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).
House Of X #6, by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, and pinch-hitting colorist David Curiel, prepares us for the close of this series. We see, explicitly, Xavier’s message to the world. Mutants will be respected and humanity will be rewarded for that respect. The Quiet Council of Krakoa forms a mutant government and defines the most important laws for all mutants to follow. And in a rare moment of hope and joy, we see the denizens of Krakoa revel in their victory. It isn’t a perfect home, but it’s a good start.
Chris Eddleman: We’re finally at the end of one of these miniseries, which of course means it’s not the ending at all. House of X has played out very interestingly to me. It seems to be the more traditional type of story, with big new ideas, while Powers of X has always waited in the background, ready to add little details, contexts, and twists to our tale. After our last issue, I’m wondering if we’ll see anything else about Krakoan society, or if we’ll see any more possibilities of conflict. Even though we’re not through yet, it’s a little hard to be done with Pepe Larraz’s gorgeous art as he showed us the beautiful flora of Krakoa and great renditions of our beloved X-Men. But, all things must end, and anyway, let’s close the door on House of X!
Robert Secundus: But you know what they say. When the new gods you have close a door on a House of X and a Power of X, they open a window to a Dawn of X! I’m excited to see how this one concludes, but I’m even more excited to see what’s set up for those books.
CE: I rather like this issue’s epigraph, as it seems to both be optimistic for the future of the Krakoan community, given what they’ve already accomplished, and also declared it imperfect — aka poised for further change, or further stories of failures, perhaps.
RS: It’s all too easy to read this as the creative team commenting on HoXPoX. Have they made the perfect story? Absolutely not. Is it an extremely exciting beginning? Are we all stoked for Dawn of X? Well, I am! [Ed. note: Dawn of X is the name being used to refer to the upcoming books in the X-Men line.]
RS: Moira finally returns! This entire series we’ve been wondering where she was, whether she had broken completely from Charles and Magnus, and we discover that she’s hanging out in her bubble, in (seemingly) accord with them. I’m still a bit worried about this, though; why are they hiding Moira from Krakoa itself?
CE: For some reason, prior to this issue, I thought that Moira was going to be a reveal to us, the readers, when instead it looks like she is completely unknown to the mutant community at large. Do they even know she’s a mutant? Was her faking her death via Shi’ar golem to completely disguise her? I mean, I guess we’ll maybe find out next issue but, this was very interesting to have her in a No-Place, which as we recall is a Krakoan tumor that is outside of the rest of the network.
RS: And another long-teased moment: we finally hear Charles’ full speech to humanity. And it’s a doozy. [Ed. note: First referenced in HoX #1.]
CE: I liked the verbal acknowledgement of the healing of Charles and Magneto’s relationship. This also seems to hint that even though they’ve been working together on this plan for years and years, that their disagreements that we as readers have seen throughout X-Men history are genuine. That’s a clever way to indicate that.
Also, I do love that Charles starts off with “a message of hope” before dunking on them soon after.
RS: One thing that helps ratchet up the tension between hope and hopelessness: Their surroundings. Look at the background. This is almost entirely cold metal and technological screens. There’s an organic growth in the dead center, but otherwise, this is the least organic place we’ve seen so far in Krakoa, and we’ve learned to associate that cold metal with, well, bad things in these series.
RS: Chris, this might be a good time to recall your Drug Theory from way back in HoXPoXToX #1.
CE: As time has gone on, I’ve rather felt that that was perhaps digging in too deeply, but the drug designations in House of X #1 made the acronym LIM, which is a type of protein domain that regulates many cellular processes. It is involved in oncogenesis, or the formation of cancers. I think after the events of this issue, it’s highly unlikely that Xavier is secretly giving everyone cancer but, L, I, and M remain interesting to me.
RS: It’s interesting to me that you had that reaction. At this moment I was like, “‘It will cost you so little’? Welp. Chris was right.” This speech sounds to me like it’s got a knife’s edge behind it, just out of view.
CE: Charles continues his speech with the cautionary fable. I love that he explains how easy it could have been if humanity would have simply accepted mutants. It’s very paternalistic, but it’s not like humanity doesn’t deserve it. It’s hard to seem like the good guys when you always make killer robots.
RS: I like some of the juxtapositions here. The Avengers
“[stood] by while evil men killed our children.” It brings to mind Emma’s speech in Civil War #3:
CE: It’s pretty perfect. Telling the Fantastic Four they haven’t earned it. I like that, especially given the Fantastic Four are kind of the most beloved in-universe heroes. [Ed. note: As parents of a mutant child, you would think that Reed & Sue would have done more to help the X-Men over the years.]
Then we see Doctor Strange in the Sanctum Sanctorum, as Charles says humanity will have to pay for the drugs. Not sure if this was intentional, but a recent theme of Doctor Strange has been paying the price for magic so I thought it was clever.
RS: The depiction of the villains here is odd. It seems like Karima has already reverted to Omega Sentineldom before the speech, and that Project Orchis is already working.
CE: Yeah we definitely see her in full stages of Omega, as well as our pals Gregor and Erasmus prior to the latter’s sacrificial and ultimately pointless death. As to that third panel, I first thought it was Charles but alas—that is different comic book sciencey headgear. I wonder who it is?
RS: My money is on 2019’s greatest mutant creation, another man who wears a wacky helmet: Major X. [Ed. note: There is zero chance this is true.]
CE: Goodness sakes. Well, we end this page back at the beginning of House of X #1 — ”While you slept, the world changed.” Reminder that this line was used back in Hickman’s Fantastic Four. Clearly a favorite.
RS: His FF run concerned the brightest minds in the multiverse attempting to solve everything, and the personal (and multiversal) problems that resulted. In HoX so far we’ve seen a similarly massive (though narrower) concern, to solve all concerns of mutants. I think though, that when all is said and done, the two stories are going to have a lot more in common than we suspected. PoX’s scope is not nearly as narrow.
RS: The title calls to mind the first chapter of Romans, where Paul opens by justifying his speaking and preaching to the gentiles, to another people: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
RS: Here is also the first reference to “The Three Laws.” Now, in any sci-fi story, but especially one that’s drawing heavily on Issac Asimov, the first thing that should come to mind with that phrase is Asimov’s Three Laws Of Robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Throughout these series, Mutant and Machine have been placed in parallel, and sometimes the line between them has been blurred. Last issue we saw the iconography denoting a Machine Intelligence applied to the Krakoan government. Here Mutant laws are framed like classic sci-fi robotic laws. I expect the lines will continue to be blurred next week in our final issue.
CE: This is a great observation. It’s pretty clear that Hickman and Co are pretty strongly influenced by some pretty solid works from the scifi canon.
RS: So, almost all of our Quiet Council has been revealed! And there are a lot of surprises! First of all, on Autumn, I think most of us expected Moira, the third member of the triumverate throughout this series, but instead we have APOCALYPSE. He may be sitting in her stead still, given his relationship to Moira IX. Winter seems to be the Season of Villainy. I think the implication we’re supposed to draw here is that back in Powers of X #1, Xavier offered her a seat on the council. Mister Sinister has been key to the longterm plan, so he’s not much of a surprise. Exodus is a bit odd. Summer is the Season of Heroes, and again, some interesting choices. Storm and Jean Grey have both lead the X-Men to great victories, but Nightcrawler has always struggled with leadership.
CE: Exodus is incredibly powerful and a former leader, so I suppose I get that. I think this book’s creators have a fondness for him. [Ed. note: Exodus is also extremely old, he fought in the Crusades.]
RS: One more odd thing about the council: Marvel has confirmed that the final member is Kitty Pryde, the Red Queen. Here though the graphic references a Red King.
CE: I liked the addition of the Captains, which finally gave our boy Cyclops something to do. I was worried he was being overlooked. Very excited to see the addition of Magik, as well. I wonder if we’re going to find out how everything became okay with her after going Darkchylde in the last volume of Uncanny X-Men.
RS: Again, the Krakoan Round Table is drawn like the Machine Intelligence in Hickman’s Hierarchy of Minds.
CE: We see the newly revealed folks filled in, with the Red King position still vacant, as well as Krakoa still not being filled in.
CE: I love the visual of the Council of Twelve meeting under the watchful Ent-like gaze of Krakoa, with our translator (and also slightly hobbitish) Doug Ramsay. Larraz really crushed this page.
RS: Last time we talked about the importance of Twelve in Judaism, particularly focusing on the Twelve Judges. But that number is also important to X-Lore. For quite some time, vague allusions to a mythical set of Twelve Mutants permeated the X-Books. Eventually it was revealed that these were twelve mutants needed to power Apocalypse’s omnipotence machine (not unlike the Human Machine in Hickman’s SHIELD). [Ed. note: If there is one thing Papa Hickman loves, it’s councils of people who symbolically represent something else. It appears in like, every book he writes.]
CE: I find this Twelve far less disappointing though.
RS: Mystique is all of us who’ve been forced to attend a meeting we don’t care about and don’t care who knows it; Apocalypse is all of us who’ve been forced to attend a meeting and spends it stewing on what a waste of time it is.
CE: Yeah, I definitely felt like Mystique’s place on this council was what she got in exchange for her covert mission back in House of X #1 but, I’m starting to wonder if she’s playing the long game for something. She really doesn’t seem interested in this. Also note the pointed lack of a figure sitting in the chair next to Emma. This is really being built up.
RS: We’ve spoken before about how Krakoa’s conceptual relationship with Paradise and Society inverts Eden. Here, that continues; an act of judgment marked the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden and Eternity and into ordinary time, into the Earth we know. Instead now, judgment is the first act of mutants after they have retreated from that world into Krakoan paradise.
CE: Nightcrawler is of course invoking a very Biblical take on the oldest kind of business conducted in the world. I would say the business of creation was first, Kurt but, frankly we’re all done with that here.
RS: It’s actually not that weird, that Kurt wouldn’t think of Creation. A few traditional approaches to Genesis would separate everything before the Fall as existing in a separate kind of time, where entropy need not increase with each second, where things can just go on and never fall apart.
CE: Kurt does know his doctrine, after all.
CE: The comic changes to a 9 panel grid here, which I think is great for this kind of talking head deliberation. It reminds me of the camera shots from Twelve Angry Men. In this first page, we get our Sinister chewing the scenery portion, as well as some prime Apocalypse. He has a bit of a point though, killing a mutant no longer carries the same weight. However, I would feel that harming another mutant and causing any kind of trauma should be condemned. The Big Guy is into that “iron sharpens iron” mentality though, and as such this would not be his favored morality.
RS: Jean Grey proposes what will become the First Law, and it is essentially similar to Asimov’s First Law: Don’t hurt Humans.
[Ed. note: Jean, of course, is best known for coming back from the dead. It isn’t shocking that she shrugs off mutants dying.]
CE: I love the institution of this law, as it is a very good idea in-universe, but also seems like a direct response to the various “The X-Men are Bad Guys” takes that have been cropping up since these series began. Mutants will do no killing of humans, so even with their advantageous position, mutants will have the moral high ground. It isn’t as if humans haven’t killed mutants over and over again. It’s interesting that while the immediate thought of “what about in defense or our nation?” comes up, it is pushed off till later. I think this is to excuse the killing that Wolverine did back at MotherMold in the immediate, but with ramifications for later.
Also Emma and, in the following page, Jean, shutting up Sabretooth psychically is kind of a great gag.
RS: Storm’s comment was possibly the most exciting for me this issue; I’ve been worried that the necessary isolationism baked into the Krakoan premise would mean that we’d only see really big, epic, superheroic interactions with the outside world. If citizens of Krakoa still at times maintain homes in the outside world, then there’s a lot of opportunities for smaller, more grounded stories about humans and mutants in this new era.
CE: Leave it to Sebastian Shaw to start bringing wealth discussion into a society where it already seems as though equality is at the forefront. What a jerk. Anyway, his and Emma’s comments seem very much more set-up for Marauders. [Ed. note: That’s the upcoming book where he and Emma finance Captain Kate Pryde on their adventures on the high seas.]
I really like the second law being established, as it reinforces the personhood of Krakoa, as well as a great environment message. All people have to respect Krakoa, which means all mutants must treat it the same — as sacred. The land cannot be exploited, as the use of it is by its own consent.
RS: Nightcrawler is my favorite character in comics. I’ve been so worried about his role and his voice, but, for better and for worse, this scene is spot on. Mystique cruelly mocks him, his virtue, and his faith, and Kurt responds earnestly and jocularly. I love it. Well, with one quibble. Kurt is quoting the King James Version of the Bible, which wouldn’t be the translation he could rattle off off the top of his head; the KJV is extremely influential in English, but as a Protestant translation, it wouldn’t feature much in the Catholic Kurt’s private devotions or his priestly studies.
The turn from God to sex, on the other hand, is perfectly in character; in the Joe Casey and Chuck Austen runs of Uncanny X-Men, Kurt was framed as leaving the priesthood because he was too horny.
Kurt’s quotation is Genesis 1:28, when, in the first creation story, God first speaks to His creation. I want to quote the rest of that verse (from the Douay-Rheims), because it has certain implications for the rest of the planet: “And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.”
CE: Rob, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Sometimes you just need that KJV poetry.
Also, Kurt basically proclaiming everyone needs to make babies and this statement being made into law is a little wild to me. But, of course, this series has taught us there are many ways to make mutants (and possibly restore the powers of many). When mutants have children, there is a slim chance that they will have a baseline human. I wonder what would happen to these children on Krakoa, or if it will even come up.
[Ed. note: Shocking no one, the internet is having a field day with one of the mutant laws being “do sex”.]
RS: The exact phrasing here of the laws gives some interesting wiggle room. Sinister’s various activities aren’t just permitted, but encouraged by this wording. And while we’re talking about Sinister’s projects, now might be a good time to mention a comment from last week. Juno S. pointed out that in Moira IX’s lifetime, Sinister’s hivemind of Martian Mutants eventually “collapsed into a self-singularity,” or, to put it in PoX terms, became a biological Titan.
CE: I noticed that sneaky little scorecard at the bottom: Krakoa—1, Arakko—0. Remember from Powers of X #4, Arakko is the twin of Krakoa, born when the precursor island Okkara was split into the two islands by an invasion of demons(?). All kidding aside, I’m not sure what this indicates.
RS: So many characters have received perfect, small, distilled character moments in this series, and in this scene again each line, each judgment, is there to show us something about those characters. And we start off with Charles Xavier, professing neutrality, but presiding over and manipulating the entire situation.
CE: We go season by season here, with Magneto and Apocalypse wanting an example made of Sabretooth to serve a higher purpose. Sinister jokes, Mystique is bored. The heroes are very noble, while Emma is harsh, and Shaw really doesn’t care. This is a great conservation of dialogue and art space for character work. Great job by the creators!
CE: From Doug’s line to Krakoa, it seems like one or both of them was hoping for forgiveness. I like this dynamic of Doug and Krakoa as very good boys.
RS: If we continue to look for Genesis parallels, I think we’ll find that Creed makes for an appropriate first criminal. The first crime on Earth, beyond the garden, is that of Cain, who senselessly murders his brother Abel. Like Victor Creed, Cain’s punishment is not death, but a kind of protection. He i exiled from the community, but is also marked and may come to no harm. Often, in fiction, Cain’s mark is regarded as granting him immortality; his punishment is also forever.
CE: This demonstrates a hypocritical position of Krakoan society. Charles makes a big show of claiming that Krakoa has no prisons (and no death penalty), but sentences Creed to “exile” in the form of incredibly torturous solitary confinement in pure stillness and complete awareness. This seems like hell to me.
CE: “It’s distasteful, I know … this business of running a nation”
This seems like another distilled Charles moment, at least in his new incarnation as post-Dream paradigm shifter.
RS: Four mutants look back. Emma and Sinister look back with joy. Jean and Kurt look back with worry. But they only have a moment to worry, because it’s time for the festival! This extremely Return of the Jedi party sequence is just filled with so many delightful details.
CE: Yub nub indeed, Rob. Or whatever the Krakoan equivalent is. I love this monologue Charles gives throughout. I’ve always thought that a parent’s job is to try their hardest to make their children have easier lives than they had, and this is exactly what the two mutant Dads are trying.
CE: Lots of fun cameos here. We start off with a panel of the Five, who as we know are now inseparable. I’m guessing the flaming person is Firestar, but there are so many fire mutants. We also see Siryn, who is apparently no longer the Morrigan (or not appearing as her). See, Siryn inherited the powers of the Irish mythological figure back in X-Factor. Also, this is kind of a great reunion, as she hasn’t seen her father, Banshee, in a very long amount of publishing time.
Also, she and Dazzler make a super light show. What a fun use of their powers.
RS: It’s Broo! I guess he commutes to his job at the Celestial Avengers Mountain these days. [Ed. note: He’s the Avengers’ IT guy and that isn’t a joke.]
CE: Glad to see that him working for Wakanda hasn’t caused any issues. We have Iceman, Beast, and Archangel chilling, as three of the most senior X-Men. I like the panel of Exodus telling kids stories around the fire, with Sinister creeping in the background. Finally, we have Synch and Skin in a panel. Synch and Skin both died pretty awful deaths a while back, and at the risk of sounding boring—I’m glad they look happy here. [Ed. note: Synch absorbed a bomb to save his classmates and Skin was crucified on the lawn of the X-Mansion. The former Generation X kids had it rough.]
RS: Also, I love Wolverine with a six pack, hanging out with Jean and Scott. I’m tired of love triangles. I love X-Drama, I know it’s a superhero Soap Opera, but that one is so, endlessly played out. I hope this is a sign that that conflict is done and we’re moving on to other things.
RS: Jean moving to Emma, who’s sitting alone at the party; offering her a beer; Emma taking it without looking; the show of respect and empathy even while their walls are both up; it’s just four panels, but there’s so much story told in those panels about these characters. Again, I hope we’re done with old stories. I hope this shows us that Jean and Emma are both moving forward, together.
CE: This definitely seems to allude to the Sinister Secret that clearly referred to this very famous love quadrangle, in which case we’ll see how messy it gets. I’m glad to see no jealousy here. Just a lot of love. [Ed. note: This whole page gave me the vapors.]
We also see a bit of Boom-Boom and Jubilee in the foreground of one panel. It’s excellent see our mallrats together.
RS: If we continue Charles’ metaphor from the start of the festivities, this is a scene where two Dads are very proud of their kids and the family they’ve built together. Though, just as with the opening, it’s too too easy to see characters talking about their creations and hear the artist talking about their art.
CE: It’s really clear that the creators love the X-Men, all of the X-Men, and it’s great that they’re being used to their full potential in this series. Anytime I feel like some certain era is going to get forgotten or neglected, it surely comes up in the form of a motif or a little used character. I love to see it.
But of course, in the background, Apocalypse watches. We’ll have to wait for Excalibur to see more, I expect. [Ed. note: Excalibur is the upcoming book about mutant magic that Apocalypse is in.]
RS: At this point it should be no surprise that this issue’s biggest twist is a Map and the biggest mystery is three unlabeled numbers on said map. I feel like this whole series has trained us in how to read infographics as part of a narrative.
CE: If you compare this map to the one back in House of X #1, we find that the Arbor Magna is the Resurrection site, plus we have the addition of Bar Sinister (in its Krakoan branch), as well as Hellfire Bay, the Red Keep, Blackstone, and the White Palace. These last four all seem very Marauders, likely corresponding to dwelling places for Kitty, Sebastian Shaw, and Emma Frost.
Moving into the Atlantic, we finally have an explanation for the missing 53 suqare miles that I assumed accounted for the various habitats throughout the world — Atlantic Krakoa! This contains the Pointe (which as we saw last issue is a location for Cerebro backups) and the Danger Island, which seems like a new Danger Room area for training.
Plus we have the blank spot for area 18, which looks like Moira’s No-Place.
CE: Magneto gets the last word of House of X with a very hopeful coda, a rarity from the Master of Magnetism.
CE: The Krakoan here reads “House of X” as we discussed last issue.
CE: Rob, I’m pretty surprised how easily this issue wrapped up. If I wasn’t so certain that another issue of this series was coming out, I would be certain that our status quo was set up, and the new books would be starting next week. But as we know, Powers is the great complicator, and we can’t simply have a group of happy X-Men to end on. Moira still has an unknown sixth life, and we still have our far future blue folks contemplating their imminent ingestion by highly advanced robots, and perhaps these two instances are intertwined. It all ends next week, including our coverage, and we’ll be there to see you readers through to the end.
RS: We’ll see you through questions like: Are the Blue People the descendants of the Church of the Machine? Sinister Moira clones? Or just the results of Nightcrawler following his own commandment religiously? Is Don the Lobster, the blue cybernetic lobster from Volume 1 of Fallen Angels involved? In this explosive conclusion to our series, no question will be left unanswered! (Except for the many, many, many questions that Hickman is probably going to necessitate remaining unanswered.)
Robert Secundus is an amateur angelologist.