting about how very true this is.

Cyclops’ visor: Note that the cloned Cyclops doesn’t need his visor. Xavier gives him one just before downloading the mind into his body. Traditionally, Cyclops’ inability to control his powers was attributed to brain damage caused by a head injury suffered when he jumped from a plane as a child – but that shouldn’t apply to the clone. Does the clone actually need the visor? Or is he just wearing it to validate himself as “Cyclops”?

“Did it work?” The X-Men evidently knew they were going to die and be restored from back-ups. That makes more sense of the conversations between Nightcrawler and Wolverine in the previous issue.

PAGE 11: Credits. The story title is “Society” and the small print reads “The House of Xavier – Here They Come.”

PAGES 12-17: The revived mutants are paraded before the people of Krakoa so that everyone can do some ritualistic chanting about how genuine and authentic they are. This is all about the Krakoans generating their own rituals as they build their own society, though at the same time everyone seems a little too on board with this. The Krakoans seem to be well aware of what the Five do, presumably because many of them were in fact revived by the Five. The ritual also stresses mutanthood over individuality (“His name is Cyclops, but he is more than that…”) If these mutants are in fact largely people who have been revived by the Five, perhaps that has something to do with their cult-like embrace of Krakoan culture.

The revived X-Men all get asked a question to demonstrate that it’s really them, though we don’t see all of their answers. Cyclops alludes to the time Storm claimed the leadership of the X-Men from him in Uncanny X-Men #201 (1986). Jean’s answer – “I’m the only ‘me’ that ever was” – is heavily ironic, considering that she’s been copied in the past both by Phoenix and by her clone Madelyne Pryor. (Madelyne was herself animated by a part of Jean’s soul retained by Phoenix – is this Jean really any more authentic than Madelyne?) Penance – apparently the codename Monet is now going by – simply refuses to be touched, and her air of distance is taken as the proof of her authenticity. This is a pretty low standard of proof.

PAGES 18-20: Data pages about resurrection. Page 18 largely just spells out what we saw in the earlier scenes, also confirming that Mr Sinister has a nearly complete library of mutant DNA “carefully constructed with the help of Xavier” – we saw that alliance being formed in last week’s Powers of X. The possibility that the revived mutants might be changed in other ways (“designer modifications”) is floated – again, do you really trust Sinister with this?

This whole scheme depends on having all of the Five on hand, though the data pages float the idea of using power-copiers such as Synch or Mimic. Synch was a member of Generation X, and he died in Generation X #70, but that’s obviously not much of a problem. Mimic’s origin story is actually a lab accident, but the possibility that it activated latent mutant powers has been raised before, in Marvel Comics Presents #59 (1990).

At any rate, this is clearly not the sort of facility that future writers (and perhaps even Hickman) will want to have around indefinitely, and the fact that it depends on having all of the Five plus a telepath, plus access to the DNA database, plus access to the back-up minds, means there’s plenty of scope for it to be taken away in future. If I were Goldballs – the most absolutely essential member of the group and the one who’s far and way the most expendable in terms of his broader significance to the X-Men – I’d be watching my back.

Except… what the Five are basically doing, according to everything we’re told in this issue, is preparing a clone body from a stored DNA sample and accelerating it to adulthood. And for all the ritual we see here, Mr Sinister’s been doing that for years using equipment he’s knocked up in his lab. So how much of all this is for show? Or is it about minimising the X-Men’s reliance on Sinister (or even on technology generally)?

Proteus: His insanity is addressed here. As per previous continuity, his power tends to consume his own body, leaving him to hop from host body to host body, consuming each one in turn. The claim here is that an endless supply of freshly cloned bodies has solved the problem and solved his psychological problems. We’ll see. Curiously, we’re told that Proteus’s bodies are always created using Professor X’s DNA – Proteus can possess anyone, but why not use his own DNA? And how does this fit with the final note on the same page, which insists that there has been no experimentation with putting the wrong mind in the cloned body? Isn’t that exactly what Proteus is doing? At any rate, this is pretty much a red flag that we’re getting a story about a mind/body mismatch at some time during the Hickman run.

Scale: The X-Men are indeed trying to revive the entire population of Genosha, which is going to take ten years, assuming some other telepaths can be brought in. This is presumably what makes an explosion in the mutant population credible again, per the projections we saw in issue #1.

Ethics: There’s a protocol that prevents mutants from being resurrected until their death has been confirmed or Cerebro has failed to detect them for a month. This is meant to prevent actual duplication. All right, but… the obvious question in all this is whether the clones really are the same person. The data pages and the X-Men are keen to insist that they are, but at the same time Hickman throws in lines that make clear that there’s really nothing aside from ethics to stop you from doing this while the original mutant is still alive. The back-up-restored mutant will be identical to the original in mind and body, but if you believe in the soul – and in the Marvel Universe, you should – then you should probably have some serious issues with this.

Other obvious questions raised by all this: How do we know that the X-Men who died on the station were the originals? What happens about Wolverine’s adamantium – does Proteus have to smoothe over that sort of thing, or do people just get a reset? (Note Warren is no longer Archangel.) And how would any of this work with Moira MacTaggert?

“FORCE conventions”: It’s the first we’ve heard of these, but if they apply, they apparently supersede the (ethical) resurrection protocols. That sounds bad, doesn’t it?

PAGES 21-22: Professor X, Emma Frost and Beast attend a drinks reception at the UN after the Security Council recognise Krakoa as a nation. Emma has plainly been telepathically manipulating the ambassadors.

This isn’t really how the recognition of countries work, but more to the point it’s an incredibly confrontational way of going about it – Emma isn’t just engineering a win, she’s doing it in a way that will make it obvious to the national governments what has happened. If the X-Men were trying to be subtle about this, they’d have gone for the people back home who were giving the instructions. Professor X goes out of his way to tell Emma that she’s made a sacrifice by doing this, and that something nebulously bad is going to happen to her (though it might just be a crisis of conscience he has in mind). He seems entirely unbothered.

In response to Emma’s joking suggestion that he make her “governor of a province”, he replies that he has “much bolder things in mind” – more foreshadowing.

PAGES 23-24: Data pages about “mutant diplomacy”, though the second one is just a map. Again, this is a bit ropey in terms of how things work in the real world, but we’re basically told that all but a handful of countries have either made a trade deal with Krakoa, or are in discussions for one, in order to get those pharmaceuticals that were mentioned back in issue #1. Then – and more important going forward – we have a list of countries that have outright refused a trade deal, all of which are described as “naturally adversarial”. The previous scene showed us that the X-Men are not above simply forcing people to play ball, so perhaps there’s also something about these countries – or at least the more significant ones – that makes that less of an option.

They’re a mix of real-world and Marvel Universe states. The real ones are Iran, North Korea, Russia (which was going to vote against Krakoa in the Security Council in the previous scene), Brazil, Venezuela, Honduras and Kenya (we’ll come back to Kenya). The fictional ones:

  • Madripoor. A southeast Asian island nation which features heavily in Wolverine stories and is generally portrayed as rather lawless. Its objections are “political”. In recent years, stories have wavered all over the place as to who is actually running the place, but I believe it’s currently meant to be crimelord Tyger Tiger.
  • Latveria. Dr Doom’s country, for “political” reasons.
  • Santo Marco. The country that Magneto briefly conquered in X-Men #4 (1964). We last saw it in Weapon X #14 (2018), where Weapon X helped a group of rebel fighters to overthrow the government, so its inclusion here on “ideological” grounds is curious.
  • Terra Verde. This looks like a misprint. Marvel does have a “Terra Verde” – Diablo tried to conquer it in Fantastic Four #117 (1971). But it has nothing to do with the X-Men, so it’s much more likely that Hickman is thinking of Tierra Verde, where Wolverine helped to overthrow the government in a 1989-90 storyline.
  • Wakanda. Home of the Black Panther, and so technologically advanced that “they do not need mutant drugs.” That doesn’t stop them from making the list of potentially hostile countries, along with three countries listed as “Wakandan Economic Protectorate.” Two are fictional (listed below), but the third is Kenya, a strange inclusion. It is, however, the country where Storm lived before joining the X-Men.
  • Azania. Originally an apartheid-era South Africa stand in from the 1988 Black Panther miniseries.
  • Canaan. A country briefly conquered by Moses Magnum in a Deathlok storyline from 1993. These two have probably been included on the basis that they’re well established to border Wakanda.

PAGES 25-29: Professor X and Magneto welcome the mutant villains through the portal to join the Krakoan community, despite Wolverine’s misgivings. Apocalypse says he’ll be a good citizen because Krakoa is the realisation of his dream of mutant dominance (which, he says, is what he was trying to foster all along). Professor X doesn’t seem to have a problem with this.

Obviously, having decided to prioritise mutant-ness over all else, Professor X and Magneto have to accept the villains – and we’ve seen already that they’re prepared to shelter the likes of Sabretooth. But while Apocalypse is submitting himself to the Krakoan regime, he’s also ringing more loud alarm bells that things aren’t right at all here, even if Xavier clearly thinks everything’s going just fine.

Apocalypse: The first time we’ve seen him in the modern time frame in this series. In the past, he’s been presented as pursuing conflict as an end in itself, but he’s also appeared to believe that the mutants ought to come out on top. It’s worth noting that we last saw Apocalypse in the “Age of X-Man” crossover, where he seemed to undergo some sort of epiphany through being forced to live out a life as a father and religious teacher – it’s too early to tell whether any of that feeds into his role under Hickman.

None of the other villains get any dialogue, though some are foregrounded. Here’s who they are.

Page 26, panel 1 (left to right):

  • Wildside. A long-standing D-lister who started as a member of the Mutant Liberation Front. Last seen allied with Emma Frost in X-Men: Blue‘s “Mothervine” arc last year.
  • Random. An X-Factor supporting character from the Peter David run. He was last seen hanging around on Utopia, which was a few years back. Barely a villain.
  • Mister Sinister. Seriously A-list, and not actually a mutant. And curious that he’s arriving here, when his diamond logo was already on Hope’s syringe earlier in the issue.
  • Lady Mastermind. One of the daughters of Mastermind, and a long-running minor villain. Briefly a member of the X-Men during the Mike Carey run circa 2007. She hasn’t been seen in a few years.
  • Mesmero. B-list hypnotist villain dating back to the late Silver Age. Last seen manipulating a version of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in X-Men: Gold. Unequivocally a villain.
  • Animax. A very minor character from the Brian Bendis run who has the power to create monsters (like the one she’s riding here).
  • Mentallo. Not principally an X-Men villain, but he is long established as a mutant. He was last seen as an ally of Reverend Stryker in the recent Weapon X series.

Page 26, panel 2 (left to right):

  • Sebastian Shaw? It certainly looks like the long-running Black King of the Hellfire Club, and Emma Frost’s old partner in villainy… but, er, he was seemingly murdered by Emma in X-Men: Black – Emma Frost #1 (2018). There’s a bit of wiggle room in that issue, but not much.
  • Selene. I know tons of characters look kind of like this, but trust me, that’s Selene – exactly as shown on the cover of X-Men #11 (2014), right down to the skull she was carrying. Last seen as a member of the Power Elite in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Captain America.
  • Emplate. Monet St Croix’s brother, and a major villain in Generation X.
  • Exodus. Identified as an omega-level mutant in issue #1, Exodus is a Big Deal. He used to be a fanatical follower of Magneto – and was loyally following him when we last saw him at the tail end of X-Men: Blue – but evidently went his own way at some point for reasons yet to be revealed.
  • Gorgon. A Hand leader introduced in Mark Millar’s Wolverine story “Enemy of the State.”
  • Callisto. Long-time leader of the Morlocks and, again, barely a proper villain.

Page 28, panel 1: Most of these are either unrecognisably blurry or I’ve already mentioned them, but on the left-hand side next to Emplate are…

  • Forearm. Another member of the Mutant Liberation Front.
  • Daken. Wolverine’s estranged son. He was seemingly killed in Hunt for Wolverine: Claws of a Killer #4 (2018), but he was brought back as a reanimated henchman by Persephone in Return of Wolverine (which is basically how Wolverine returned from the dead, so perhaps Daken got better in time too).

Page 28, panel 5: Left to right, again (and ignoring Apocalypse):

  • Azazel, Nightcrawler’s biological father, and a mutant who claims to be a demon. I know. He comes from the Chuck Austen run, but was last seen in the tail end of the recent Weapon X series, hanging around selling favours to politicians.
  • Masque. Another long-running Morlock with more sadistic tendencies. Last seen as a member of the Brotherhood in X-Men: Gold.
  • Black Tom Cassidy…? Well, this is odd. The guy in the wing collar with the red symbol on his chest certainly looks like Banshee’s cousin Black Tom Cassidy, but didn’t Powers of X #4 tell us that he was already involved in running Krakoa…? What are he and Sinister doing in this group, exactly?
  • Lady Mastermind again.
  • Frenzy. Long-time footsoldier Joanna Cargill, who started as a henchman for Apocalypse in early X-Factor, then became one of Magneto’s Acolytes, and eventually joined the X-Men for a while. She’s an odd inclusion in this group too, because she hasn’t been a villain for ages, and she actually showed up to fight Nate Grey alongside the other X-Men in the recent “X-Men: Disassembled” story.
  • Marrow. Sometime terrorist, sometime late-90s X-Man. She was allied with Emma Frost in the recent Uncanny X-Men issues too.

Some of these characters are really quite strange choices for a generic crowd shot of villains. Is it just random selection to make up the numbers, or is there a reason…?

PAGE 30. A quote from Magneto, again stressing mutant-ness as an overriding consideration.

PAGES 31-33. The reading order and the trailers. “NEXT: FOR THE CHILDREN” and “THEN: I AM NOT ASHAMED OF WHAT I AM”.

Bring on the comments

  1. Omar Karindu says:

    Whoops, posted this in the wrong thread!

    Job’s not on board.

    More seriously, though, I tend to side with those who think Hickman comes up with very elaborate frameworks, plots, and theme, but that he also tends to write characters whose main traits is that they are invested in the logic of those systems to the point that the themes and systems drive their actions.

    HoX/PoX has so far been almost all about that, partly because of the mystery structure, and partly because of the massive cast. The characters so far have politics,, but they don’t have much of anything else (other than Sinister, who’s been played for laughs to some extent).

    Of course, that’s probably also indicative of the speculative fiction bent of the series, and of Hickman himself: in that genre, it’s often the case that the effects of the “world-building” drive most of the characterization, and not the other way around.

    In the end, for each reader, the story’s going to live or die on how interested they are in Hickman’s speculations, the extent to which they wanted to see the X-Men as science fiction franchise in the first place, and on whether they think those speculations have any meaningful applicability.

    That noted, the price of modern comics does mean that a slow-burn mystery like this can be criticized simply on price: a television series or a book can cover the same sort of ground at a much lower price on he consumer end.

  2. Maxwell's Hammer says:

    I totally get that cost is a factor on how much you’re willing to give a book the benefit of the doubt. But this isn’t something new. As comics readers, I think we’re all aware that not every book we hitch out wagon to isn’t going to leave us satisfied. I envy those with the wherewithal to drop a book mid-story based on that.

    I guess my problem is that you seem like you’re trying to prove to everyone that it is an objectively badly written story, when it really boils down to this kind of story not being to your taste. Those who view their own opinions as self-evident facts really rub me the wrong way.

    I mean, you seem to be taking it as a given that the X-Men’s stilted behavior is just bad writing and not a symptom of some underlying creepy plot point about what the fuck is going on with creepy Xavier, when all of the evidence is clearing pointing to the latter. It’s also weird that you keep acting like making the X-Men functionally immortal is the ultimate end-game of the series (and in your opinion stupid), when it’s clear that the many other shoes that are going to drop as a result of that immortality are likely going to make for some rather interesting stories in the foreseeable future.

    Also, making fun of someone’s username? That’s a low blow, O Long Suffering One 🙂

  3. CJ says:

    @Loz in Seveneves, I think there were even “Moirans”, right? 🙂

    The fact that Xavier keeps multiple redundant backups of every mutant mind that he’s scanned is itself an interesting story direction. The ability to abuse the connectedness of a hive-mind (what if Orchis got into Krakoa, for example, or what if someone weaponizes one of Xavier’s mind cradles against him, Life 9 singularities) is a recurring theme.

    AI as a boon to mutantkind (and let’s face it, a “mind database” is a lot like a massive neural network) vs. AI leading to their demise seems to be another theme.

  4. CJ says:

    Re: everyone who is waiting for Xavier to show his cards

    When he’s talking with Emma about brainwashing (or nudging) ambassadors, he says “Compulsion leaves an indelible mark on the victim. It affects the one perpetrating the act–dominating the will of another, you see, comes at a cost.”

    So a strong-enough telepath will be able to detect whether massive mind-control is happening, and it sounds to me like he’s setting himself up for a noble sacrifice for his ultimate goal–seems mere immortality for mutants is not where he plans to stop.

  5. Omar Karindu says:

    I guess my take is that I can understand bailing on a slow-burn story if the pacing of the payoffs isn;’t satisfying.

    Big Two superhero comics are still caught int he trap between “creators’ runs for the bookshelf” and “ongoing, endless serial,” and it’s just about impossible to satisfy the whole audience under those conditions.

    The marketing around Hickman’s story is especially interesting in this regard: on the one hand, it’s being sold on the basis of his creative role, and HoX/PoX read like an ambitiously structured quasi-novel. But the presentation is also that this is the foundation for the X-Men as a serial (or a series of serials) featuring familiar IPs/characters for, what, the next ten years or so?

    There have been plenty of responses to these annotation posts that hit that underlying tension straight on, with concerns that this will all be reversed, that the series that follow it will use narrative trickery to avoid the big stuff that some people are enjoying in HoX/PoX in favor of servicing the IP, and even people wondering (with varying reactions) if this is about spinning the X-Men franchise out into a self-contained, separate serial continuity.

    Getting away from that sort of analysis — which is something Marvel’s editorial and sales personnel know much more about — I do think Hickman tends to try to fit his themes and megaplots to what he sees as the basic tone and core concept of a series.

    So Fantastic Four was, in the end, actually an optimistic take on family, Avengers was about optimism vs. cynicism in the face of world-shaking threats, and SHIELD and Secret Warriors were about complicated legerdemain and short-sighted conspiracism.

    And Secret Wars was about Jim Shooter’s take on Doctor Doom, about what happens when a character whose talents are huge and whose ego is huger still gets the power he thinks he should have.

    So maybe the real “mystery” here is what Hickman thinks the X-Men is about. So far, the answer seems to be that the major themes are transhumanist possibilities and anxieties intersecting with competing ethnonationalisms and social structures, which isn’t a bad read on the concept.

    But it is a read that sees the characters more as social functions and visionaries, with little of the interpersonal drama so central to the X-Men for years.

  6. FUBAR007 says:

    Chris V: We have been conditioned so much in the “West” to find good societies to be ones that embrace things like individualism, democracy, Capitalism….
    Ideas about collectivism are usually viewed as dystopian.

    …because the historical track record of collectivism has been rather bloody and horrendous e.g. Maoist China, Stalinist Russia, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, etc. It’s all well and good as long as your views are in line with those of the collective. Once they’re not…not so much. The nail that sticks up gets hammered very, very hard.

    Anyway, thus far, Hickman’s story hasn’t exactly been an expose on the flaws of Western society or a moral interrogation of Enlightenment-based notions of individualism and human rights. The surface gloss, rather, is social justice wish fulfillment–a long persecuted minority achieving (apparent) security and political independence. From an American perspective, and Hickman is an American writer, that presses all the progressive happy buttons.

    We’ll find out in due course if that’s really all there is to it. Just going off how dramatic storytelling works, I’m skeptical in the extreme that is the case. The tell will be when we see how Hickman has the Krakoan nation deal with dissenters and prisoners of war.

  7. Chris V says:

    I realize why people have turned against those concepts.
    Are Aldous Huxley and Arthur Koestler not good enough?

    My point is that there is a strain running beneath that surface of the dystopian that one can find in works such as Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.

    It seems that Hickman may be interested in theories like those of Pierre Teilhard De Chardin.
    That, yes, totalitarianism is bad, but the idea that evolution might be moving towards the collective over the individual.
    We do see that throughout the entirety of Hickman’s series, so far.
    Mutants are considered the “next stage in human evolution”.

    Actually, the whole “progressive” persecuted minority get their own sovereignty has been a very small aspect to the series so far.
    We’ve seen a lot more about clones, hive-minds and collective consciousness, and the Singularity.

  8. Rybread says:

    Why do people keep engaging with Job? It’s been clear for a while now that he’s just a troll.

  9. Rybread says:

    I’m usually left very cold by Hickman’s writing. I think he’s much better at authoring flowcharts than narratives. But against my better judgment, I’ve been enjoying these so far. It’s been intriguing and has me hooked. Of course the characterization is still off (which may or may not be deliberate) and the payoff could well be a let-down. I’m prepared to be disappointed. But for now, at least, I’m interested to see where Hickman is going with this.

  10. FUBAR007 says:

    Chris V: My point is that there is a strain running beneath that surface of the dystopian that one can find in works such as Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.

    Are you familiar with Iain Banks’s Culture novels? If not, I recommend them as I think they would scratch your itch.

    That said, I don’t think that’s the direction Hickman is going. There have been too many signals and allusions to nationalism and fascism, indicating something very, very shady is going on.

    Actually, the whole “progressive” persecuted minority get their own sovereignty has been a very small aspect to the series so far.

    I disagree. That’s been the central narrative of the Year Ten setting.

  11. Chris V says:

    Of course, there are two ways to see this.
    On the one hand, is it a commentary on nationalism?
    On the other hand, it’s about mutants who are supposed to be a separate species.

    The idea of everyone who is a mutant coming together is also the opposite of nationalism, even if it is to form their own nation.
    In that sense, it’d be like everyone who was Homo Sapien Sapiens coming together, which is the opposite of nationalism.
    The exclusion of non-mutants could then be seen as similar to this hypothetical “brotherhood of mankind” not granting any rights to chimpanzees.

    I’m trying to find my own positive spin on where Hickman is going.
    The idea that it’s all an “evil plot” just isn’t an interesting or novel direction to go in, as far as I’m concerned.
    I’ll be highly disappointed if the resolution is “Xavier has gone bad”, “Xavier was really Cassandra Nova”, “Xavier was controlled by Shadow King”, or some such variation.

  12. Chris V says:

    I keep looking to the Year 1,000 scenes, where the culmination of everything is to achieve “ascension”.
    The hive-mind and collective consciousness elements have to be more than a red flag about the dangers of nationalism (or what-have-you), based on what occurs in the Year 1,000.
    That’s why I keep thinking that there must be something more going on than something about an “evil plot” with Krakoa.

  13. FUBAR007 says:

    RE: Year 1000, my current suspicion is that it’s Moira’s 6th life. But, I could be entirely off-base. Hopefully, we’ll find out what’s what by the end of the mini-series.

    To be clear, I don’t think the “commentary on nationalism” is the totality of Hickman’s narrative, just one aspect of it. Just as the transhumanism we’re seeing in the Year 1000 narrative is another.

  14. Chris V says:

    It may be life six. Then, Moira learns from and changes her life based on what she learns in her prior lives.

    So, it may be that what she learned was that mutants must give up their individuality and embrace a hive-mind collective in order to achieve “ascension”.

  15. Allan says:

    Insofar that anything about them was coherent, the Neo – the next stage of evolution, as above mutants as mutants are above humans – also had a hive mind thing going on. So the notion that the next stage of evolution involves collective intelligence isn’t new to this franchise.

    I’m sure that Paul is giddy with excitement about the prospect of reading about the Shockwave Riders again.

  16. Chris V says:

    The twist ending that no one saw coming….The Phalanx reject the mutants and say they want the Neo.
    Hickman’s “Dawn of X” was just a red herring.
    In reality, it’s the “Dawn of the Neo”, with its flagship title the Shockwave Riders.
    Marvel’s sales figures go through the roof, and everyone declares that only the genius of Jonathan Hickman could have accomplished this.
    Disney quickly scrambles to start the Neo movie franchise, which blows away the profits made on Star Wars.

    No. I barely remember anything about the Neo, but their lack of any characterization may appeal to those who criticize Hickman’s lack of skills in writing distinct characters.

  17. Dazzler says:

    Hi guys! I know we don’t *quite* know where Hickman is going with all of this (though I think we have some idea by now), but is there any idea anywhere in here that’s better than “Sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them?”

    Like, you’ve got these people imbued with power and the bad guys want to use it to conquer the weak and the heroes use their powers to defend the weak? Or we’re all the same and we’re all in this together and it’s not a bad thing to be different?

    I think Hickman’s big ideas are probably great when they’re not supplanting better ideas. And I think it’s bizarre to completely de-emphasize the characters in a series whose cast is arguably its greatest strength. Even if you’re super into this idea of the X-Men as an alien cult of pod clones, I don’t understand how the average reader isn’t missing a lot of what made the X-Men work back when it worked.

    One of my biggest annoyances with this series is that 10 thick issues in, even by the end of the set-up I don’t even think anyone can really guess what the ongoing will be like. I imagine a lot of people really liking this and refusing to stick around because what follows is going to be nothing like this, I think.

    The strengths here to me look like the grandeur, the unfolding of the mystery, and of course the A++ art. Then the flagship books are Cyclops’ family and The New Mutants, whom we haven’t seen here. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t have handled the relaunch anything like this. I’m very curious to see how long this status quo ends up lasting, because I don’t think the line looks especially exciting.

  18. Chris V says:

    I think that something that Hickman misses that has been inherent to the X-Men is the fact that, just like the Fantastic Four, the X-Men have always been about family.
    Just a different definition of family.

    I think that’s what a lot of the people who are upset with Hickman’s run are most missing.

    This isn’t Hickman’s fault though, as the books have been so caught up in the concept of extinction (going back to House of M) that this integral part of the X-Men has been mostly lost for a few decades now.


    Personally, at this point, I think that the concept of “fights for a world that fears and hates them” looks less like a compelling direction than mental illness.

    If the Jewish people during World War II were concerned that the Allies were going to overthrow the Nazi government, and decided they would do whatever it took to save the Nazi government, no matter what the Nazis thought about them….would you say that was heroic or insanity?

    It’s gotten to such a ludicrous point of humanity hating mutants that there needs to be a change of direction.
    We’ve been stuck with “fighting for a world that fears and hates them, while facing genocide” or “extinction” for so many years.
    The idea that mutants have a future is far more interesting now.

    Will Hickman’s run be something more interesting? I don’t know.
    I’m giving him three more issues to convince me though.

  19. Mark Coale says:

    Are we closing in on longest HTA thread yet?

  20. Job says:


    “The strengths here to me look like the grandeur, the unfolding of the mystery, and of course the A++ art.”

    You know, the art bothers me. It’s not bad. I like the styles, similar as they are, and they pretty clearly tell the story. But I’ve seen almost nobody talk about it, because as suitable as it is, there’s nothing noteworthy about it, and that’s really weird. And I’m not putting any of that on Hickman, as the artists on his Avengers work clearly shined through. Aside from being able to hit their deadlines, I have no idea why the editors picked these guys to draw this series.

  21. Job says:

    @Maxwell’s Marginally Acceptable Hammer

    “I mean, you seem to be taking it as a given that the X-Men’s stilted behavior is just bad writing”

    No, what I’m saying is that given the history of Hickman’s inability/refusal to write characters and distinctive dialogue, we cannot reasonably conclude whether this bad writing is intentional. I don’t know how many times I can explain this.

    “some underlying creepy plot point about what the fuck is going on with creepy Xavier, when all of the evidence is clearing pointing to the latter.”

    It’s not, though. I’ve been going through and reading Hickman’s other work, like SHIELD and Ultimates. He routinely has the “preposterously intelligent heroic leader” type make decisions that the other characters don’t understand and don’t agree with but that ultimately benefit everyone in the end. Also, in the context of this series, the “evidence” points to Xavier’s actions as the solution to his failing in the other timelines, so no, we actually are not meant to assume that he is necessarily doing something similar.

    “It’s also weird that you keep acting like making the X-Men functionally immortal is the ultimate end-game of the series (and in your opinion stupid)”

    No, I haven’t spoken about what the end-game is. I think it’s stupid right now. I don’t know how much clearer I can be about that.

    “it’s clear that the many other shoes that are going to drop as a result of that immortality are likely going to make for some rather interesting stories in the foreseeable future.”

    I don’t see how this is clear at all. Please clarify these interesting future stories for me.

  22. Job says:

    *doing something sinister

  23. Aro says:

    I feel like the first three issues of the series were very strong, and packed full of interesting ideas: Krakoa in issue 1 (HOX1), the four different timelines in issue 2 (POX1), and Moira’s lives in issue 3 (HOX2). For me, the subsequent issues have been kind of coasting of the goodwill and promises generated by those ideas and mysteries.

    The heists and subsequent suicide missions in issues 4-7 (POX2-3, HOX3-4) were largely boilerplate plots, mostly interesting because of how they tie into the earlier world building, and the fact that we get to see what happens after the characters appear to die in both missions. They were competent adventure stories with some good character moments, but not truly revelatory.

    We have now had two issues (POX 4 & HOX 5) that are mostly about the mechanics of Krakoa and the Ascension. These have been less satisfying to me, because it’s not clear what the stakes are in either scenario. It feels a little like Hickman is setting the chessboard for the next run of stories. That’s fine, but I had come into HOX/POX expecting a kind of self-contained, novelistic story.

    The cloning/immortality device seems like a way to allow Marvel to re-set the X-Men roster, rather than a viable long-term plot device, but we’ll see. I think it opens up interesting story ideas, but it doesn’t seem like most of them will play out in this particular series.

  24. Robert says:

    I must admit that I am fairly on the side of wanting to see where Hickman is going with all of this.

    I have honestly enjoyed every issue so far, and I look forward to the next installment every week.

    This is probably the most excited and interested I’ve been in the franchise since Morrison.

  25. Job says:

    Here’s a question:

    What do all the mutant residents of Krakoa actually do? What is there to even do? We got an entire map of the region, and yet there is no indication of what life there is like, beyond chanting whenever people return from the dead in pods.

    Prior to the villain action figures being shuffled onto Krakoa, is everyone cool with Magneto hanging out there? With Emma Frost and the Brotherhood guys?

    Are the residents who aren’t members of the, ehem, suicide squad tasked with protecting mutanity cool with all this? Are they worried about sentinels and the outside world? Are they happy?

    Are there any characters in this book?

  26. Chris V says:

    Yes, I think that is very interesting.
    It’s that sort of world-building which I’d like to see more of, and may (probably?) be fleshed out in the on-going series.

    There’s certainly interesting directions to go in with what the people living on Krakoa are doing.
    I would think a large amount of the population would be left idle.

    It’s a society that doesn’t need to be dependent on technology, due to the mutant powers.
    I would assume that things would be shared in common, because it’d be so easy to accomplish routine tasks with all the mutant powers.
    It would be an extremely communal society, without need for money.
    There would certainly be some jobs that would be very important…clothes, shelter, food.

  27. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Regarding art I’d say it’s spectacular, especially Marte Gracia’s coloring. On pencils Pepe Larraz is better than RB Silva, but they’ve both been good to very good on occasion. (Silva’s faces sometimes fell flat for me, but his Nimrod was fantastically creepy and/or childlike).

  28. Joseph S. says:

    @Chris V

    I dunno, that sounds like nationalism to me. I mean, that’s what the nation in nation-state refers to, a people. Despite the often universalist rhetoric, modern liberal democracies are actually built on exclusion. The example of the state of Israel is probably the clearest example of this. (Which, for what it’s worth, I’ve argued is an interesting lens to view Magneto [never again, etc])

  29. Chris V says:

    I’m not sure if it can be considered within the context of “nationalism” though, due to the fact that it’s one species.
    If I founded a nation, and said that everyone who is a member of the species Homo Sapien Sapiens can come and join me, that’s not nationalism.

    I mean, it depends. Do you want to see mutants as a metaphor for ethnonationalists here, or are we using mutants as a separate species?

  30. Dazzler says:

    If words have meaning, mutants are not a species. If words have no meaning, why not invent a new word for mutants other than race or species? They have mutations, that’s what differentiates them. I don’t get why people with access to dictionaries keep calling them a species.

  31. Joseph S. says:

    I agree with Dazzler here, at best mutants are a sub-species, especially since it’s long been established that humans birth mutants, that mutants and humans can procreate together without producing sterile offspring.

    [But again, if we are reading this at least on some level as allegorical or metaphorical then this kind of scrutiny paints us in to a corner. So it will be interesting to see what Hickman’s ultimate take is on the X-Men, since judging by the solicts the upcoming books are sticking with the separatist angle. I can be wrong here, but books like Marauders and X-Force seem to fit into that paradigm, no? Could be a misdirect, I guess we’ll see.]

  32. wwk5d says:

    “I don’t get why people with access to dictionaries keep calling them a species.”

    I don’t get why it bothers you so much if people do.

  33. SanityOrMadness says:


    Because words have meanings. However extreme the phenotypical differences, genotypically they’re no different from, say, an albino born in a community of black people.

  34. Job says:

    Perhaps I spoke too soon when I said Hickman is always interesting. PoX #5 was incredibly boring.

    The bulk of the issue was redundant coming after HoX #5. The scenes inviting all mutants surely should have appeared before, you know, they all accepted and came over? Weirdly sloppy editing.

    The Emma Frost stuff was just sleep-inducing. We don’t even know what Krakoan society is like or what mutants actually, you know, do there, and yet we have pages and pages of exposition about how it’s to be ordered and governed. Yawn.

    And the Year-1000 shit still has no clear connection to anything going on in the present. It’s so boring.

  35. Job says:

    And it’s a really weird display of editorial/marketing disconnect to devote an entire issue to Emma Frost, Forge, and Namor, when none of these characters seem to be appearing in the upcoming X-titles.

    Meanwhile, hardly any of the characters appearing in the upcoming X-titles have appeared.

    I’m not saying they have to appear in this title to make this a good story. I just don’t know how they can expect to sell a whole line of books spinning off from this series when this series touches on barely any of them.

  36. Dazzler says:

    “I don’t get why it bothers you so much if people do.”

    It doesn’t bother me, because in a universe where words are arbitrarily assigned new definitions “bother” could be synonymous with delight. And I’m not delighted at all, I’m a bit irritated.

    Also, Job just made a great point, and I’ve had similar thoughts. At my LCS last week I expressed to the clerk that I didn’t envy the task of figuring out how the hell to order these upcoming series. As well as this event is selling, it looks like what follows will be absolutely nothing like it. Also I don’t suspect it’s going to take off. At all.

  37. SanityOrMadness says:


    Frost’s in Marauders, and X-Men #3. (It looks from the December solicits that X-Men is a rotating cast book – #1-2 are Summers-Grey Family, #3 is Cyclops/Frost, #4 is Storm/Armor. Also, New Mutants #3, Brisson’s issue intersecting Hickman’s opening arc with the NM team, is Armor/Glob/the French twins from Extermination).

  38. YLu says:


    “The bulk of the issue was redundant coming after HoX #5. The scenes inviting all mutants surely should have appeared before, you know, they all accepted and came over?”

    No, because then their arrival wouldn’t have been a dramatic reveal.

  39. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    One could try to build anticipation, focues on whether the villains will accept or not (and then maybe show one or two who didn’t accept).

    Still, I enjoyed the quite silly picture of behelmeted Magneto haggling over distribution rights with Emma. As well as the fact that as soon as actual governing was mentioned, Emma started negotiating for more gain.

    This, for me, is at least a start of filling in the blanks of Krakoa.

    (Though I’m still waiting for a down-to-earth, shoes-on-the-street point-of-view).

  40. Chris V says:

    Regardless of the fact of whether mutants fit the definition of a new species or not, which I agree they scientifically do not, in the Marvel Universe, they have been defined as a separate species from humanity.
    I can only work with what is on the comics page.
    Being exposed to radiation doesn’t grant someone super-powers, but on the page, Spider Man gets “spider powers” from being bitten by a radioactive spider.
    I can quibble over and over and say, “Radiation doesn’t cause superpowers. Peter Parker would get very, very ill, not spider-powers!” until I’m blue in the fact, yet in the comic book, this is what occurs.


    I am wondering more and more about Hickman’s direction, as he seemed to go online to defend the choice to portray Jean Grey in her Marvel Girl outfit.
    I don’t really understand why he would do that unless there is no real mystery behind this decision, but it was just a creative choice.
    So, it’s looking more and more like the poor characterization isn’t a hint of where the book is going.

  41. Chris V says:

    Also, if you’re wondering what I’m going by in the comics which says that humans and mutants are a separate species, it’s the comparisons made between Neanderthals (as humans) and Cro-Magnons (as mutants).
    Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons were a separate species, not sub-species.

    Scientifically speaking, different species can inter-breed together.
    Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons, lions and tigers, etc. can reproduce, even though they’re considered separate species.

    I agree that mutants do not fit the definition of a separate species, but in the comic books, yes, they have been considered just that.

  42. CJ says:

    Saving PoX #5 comments for Paul’s annotations, but in the issue it’s stated that Xavier can revert a mind back to a legacy state, and that he’s done it twice. It’s possible Jean Grey got reverted to Marvel Girl as opposed to her more mature X-Men: Red version.

    (Why he would do this, or why anyone would be okay with it, I’ve no clue. I would say it’s an attempt to define Jean without reference to Phoenix, but Jean already told the Phoenix to get lost last year.

    Plus I hate Marvel Girl’s costume. She looks like she’s going to dance the Batusi.)

  43. Chris V says:

    The only thing I could figure about Xavier doing that type of tampering, is if he’s concerned about being able to control others.

    If Jean was too powerful for him to know he could control her, maybe he purposely made her weaker, so she’d be easier to control.

  44. Omar Karindu says:

    I mean, it depends. Do you want to see mutants as a metaphor for ethnonationalists here, or are we using mutants as a separate species?

    This being superhero comics, the metaphor is both literalized and bidirectional: on the one hand, mutants are in some way actual, radically different form of life. On the other hand, they are acting like an ethnonationalist group with a desire for their own nation-state, authochthonous cultural forms, and a distinct national language.

  45. Chris V says:

    Trying to think about the two simultaneously creates a disconnect in the mind.
    It’s the same as “metaphor for a persecuted minority” and also the “next stage in human evolution”.
    There’s a dichotomy between the two concepts.

    It leads to the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons analogy.

    Eventually, an author has to choose which one to emphasize.
    The question becomes does Hickman want us to sympathize with the concept of nationalism, or if he crafting a statement about nationalism.

  46. Dazzler says:

    “…in the Marvel Universe, they have been defined as a separate species from humanity.”

    Defined is too strong a word here. You phrased it better in your subsequent comment. Mutants have certainly been discussed using words like species, but it has never been, and should never be, definitive.

    Different speciea may occasionally be able to reproduce, but two of the same species don’t suddenly produce a different species. There’s no need to introduce inaccurate words here when we already have a word for what they are and it’s mutants, obviously. They are mutated humans.

  47. Chris V says:

    CJ-I just read the issue, and there’s a mention about the Phoenix in one of the info-pages.
    About how only Phoenix and Galactus are a threat.

    That may be a huge clue as to why Jean would be put back to a point prior to the Phoenix.

    Yes, it completely ignores recent continuity where Jean already rejected the Phoenix, but continuity is being played fast and loose in this series, so I think that might be something Hickman is unaware or ignoring.

  48. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Hickman already showed he’s familiar with recent continuity – he mentioned Xandra as Shi’ar Empress in the future of x2 (Xandra was introduced in Mr & Mrs X) and now in PoX5 Emma speaks of her moves as Black King (from X-Men Black: Emma Frost).

  49. CJ says:

    Yeah, being wary of Phoenix may be the reason. But what we don’t know is what Jean is like right now–her quote from HoX #5 is from “Inferno” so presumably she knows all about Phoenix.

  50. CJ says:

    And Trinary from HoX #3-4 is from X-Men: Red too, so recent continuity is not ignored or in the distant past. Of course, I’m assuming there IS a reason Jean is sporting old colors.

    It’s too bad that the green-and-gold Phoenix costume is, well, about Phoenix, because it really is a perfected version of the Silver Age costume.

Leave a Reply