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Sep 26

Powers of X #5 annotations

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

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

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

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

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

PAGES 4-7: The “Year One” scene shows Professor X visiting Forge to enlist his help in upgrading Cerebro to prepare a database of back-up copies of the minds of every mutant on the planet.

It goes without saying that this is all massively creepy and invasive, and plays into the interpretation of Professor X as a very ends-justify-the-means character. Xavier rather implies that he tried discussing this idea with Beast, who was quite emphatic about shooting it down – he describes that discussion in terms of technical feasibility, but it’s hard to avoid a vibe that Beast had serious ethical problems. Forge, in contrast, only seems to care about the technical challenge.

Timeframe: Once again, the timeframe here is rather obscure, but let’s assume that “Year One” means somewhere roughly in the region of the X-Men’s founding. There are a number of conflicting signals, though…

  • Xavier has been discussing Cerebro with the Beast. Beast was the last of the boys to join the X-Men (in the late-sixties “Origins of the X-Men” back-up strips), so the X-Men team must exist by this point.
  • Forge is wearing what’s effectively an X-Men uniform, but with a blank circle instead of the X-Men logo on the belt. The lighting in this scene makes it hard to tell whether the lighter parts are yellow (like the X-Men’s) or white. It looks more like the late 80s/early 90s uniforms than a Silver Age uniform – for what it may be worth, the design of those uniforms was credited to Moira (in Uncanny #262). At any rate, his costume is a bit weird.
  • Xavier knows about the Shi’ar. This is odd, since Xavier didn’t meet Lilandra and make contact with the Shi’ar until X-Men #105 (1977). If he already knows about them at the start of the Silver Age, that seems to be a retcon.

Forge. A mutant inventor and ally of the X-Men who debuted in Uncanny X-Men #184 (1984) as a supporting character, before graduating to become a member right at the end of the Claremont era. He was Storm’s romantic interest for a long time, but more recently has gone through a string of breakdown stories. He seemed back to normal in Dead Man Logan recently. The idea that Forge had a formal arrangement with Xavier this early on is new – when he first appeared, he was a freelance inventor making weapons for the government. He’s not an established ally at this point in his career, though his interest in technical challenge over moral concerns is fairly in character.

“Dallas, Texas.” This is presumably Forge’s established base in Eagle Plaza, Dallas.

Generations of Cerebro. Xavier says there have been four generations of Cerebro, “counting the initial prototype.” This seems to be a reference to the “Origins of the X-Men” backup strip in X-Men #40 (1968), where a prototype version of Cerebro was named “Cyberno” – hence the numbering confusion.

“I would prefer five.” Xavier asks for five storage units: “One main unit, three backups and an additional one for… unforeseen complications.” That’s just a roundabout way of saying “four backups”, so it sounds as if Xavier has something more specific in mind. Xavier seems rather keen on the number five for some reason, given that we’ve just had The Five in House of X, and there were five members of the original X-Men team.

The Shi’ar. Xavier plans to use a “cloaked antimatter engine of imperial design currently in Earth’s orbit” as a power source, and “Shi’ar logic diamonds” as a storage medium. We’ve seen in previous issues that the Shi’ar apparently provided a home for mutants in the Year 100 timeframe. I’m not clear what the antimatter engine is, if it’s a reference to anything previously mentioned.

PAGE 8: A data page on Cerebro. This is a rather scattershot collection of data, some of which relates to Cerebro, some not. For the most part, the description of Cerebro just expands on what we’ve already heard. He’s making backups of every mutant mind – apparently without consent – to multiple “cradles” on a weekly basis.

The cradles: There are five locations listed. One is Moira’s No-Place (see below); one is the House of X on Krakoa itself; and one is Island M, Magneto’s former island base. The other two are “Summer House” and “The Pointe”, neither of which means anything to me – though “Summer House” might be something to do with the Summers family, traditionally cited as a major mutant bloodline.

“Moira’s No-Place”: One of the five cradles is “Moira’s No-Place”, Krakoa also has a “No-Place vent” which serves as a power source. No-Place was identified in House of X #1 as a flower which produces “a habitat that exists outside the collective consciousness of Krakoa”, unknown to Krakoa itself. (Incidentally, that data page contains two references to Krakoa as a collective consciousness, which is interesting with hindsight.)

Body/mind mismatches: Somewhat unrelated to the rest of the page, we’re reminded again of the possibility of putting the wrong mind in the cloned body. This is likely to be harmful… unless a mutant has the powers to overcome it. So clearly that’s happening at some point.

Professor X: Xavier has twice restored his own mind from backup – in practical terms, erasing his own memories. So either there’s something he can’t live with or something he doesn’t want to know. Again, it’s clearly setting up a plot.

PAGES 9-13: The first part of the Year 10 (present day) sequence. Professor X and Magneto approach Emma Frost and enlist her to help sell Krakoa’s mutant pharmaceuticals and join their government. Emma’s initial reaction – unlike most characters we’ve seen so far – is to point out all the rational objections to this whole plan. In particular, she’s the first character to actually point out the obvious parallel with Genosha (even though Hickman has repeatedly referenced Genosha in other contexts). While she’s fairly easily won over, part of the point of this scene is to make clear that Hickman is well aware of these objections.

The statues: The one seen on panel is the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a Greek statue from the 2nd century BC. Emma also mentions seeing “the Canova”, which would be Antonio Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss – but she says that she thought this statue was “a more appropriate place to meet”, perhaps because it’s sort of mutanty (it’s got wings), and it’s in ruins.

Hellfire Corporation: Emma regained control of the Hellfire Club and its associated enterprises in X-Men Black: Emma Frost (2018); this all reflects her pre-House of X status quo as shown in Uncanny X-Men.

PAGES 14-17: The second part of the Year 10 sequence, as Magneto and Professor X bring Emma to Krakoa, and she agrees to join their scheme. This is where Emma gives her “for the children” speech quoted in the epigraph. She’s long been written as having a genuine interest in the next generation of mutants; it’s entirely in character for that to be her motivation in terms of joining a grand scheme of this sort. The other main purposes of this scene are to reveal some details of the Krakoan government (typically uncomfortable) and to set up the premise for Marauders.

The Hellfire Trading Company: The Hellfire Corporation is going to “become the East India trading company of mutantdom” – and indeed the solicitations for Marauders #1 refer to Emma running something called the Hellfire Trading Company. The East India Company was a British company founded in 1600, originally with the intention of trading with India, but which developed over time to become the vehicle through which large chunks of Asia wound up in the British Empire. Which bodes well for any humans planning to trade with Emma’s company, doesn’t it?

Sebastian Shaw: Shaw was the Black King of the original Hellfire Club Inner Circle (original in terms of the first-published stories, that is), alongside Emma as White Queen. Xavier and Magneto want Sebastian Shaw to run the Hellfire Club’s dealings with adversarial nations (those listed in House of X #5, presumably). As Emma says, she “just got rid of him” in X-Men Black: Emma Frost – which, in fact, very strongly implied that she had killed him. Her reaction here, though, suggests that Hickman is taking advantage of that issue’s very, very limited wiggle room and declaring that he wasn’t quite dead after all.

PAGES 18-19: Data pages about “The Quiet Council of Krakoa”, Krakoa’s interim ruling body which… may or may not be all that interim. The government of Krakoa is decidedly lacking in transparency. It’s not democratic, it has no discernible accountability, and even the identities of its members appear to be secret. The reference here to “some debate” about reforming it is the closest we’ve seen so far to a suggestion of actual dissent over anything on Krakoa. We’re not told why it’s called the “Quiet Council”, but given some of the members, I’d guess that they hold their meetings telepathically.

There are 12 members of the council, divided into four groups, each named after a season. Most of the names are redacted; Professor X and Magneto are on the autumn list, while Black King and White Queen are on spring. The third “spring” member is presumably going to be whoever Emma insisted upon at the end of the previous scene, and we’ll learn about that in due course. All the “winter” and “summer” names are blacked out, but one of the winter names is in fact legible if you zoom in (which seems to be deliberate) – it’s Mystique. Cypher and Krakoa are also listed as attending, but not as part of the 12. Cypher’s presence is presumably at least in part to serve as an interpreter for Krakoa.

PAGES 20-22: The third part of the Year 10 sequence, as Xavier sends a telepathic message to mutants worldwide, inviting them to Krakoa – then goes to speak to Namor about it. Interestingly, even though Xavier’s speech is all about putting our differences aside and realising that mutants are all one people, we only see him approaching the villains – many of the same ones who were shown in House of X #5 arriving at Krakoa only long after the island was up and running. Something’s up here. Where are the X-Men?

Specifically, the characters shown listening to Xavier are:

  • Exodus and the Acolytes. Followers of Magneto – Exodus in particular tends to be quasi-religious about it – which makes it all the odder that they need to be approached this way at all. The individual Acolytes aren’t always easy to identify given their very similar costumes, but there doesn’t seem to be much significance in the particular ones chosen here.
  • Mr Sinister, apparently just finishing off on a particularly murderous experiment with some of his own clones. Again, it seems odd that Xavier is approaching him in this way, when he’s central to a big part of Xavier’s plan. As noted in relation to previous issues, he’s also not technically a mutant.
  • The Omega Clan – Omega White, Omega Red and Omega Black, from Uncanny X-Force #25 (2012). Confusingly, all three are clones (sort of) of the original Omega Red. Red and Black also both died later in the Uncanny X-Force run, though Red was among the dead characters revived as a zombie by Persephone in Return of Wolverine (2018).
  • Gorgon, the high-ranking Hand member (who hasn’t previously shown much interest in mutant politics or identity).

Namor. Unlike the characters above, he gets a personal (telepathic) visit from Xavier, perhaps because he’s the ruler of Atlantis. Namor wasn’t originally a mutant – he predates the X-Men by decades – but was rather hamfistedly retconned into being a mutant during the 80s, on the logic that his power of flight couldn’t logically be attributed to his Atlantean heritage. He occasionally shows up as an X-Man in more recent years, but most recently he’s been used mainly as an erratic antagonist in Invaders – I’m only reading that series on Unlimited, so I’m way behind on his status quo. Continuing a theme for this issue, Namor is the first mutant we’ve seen refuse to play ball with Xavier’s grand ideas.

Namor doesn’t believe Xavier’s stated reasons for Krakoa. While it’s not very clearly worded (to put it mildly), Namor seems to be saying that he thinks Xavier is putting on an act of mutant nationalism, and should come back when he really means it.

Namor’s throne – a giant shell design with a Lovecraftian monster behind it – is strikingly similar to the one from Moira’s eighth life in House of X #2, where Magneto was using it as his throne on Island M. They’re not identical, but the differences are within the bounds of artistic licence. This is obviously leading somewhere.

PAGE 23: The Stan Lee page.

PAGES 24-27: The Year 1000 sequence, as the Phalanx declare the “copy your mind to a computer” approach to be an acceptable way for mutants to be absorbed into the collective. And then they’re going to kill everything on Earth to absorb it for energy. There’s an obvious parallel here with Professor X using Cerebro to restore dead mutants from back-up in House of X and insisting that this definitely does amount to recovering their soul. This is the inverse: since the mutants will all survive as electronic copies, what difference does it make the originals are all killed? Underlying all this is the question of authenticity, and whether – if you can make an absolutely accurate copy of someone – there is any meaningful difference between the two. We might instinctively object that the clones don’t have souls, but characters like Rasputin are also lab-grown and we don’t have the same instinctive objection to them. Why can’t the cloned X-Men have their own souls which simply happen to be identical to the originals’…?

“Primordial kirbons” Not a thing. Probably a Jack Kirby reference.

Titan society. The Librarian recounts a theory that every black hole is the result of a society so advanced that it collapsed in on itself, and contains “a super-massive machine brain” containing that society’s “collective intelligence.” This is apparently “an argument for independent Titan societies”, of which we learn more on the following data page. None of this seems to have any particular real-world basis.

Black holes. Nimrod posits that all black holes, being wormholes, could be connected – so instead of each one having a society at its centre, they might all be connected. The practical significance of all this lies in the Year 100 X-Men’s suicide mission in issue #3, where Rasputin and the future Omega disappeared into a black hole. In that scene, Omega said: “do you have any idea what lies at the heart of a real black hole? I’ll give you a hint – it’s where we’re headed… it’s where we’re all headed.” Perhaps she was predicting the eventual development of society (perhaps machine society) into something that would collapse into a black hole. At any rate, it all tends to confirm that we’ll be seeing Rasputin and Omega again at some point.

PAGES 28-29. Rounding off the issue, data pages about universal-scale societies, to continue from the planetary-scale societies listed in issue #2. As established in that issue, “SI” standards for “species intelligence”, and the whole scale is described in terms of machine copies of organic minds – humans (and mutants) don’t get a look-in. The previous scale took us up to the Phalanx at an SI of one million. This one – continuing the powers of ten motif – proceeds with Titans at 10 million, strongholds at 100 million (basically connected Titans), and “Dominions” which are curiously listed as “undefined”, when you might expect them to be 1,000,000,000.

The Kardashev Scale. This is real, and I covered it in the annotations for issue #2. The universal societies are claimed to be Type O on the Kardashev scale, but this doesn’t make a huge amount of sense – Kardashev’s scale only had types I, II and III, and while there have been various suggested extensions, I’m not aware of any of them including a Type O. (Type 0 – zero – is sometimes used, to denote societies like ours that don’t even qualify for Kardashev’s Type I.)

Strongholds. Oddly, having reached the second-highest level of societal advancement, the Strongholds are described as warring and expansionist. This is a rather bleak view of ascension, but then that’s kind of the point.

Dominions. Societies so advanced as to be literally godlike. One Dominion is said to control Earth’s area; presumably the reason we never hear from it is that we’re completely beneath its notice. Either that or it interacts with us more subtly. A god in the Marvel Universe usually means somebody like Thor, but Hickman seems to have something much more omnipotent in mind. The small print on the diagram page reads “galactic-universal” (next to the higher scale societies from issue #2) and “universal-abyss” (next to the universal societies from this issue). So that’s encouraging.

Cosmic entities. A note tells us that the only threats to the Dominions are Galactus, the Phoenix and “universal abstracts”. This is basically the stock Marvel cosmic pantheon – a lot of embodiments of abstract concepts like Eternity, Chaos and so forth, plus more idiosyncratic creations like Galactus and Phoenix. Precisely what Phoenix represents (if anything) has been vague and inconsistent over the years, but Hickman’s description of it is “the singular universal manifestation of life” is reasonably traditional – whatever it may mean in practice.

PAGE 30. The closing quote is Namor: “When you see me again, understand what that means.” Namor didn’t actually say this in his scene with Professor X, so perhaps this is from the rest of the conversation.

The small print at the bottom reads “Prince of all.”

PAGES 31-33. The reading order, and the trailers: “NEXT: I AM NOT ASHAMED OF WHAT I DO” and “THEN: HOUSE OF X”. (Note that that last one is a trailer for Powers of X #6, not for House of X.)

Bring on the comments

  1. Taibak says:

    There’s another possibility. Given that we know Moira stops rebooting reality and some point and given that the story has drawn attention to Forge, Mystique, and Destiny, I don’t think we can rule out the possibility that Moira’s powers get neutralized.

  2. SanityOrMadness says:

    Or even M-Day’d by the “Pretender”, since the DeciMation has now been referenced.

  3. Andrew says:

    Looking back, Decimation is one of these things which would have been a not-bad couple of year storyline but that it ended up being the defining event of the past 15 years, it became a massive narrative dead end.

  4. Job says:

    House of X #5

    Looks like all of you thinking Hickman’s characterization of Professor X is intentionally sinister and suspicious, and not just the same as he writes every amoral super genius, got it wrong.

  5. Job says:

    *issue #6.

  6. Job says:

    Also two more examples of Hickman just structuring things poorly, with readers overanalyzing the flaws as intentional mysteries.

    “Where’s Moira? Surely that’s a dangling plot thread that will lead to– oh she’s just hanging out on a different island.”

    “Why is the membership of the government council being covered up? Surely that will reveal the true nature of Xavier’s devious– oh they’re all here in the very next issue, the mystery lasted an entire freaking week.”

  7. Job says:

    Also, excepting HoX #2, given Moira’s almost entire absence from the series, she is literally nothing more than a plot device to set up and further Xavier’s agenda. She’s not even a character here. The story isn’t about her at all..

  8. Karl_H says:

    I know these discussions have bled over to new issues before, but can we please avoid spoilers for issues that just came out today?

  9. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    To be… I don’t know what exactly, fair? Hickman said openly that Moira was just a plot device and that the story isn’t about her at all weeks ago, in what was his defense against accusations that he ripped off the plot of The First 15 Lives of Harry August.

    Which, honestly, doesn’t do wonders for him anyway.

    (If I recall correctly he said or wrote on Twitter literally that Moira’s lives are just a plot device and at the end of HoxPox we’ll see that the story isn’t about that at all).

  10. Job says:


    “To be… I don’t know what exactly, fair? Hickman said openly that Moira was just a plot device”

    Yikes. Just . . . yikes. I got nothing else.

  11. SanityOrMadness says:

    Andrew> Looking back, Decimation is one of these things which would have been a not-bad couple of year storyline but that it ended up being the defining event of the past 15 years, it became a massive narrative dead end.

    The problem was that it was never intended to be a story with a resolution, it was one of Joe Q’s infamous “genies back in the bottle” along with the Spider-marriage, and thus planned to be the New Normal.

    (Which is one of the reasons the main X-Men books got away with largely ignoring it, bar some token depowerees – and even then they panicked and had Milligan reverse Iceman almost immediately, having decided hitting an 0riginal X-Man was a mistake. You don’t do stories about characters trying to reverse it if they’re mandated to fail.)

  12. Chris V says:

    After reading the new issue….
    I wish this series had a better writer.

    I am a fan of Hickman, but his stories are about big ideas, while this story seems like it would fit a lot better with a writer who is well-versed in strong characterization.

    As far as Moira, we still aren’t totally sure, because there is the Year 1,000 reveal.

  13. CJ says:

    I remember enjoying Milligan’s “Blood of Apocalypse” storyline since it at least tried to work within the new status quo.

    And the enjoyable and popular Astonishing X-Men might as well have been in its own private universe, completely immune to Decimation even 2 or 3 years after it happened.

  14. Chris V says:

    I don’t understand why some of these, well, X-villains would join Krakoa.
    There doesn’t seem to be a lot of reason, other than it’s so they can get the immortality treatment.
    I mean, sure, that’s a massive draw, but it seems like someone like Shaw would fit better in man’s world.

    Why is every mutant joining Krakoa? Simply because they are all mutants?
    That…really doesn’t make much sense.

  15. Chris V says:

    Oh yeah! Also, why is Mr. Sinister now the Joker?
    Clown Prince of Victorian geneticists.

  16. Job says:

    @Chris V

    “I am a fan of Hickman, but his stories are about big ideas, while this story seems like it would fit a lot better with a writer who is well-versed in strong characterization.”

    This issue seemed to make it clear that HoXPoX isn’t really a story in itself, just a belabored establishment of the new status quo, and it made me remember how Marvel used to do this with a single 48-page one-shot at $5 or $6. This time, it’s $60 for 12 issues stretched over 3 months that will achieve the same effect.

    “Oh yeah! Also, why is Mr. Sinister now the Joker?”

    I don’t mind it because 1. it’s somewhat consistent with Gillen’s Sinister, which was the first interesting thing anyone had done with the character, and 2. it’s the only character Hickman is writing with a distinct voice. It’s not an interesting voice, but at least you could figure out who it is if someone provided the quote without any attribution. Every other line of dialogue could be spoken by any other character.

  17. YLu says:

    >I know these discussions have bled over to new issues before, but can we please avoid spoilers for issues that just came out today?

    Or at least include a spoiler warning once the comments start becoming about the next issue, yes.

  18. Brent says:


    In retrospect the weirdest thing to me about Astonishing going on at the same time as Decimation, is that with “the cure” Joss Whedon had set up a perfect way to significantly decrease the amount of mutants in the world but leave our core cast powered up. It would have made more sense and provided better storytelling opportunities to have a majority of the world’s mutants take the cure (by their own choice or not) in a big, line-wide crossover, rather than just have Wanda suddenly have the power to make them all (mostly) disappear. It just felt awfully forced even at the time. And the fact that all the characters we like got to keep their powers was just laughable. They really just wanted less mutants in the marvel universe, but Wanda saying “significantly less mutants” just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way “no more mutants” does. Ok… rant about a 15 year old plot point over.

  19. Job says:


    I thought the laughable part of Decimation was it was the only part of the House of M event in which something actually happened.

  20. CJ says:


    What always annoyed me was Whedon’s second storyline with Danger, whose issue #12 came out in August 2005, where Cyclops is extremely disillusioned with Xavier for doing something morally reprehensible…then a few months later, Deadly Genesis comes out where…Cyclops is extremely disillusioned with Xavier for doing something morally reprehensible.

    Plots happening in duplicate like that sound like the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing–or more likely, everyone else just ignoring Whedon since he will take much longer than expected.

  21. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Honestly, I’m not sure whether it was planned or accidental, but it sort of worked for me as a ‘this is where Xavier’s skeletons come out of the closet’ period. Especially since it has led to the second chapter of Carey’s run where Xavier actually faced with what he did, made some amends (with Danger, among others) and overall seemed to improve as a human being.

    Though, um, that run also wasn’t free of adding to the ‘Xaviersajerk’ zeitgeist – during a crossover* with Wolverine’s ongoing it’s reveled that Wolverine’s amnesia was caused by Xavier. Which is a plot point I’m pretty sure everyone forgot about right after those issues came out.

    *- the crossover was called Original Sin. It’s not the easiest thing to google after Marvel published a whole event with that title a few years later.

  22. Dave says:

    I’ve been on a bit of a read-through of Logan’s history lately, and that OS story has him and Xavier agreeing to leaving him a bit of a blank slate, with Xavier telling him upfront that he needs him as a weapon.

  23. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    …so that’s the mindwipee agreeing with the mindwiper? No issues there, I’m sure. 😉

    Honestly though, I don’t remember the details – I haven’t reread the story.

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