Marvel’s House of X/Powers of X event is complicated, full of references to the X-Men past and hints at the X-Men future. Jonathan Hickman, R. B Silva, and Pepe Larraz are delivering a beautifully rendered and textually dense reinvention of one of the biggest franchises in comics history.
That’s too much for just one comics editor to dig into, so we reached out to the folks at the Xavier Files, whose in-depth annotations of House of X and Powers of X impressed us, educated us, and entertained us. Now you can enjoy the Xavier Files’ Hox Pox Tox right here on Polygon — so crack open your copy of House of X #4, and read along! (You can find the first three annotations here).
In this oversized finale, Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, and David Curiel reveal the nefarious truth behind all of Moira’s lives. Explained by The Librarian in X³, mutants are only the next organic step in evolution. Transhuman experimentation through robotics and genetic manipulation pushed human evolution past mutants. Mutants will always lose. Hearing this in her Sixth Life, Moira relays the ugly truth to Xavier back on the park bench of X0, and they begin their mission to beat the odds. In her Krakoan No-Place, Moira clashes with Xavier and Magneto, as she has her whole life. They know mutants may lose, but they won’t lose without a fight.
Robert Secundus: I don’t know what to say; this is the end. I’m excited to dive in one last time.
Chris Eddleman: Rob, we’re finally at the end. We’ve been writing about HoXPoX for twelve weeks now, looking frankly far too closely at this series. We’ve talked biology, theoretical physics, philosophy, religion, art, and history. I’ve said it many times that it’s great to see a creative team inspired by a wide range of topics and this might be one of the widest. And to the readers, we’ve loved your response and your correspondence — it’s been really fun being in the HoXPoX community for the duration of this run. So, we hope you’re game for our last go — but I figure you are, you’ve been game for 12 weeks.
[Ed. note: It’s a double-sized finale boys, we need to get started.]
CE: Our final epigraph from Xavier (still called Alpha, which after this issue will seem very silly) reminds us that while we’re at the end of this double miniseries, the journey is really only beginning with this new era of X-Men.
RS: That the title of the final chapter of Powers Of X is “House of X” really emphasizes the fact that these are two series only in marketing, not in reality. It’s also appropriate because, in many ways, this issue concerns recursion and returning to beginnings.
CE: Plus, as X-Men has taught us so often — the X can be, and will be, “ten.” In this case, it refers to House of Ten, meaning the House of Moira. As this issue will go on to state, it’s really all her plans that have led to this moment, despite setbacks from the other players.
RS: I can’t believe that the final twist is “It was pronounced House of Ten, actually.”
CE: Grant Morrison would be proud.
RS: I expect the flashback sequence to PoX #1 to be fairly controversial, but I really like it. I like that we don’t just get a sequel, but we get to see this scene play out again in fuller context. Every single reader, not just those who stop, go back, and pick up the older comics, now experiences that moment again in its full light.
CE: It’s interesting to me that the Page 4 has an addition, which just gives us another panel of a very happy Charles Xavier. I guess that hammers home how naive he is prior to meeting Moira in her tenth incarnation. He has a very simple, and to him, achievable dream of mutant coexistence with humanity. This contrasts with Moira, who has seen with her own death, the death of that dream over and over again.
CE: While it could just be the fact that it’s a jungle, the Preserve to me looks very Krakoan. I wonder if Librarian and friends created this to resemble Krakoa as a sort of comfort to the mutants. Also, of note, it’s a Preserve of many species. I’m guessing the blue folks have done much to the biome of Earth at large that requires extra preservation. I mean, tomorrow it’s going to be eaten so it’s a moot point.
RS: Here we start to see that we’ve misunderstood the nature of the Preserve, the New Eden, from PoX #1 onwards, as those background figures are not those of humans. We approached the Eden from an incorrect paradigm, one that assumed that mutants and humans were a simple dichotomy, and that transhuman individuals belonged to the latter species.
CE: I feel like we were certainly led to believe that. But of course, we X-Men fans like to think of mutants as the evolutionarily superior branch. In fact, in Powers of X #1, Nimrod the Greater says to the Librarian “Homo sapiens, so glad to be done with all of that,” which cued us to believe those were the ones in the preserve. It was a good swerve. [Ed. note: Though it brings up the question of if post-humans see much difference between Homo sapiens and Homo superior.]
RS: At first, a disembodied voice from the Edenic trees begins to talk about freedom, and raging against one’s masters, against the creators of that Eden. Logan is this Eden’s Miltonic Satan, it seems, and Moira its Lilith, or else they are its Adam and Eve, about to receive knowledge that will lead to their death and expulsion from the garden.
CE: We are reminded how much Wolverine hates to be caged, to be deprived of his freedom in this zoo. [Ed. note: Also how much he loves overthrowing authority figures!]
CE: It’s really odd to me after seeing the theoretically benevolent, sometimes childlike Librarian looking like the bad guy, but that was of course more clever storytelling to play with our expectations. It’s brilliant.
CE: The Librarian uses the morally kind excuse for incarceration — preservation (or protection), when of course he really just can’t kill Moira, and wants to know her plans. He is 1000 years of petty, I suppose.
CE: The Librarian reminds us of the entire X³ storyline- the Ascension of the post-human civilization to godhood, in the convoluted “getting eaten and absorbed” method. The Librarian dreams of existing outside space and time — not immortality exactly, but complete omniscient permanence. [Ed. note: Thankfully, someone understands what’s going on in X³.]
RS: Two important things to note about intra-singularity aeviternity. If Moira’s powers do annihilate the timeline, then mutants are safe, but if her consciousness merely travels back and splits the timeline, the Dominions still know about Moira, and are likely coming for her. Even if they annihilate the timeline, being-in-a-black-hole unsticks you from that timeline, and so Cardinal, Xorn, Dougkoa, and Rasputin may be coming to Life X (Main X-Men continuity), but so may Nimrod and an entire machine Earth. [Ed. note: Of course, they may all be part of a Dominion godhead now, which seems dangerous.]
CE: The Librarian likely wants nothing more than to be rid of Moira, but he absolutely must preserve her until godhood. This very much smacks of “bad guy explaining his scheme” which as we see carries a purpose. In this Garden of Eden, our zookeeper needs to undergo a confession.
CE: In case you thought that we weren’t philosophical enough, the Librarian is getting into the meaning of existence. He seems to be implying that existence within the Dominion is merely a simulation, the idea of which puzzles contemporary scientists. [Ed. note: As well as teens who just saw The Matrix for the first time.] Is this nature of existence simply what our senses tell us? Could a manufactured existence be just as “real” as a material existence? He’s very afraid to find out. I noticed he keeps referring to himself as post-human, which seems to be a coping mechanism to try to escape his very human fear of having his existence compromised.
RS: This gets at older philosophical and theological problems too; how can an immaterial soul in heaven, someone’s pure essence, their form, without individuating matter, maintain an independent existence in a heaven? How can an individual remain an individual after deification? How can individual humanity retain any identity when it is one human drop among the endless eternal ocean of god?
RS: Homo novissima would be latin for the Last Man. [Ed. note: Not to be confused with the comic book.]
CE: Our robot friend Nimrod spoke quite a bit of his own inevitability. Here we have an argument between Moira, Wolverine, and the Librarian about what existence is truly inevitable, and mutantkind’s place in it. This harkens back to the Orchis Protocol, which activated when the “inevitability” of mutants became a growing concern.
RS: What’s thematically happening here is really interesting in two ways. First of all, PoX is picking up something that was inherent to the original X-Men but quickly dropped. Mutants were, originally, written as the Children of the Atom, as a species that in part resulted from humanity’s dominance over nature, over its ability to control even the basic building blocks of our universe. Here it’s just the post-humans who get to claim that role.
Second of all, it’s building on the thematic concerns of Morrison’s New X-Men. Morrison was primarily interested in using the Mutant Metaphor as a means to explore not oppression but evolution, and not just biological but societal, cultural, and even cosmic evolution. This grand design unites both of those concerns. Humanity’s triumph over evolution allows them to oppress mutants, and the evolution of machine intelligences into gods grants them power over the entire universe.
CE: A great deal of this series seems to be dealing with machine intelligence, and the story deceiving us a bit into making them seem like a real threat. I like this reveal that machines are, as always, a tool that humans use — in this case to oppress. Also, quite importantly, the vignettes we see are Project: Rebirth (the creation of Captain America) as well as a showcase of the Omega Sentinel. The definition of engineered post-humans includes the rest of the Marvel Universe, which seems to put mutants at odds with other superheroes. But, please, God, no more Avengers vs. X-Men.
RS: Also, if Project: Rebirth is part of trans-human history, then so should be the following Weapon Plus program, which means that a number of mutants guest star in that story.
CE: Weapon Plus was recently featured in a one-shot as well. It would be interesting to see if there’s going to be any connection coming up with the Dawn of X titles. [Ed. note: There is an upcoming one-shot tying into Absolute Carnage.]
CE: The Librarian, in all of his post-human intelligence, definitely gives the entire plan of humanity (which doesn’t seem to change, timeline to timeline) away here. Very arch of him.
CE: And of course he pays for it here. [Ed. note: “You sly dog! You got me monologuing! I can’t believe it.” — The Librarian probably.] It’s hard to become a small part of godhood with your head clawed into a tree. It’s wild that Moira and Wolverine waited 1000+ years for this conversation, but it sets up her remaining lives. This is the high level plan that Moira needed to know, and she seems to be set on getting the details right as time goes on.
RS: Does he pay for it? I think, given his fears about Ascension, this might be what he really wanted, gruesome as his end is.
CE: That is definitely a distinct possibility. I have an odd feeling this isn’t the end of our cerulean friends. But then again, I think that about all the stuff in HoXPoX.
RS: And so we get the major twist of the issue. As was popularly theorized, X³ is the life of Moira VI. With this blank filled in, we know what she was doing in lives VII and IX: trying to find ways to buy Mutants time, to get back those years and decades that the Librarian believes were key to Post-Humanity’s victory. In VII she tries to end all Sentinels and finds them an inevitability; in IX she tries to find a way to keep Nimrod from coming online. She also learned of the nature of the Phalanx and the existence of Dominions in VI, which indicates that both Sinister’s experiments in biological hiveminds and singularities in IX as well as Krakoan experiments in archived minds, biotech, and the great machines of society may be attempts to create Mutant Strongholds and Dominions.
CE: Not to mention his delving into chimera creation. This timeline tells us that mutants didn’t realize or were too squeamish to delve into their own genomes. As we see in timelines IX (and X for that matter), Sinister breaks that mold.
We get another “best there is at what he does” reference. Remember, in timeline IX, Moira completes this line. Nice callback.
CE: The Krakoan symbols are M for Mutant in Homo superior, H for Human in Homo sapiens, and P-H for Post-Human in Homo novissima. The note under Homo novissima refers to a self-perpetuating cycle of technological (and in the post-human case, evolutionary) singularities. This shows how easily the post-humans blow past mutants evolutionarily.
RS: Just as House of X’s approach to Society finds antecedents in Hickman’s early work (Red Mass for Mars in particular is structured around Buber’s ideas), so too does Powers of X. Transhuman focused on an economic war between two rival conceptions of post-humanity, between the biological post-humans and technological post-humans. The former were strongly associated with the X-Men.
CE: I haven’t read Transhuman but that is completely wild. [Ed. note: Transhuman takes this into a dark direction that may be uncomfortable for some folks. So read at your own risk.]
RS: Poor Charles. I suppose a telepathically induced paradigm shift can be a bit of a Brain Freeze.
CE: Rob, he went from having a delightful day at the fair, thinking about his very nice dream of the future, only to have it blown to pieces. I would feel the same, probably. Love the change in lighting here.
CE: Moira is reminded us, Xavier’s dream cannot work, and will never work. This is rather hard for him to grasp.
CE: Doubling down on the naivety of Xavier. Even immediately after seeing the many ways that humanity wins and destroys mutantkind, he thinks little tiny changes can cause a rippling butterfly effect.
CE: And Moira quickly breaks him of that notion. The response of “It’s not a compliment” is fantastic because it shows how frustrated Moira is. The theme of her frustration with partners that don’t fully grasp what seems to be at stake continues throughout the issue.
CE: Moira begins her role as “the adult in the room” as the only one of the triumvirate that seems to really have their eye on the prize. Mind you, this is still Earth-616, which means everything we’ve seen — every schism and failure, is all in canon after this knowledge. This speaks to the unyielding nature of Xavier and Magneto’s ideologies. She spends literally her whole tenth life trying to bend them into place.
RS: At this point, is she older than Apocalypse? From her perspective, she may be the only adult on the planet.
CE: I think En Sabah is a bit older but, he spends a ton of time napping. X³, as we recall, doesn’t literally mean year 1000, just more thousands on a logarithmic scale. She could be incredibly old.
RS: Anyway, I think you’re describing her role really nicely there, “bending them,” and that worries me. The specific way Moira frames the Truth in Entry 5, as a tool to be used given her circumstances, makes me think she’s not to be trusted, that she has plans beyond what she’s shown to Xavier and Magneto. Truth can be used to deceive, especially when someone has imperfect access to the truth, as she specifically notes that Xavier does here. She has perfect recall. He has limited perception.
CE: Eidetic memory can sometimes be horrifying and inconvenient for people in real life, and I can’t imagine how thousands of years of it can affect you, especially in the limited perception of other people. Even after reading her mind, Xavier likely immediately starts forgetting parts of it, and as we know memory is incredibly malleable to most people.
RS: I wonder if Entry 14 is meant to make us think of Onslaught, or else if it’s meant to make us worry about the state of the present day masked Xavier.
CE: Gosh, it could honestly be both.
RS: Entry 17 mentions “Primal Matter.” This is the first time that phrase has appeared in HoXPoX and in our discussions, but it should sound familiar to you if you’ve been following other HoXPoX conversations. The “Abyss” has appeared several times in HoXPoX, and that is a common translation for תְּהוֹם (tehom), the primal state of the universe in the book of Genesis before creation.
Genesis’ abyss isn’t pure nothingness, but rather is a kind of primal matter, which in turn may be defined as the most basic form of matter, out of which all materially existing things are composed. If you’re picturing fundamental particles or superstrings, go even more basic. Primal matter is entirely undifferentiated. It is materiality itself without any kind of form. This phrase here is important both because it handwaves the metallic nature of Podverine and Archpodgel and because it points toward some kind of connection between Proteus and the Dominions.
CE: I wonder what this redaction is. Speculation though is kind of impossible. Moira alluding to breaking Xavier makes me wonder if we’re going to see any repercussions later.
RS: Entry 17 also implicitly retcons Moira’s relationship with Joseph MacTaggert; his DNA is necessary for her plan. This also implies a retcon that somehow makes Xavier’s relationship with his patient Gabriel Haller even less ethical; just as it implies that Moira sought out Joseph to create Proteus, so too it implies that Xavier sought out Haller to create Legion.
CE: Boy oh boy, that has some gross implications though unless the retcon is rather large on Moira’s side. In Entry 22, Moira mentions the possibility of strongholds to Magneto, which explains why he makes so many bases and islands — the finale of which is Krakoa, of course.
RS: That’s a carefully chosen word, stronghold. It’s the name given to Machine Intelligences which have collapsed into a black hole, so here we have Moira connecting the idea of Krakoa to the end of that kind of existence.
CE: “We have lost Magneto” for sure references Mutant Genesis. This reiterates that all of the conflicts between mutants in the past were completely real, which is extremely good.
[Ed. note: For those of you who haven’t read the best selling comic of all time, Magneto got turned into a baby once and Moira messed with his genetic code in an attempt to make him less evil. Magento was upset when he found out.]
RS: It’s the best kind of retcon. It doesn’t eliminate past continuity, but rather it adds significance to it. Entry 57 is extremely troubling. If Moira and Xavier used a prototypical variant of the Pod Process to fake her death, then the process creates copies of the original person rather than restores them and Moira and Xavier killed an innocent sentient individual they created in order to further their plans. [Ed. note: Don’t worry, they had a backup.]
CE: I wonder if they just kind of left a body? Moira did seal herself in a room while working on the Legacy Virus, leaving ample opportunity to escape. This retcon might be one of the most clean that I can remember.
RS: Odds on the city which Moira’s No-Place opens to? I’m guessing New Orleans, and Moira just loves her some gumbo.
CE: It’s a little town in like, Ohio, where a cafe makes perfect corned beef hash. Anyway, Magneto bringing tea as an excuse is hilarious. Did Charles and Magneto discuss how they were going to break bad news to her, and settled on tea as an olive branch? These boys are goofs. [Ed. note: Mankind’s greatest culinary city is Cincinnati, home of the best chili in the world.]
RS: Before we move on, those final two panels are suggestive, placing Moira in parallel with the masked Xavier, and cutting off her eyes. If anything in this issue frames Moira as sinister, it’s this depiction here.
CE: Smiling without eyes is a classic in comics for devious intent. I agree with your take here absolutely.
CE: The boys specifically say that they put the bad guys on the council to keep a close eye on them. They’re well aware of the possibility of them doing something nefarious. That’s a cool detail.
RS: I don’t know why Moira’s so frustrated; it seems like a great plan, keeping an eye on the evil villains by giving them 50% of the governing power of this nation.
Uncanny X-Men #11 (2019) Matthew Rosenberg, Juanan Ramírez
CE: No precogs on Krakoa is a fascinating rule, and Moira seems to hint that it’s because Destiny can see Moira’s lives. Blindfold, another precognitive mutant, recently died in Rosenberg and Co’s Uncanny X-Men. [Ed. note: She fell into a depression and committed suicide after being broken by the inevitability of the mutant cause.]
CE: Magneto’s rhyme is an adaptation of a German rhyme about procrastination “Tomorrow, tomorrow, not today, all the lazy people say.” Moira must be incredibly frustrated with the arrogance of the mutant men in her life. However, to some extent she seems hopelessly pessimistic, even with all her planning.
CE: The boys remind Moira how great she is, as they also undercut her wishes. But even in their praise of her, they also puff themselves up, stating basically that Moira is no longer necessary. This plays interestingly with her Journal Entries, through which we learn the ways she tries to manipulate them. I like that Moira gets to have a complicated, flawed character. It’s quite refreshing.
RS: It also plays with the previous version of this scene, which was also set against Xavier’s narration. In that scene Xavier acted as though they were all equals and that they were all the dominant powers leading Krakoa forward. But here we see that the Quiet Council is just a set of pawns, and it’s their secret alliance, the power behind the throne, that actually matters.
CE: “I am not ashamed of what I am” was the tagline for the last issue. We close on the triumph of these men, and the start of our new status quo. We see a blending of their philosophies in both men, as even Xavier tempts to humans to try to stop them.
CE: Truly, a great ending coda. Mutants aren’t going away, and they will not be less than again.
RS: That said, Chris, I can’t help but think of your observation about the Preserve way back at the start. When I look at this scene, of mutants flying into lively purple, golden trees, I can’t help but see a resemblance to X³. Our last image of HoXPoX is a very hopeful one, a moment of both celebration and defiance, but that visual parallel adds just a tinge of doubt to the scene for me, makes me worry that they’re still marching to their old doom.
CE: Normally we don’t dig too hard into the reading order but, the code at the bottom says “Dawn of X 19” and “Arakko 20”. Perhaps a preview of a comic or event from next year?
CE: Krakoan reads “X-Men.” Rob, I sight read this one. I have a problem. [Ed. note: Can’t remember a thing from three years of Spanish but I can just read this made up language now.]
The rest of the Krakoan reads as the names of our Dawn of X titles, in order: Marauders, Excalibur, X-Force, New Mutants, and Fallen Angels.
RS: I struggled with coming up with the right words for our introduction, and I’m struggling again here. How can we sum up this series? It was a wild experience. Never before have I looked forward so much to a weekly release. Never before have I experienced a comics community coming together to read and discuss and theorize about and critique and celebrate one comic.
CE: The sun sets on Krakoa, more darkly than before, and thus does our 12-week journey end. We got a conclusion of sorts, but also an incredibly engaging start on a brand new story and setting. The X-Men have been yet again redefined for the better, in my opinion. I want to see what happens in a world with mutants on top, but with the inevitability of human engineering looming. The possible plot threads abound as we close out this series, and I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about come Dawn of X.
[Ed. note: Thank you for overthinking comic books with us for the last 12 weeks, and thanks to Polygon for bringing us in to talk about X-Men. Let’s get a good rest, because Dawn awaits us.]
Robert Secundus is an amateur angelologist