If You Like Comics, You Should Read Marvel's House Of X And Powers Of X

For the past 11 weeks, I have eagerly awaited Wednesday mornings in a way I haven’t in a very long time. I’m a longtime comic book reader, and since Wednesdays are when new comics come out, I’m always a little excited — but this has been different. There’s something special going on in the world of X-Men comics, and I need to tell you about it.

House of X and Powers of X are two intertwining miniseries written by Jonathan Hickman, with art by Pepe Larraz and R.B Silva, respectively. Over the last eleven weeks, the two series have taken turns telling complimentary stories establishing a brand-new status quo for the X-Men, each issue complicating the others and hinting at audacious new developments.

House of X just ended this week with its sixth issue, and Powers of X No. 6 will end this whole prelude, kicking off a new line of X-Men books under a banner called Dawn of X. Describing it logistically like that makes it sound like any old comics event, and in some ways, it is — only the story being told here is incredible and feels relevant in a way the X-Men haven’t felt in ages.

(Light spoilers only.)

In House of X/Powers of X (often abbreviated HoX/PoX), Charles Xavier, leader of the X-Men, realises his dream of human/mutant coexistence just hasn’t been working out. Mankind has not accepted mutants, no matter how much mutants work to save them. So he tries something new. Working with his best frenemy Magneto, Xavier unites all mutants around the world, inviting them to the living island of Krakoa and declaring it a sovereign nation where mutants can find sanctuary and amnesty. That includes villains, like Apocalypse.

The actual mechanics of how this is all pulled off are dazzling, with some of the most audacious retcons and twists I’ve read in a superhero comic. They’re best discovered as you read, and I won’t spoil them here. I’m more interested in talking about how the HoX/PoX comics make the X-Men feel vital again.

Image: Marvel Comics

One of the most important things about X-Men, and X-Men stories, is the mutant metaphor. Initially understood to be a stand-in for the Civil Rights struggle in America, mutants were hated and feared, constantly oppressed for being born different even as they fought for humanity.

Over time, mutantkind has been a comic book stand-in for all sorts of marginalised people — stories have both implicitly and explicitly drawn connections to queer experiences (consider Iceman “coming out” as a mutant in the film X2, or literally coming out as queer in recent comics), or Jewish ones (Like this Brian Michael Bendis-written speech from Kitty Pryde).

Sometimes, the malleability of this metaphor is a weakness. If you take it seriously as a text on race, for example, it starts to fall apart, ill-equipped to engage with ideas like institutional discrimination because it needs to be a superhero story first. In a lot of ways, most X-Men stories just let you decide who the X-Men stand for, and that’s worked pretty well in broad strokes even if it fails when you dig deep.

HoX/PoX both sidesteps and amplifies the metaphor by fundamentally shifting the fantasy of the X-Men: What if marginalised people — queer people, people of colour, Jewish people — didn’t have to appeal to those in power? What if they could, overnight, declare themselves a power in their own right and demand the respect they should’ve gotten from the start? What if they were free to build a culture without the meddling of colonists, the rich, the powerful?

To the marginalised, it would be incredible. To the rest of the world, it would be uncomfortable. Terrifying, even. And that’s my favourite trick in HoX/PoX — the books make you complicit in that unease. It is not comfortable to watch mutants declare themselves sovereign and build a society. Something about it feels wrong. Dangerous. Radical.

Perhaps that discomfort stems from living in a world that labors so hard to keep power where it is, and the marginalised in line. Perhaps it’s because this world has decided that its rules are not supposed to be written by queer leaders or people of colour.

It’s apt that the central metaphor of the X-Men, mutation, is something that’s driven by evolution. It is inevitable. You cannot stop it. For decades, the X-Men were heroes to readers who felt different, or cast out, for a multitude of reasons. X-Men comics, while not perfect, strove to represent those people in their stories: It was a team with a roster from all over the world, with people who looked “normal” and people who did not.

HoX/PoX takes that metaphor and refuses to make it palatable. It is bold and uncompromising. It looks at the marginalised people its characters have long stood in for and says they are inevitable. That they cannot be stopped.


Comments

    Pissing on the legacy of a series of books based around trying to find peace between everyone no matter of genes, color, race, etc to do a story where a group of people break away (segregate if you will) from the rest of the world, create their own laws, blackmail the world with medicine and other advancements, and create a land with the equivalent of nuclear arms at the ready... It's been a terrible book and has ruined a lot of characters (Xavier, Apocalypse, Emma Frost, Magneto, etc) for a modern political leftist idealism narrative.

    I'd make a fire with the books but I dislike burning trash.

      Knew I'd find someone like you here. Thanks for always making articles like these less fun to read

      Im not a big fan of excessive marvel politics as of late.. nor am i not that keen on the retcon done on one of the longest standing support characters for the x-men canon to get this story started..

      But I actually liked the concept/story for thus so far... i mean lets be honest the x-men have a right to be pissed here year after year theyve stopped the same global and inter galactic threats and yet theyre still the target of government sanctioned death robots and no one bats an eyelid.

      And we are talking about comics where we always go back to the status quo... and im treating this as an alternate reality storyline ala days of future past or age of apocalypse and enjoying this what if storyline before an inevitable reset.

      They have stated this over and over in those books but bears repeating: 16 million mutants were massacred in cold blood. Over and over mutants keep dying and over and over the X-men, as you said, strived for peace, strived to be heroes for both mutants and humanity, strived to be good even as the world was evil to them. None of those things ever managed to break their resolve you speak of. However, these books introduce a new concept, which truly is not new: humanity is never going to stop fearing and hating them. What once was a depressing possibility has now been proven beyond doubt by Moira.

      As the nation of Krakoa is founded, humanity was ready to launch their self-replicating, iterating AI sentinel factory, an enterprise so successful that its ultimate product, Nimrod, was/would be able to slap Apocalypse around like an unruly child and achieved a complete culling of mutants.

      So what would be your solution to this? To the always impending genocide, the unending hatred and distrust, the cruelty, the manipulation? Bow their heads down, keep serving humanity, try to control their numbers, try not to stir the water and hope that living in obscurity, destitution and servitude will manage to postpone the imminent genocide?

      You complain about their creating their own laws, but one of them is not hurting humans. You complain about their having defensive armament, but what then? Should they just let Genosha happen all over again? You complain about their "blackmailing" humanity, but in truth, they are giving them much, much more than what they asked in return: to be left alone. Why none of that is enough? Why nothing but abject submission is acceptable?

      No wonder you call it "leftist idealism", so betraying your right-winged allegiance to the powers to be (white. male. straight. christian. rich.) and your belief that minorities need "know their place" in eternal gratitude and deference of being tolerated to exist.

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