While speaking about his new “Dawn Of X” revitalisation of the X-Men at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Jonathan Hickman explained one of the core rules for the event, an idea more comics publishers should take to heart. Though House of X and Powers of X were meant to take the X-Men into a bold, new direction, the series wouldn’t feature many new mutants.
Hickman’s reasoning was simple in a way that made it impossible not to understand its significance. Why bother creating entirely new mutants when there are quite literally hundreds of them floating around in Marvel’s editorial ether just waiting to be brought back into the fold? The key, Hickman explained, was figuring out how to do that in a way that not only entertains fans but also gives the characters more depth and complexity.
Though all of the new X-books have featured more than a handful of nondescript mutants blissfully frolicking across Krakoa in the backgrounds of panels, Hickman, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles’ House of X #2 illustrated precisely what Hickman meant when he was talking about how this event would breathe new life into characters we know by making us see them in profoundly new lights.
House of X #2 took Moira MacTaggert, the X-Men’s longtime human associate who fought tirelessly in the ongoing campaign for mutant rights, and transformed her into the narrative fulcrum of the X-Men’s entire expanded mythology.
By making Moira a mutant with the novel ability to reincarnate back to the point of her conception with full recall of her previous lives, House of X gave Moira the sort of power that’s difficult to quantify. On its face, what Moira has is a sort of immortality that’s fascinatingly augmented by her innate intellectual talents and the life-long perspective she brings back with her every time she’s reborn.
At first, Moira believes this to be the case and she moves through the world, gradually coming into her power as an academic, a researcher, and very quickly, an important figure in the grand design of mutantkind’s destiny.
In each of her lives, Moira becomes more powerful in the sense that she’s more keenly able to purposefully change the ultimate outcomes of events, but in her second life, she simply makes a point of meeting a young Charles Xavier in hopes that she might be able to finally reveal what she is to someone else.
But in this lifetime, Xavier’s arrogance and Moira’s internalised hatred of her being a mutant (mind you, she’s still new to all this) causes her to develop even deeper feelings of animosity towards all mutants.
Under the delusion that she’s helping people with mutations, which she sees as a disease, Moira ultimately develops a serum that will permanently deactivate a person’s X-gene. It all seems as if she will be able to live out her life happily in a mutant-free world... until Mystique and her long-time partner Destiny show up to let Moira know that they’d like to have a word.
Out of all the characters who could have possibly popped up in House of X, Destiny isn’t necessarily someone you’d immediately anticipate. Most recently in Marvel’s comics, Destiny’s been quite dead (though active on the astral plane) after a long history of making brief appearances here and there across a wide variety of X-books in different villainous capacities.
Typically, Destiny’s precognitive powers have been depicted as her being able to gaze into alternate futures that exist minutes away from her present point in time. The more likely a potential future, the clearer she could perceive it, and the less likely an outcome, the more difficult it would be for her to discern it.
House of X #2 does something rather intriguing with Destiny’s powers that comes by way of her encountering the second Moira. Unlike Moira, who’s only experienced a modest two lives if you’re rounding up, Destiny explains how she’s witnessed countless realities in which mutants like herself are systematically exterminated by the humans who hate them.
The moment feels as if it’s drastically expanding the scale and range of Destiny’s abilities, but because of the way things unfold — Destiny meeting a reincarnating character in a story about the whole of the X-Men’s existence — it feels organic and exciting.
Destiny also reveals that while she can’t perceive Moira’s presence in real-time because of the existential anomaly she is, she is able to see Moira’s possible futures, and just what a powerful force for good or evil she has the potential to become, depending on her choices.
She also informs the girl that despite what she assumed, there are limits to her ability to reincarnate, and she really only has 10 (or perhaps 11) chances to do the right thing. Rather than leaving Moira any choice, Destiny tells her to get her shit together and stop mucking around with the self-hatred. And her key to ensuring that Moira will follow her directive is tucked within a small moment when Destiny says something about her powers.
No matter how many times Moira reincarnates, Destiny will always have been much older and in full control of her abilities long before Moira was even born. Should Moira attempt to come back and try to wipe out mutants again, Destiny will simply kill her. Should Moira attempt to come back with plans to kill Destiny, Destiny, who will be a grown woman, will simply kill Moira, who will be a child.
That simple reality about Moira and Destiny’s specific powers and circumstances makes more for an endlessly fascinating dynamic that exists somewhere just left of a traditional hero/nemesis relationship. Destiny’s open about her disdain for what Moira’s tried to do, but she’s also effusive about how much good she believes Moira can do in the world.
Of course, Moira has no way of knowing whether any of this is actually true, and Destiny encourages her to keep learning about herself and experimenting with her powers. But again, Destiny meant what she said — and, in the spirit of imparting knowledge to those who need it, Destiny commands Pyro to burn Moira alive, slowly, so that she remembers what it feels like when she comes back around for round three.
From here, House of X #2 goes on to detail the events of Moira’s other lives, where she always heeded Destiny’s lesson and fought however she could to protect mutants. In most instances, Moira fails, but what you see is that with each rebirth, Moira comes back that much more in command of her position in the world and knowing how to influence events around her by making specific choices.
In a sense, House of X has turned Moira into a probability manipulator with the singular goal of living as long as she possibly can in order to achieve an unknown ultimate goal. Destiny and her diaries have always played major roles in different X-Men stories, but in becoming fundamentally linked to Moira this way, she’s also become a larger presence in the meta-story because she will always shift accordingly to whatever changes Moira makes to things.
In a single issue, House of X took two long-established, though not exactly the most compelling, characters (there are a few other precogs running around out there) and turned them into two of the most important forces in the whole of Marvel’s comics universe.
It’s a feat, to be certain, that can be attributed to the creative team’s talent and vision. But the thing that’s really amazing about it is it’s exactly the kind of character elevation people have wanted to see in more books for ages, and it seems as if it’s exactly what “Dawn of X” is going to continue to be great for.