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First a couple of notes about the previous issue. I was too annoyed by Sinister to read carefully, but there were a few things. The two pages of text about the “rumors” could be more or less easily decoded with some effort, and they seem to contain some foreshadowing, including links to the demonic war with Apocalypse that is shown in the flashback scene a few pages after. That I think will play a role since now we have a quite significant gap between the current timeline and the one with Nimrod 100 years in the future, when we’re been told only ten thousand mutants survived, of which only eight were left in the solar system. So it doesn’t look like Xavier’s plan worked splendidly.

The other aspect easy to miss by reading quickly is that Cypher was being shown touching some leaves and flowers, at Krakoa and behind Xavier’s back, and those turning into “machine”, like a sort of virus in the way that appears to be familiar since it comes from Phalanx/Warlock. I only have one problem with this scene: “behind Xavier’s back” seems disingenuous and pointless. Firstly because this is the “omniscient” Xavier that knows multiple realities, as it is after he “touched” Moira. And then it’s Xavier himself that announces he will leave Cypher on the island for a year, to study the language. So what is that Cypher is doing, right there, that he couldn’t have done any other time? He has no need of secrecy when he’s going to spend a year alone on the island. Whatever Cypher can do should be well within Xavier’s knowledge. So, if Hickman is coherent, this is more something to show the reader, exclusively, and maybe hint that what we see might not even be Cypher’s own intention, and just the arm triggering something. Or it might not even mean anything and it’s just a way for Cypher to connect with the island and further this theme of biologic/machinic hybrid. Or maybe this is the seed that will lead to the eventual collapse of Krakoa, or a contributing factor.

House of X #5 was one again marked in red. The only previous issue marked red was House of X #2, with Moira’s big reveal, so it was expected this issue would be significant… and it was not. Or at least not much.

I was expecting a whole lot of Sinister in this one, instead we only see a couple of loose ends being tied, but no big revelation. This apparently is not the same reaction you might see on the internet, so what’s the deal? The deal is that Xavier invented resurrection, but all the pivotal scenes were already been shown. If Moira’s lives were without a doubt an unpredictable twist, Xavier cultivating mutants as plants in his basement was not only easy to guess, but actually already SHOWN. Not only that, but we also got infos about the consequences, and we already know that Xavier went a step further to also start hybridizing and creating new mutants/mutant powers (if that wasn’t Sinister exclusively, some of those notes are ambiguous, including Xavier’s jedi trick on Sinistro). We didn’t quite know it was full blown resurrection, but it’s still a natural extension of what we saw to this point.

The effect is lost on me also because, as I wrote already about the previous issues, even Moira’s power is a sort of resurrection that diminishes all those scenes of tragedy. The badness of tragedy implies permanence, and with multiple realities the feeling of that permanence becomes extremely diluted. Now we just dig a deeper hole, and Xavier’s tears, last issue, look even more silly. It was even WORSE than what I wrote, nothing at all was lost, the permanence of death didn’t even stick for a whole timeline, everyone in the squad is back and refreshed within 48 hours. A flu lasts longer than that.

But Hickman has thought about everything. So here’s the motivation behind Xavier’s fake tears:

He gives answer to fake tears… with rhetoric. I guess it makes sense.

And then it gets worse, because Xavier starts talking of SACRIFICES, and gifts, and giving. Sacrificing what exactly? They went on a suicide mission, achieved their objectives, killed a bunch of other hapless bystanders in the process, bystanders that obviously don’t get the benefit of resurrection a few hours later… but no, it’s Cyclops and his squad who made the “sacrifice”. The rest is pushed off screen, conveniently unseen.

What a bunch of fucking nationalists, egoists and hypocrites. That’s why this mutant resurrection isn’t simply a “process”, but a rite. It acquires symbolic, sacred heft. Transcendent. The “weeping with joy” is the proof of unwavering belief, of the loss of doubt: the sign of madness.

I appreciate the whole thing is CREEPY. But looking at the internet, and seeing actual readers cheering along with Storm, makes me doubt this is the intended effect. This new mutant culture (society, Magneto says) incarnates perfectly everything’s bad, and already deserves extinction MORE THAN EVER. But since when evolution favors morality or honesty? It might as well make sense. Let egoism, dishonesty and brutality prosper, as they always do.

(and the extent of cerebro’s powers would make the removal of the memories of traumatic death pretty trivial)

It’s the concept of “convenience” that annoys me. We now know that Sinister’s genetic database was part of a plan of two halves. Two halves justified by the classic, obsolete dualistic philosophy that wants mind and body separate. The matter and the soul. I wish we could move past these archaic discourses but I guess they can still be tolerable in a comic book. So we have the tangible matter of the body, through Sinister, the “husk”, and then we have Xavier’s cerebro machine, conveniently modified so that now it magically copies people’s souls. Hence proper resurrection is possible: a body is restored and a soul re-injected (some legitimate questions I’ve seen asked, for example about what happens to Wolverine’s adamantium).

I don’t know if this cerebro machine will be expanded later on, since this concept is what “fuels the future” as we’ve seen what follows is all about creating copies and creating machinic minds. But this cerebro in full power seems to already precede Cypher touching Krakoa, so it wasn’t something acquired.

The convenience permeates everything, only mildly justified. It’s for example convenient that Krakoa produces a powerful medicine, to then use as an offer that cannot be turned down by other nations, and make them directly dependent on Krakoa so that they will agree to recognize it as an independent nation.

And then there’s the big convenience of having a mutant that produces golden spheres, that are conveniently then transformed to eggs, that can then be conveniently infused with mutant DNA, then can then be accelerated in growth, and that can systematically be turned into an always successful process through the power of Hope (literally and metaphorically). All these “pieces” being very clearly arbitrary. It’s just one giant deus ex machina that works because Hickman decided that way.

I’m getting to it, Hickman essentially says the the moment Marvel hands over the whole mutantdom to him, then he can simply pick and choose at will what he needs. He has a basket of golden eggs, and can turn them into whatever he wants, just because that wide range of mutant powers is essentially boundless. It’s a deus ex machina served on a silver plate. In its external form because it’s Marvel giving Hickman the breadth of the mutant world, and in its internal form because Xavier unifies and builds that Mutant world so that he can pick and choose within it, just like Hickman. The god is in the machine.

I can appreciate a particular aspect of all this. Hickman doesn’t quite motivate the execution, since it’s all about hand waving, but he cares enough to give it some general “sense”. He does, fairly well, what other writers have done in the past, for example with Civil War (or Vertigo in the 90s). And that is making super-heroes a bit more “mature”, a bit less naive. It was all about injecting some more reality and awareness in that make-believe. Civil War was effective because it was sobering.

Hickman does something quite similar, because he recognizes that mutants are extremely powerful. This story, including all its silliness, is still perfectly coherent with the new picture that Civil War established. The concept is that if mutants are persecuted and hunted, disorganized and on the run, then their powers are “local”. They are arbitrary powers, more or less effective, but still without a direction.

But if you instead unify this “nation” then you obtain something else, because the diversity and range of these powers become a resource. Powers that can somewhat “synergize”, in the way we’ve seen in that resurrection process. So that a power that in its locality would appear as pointless, might instead become an important component within a larger process. And it’s also quite elegant because it goes along with this idea of not just a nation, but a living organism.

(No matter what they make them swear, one nation doesn’t exclude the possibilities of internal disagreements and factions. And it looks like that’s what’s going to happen with Sinister, unless that plot is left out of this introductory series. But still… Xavier’s “no more”, is about the mutant nation being divided. The paradigm shift is precisely about bringing in ALL resources. Including all sort of villains, up to Magneto, Sinister and Apocalypse. No one is left behind or out, quite literally.)

This unity becomes a worthwhile concept that earns them evolution. That will directly lead to that far future scene, at the presence of the Phalanx.

I can appreciate the significance of this concept, and how it’s coherent with the rest. While also thinking the execution is not that great, and it’s still a bunch of convenient deus ex machina rather than using established pieces. All the important pieces simply pop-up as necessary. Many of these are justified because Xavier is near-omniscient through Moira, but there are still giant blocks that have just appeared to make it work. Cerebro soul-backup powers, Krakoa and all its gifts.

Next week is back to Powers of X, so we’ll hopefully have a tiny extension of that Phalanx plot. I want to know what the endgame is.


…I was forgetting to add: Hickman digs a bit deeper through text. He explains that Xavier’s plan isn’t quite about resurrecting those mutants that go on a mission and might die. He’s actually trying to resurrect also the other SIXTEEN MILLIONS that died in the past. Even giving us a timetable of 300 years.

I mentioned how I’m annoyed by the “convenience”, and here’s another example. These five mutants that are necessary to the resurrection-machine might obviously have to work full time, given that SCALE of their endeavor, right? (one might wonder, what about automatizing it, huh? Convenience for convenience you have a near omnipotent machinic resource) That makes for some real heavy work. Those five having to completely sacrifice their personal lives as they are instrument (slaves) to an higher, morally elevated and unavoidable purpose… But Hickman thinks of everything. Conveniently. So he explains how the process of resurrection feels like an orgasm, and those five need only go through persistent bliss, that then makes them even more connected and inseparable. So it’s not heavy work, it’s pleasure.

Usually these kinds of rewards get encoded through thousands and thousands of years of evolution. I guess Xavier tampered with the mechanism.

I did skip a week but because I was busy at the time when I was supposed to write these updates, then I lost the moment and I didn’t have all that much to say either. Now I can’t even remember what I thought about that previous issue.

In general these last two haven’t offered a lot of meaningful material. It might be good, having a little more space to focus on the same group of characters instead of jumping all over the place, but the result isn’t convincing at all.

If House of X #4’s purpose is to amp up the drama then the only dramatic effect is its failure in doing so. After we jumped between timelines and different realities, and with the worsening effect of old characters behaving so oddly, it’s impossible to feel within the story and care about what is going on. In the great picture this is just a perfunctory scene within a larger process where worlds are destroyed and recreated. A casualty feels little more than a distraction, especially when it’s so rhetorically hollywoodean and bombastic. The only things that it leaves me are little nonsequiturs, like why is Mistique caught during an infiltrating operation without even a disguise? I guess there’s probably some banal explanation, but it feels like stuff just happens at random and it’s better to move on than ask questions.

Dialogues are getting worse and worse. We get didascalic character descriptions thrown in the worst possible situation and so gratuitous that they just move back and forth between the cringe and the fastidious.

Oh, and of course the cliffhanger of the previous issue was for the most part a fraud. Only a couple minor casualties for some unimportant background characters (husks). Wolverine regenerating a whole arm within seconds (uhm, how’s that “accelerated” healing?). I wonder what’s the point of doing arbitrary damage like that if it’s then gone in two panels, beside that bland shock value and the feeling of reaching and artificiality. But oh, it’s to justify the implausible scene that follows a few pages later, where Wolverine regenerates everything in real time while Nightcrawler gets obliterated in a millisecond. Then rhetoric and then more rhetoric, because Hollywood requires melodrama. You’ve seen this a million times already, usually executed a lot better.

The only two lines of dialogue that actually do make sense are spoken by a sentinel gone raving mad.

I guess the whole purpose is to convince the readers that the stakes were very high if Xavier decided that everyone in the squad was expendable. It’s a bit like the classic “show don’t tell” mantra. We see that Xavier is willing to pay the price, and so deduce the importance of it all, but it’s all still to be accepted without any question. The motivation given, about Nimrod’s origin, is anything but conclusive, so we simply watch Xavier making bold choices without any real access to the process leading to them. Mysterious Xavier can’t explain himself without giving everything away, so we’re all left hanging from unexplained explainers. And expected to be on board with those choices and consequences.

The more the intensity of the drama is ramped up, and failing, the greater the disconnection. It all falls flat and feels so fake. Why should anyone care about Wolverine’s death, when we’ll be jumping to a brand new version of himself in no (reader) time? In the flux of the transition the permanence of death has no hold, and on the reader as well. These fakedly dramatic deaths just wash away and leave no trace. Beside the cringe worthy rhetoric there was a whole lot of nothing.

Same for the following and current issue. The lengthy scene at the beginning is just one big question mark. It’s very random, very unfunny, and if anything it also helps to augment the disconnection between me reading and this meandering, pointless story. If Sinister is just random, Xavier and Magneto are worse than caricatures. The effect is like nails on a blackboard.

But who’s the brainwhashed mutant Sinister replaced? I wish I cared.

Follows a filler scene between Xavier and Cypher to fill an unnecessary gap about the discovery of Krakoa and the development of the language related to it. There’s one element that’s not filler, and it’s some piece of mythology that reveals Krakoa is also related to Apocalypse. It seems important, but it adds up to nothing else. So it’s another gaping hole with no current relevance. More promises of deliveries undelivered. Until these pieces remain unconnected, they are as good as blanks. They aren’t titillating mysteries to solve, they are just gratuitous hubris. The fact that they might eventually contribute to the shape of a puzzle doesn’t justify the hacked off nature of the delivery. A piece needs to be interesting on its own, THEN also connect meaningfully to something more. Instead we just get ineffective baits.

And finally the last scene delivers a micron of progress about the most current outward extremity of this puzzle. It follows the 4th issue. Some unnecessary exposition explains that the Phalanx entity can only absorb data and machinery, but this feels extremely dissonant since the whole concept was introduced through evolutionary ideas, the Phalanx entity described as “predatory”. Now it turns out it’s purposeless toward “organicity”? So is organic life a singularity in the universe, and machines the norm? …How? These are just bad ideas with poor foundations. Hickman just goes with the most pedestrian concepts of AI and machinic fears, ends up with the fundamentals gone all wrong. Might require one or more philosophy classes if one intends to tackle similar themes.

But in any case these future people made some computery copies of themselves in the hope that the Phalanx overlords will be lured to absorb those, and leave the actual organic sources untouched.

Of course.

They aren’t entirely sure the plan is going to work, which makes for another ineffective cliffhanger, not every day you try to trick an alien being with the power of a million of evolved minds, with one of the most idiotic ideas a single comic writer came up with during a night of drunken stupor. But beside this, wasn’t all this already implied in the premise? You can’t feed a computer to a cat. In fact a computer to a cat is so uninteresting that they just don’t register its existence. Out of taxonomy and language. Background noise.

That’s part 8 of 12 and it’s still all arbitrary and moving on top of an hidden course. If the last issue retroactively justifies the journey, and that’s already a lofty goal, it still wouldn’t have made it enjoyable.

The next issue is one of those marked “red”. I guess we’ll see, whatever there is to see.

“You aren’t going to die because you will be remembered.”

Yeah, that’s certainly reassuring. That’s the same of saying that you aren’t going to be poor because the true riches are of the soul. But that’s fine, Xavier looking and sounding ominous is the norm right now, and I suppose the intended effect by the writer (and the most ham-fisted version of foreshadowing).

Less convincing is this newfound mutant nationalism and all the rhetoric that comes with it. But it’s all superficial and followed by a brief mention of morals about killing civilians when there’s a greater cause at stake. Nothing is resolved here as well beside another quip about humans never being all that innocent to begin with. But since in this particular case they are discussing scientists and science, I’m not sure it’s reasonable to draw a line between humans and mutants on this theme. Are mutants equipped to use science more cautiously?

We get more boring taxonomy of the various types of machinic moulds, that have to be removed before they start spreading (this cleansing operation lead by Cyclops is what jumpstarts this issue). It goes a tiny bit more in detail, but the general sense is the same: Xavier and Moira built some kind of monitoring tool that warns them when the mould spreads to a dangerous level, so they can then send Cyclops and his squad of janitors to vacuum it.

You know, gray mould. Not even metaphoric:

That’s the part that follows from Powers of X #3: they found out that the primary problem is the spreading of a certain strain of mould that eventually leads to an hostile kind of Nimrod (the mother of all moulds), and they figured out that if they keep the house clean they won’t risk to be overwhelmed later on.

…And that’s all.

There’s probably some subtext present, or at least I don’t think the plot is so naive. On the explicit level what we see is Cyclops and his squad of janitors getting blown up because their opponent decides to act illogically, and so escaping the power of prediction implicit in a well made plan. But I have a feeling that Xavier is one step beyond that. Otherwise the discussion at the very beginning wouldn’t be motivated (no reason to doubt). Instead it sounds like both Xavier and Magneto knew that this was going to happen, and it’s just one move in a wider plan. But then we really don’t know what happens either. It’s just a typical cliffhanger that could be deconstructed in many ways. I just hope it’s something slightly more complex than having them all showing up unharmed in the next issue because of some trick, or previous plan, or whatever. I don’t think there’s enough space for those games, so maybe they really died in that silly way, for that clumsy motivation. We know Nimrod eventually gets made in that timeline.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The dialogues in this one are really terrible. But they’ve been terrible since the beginning, so this is nothing new.

This was mostly a perfunctory issue. We don’t jump all over the place this time, but the added focus doesn’t really add any meaningful depth or story. The sporadic “plot twists” in this one are very weak (like, Wolverine killing Moira doesn’t really have any emotional impact), and seeing characters acting out of character is now to be expected, if blandly acceptable/justified (like, Apocalypse “sacrificing” to send Wolverine over).

The purpose of this one was to complete one chunk of the chart about the lives of Moira shown at the end of House of X #2. As guessed, this missing piece didn’t have any further meaning than simply avoid spoilering what was going to happen in this issue. So at the end of this one we have that small update that goes up to the end of Moira #9. With the 6th still conspicuously missing, and maybe containing a bit more in the way of time travel shenanigans rather than simply withheld to be shown later.

At this point it is shown that these heroes are fully onto Moira’s game, just collecting data in order to use it fruitfully in some future reality, although I’m not sure about the philosophical appeal of Moira being the goddess and deus ex machina of what can or cannot be considered “a reality”, like the measure of a worthwhile future. The implications are much deeper, and Hickman is set to not use any of that, as we’ve seen both Xavier and Magneto jumping on board without any hesitation. No questions asked, no thoughts being moved.

The data on the data collected in the previous issue was about the location of the data on Nimrod’s origin whereabouts. The endgame should be really, really obvious at this point. Especially because Hickman plays dumb to the maximum degree, by consistently characterizing this evil mastermind of Nimrod as a total tool. The point being that Nimrod doesn’t know about Moira, so he doesn’t know about the potential of time traveling and use that origin data to dispose of Nimrod before it becomes a threat (and the AI can only compute as far as the data it has access to, what it cannot see it cannot see). This is like the most typical time travel plots (let’s go back and kill baby Hitler before he can do any harm), only made mildly more interesting because the mechanics of time travel here burn entire realities more than simply looping back to smooth out the kinks.

What’s nice here are the numerous nihilistic undertones that go with it. Actually they are overtones. Because this world/reality/timeline is burned. There’s nothing to save after collecting the data, so why not going all the way and trigger a singularity in the middle of it. It was going to be gone anyway, and of course they all know about it. They have in their hands one more layer of reality, it’s a gamechanger.

(and again, all goes in a blur, so all these radical sacrifices have the same impact of a mosquito being slapped)

…But.

It would be almost decent if I didn’t see EXACTLY this being done many times better in the TV series of Travelers, and now that I made the connection I cannot “unsee” it, and it’s ruining the few aspects I was appreciating.

It’s really a poorly delivered X-Men version of Travelers, and the comparison isn’t flattering for the X-Men. All that Hickman adds is noise, without seizing any of the meaning. I feel very stupid for not having made the connection much, much sooner.

Go watch Travelers.

It was expected that after the hype that preceded and accompanied the previous issue what was going to follow would lose some of that tension, like a valley after the peak. Even the side-series title, being “Powers”, seems to be focused on expanding the range, and observing the ripples of the major events or revelations that instead happen in “House.” So it was expected that this part would be a little blander.

Here’s what I think: this issue is really quite bad, actually, but it ends up serving on the plate more than I expected. It’s still bad, but it’s not an “empty serving”, waiting for the following weeks to re-up the stakes.

What’s bad follows the bad that was already there in all the previous issues. There’s no story moving, it’s all a vague concept slapped on the page, and we keep getting these poorly written cameos of characters that make the little story that might be there feel fragmented and pointless. Only it’s much worse this time. Nothing that is shown in this issue adds anything we didn’t know, or something that could be considered meaningful.

The first scene was probably mandatory, the “necessary” meeting between Xavier and Magneto, to show us how they ended up on the same side. But the motivation behind all this was shown already in the previous issue: it’s Moira’s jedi mind-trick. This time we only observe it being repeated (to Magneto instead of Xavier), and still looking very implausible despite the motivation holds (you know, you don’t usually trust someone who can manipulate your mind). I can only judge this in the perspective of all the confrontations between Xavier and Magneto I’ve read before, and this is just awful. The dialogue is surreal, and there’s zero substance to it. It’s worse than ever. But then it all also pivots around Moira’s trick, so it becomes a perfect example of the “show, don’t tell” rule. Nothing is being shown because everything is implicit in that mind-trick working its magic. Then, everything that instead surrounds that scene, all those interactions and dialogues, are some of the worst stuff I’ve ever read. It’s filled with non-sequitur and dramatic proclamations that are completely out of place (and out of character). Even if we’re given a motivation to explain why these characters now act differently, they just don’t act and speak in a way I can find plausible. It’s all surreal in the worst way, like the most artificial of stages.

What follows is less impactful so also less irritating. If the previous scene was necessary as it showed a crucial event, but superfluous as it added nothing to what we already knew, the next scene works more like a recap whose purpose is thematic, in the flow of the story here, but only becomes clear at the very end. Being this “Powers”, it looks like it follows the format of time jumps, so after that scene in year zero, we move to year ten, to tell us the X-Men are worried about the rise of the machines. No more no less than a mix of the first two parts of this story. This continues to be bad, as the most dramatic exchange is Xavier saying to Cyclops: “Listen to me Scott… … …They have to be stopped.” You really can feel the drama. Then Cyclops, who obviously doesn’t want to be any less cool, goes: “…Does it need doing?” Xavier: “Yes.” Cyclops: “Then it will be done.”

Wow… These dialogues are INTENSE. Or maybe not, they read like awful action movies scripts. Out of bounds rhetorical melodrama.

The next jump goes 100 years in the future, where a particularly ugly Wolverine and friends are still fiddling with the same USB drive they stole in Powers #1. The big revelation here is that… it contains data! Actually not the data they need, but data on the location of more data… that they might find useful to launch a suicide mission. And we find out that the eighth guy on the satellite that wasn’t revealed in Powers #1 is actually Apocalypse. Betting on the shock power of seeing a villain leading our heroes… that might even work if this trick hadn’t already been used in all previous issues as well. Now we just expect it, and still don’t find it any more credible.

But the big picture of this issue is that these scenes belonging to different “eras” actually align to show or suggest a trajectory. A theme. Year ten Xavier is worried about Nimrod being built, and year hundred Apocalypse launches an attack against a naughty (and frankly ridiculous) Nimrod again, suggesting that something might have gone wrong, or not entirely straight-forwardly, with Cyclops’ boisterous plan to neutralize Nimrod before it was made.

And this is where the issues gets interesting and moving a step away from the pointless acts of a rather bad and also plain story. You focus on Nimrod, but Nimrod is not the end. It’s the mean to the end. Moving to year 1.000, the game on the table is blown up, to give the sense that the petty human shenanigans that demand so much drama and monopolize passions, are nothing (or baby steps) in the much wider context. Realms. Exponential levels of reality. As in that scene in Man in Black where the two alien creatures play marbles with universes. The staggering, exhilarating sense of inconceivable inhuman scale.

The problem in all this is that the most important part is delivered through a text page at the end. What we have, again, isn’t a well told story, but a cool concept explained with an info-dump. It can be cool and it builds its own cute iconography, but it’s just another concept added to the pile. I can appreciate the intention of building something big and that does something interesting on multiple levels, but it all feels a rough sketch of ideas piling up and being assembled in rather haphazard way. It shows reach, but it doesn’t show competence (or wisdom, or depth).

The result is that Hickman wants to do a million of things, but clearly doesn’t have the time and space to do well any of them.

Those layers of reality are one of the concepts I really like, so I was positively surprised. But it’s certainly not enough, and not fair to applaud just because Hickman used it. That said, we are at comic-book type of bland simplification, so I cannot even really appreciate what is being done. It’s cool that we can imagine there’s more to existence than something anthropomorphic, but the “machinic” represents an outside, not a glorified inside. Hickman instead just aligns to the banality of “intelligence.” And there’s nothing revolutionary there. We’re still toying with human-made myths.

Mythological gods weren’t alien and external, they were just symbols of human passions. Sublimations. In the same way, these exponents of reality (Phalanx) that Hickman shows are just bigger eaters. That’s fine, but it’s not new, or meaningful.

Hickman keeps adding pieces to this new universe, that certainly isn’t the Marvel Universe. We’ll see if he ever manages to do something interesting with it. For now we are just being shown how it works.

It’s curious how I decide to comment/review here this comic-book storyline… and it ends up looping back to some familiar themes. So here we have the X-Men version of time loops and foreknowledge that were in Arrival/Dark/Ted Chiang.

Once again, there’s not much of a story developing, it’s more like a fast, but effective infodump that is meant to shock (and hype). It probably doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, even superficial, but the X-Men continuity is a true mess and if you want to play with its foundations you have to be granted some wiggle room. The story doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s fine. I’m willingly to give Hickman that kind of space. What I mean here is in the context of the previous continuity of both Moira and Destiny, since they aren’t new characters introduced by Hickman, and the way Hickman fundamentally changes them, and “retcons” them, isn’t exactly… flawless. But that’s fine, I can accept to brush aside this type of criticism.

I do appreciate that this time we get more context about this new situation, instead of it simply being stated while erasing all the “legacy” of the material. Up to this point it was all simply gratuitous, now instead we see where it comes from and what kind of “plan” is behind it.

At the beginning I was quite confused even if my intuitions were correct. We are being shown Moira reborn in a new life, then a few pages later, “your mutant power is reincarnation.” Yet that’s VERY misleading, since we then see that she meets Xavier in her second life, and then again in the third, but Xavier looks about the same age. It’s not immediately clear that she isn’t simply reborn in a new body after she dies, but that her “consciousness” actually goes back in time to re-inhabit her own body at conception.

This isn’t reincarnation, it’s a time loop.

At page 2 I rolled my eyes because this looked like it was going to be really stupid, but then page three happens in a rather “meta” panel, where Moira seemingly speaks directly to the reader. This is where it got some of my sympathy since what she says is coherent with all my criticism of these time loops:

Yes, she’s in a different situation compared to Arrival, because when moving from one life to the next she sees the repercussions of her knowledge. But this is well motivated: it’s not about her choice, directly, the power of her agency lies in the knowledge itself, it comes even before deliberate agency, it’s the “observer effect” that triggers a change even from a position of inaction. (even if all this is contradicted by the text page that precedes it)

In fact, contrary to Arrival, she legitimately despises her new situation:

(according to her continuity and the wikipedia, her husband wasn’t exactly a nice guy: “he beat her into a week long coma and, as it is implied, raped her, leaving her pregnant”)

The rest of the pages describe “the many lives of Moira” as she tries to perfect her subjective timeline. She’s like the typical time traveler who tries to fix a fundamental problem but ends up constantly triggering side-effects that either don’t fix anything at all, or make everything worse.

It would all be fairly underwhelming if early on we didn’t get the interesting twist. Moira is now a counterpart to the character of Destiny, and it’s Destiny that poses (unreliably so) the conditions of the present conundrum. (and while Hickman wants all the attention on Moira, it’s Destiny that pulls all the strings, including those that might unravel Hickman’s plan… as a very clumsy and poorly thought one)

What we get here in practice is two time travelers that try to outdo each other. One through the power of (claimed) absolute prediction, the other through the power of altering the timeline. The conundrum being that Moira’s “entry point” is fixed: the moment she’s born (or the nine months before, considering that she’s already conscious through that process too, but I guess fairly powerless in that state). Whereas Destiny’s existence instead precedes Moira’s birth. So whenever Moira warps back to “reincarnate”, and so trigger a brand new timeline, Destiny is already there to predict what happens, before it happens. This means that in the big picture Moira’s actions always come after Destiny’s predictions. Destiny is always one step ahead.

…Or at least it’s what she wants Moira to believe.

Yet this is very poorly explained and it doesn’t make even a lot of logical sense for how it’s written inside the story. What Destiny (unreliably) says is that she’s ALREADY aware of all Moira’s loops. For her, they already happened. So this would mean that Moira doesn’t even have that tiny bit power of surprise when she loops back. For Destiny everything Moira does is fixed and already known… And yet this is contradicted, when Destiny states that she sees either ten OR eleven lives in total, depending on what Moira decides at the end. Implying that she cannot predict Moira’s choices. So if she cannot predict her choices, how can she predict the consequences of those choices? The only explanation is that she ALSO sees ALL possible choices, but that would mean A LOT MORE than ten lives. She would see all possible permutations from every tiny choice Moira might make.

That dialogue would read differently: “If you — once again — try to do this evil work” …then she would know already, either it happening or not. She would already know that by threatening Moira she’d send her through her new course: that is the story we get in those pages that follow. Those ten/eleven lives that Destiny has foreseen, and that she herself contributed to shape. Destiny is pure deus ex machina here. She is able to predict everything, and so manipulate everything. Unless Hickman decides to impose some arbitrary (and way too convenient) limit.

(“You have a choice: do as I say or I will annihilate you.”)

This only makes logical sense if we embrace the fact that everything we know here is through Destiny, who only claims to know and speak the absolute truth, but that in the context of the story has plenty of reasons to simply say what’s convenient for her. But then… the moment the only tiny bit of information we’re given is flagged as unreliable is the moment this story goes back into total chaos. There isn’t much to speculate about, and I’m only left with a strong suspicion that the “plan” here is weak and that Hickman just threw another cog (time travel! predictions!) in a already chaotic mess.

That’s the reader’s conundrum: does Hickman have an ace up his sleeve, or it’s just silly hand-waving? Destiny’s powers just don’t seem coherent, but is because there’s more to it that waits to be revealed? This is similar to Lost, there’s plenty of deliberate mystery that hints at some missing pieces. But is this about the writer playing smart, or just making mistakes? One of these, for example, looks like a mistake, but it’s obviously not: look at the diagram at the end, and how it jumps from Moira’s fifth life to her seventh. The same for the story itself as it’s being told, it goes from five to seven without even a transition. Where’s the sixth? What happened during that timeline? It’s so macroscopic that no one can be fooled: something is being deliberately hidden, and presented as a piece of this puzzle.

We can consider this as Hickman’s own sleight of hand. But then that diagram is weird in more than one way. Why lives number three, eight and ten curve upwards instead of downward? Is it just a meaningless graphical quirk or there’s a reason? Why the ninth life continues on? Is that because Moira is not conscious even if her consciousness still hasn’t looped back and is still bound to her body (as we can see in her fifth life, where she’s unconscious but not dead yet)?

And then again, what’s the point of this 13th year “mutant manifestation”? She has the mutant power of consciousness that time travels after death. That’s the “manifestation” of the power. Then there’s this separate event of her getting ill and then quickly getting better, in her 13th year, but is the connection between this and her mutant power COMPLETELY arbitrary, or there’s something more? Is this just a hook that Hickman needs to make Moira vulnerable and under the implicit control (threat) of Destiny? (since it’s explained she can only die if killed before her 13th year)

((My deduction is that her mutant powers work like a metaphorical “pistol” that shoots her consciousness like a projectile back in time. This means that when she’s fully conscious as a fetus, her mutant power at that point is inactive. She has then to wait her 13th year so that her mutant power “manifests” again, meaning that it becomes active once again: the pistol becoming loaded. If instead she dies before her power becomes active, she dies, simply, because there’s no device to send her consciousness back. It is very poorly explained but I’m convinced this is exactly how Hickman envisioned it. That said I just cannot swallow it. Yes, this is about super-heroes comics, but all powers have a motivation. It might be weak but it’s always there. In this case Hickman has a very archaic model of mind/body that is just silly nowadays. I absolutely accept there’s a mutant power that can send consciousness back in time. But it’s not acceptable on the same level that a fetus’ brain can host and manifest a fully developed consciousness. Not without a minimum of explanation.))

When you’re fed these sort of juicy mysteries then the imagination is tickled and you’re encouraged to try to solve the riddle. But in this case there are too many missing pieces, and I’d have to have an exceptional confidence in Hickman to tie all these loose ends, and then more. Destiny in particular is a too critical point, not only for stating things that don’t give a complete logical picture, but also for coming from an unreliable position. All Moira does is the direct consequence of that pivotal scene, and it leaves way, way too many doors open. Both plot wise and consistency wise. It’s the ultimate ace up the sleeve, but that’s because Destiny’s position is so “external” to be omnipotent. And that’s a too convenient tool for a writer.

If there’s a riddle to solve then it is mandatory that the rules are fair and clear. But if you toy with omnipotence then you’re playing a different game. And, with a god, the only legitimate stance can only be “wait and see.”

I guess I’ll keep following this since it’s a light weekly read that will continue for three months, even though I don’t know if I’ll have something to write here every week, or care to.

This second issue (or rather, second leg of this one-two jog) cemented my general dislike of the premises, and the quality of the writing. A moment before started reading I heard this issues would be going back and forth across time, so I thought it might be at least interesting. But instead it confirms my wild guesses about where the whole thing is going (the silly war plant-mutant-hivemind VS machine-human-AI), and simply rewrites the universe by wiping all that was good in it.

That’s the reason for the title: this is not an X-Men storyline, this is a semi-clean state very similar to what happened to the Ultimate Marvel universe. This issue throws in a bunch of other superficial layers. It was obvious already from the promotional material, but I was expecting that all these new actors were going to be gradually introduced while the story shapes up. Instead Hickman throws everything in at once. From Sinister to Nimrod, to the Shi-Ar Empire. For this reason we aren’t reading a story, we’re facing a total, radical universe wipe and rebuild. Hickman new playing field.

More correctly, this looks like an Age of Apocalypse kind of deal, but with the ominous problem of more long lasting effects.

The problem is again it feels nothing like mutants, nothing like X-Men, nothing like the 616 universe… nothing like Marvel. Hickman could have as well gone and do his thing without recycling established characters, especially when there’s really nothing left of those characters besides (and not always) some general outlines of their costumes.

So again, this isn’t X-Men. It’s not one of their story, it’s been clumsily plugged in the official continuity but I do not recognize anything that I can accept as canon. It just read as pure hubris.

But that’s fine too. Once I readjust expectation I still can enjoy a story even if that story has nothing to do with its intended legacy. The problem is: is this story worthwhile on its own and strong enough to justify throwing everything else away? And my answer is simply no.

When judged in its autonomy this story (currently, these are opinions as they weekly develop) not only fails to stand up against what came before, but it’s actually a pretty low quality within comics, in general. It’s just quite bad.

I can justify some of this. Hickman is shaping up a big scenario, and despite the higher than normal number of pages there’s very little story on these pages. It’s just text infodumps mixed with some pin-ups to present these new and old characters and their new styles. I can understand why he does it, but it’s also not working. The “strategy” of the Ultimate universe was to create a number of titles that, together, built that sense of greater worldbuilding, but also leaving each single title to explore more intimately some specific characters, and build a story there, right away. Here instead we have this “anthology” of fragments of situations that lack the time and space necessary to build a story. So what’s left? Pure shock value and some splash pages to awe through art.

The Ultimate universe was a number of titles, each with their own specific story and intimate bubble, that when joined contributed to this idea and feel of greater universe. Here instead we have two anthological titles that cycle very rapidly through different groups, space and time, to show all the faces of this greater universe, but without any trace of story (yet).


It feels shallow despite the onslaught of superficial detail.

The first few pages we have an odd meeting between classic Xavier and Moira MacTaggert. It’s very cryptic and reads just like foreshadowing meant to awe the reader through intense stares.

Then four pages of Mystica, Xavier and Magneto, but nothing of value is being said as it’s just extension of what was written in the previous issue. Just “motions” through the same acts & rhetoric.

Then we have some new characters in a sci-fi setting, lots of info, some action to let the artist stretch a bit. But story-wise this section only emphasizes a two-faction future war and meant to subtly introduce a brand new taxonomy of mutant types and powers… that is then directly infodumped in text, in the section that follows. This is all brand new to rewrite the concepts of the mutants. So we have now “generations”/breeds of mutants, each with its fancy label and characteristics. It’s all merely what you see when a guy is tasked to reinvent a super-hero universe as he pleases. There’s nothing tangible, it’s all preparation and exploiting curiosity by seeing how some seemingly classic and known characters plug into this brand new setting.

A few pages about the human-machine faction follow, to make a show of how this “man-machine Ascendancy” is unscrupulous and really like the stereotypical cruel tyranny you’d expect, emphasized by the theme of AI and machine being cold and inhuman, of course, and humans losing their nature as they let machines take over. Then more characters’ presentation within the new setting (oh look, Magneto and Wolverine have beards, and there’s a plant guy). What follows, if I interpret things correctly since this section confused me, is another text infodump detailing the wider context of the 100 years in the future scenario. It explains how after losing the war to evil machinic empire mutants left planet Earth to scatter across the galaxy and inhabit some planets close to Shi-Ar’s empire (simplifying). The core idea here is that, at this point in time, the machine-human-AI tyranny actually won and “only” 10.000 mutants are left in the universe. Of which, only eight (8) are active in the Solar system to annoy the machinic empire ruling there. Seven of those eight that we see directly or indirectly. The confusing part is that we see Nimrod working for the human-machinic empire…

Then a jump 1000 years in the future for a quick final scene, and we see Nimrod, or what’s left of it, apparently with a blue skinned Xavier-like, with labels clearly defining we are within the mutant faction, and the reveal that the human-machinic empire eventually collapsed on its own, to the point that weird-Xavier is doing his best to preserve what could be salvaged of humanity… within an aquarium.

Schematically, we have these four timelines:
X0 is the generic “past” with Xavier seemingly being his classic self.
X1 being the present current time with Xavier and Magneto trying to build the mutant nation at Krakoa.
X2 being 100 years in the future (the main focus of this issue and probably of the title itself), with the human-machine faction having mostly defeated mutants, although humans seem more like enslaved than co-ruling. With the remaining mutants scattered in space and back into their more typical role of partisans/terrorist trying to disrupt the machinic empire.
X3 being 1.000 years in the future, with the human-machinic empire having self-collapsed, somehow, and its human side being preserved within an aquarium under the eyes of blue-skinned Xavier… and Nimrod.

As I said it’s an onslaught on info. Not only we have a brand new world done from scratch, but it also spans different times. It’s as if the Marvel universe was re-created, and curiously even more separated from its conspicuously missing block: what about all other non-mutant super heroes? Right now this is a brand new mutant universe where everything non-mutant has been scrapped. Maybe deliberately so, as this seems more like a “virtual reality” playing field, that will be kept in isolation from all the other comics set in the familiar continuity.

This is a reboot of the Marvel Universe, within a mutant bubble. An “Ultimate” mutant-centered what-if world. It’s not just a soft reboot to start a new storyline that is easy to follow for a potential new reader.

I think ultimately this reveals the intention: these two titles, “House of X” and “Power of X”, aren’t telling a “story”. They are intended instead as very extensive promotional material to propel all the titles that will be spawned in three months, that would then carry the story for the longer term. We are only watching the presentation of this brand new universe and a glimpse of how the old characters fit in it. So again it’s as if Age of Apocalypse was preceded by this major introduction of its various facets, with the intention of making it a lot bigger and long-lasting compared to the classic type of crossover.

I just happen to find very little actual substance in it, right now. But I do at least appreciate the grand scope and ambition. I only wish it wasn’t this flat and shallow. There’s no real meaningful theme, no insight, no inspiration. A collection of new names and labels, and not a single one worth of attention.

EDIT: a quick note that I’m writing before publishing this post. I might have misinterpreted the last scene. It’s not the mutant “faction”, it’s Nimrod’s mutant archive. The blue skinned guy might be Shi-Ar? I don’t know, but it reads like it’s the whole human-mutant front that collapsed entirely, not just the human side. Maybe we are seeing a brand new “product”, as a new “species” that eventually came out of that war and its mysterious outcome.