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.”

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