Category Archives: Blog

“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.


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)


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.

I was an avid comics reader for quite some time. I think I stopped some time after “Age of Apocalypse”, but then returned when Marvel tried again to be an “universe”, right at the beginning of “Avengers Disassembled”. I followed everything again up to Civil War, Annihilation and World War Hulk, although I have only actually read the very beginning of Civil War and the rest just sat there in the form of unread physical copies for many years. I’m picking that up from that point right now.

I still believe that the time span between Avengers Disassembled and Civil War (including also the Morrison’s cycle on X-Men that preceded it all) is one of the highest peaks. I like when Marvel works cohesively as an universe and when the single issues contribute to a bigger picture. Avengers Disassembled wasn’t quite a real cross-over, it only provided a vague “theme” that then each writer declined for the specific issue that was being written. With Scarlet freaking out and altering reality, anything went. The story continued linearly in the Avengers title, and only sent ripples across. It was more an experiment than a real deal. With the story concluded, Scarlet was taken away and that specific plot continued on Excalibur, I think. It was generally subdued, but still interesting because it was all in the hands of Claremont, who builds slowly and carefully, as long Marvel lets him and doesn’t break everything.

Avengers Disassembled and the fate of Scarlet then lead directly to House of M, this time a proper event and cross-over, that deeply affected all the other titles. It was the bold hijacking that you expect from the big stories. The strength of House of M was that it didn’t fizzle like it might have. Being some kind of alternate timeline, it could have ended with a reset, and that would have been very disappointing. But instead House of M did what is most important: it produced consequences, it brought real change. The ending itself created some mysteries and subplots that continued right away. It led to titles like “Son of M” that were truly brilliant, radically changed some status quo as with Wolverine, unexpectedly making it even better despite taking away a core feature, it shook the mutant universe through “Decimation” and, more importantly, the whole deal was an instrument to what was coming next: Civil War. This universe was at this time extremely organic and coherent, everything being precisely coordinated and directed toward a common end, and yet free to explore the nuances, breathe in all that potential without any rush. Civil War capped it all by giving more creative freedom to those writers who were bold enough to dare.

The rest is a blank for me, and I haven’t followed at all the “cinematic universe.”

I’ve heard recently about this major reboot of the mutant sub-universe, and especially the ambition of it, and so I decided to read this first issue. …I think it was a bit underwhelming, mostly because it feels very “off.” And because it doesn’t feel fresh either.

The bigger problem is that no one is in-character here. Now I don’t know at what point these characters are, what happened to them in the meantime and how they are changed. I also do not think that Hickman (the writer) isn’t aware of what I’m going to say. There is, obviously, a plan, but from what I’ve read it’s not convincing.

So… What we have here, especially in the light of my past experience, is Magneto. This WHOLE first issue reads *precisely* like Magneto’s wet dream. That’s the first reason why I say it doesn’t feel fresh. We’ve read this type of story many times, because what we see is exactly Magneto’s “manifesto”. That’s why it all pivots around him, with Xavier being the real actor but only in name. It’s Magneto speaking, because this is Magneto’s way of seeing things.

The result of this is a domino of character failures. Xavier isn’t really being shown, because his words would be Magneto’s words. But if we have to believe that this is the “real” Xavier, then everything directly and immediately CONTRADICTS everything we’ve known about Xavier. Because this, being Magneto, is the anti-Xavier. Despite Xavier being, in the story, the supposed origin of what we are witnessing. The problem is: when the first piece has been misplaced, everything else falls apart. The encounter between Cyclops and the Fantastic Four makes sense in service to the story, but it’s not even remotely plausible and coherent with those characters. Whether intended or not, they do feel like puppets.

What’s the deal here? Magneto speaks clearly, and speaks about the whole scenario: this isn’t an offer. It’s not a negotiation. The war has already been won before it even started. The display of power isn’t a threat, it’s just… information. That’s why those guys are being labelled as “plants”. They aren’t agents, they do not make choices. Magneto simply states that mutants are in control, and “thankfully” they are magnanimous.

And this is exactly what Xavier wouldn’t do. In the conflict between Magneto and Xavier, this has always been the central point: Xavier was working toward integration. So it makes sense that it’s Magneto speaking, but it either cancels out Xavier by precisely overlapping, or leaves doubts about this derail. For what end? Xavier being manipulated by this alien plant consciousness is just a too plain idea and doesn’t leave space for an interesting development.

My problem is that the whole thing, across its many parts, is just very simple subversion without having earned it. Xavier converts to Magneto, Cyclops embraces it all. The strength of the X-men, as a sub-culture, was its heterogeneity and diversity (opinions, behaviors, culture). There always were lots of different minds, ideas. The mutant world was always extremely splintered, but also rich. Here instead we end up seeing just automatons. The stereotype of brainwashed robots, who delegate agency to some hive mind. And okay.

Even the brief glimpses to some opposed party is played as a subversion. I’ve read some reviews who claim this whole thing is subtle, but I see nothing subtle in brainwashed automatons and established characters who behave nothing like they should. This mounting feeling of estrangement is deliberate, but leading to something very clear: these are the villains. It’s Magneto doing Magneto, you know? He clearly states they are tyrants now, and there’s nothing that can change this fact. It’s not subtle in any way. The subversion here is that the supposed actual villains get somewhat turned into the good guys, working with salvaged technology from Reed Richards and Tony Stark? What? Even if we also have here some sort of hive mind, creating a dichotomy of plants (mutants) VS computers (humans)… Okay?

I don’t know. Beside all characters being out of character the whole premise seems pretentious in the wrong way, and shallow in its actual substance. This is less a reboot, and more an unjustified betrayal of what came before just for the sake of serving subversion. I guess we’ll have to wait and read the rest to see how much of this “medias res” eventually justifies the present situation, but as it stands now it just read as a poorly written shake-up. Unjustified and not very interesting for what might come next.

I’ve read some reviews, but they do not make any sense to me. They feel like forced praise:

House of X #1 succeeds mainly because it addresses the franchise’s single biggest flaw head-on. It’s been a long time since there was a tangible sense of progress with the story of the X-Men. Grant Morrison’s New X-Men pushed the conflict between humanity and mutants to the next phase by making mutants much more plentiful and creating a ticking time bomb wherein humanity faced its own extinction within a handful of generations. But thanks to House of M, Marvel basically slammed the reset button and returned the focus to mutants as a tiny minority in a world that hates and fears them. It’s probably no coincidence that Hickman directly calls back to Morrison’s work in House of X and creates an even more urgent conflict between humanity and the resurgent mutant race.

Well, duh? It feels like knee-jerk to me, not worldbuilding.

Morrison multiplies mutants, House of M resets, Hickman: nope, they’re back plentiful. This isn’t addressing a big flaw, it’s just disrespecting what was built before, and betraying that very idea that made appreciate Marvel: the coherence of its world. The sense of history, and the work of its creators who kept building aware and embracing what came before. The sense of being organic to something bigger, being in service of it.

Here we are again.

Ted Chiang has recently released a new short stories collection, and within it he has repackaged and repurposed the exact same faulty concept of time and free will. The difference is that it has been pared down to just ONE page, so it’s all the more easy to handle (and debunk).

I’m referring to the story with the title “What’s Expected of Us”. I haven’t read more than that, and I’m also discouraged for doing so.

I’m sorry but I can’t take Chiang seriously anymore, and I can’t take seriously anyone who considers him a decent writer, either. You cannot drag an idea for so long without noticing how deeply faulty it is, and keep preaching as if it’s gospel. Okay that you dressed it up nicely in “Story of Your Life”, but here it’s stark naked, and I’m astonished that you have no shame showing it.

I’ve written a few comments recently about Dark and its bootstrap paradox. And even this short story by Chiang is a variation on the same theme, and generally amounts to a simplification of the more interesting and articulated Newcomb’s Paradox. This just to reiterate there’s nothing new under the sun, just another coat of obfuscation by Chiang, that for some inexplicable reason people seem to mistake for insight and great sci-fi.

The concept here is a “Predictor”, that is just a basic box with a button and a light. The premise is that free will doesn’t exist, and the predictor works by flashing the light one second before someone will press the button. The device being of course infallible.

Let’s start here: I absolutely accept the premise. The premise no free will exists, and human behavior can be deterministically predicted with absolute accuracy by this device.

The real problem isn’t determinism and free will, the problem is that Chiang makes this device operate in a completely dishonest way, in order to HIDE and dissemble the magical trick it is based on. This is what he writes to describe the practical use of the device:

But when you try to break the rules, you find that you can’t. If you try to press the button without having seen a flash, the flash immediately appears, and no matter how fast you move, you never push the button until a second has elapsed. If you wait for the flash, intending to keep from pressing the button afterward, the flash never appears. No matter what you do, the light always precedes the button press. There’s no way to fool a Predictor.

The first example doesn’t seem very plausible. The idea is you’re trying to press the button as fast as possible, but “the flash immediately appears”. It still takes a whole second, so the thesis is that you cannot press a single button faster than a whole second. And that’s already hubris, but let’s move on.

The second example is more interesting because it actually describes what it would REALLY happen if such device existed: you want to fool the device, so you wait for the light just so you WON’T press the button. And the consequence of this “deliberate choice” is, correctly, that the flash never appears.

This example is more interesting because it reveals something hidden. If the predictor never makes a prediction, then it can never been proven wrong. The device correctly functions by avoiding the one state that would compromise its function, by proving the prediction wrong. Without a prediction there’s no possible confutation. This is just like saying you cannot disprove something that doesn’t exist (argument from ignorance or variations).

The solution to this is to avoid this dishonest way of shaping the conundrum that Chiang uses, and instead see what happens if the prediction is FORCED (instead of evaded), so that it can be appropriately tested.

“Most people agree these arguments are irrefutable, but no one ever really accepts the conclusion. What it takes is a demonstration, and that’s what a Predictor provides.”

And that’s exactly what I’ll do: demonstrate that Chiang’s concept is logically faulty and produced by misleading premises. To do this I’ll create an experiment, just like what Chiang did in the story, with a few variations so that I can properly test the predictor with the sensible data.

As I said, this has nothing to do with free will and determinism, so I can prove the fallacy by removing even more variables. Instead of predicting human behavior I just need the predictor to be connected to a computer, and still prove that it will fail. The predictor simply has to predict whether on a screen the letter A or the letter B will be shown. The basic function of the predictor is the same as in the story (“it sends a signal back in time”). So the predictor sees which letter is shown on screen, in the future, and sends it back in time the result for the prediction.

The new trick in this experiment is that the computer that executes the process that will show either the letter A or the letter B on screen, takes the predictor’s prediction as INPUT. So that if the predictor predicts that the letter A will be shown, then the computer will display the letter B on screen, effectively contradicting the prediction. No matter what the predictor predicts, the process is built to contradict it.

In every single case possible the prediction is going to be invalidated. Hence, the logical fallacy that is at the core of Chiang’s concept. There isn’t even a single case to make this work, and the reason is exactly because of the logical fallacy.

Explanation: what happens in this example/experiment is that the moment when the prediction is sent back in time, that information is new information that alters the global state of the system, and so shifting it to a new, different state. It’s not that the predictor “doesn’t work”, it’s that every hypothetical prediction that is made triggers a change of state of the system.

For a better comprehension: the problem here isn’t again about the plausibility of determinism, and so the possibility of prediction. Predicting the behavior of a deterministic system is of course logically possible. The real problem we have here isn’t about determinism and it isn’t about prediction either. It’s INSTEAD about a process built on self-reference and recursion. The prediction here informs the system it tries to predict, and doing so recursively alters itself. We can imagine to ideally get to the end of this process, as if hammering down these time loops in their ultimate state, when all it’s done. But the point is that the process we are observing is one of infinite regression. So that it never closes, and so that, without a closure, can’t be predicted. Unless the prediction is itself separated from the system, without informing it directly and without triggering the self-reference.

This works EXACTLY like the liar’s paradox. In this well known example we have a phrase that alternates between two states, true and false, that recursively feed on themselves, with self-reference, so that they endlessly shift between those two positions. Until human beings observe and heuristically classify this as a “paradox”. It’s not, accurately, a paradox, it’s just a recursive, self-referential system without closure, and so we make up our own human simplification by assuming that a system without a closure “doesn’t make sense”, and so it’s a paradox. Something that cannot be hammered down logically in a fixed position, since it’s built to shift endlessly.

So, you can predict the evolution of a deterministic system where the prediction itself is separated from the system being predicted. But you CANNOT create a self-reference within the system without facing the consequences. That self-reference recursively altering the behavior, triggering an infinite regression that, by avoiding closure, makes the prediction impossible too, since the idea of a prediction implies that the system being predicted assumes some fixed final state that can be mapped.

This is also the reason why what Chiang writes next is even more absurd and ill informed:

“People used to speculate about a thought that destroys the thinker, some unspeakable Lovecraftian horror, or a Gödel sentence that crashes the human logical system. It turns out that the disabling thought is one that we’ve all encountered: the idea that free will doesn’t exist. It just wasn’t harmful until you believed it.”

This is just magical thinking: the idea that a “belief” can trigger some special, unprecedented effect. This happens just as consequence of the logical fallacy at the foundation of the whole concept. What actually DOES happen is that a logical system “cannot crash”. Because it’s built on logic, it observes and operates on logic, and whatever hypothesis of something non-logical would be simply unseen by such a system. And if something is unseen and unperceived, it doesn’t exist. It never becomes experience. It never enters or even interacts with the environment (hence we pass the threshold and step into pure metaphysics, that Chiang obviously can’t deal with, being blind to what he’s observing).

The idea that “free will doesn’t exist” is locked off, out of experience. Because you cannot become aware of something embedded. The awareness of lack of free will doesn’t bestow free will, so it produces no change at all. No emancipation.

Chiang continues tripping on this, since he started from a faulty proposition:

“My message to you is this: Pretend that you have free will. It’s essential that you behave as if your decisions matter, even though you know they don’t. The reality isn’t important; what’s important is your belief, and believing the lie is the only way to avoid a waking coma.”

The truth is the exact opposite of what he says here. Nothing is “essential”, and especially “your belief” is completely irrelevant. The truth is that there’s no escape from this system, so no matter what you believe, the result is immutable.

He partially admits it in the following paragraph:

“There’s nothing anyone can do about it”

So, logically, it’s really not important what you “believe”, because beliefs aren’t magical, they aren’t transcendental, and so they cannot help in any way out of this process. What you believe is irrelevant.

The opposite is true: you have no freedom to exit the belief in free will, because you cannot act on the premise of the absence of it. You cannot be exempted from what we can generally call the “human condition”, and the human condition is built around the *perception* of free will. Whether this perception is fundamentally and truthfully “free” or just an illusion, is irrelevant, because we are chained to this state, and its truth-ness or false-ness are both unverifiable and with no consequence. Hence they do not exist (we can assume “as if” they don’t, since it’s indifferent relative to our present state, as good epistemology would dictate).

Human beings are structurally chained to free will, because the nature of human beings is perspectival, partial. Caged within the system that builds them. In a similar way, you cannot predict determinism from within the system you’re trying to predict. Free will, like determinism, can only be factually proven by exiting the system (of reality). Until we remain caged within, we continue to submit to (perception of) free will, and the nature of self reference that doesn’t allow closure and so accurate, complete prediction (as to say: the Laplacian demon can only exist outside the system it is observing, otherwise it’s also bound to self-refence and incompleteness/non-closure).

That said, not all bootstrap paradoxes are logically faulty. I always thought that Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is a form of metaphorical, and logically valid, bootstrap paradox. There are ways to hide the origin, that’s the trick. Not so much, as in Dark, that origins don’t exist. But there can be patterns where origins could be “missed”, or unperceived. Unseen. There are ways for the world to “fall off” from its root, and so appear as if suspended. Independent. Just like consciousness.

It’s all about perception… and truth. Because so, if we value truth, we cannot value Ted Chiang, whose work is like that of an illusionist who tries to obfuscate so much more than reveal. Appearing to be smart and deep through the use of misleading intuition pumps.

EDIT: After writing this I searched online for other comments about this specific story and found one in particular that matches mine but that more directly ties with the example of the story:

“Consider the Free Will Device, put next to the predictor. Free Will Device is actually entirely deterministic, and doesn’t have any free will of its own. It consist of photocell which watches the LED on predictor, timer, which gets reset to 0 every time light hits photocell, and actuator which pushes the button when timer reaches 2 seconds. If predictor blinks within those 2 seconds, there won’t be a button press, and if predictor doesn’t blink, there will be a button press.”

EDIT2: I noticed later that the story here is from 2005, so I now have no idea if it pre-dates Arrival or whatever. But maybe Ted Chiang could be forgiven for dredging up some faulty old story. Still, this is Ron Hubbard type of quality, and so it’s fairly condemnable for its poor philosophy, regardless of when it was written.