Darkest Before the Dawn of X? The Final Verdict on HoXPoX [X-ual Healing 10-9-19]

Has it been 12 weeks already? Powers of X #6 was out last week, which means HoXPoX is over. Was the relaunch ultimately worth it? Read on to find out…

Sworn to sell comics for Marvel executives who feared and hated the fact that Fox owned their movie rights, The Uncanny X-Men suffered great indignities, but thanks to a corporate merger and a line-wide relaunch, the X-Men can finally get back to doing what they do best: being objectively the best franchise in all of comics.

Darkest Before the Dawn of X? The Final Verdict on HoXPoX [X-ual Healing 10-9-19]

What Happened in Powers of X #6

X-ual Healing

(W) Jonathan Hickman (A) R. B. Silva (CA) Giuseppe Camuncoli
The revelatory tale of Mutantkind's fall comes to a conclusion that will lay the groundwork of the X-Men's stories for years to come! Superstar writer Jonathan Hickman (NEW AVENGERS, FF, INFINITY) and rising star artist RB Silva (UNCANNY X-MEN) wrap the series that reveals everything!
Rated T+
In Shops: Oct 09, 2019
SRP: $5.99

It's the grand finale of HoXPoX, and time to see whether this 12-issue relaunch prologue can stick the landing and leave us with a more X-citing X-Universe than we had before. The issue opens with a repeat of the scene from Powers of X #1 with Moira meeting Xavier at a carnival. It's not like you're paying six bucks for this or anything, so might as well recycle some pages, right? We then cut to the X3 timeline, one thousand years in the future, just in time for this issue's first shocking revelation. The Librarian visits the sanctuary where many of us were fooled into believing humans were kept in the future after mutants won the great war… but it turns out it's mutants that are kept here, and the winners were humans/machines all along. Moira and Wolverine are the only two original mutants left alive here, with a bunch of unnamed others running around. Does that mean Moira and Logan are f*cking? We need to know. Unfortunately, no answers on that front because The Librarian wants to discuss second thoughts about the humans' plans to merge with the Phalanx and lose their individuality. Can Moira prevent this if she gets one more chance? Probably not. But Wolverine stabs her anyway, mostly because he just likes to stab people, especially if he's (probably) sleeping with them. And so ends Moira's sixth life.

Wait, what?! Yup, this timeline was taking place in the future of Moira's sixth life, leaving the current timeline wide open. Also, we got a name during this conversation for the human/machine hybrids: Homo Novissima. A patented infographic explains that while Homo Superior are the evolutionary successors of Homo Sapiens, Homo Novissima are what happens when humans have the power to play god and engineer themselves, which easily defeats evolution.

Now we cut back to Charles Xavier after reading Moira's mind, and freaking out as he learns that mutants always lose. Moira explains that she's going to have to break him if they have any hope of winning this time. We then get an infographic page with journal entries from Moira as she proceeds to break Xavier, though she starts to have some second thoughts as Xavier and Magneto start thinking on their own and acting against her judgment by recruiting Sinister. Eventually, Moira decides to retreat to the shadows, faking her own death and apparently setting up shop in a Krakoan no-space.

It's there where Xavier and Magneto come to tell her about the mutant government they formed last issue. Moira is disturbed when Xavier reveals they had to promise to bring Destiny back in order to convince Mystique to join their side. Moira says mutants with precognitive abilities cannot be in Krakoa under any circumstances or bad things will happen. Xavier and Magneto plan to stall as long as they can, but they believe that eventually, all the mutants deserve to know the truth: that mutants lose in every timeline. But apparently they've never heard that pride goeth before a fall…

X-ual Healing

It seems that Xavier and Magneto believe they know better than Moira and that Moira needs to step aside and let them do their thing. We're guessing that's probably not going to work out very well. The issue ends repeating the celebration scene from House of X #6, but with more context this time.

Learning to Love (or Hate) the X-Men Relaunch Part 12

So now that it's all over, it's time to answer the question: was it worth it? Was canceling the entire line of X-Books to start anew justified by what House of X and Powers of X set up for the Dawn of X? To do so, let's make a list of pros and cons. And we'll start with the cons:

  1. House of X and Powers of X were overpriced and too decompressed. Quite a few of these issues felt like filler, which is kind of unacceptable for a series that cost more than $50 if you're paying cover price. Either cut it down or charge $3 an issue and it would have made a big difference in the perceived value of this thing as well as its accessibility for potential new readers.
  2. It could do without the infographics. I'm not reading comics so that I can look at a bunch of charts or, worse, pages of textbook-style prose filling in the details. This was more egregious in some issues than others. With all the decompressed space in some of these filler issues, there's no reason that information couldn't have been conveyed in comic form.
  3. The concepts presented here aren't as innovative as they first appear. Yes, a lot of the concepts presented here are "new" in the sense that they haven't been done in mainstream superhero comics, but I've been told (by people who read books without pictures) that most of the core concepts are borrowed from existing science fiction works. People who have read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Catherine Webb, Accelerando by Charles Stross, Godplayers by Damien Broderick, or the Orion's Arm Universe Project, to name a few, might recognize some of the repackaged ideas here. Of course, borrowing from the greater science fiction canon for comics is hardly a crime or even something new. In fact, for X-Men comics, it's a time-honored tradition. X-Men #143 homaging off the plot of Alien comes to mind. Even still, recognizing that these ideas come from other places does take a little bit of the shine off of the series' aura as some genius, mindblowing epic.
  4. Characterization suffers for plot. Hickman is one of many writers working in comics today who doesn't stress it if characters need to act very unlike themselves in order to suit the story they're telling. Characters like Storm, Wolverine, Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler, to name a few, would seem unlikely to go along with the militant anti-human stance of the Krakoan leadership and abandon the dream of Charles Xavier which Xavier apparently deeply instilled in his students despite not really believing in it himself this whole time. Maybe the Dawn of X titles can help explain why some of these characters are just going along with it without any objections.
  5. HoXPoX is not as accessible to new readers as hardcore fans think it is. Yes, someone could theoretically read HoXPoX without deep knowledge of the X-Men and be able to follow the story. But doing so requires a $50 investment as well as a 12-week time commitment. You couldn't, for example, just pick up Powers of X #3 and get a satisfying story on its own, nor do any of the titles make much of an effort to introduce readers to the characters. HoXPoX would seem to be an X-Men series geared toward longtime readers and maybe lapsed readers, but not new readers because it has a high barrier of entry in both story and cost. Will appealing to existing readers be enough to make the relaunch a longterm success, or will we be right back where we started with middling to low sales by this time next year?
  6. No Chris Claremont in the Dawn of X. Sorry, but Marvel retains the guy who wrote the stories that defined the X-Men, and they can't give him even one of the six ongoing Dawn of X titles? But Gerry Duggan (no offense) needs to write a book in every line Marvel publishes? Epic fail.

And now the pros:

  1. HoXPoX has certainly got people talking about the X-Men again. It can't be denied that, whatever you thought of the past few years of X-Books at Marvel, they weren't exactly igniting conversation all over the internet. Making the X-Books feel important is probably the greatest accomplishment of HoXPoX, and that counts for a lot. The franchise has a shot at newfound relevance in the post-Fox-acquisition Marvel universe. It remains to be seen whether Marvel can capitalize on it in the long term though.
  2. The status quo for mutants feels legitimately fresh. I know up above I listed the fact that Hickman's ideas aren't as "new" as people give him credit for, but the resulting status quo for mutants in the Marvel Universe is different and better than the last few times we've had a line-wide relaunch, which seems to happen every 18 months or so. This freshness provides the opportunity to do more than rehash old stories in the Dawn of X, which is a trap the X-books too-easily fall into.
  3. HoXPoX was unpredictable. Yes, it's partially down to the fractured story structure where the timeline is purposely obscured throughout most of the story, but the end result was revelations (in between the filler issues) that were genuinely surprising. Not knowing what's going to happen next is a great way to get readers to look forward to the next issue of a comic rather than just buying them out of obligation or because they feature a hot variant cover or tie into a super-mega-crossover event. How bold, to market a comic based on its story.
  4. The most important mysteries set up by the series were explained before it ended. Yeah, there are some things that didn't get fully explored. For example, we still lack a strong connection between the previous run of Uncanny X-Men and the various titles that preceded it and the HoXPoX/Dawn of X era. But HoXPoX did manage to firmly establish what timeline all of this is taking place in (the real one), why dead X-Men are alive again, and why Krakoa was established, soothing fears that Hickman would drag that out for dozens of issues.
  5. The art was sure nice. Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, and Marte Gracia are superstars and really helped make this series feel like a big deal.

Hmm. It looks like I was able to come up with more cons than pros. Does that mean it was a failure?!

Nah. In a last-minute Hickmansian twist, I'm gonna say that the relaunch was worth it. The X-Men feel important again, both from the fictional standpoint as characters in the Marvel Universe as well as in terms of readers caring about what happens to them. And avoiding my biggest fear when this relaunch was announced, the relaunch didn't put the X-Men in a different timeline or universe that wiped away past stories, though it does add a ton of new context to those old stories given what we now know about Moira, Xavier, and Magneto. Will these changes hold up on a reread of classic X-Men? I'm interested to find out.

So while HoXPoX wasn't the greatest X-Men story ever told or the most important thing to happen to the X-Books in thirty years, as many gushed from the very first issue's release, I do believe it served its ultimate purpose of setting up a revitalized X-Men line without totally wrecking everything that came before while getting people interested in reading about the X-Men again.

Now comes the hard part: making the most of that opportunity.

Next week: the Dawn of X!

Read more X-ual Healing here:

Darkest Before the Dawn of X? The Final Verdict on HoXPoX [X-ual Healing 10-9-19]

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About Jude Terror

A prophecy once said that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero would come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events. Sadly, that prophecy was wrong. Oh, Jude Terror was right. For ten years. About everything. But nobody listened. And so, Jude Terror has moved on to a more important mission: turning Bleeding Cool into a pro wrestling dirt sheet!
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