Powers of X #1: Yet Another Post-Apocalyptic Future X-Men Story? [X-ual Healing 7-31-19]

In last week's column, we thought the critical response to House of X #1 was a little bit out of control. This week, it seems people have gotten ahold of themselves a little bit, as the praise from reviews of Powers of X #1 wasn't quite hyperbolic enough to warrant a listing of ridiculous pull quotes from Marvel, instead resulting in just this video:

So does this represent a drop in quality in just the second issue of Jonathan Hickman's 12-part prologue to the massive X-Men relaunch? Well, read on to find out as we enter part two of X-ual Healing: Learning to Love (or Hate) the X-Men Relaunch!

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.

Recapping Powers of X #1

X-ual Healing

(W) Jonathan Hickman (A/CA) R. B. Silva
FEAR THE FUTURE! Superstar writer Jonathan Hickman (INFINTY, NEW AVENGERS, FF) continues his revolutionary new direction for the X-Men. Intertwining with HOUSE OF X, POWERS OF X reveals the secret past, present and future of mutantkind, changing the way you look at every X-Men story before and after. You do not want to miss the next seminal moment in the history of the X-Men!
Rated T+
In Shops: Jul 31, 2019
SRP: $5.99

The "powers of ten" premise of Powers of X is laid out on the first page of Powers of X #1. X0 is the "year one" of the X-Men, subtitled "The Dream. X1 is year ten, "The World," the present as shown in House of X last week (does that mean only 10 years have passed since Charles Xavier founded the X-Men?). X2 is a hundred years in the future, "The War," where the bulk of this issue takes place. X3 is a thousand years in the future, "The Ascension," where humans are practically extinct, kept alive only in a zoo for observational purposes. I'm going to refer to them by their titles because typing exponents in WordPress is apparently impossible. In the first scene, set in "The Dream" period, a woman who will be revealed to be Moira MacTaggart sits next to Charles Xavier on a bench at a carnival. She seems to know him, and she shares some cryptic imagery about the future that she claims to have heard from the carnival's fortune teller, before revealing that she and Xavier "go back quite a ways," something he's oblivious to until invited to read her mind. Hmmm.

X-ual Healing

We then jump to "The World" era, following up on House of X #1 as Mystique comes to Krakoa with the thumb drive of data she, Toad, and Sabretooth stole in that issue. She heads to the House of M, Magneto's house, and she has some demands before she'll hand the drive over. Skintight suit and helmet Xavier is there too, and he says they have more demands of her as well, taking the drive out of her hands and floating it over to himself (is he telekinetic now?).

In "The War" period, some sentinels and human soldiers have captured two mutants. One, whose name will later be revealed as Percival, is dying, and the other, whose name will later be revealed as Cylobel,  is still alive, and described as a "Black Brain" telepath, which supplementary material in the comic will tell us is a mutant created from genetic stock by the Man-Machine Ascendency, an alliance between humans and machines that presumably sprung from the organization ORCHIS that debuted in House of X #1. This is the organization at war with mutants, and they bred their own mutants as hounds to hunt down other mutants. The Black Brain mutants were bred with unreadable brains in order to make them more suited to treachery, but as a result, most of them turned on their masters and fought on the side of the mutants.

Further supplementary material shows that the mutants had their own breeding program, run by Mister Sinister, who used genetic stock to create new mutants in four generations, the first containing one source of mutant DNA, the second combining two sources, the third combining up to five sources, and the fourth had a corrupt hive mind and ended up killing 40% of mutants, causing the fall of Krakoa, and eventually destroying themselves and the planet Mars. Sinister was charged with doing this by the leaders of the mutant race after the death or disappearance of the existing leadership (presumably Xavier and his allies). Sinister, of course, betrayed the mutants, and the Man-Machine Ascendency executed him afterward.

In the 100 years later timeline, the mutants have all but lost the war, and the bulk of their population live as exiles in Shi'ar space, 8,000 of them in a colony of their own called Benevolence, and 2,000 on Chandilar as warriors for the Imperial Guard. The Empress of the Shi'ar is currently Xandra, who may be the daughter of Lilandra and Charles Xavier from the Mr. and Mrs. X mini-series, which would make this the first time Hickman has acknowledged anything that happened in a recent X-Men comic. Only a few mutants remain in Earth's solar system, the X-Men. All of this is revealed in three main sections of prose throughout the book, but I figured I might as well get it all out of the way here in one chunk.

Anyway, now that we're caught up on the bulk of the issue's supplementary material, back to our scene in mutant year 100. Watching from behind some rubble as the sentinels capture the mutants is Rasputin, one of the genetically-engineered third-generation mutants, known as a Chimera, bred from the genetic stock of Quentin Quire, Colossus, Unus the Untouchable, Kitty Pryde, and X-23, and Cardinal, presumably also a Chimera, but whose genetic stock is unknown at this time (but he looks like Nightcrawler with red skin). Rasputin refuses to watch her ally be captured, so she jumps into fight, encouraging Cardinal to plant a black Krakoa seed which will grow into a portal for their escape (he is a pacifist and cannot fight, a flaw of 10% of the third-generation Chimera mutants who all go by the name Cardinal, in the same sense that 10% of all people from Florida go by the name Bubba). Unfortunately, the sentinels call in a hunting party and escape with Cylobel as their prisoner.

Cylobel is taken to the Tower of Nimrod the Lesser (which looks like the tower in the panels shown up above), where Nimrod and his ally, an omega sentinel that may or may not be Karima Shapandar, need to extract information from Cylobel about the mutants' plans. Since she's not too receptive to interrogation, Nimrod puts her inside a machine he's created which consists of tanks full of liquid into which mutants are placed, their knowledge slowly absorbed into an AI as their bodies are preserved and their consciousness is erased. But he apologizes first, because this Nimrod is very sensitive.

Meanwhile, Rasputin and Cardinal travel back to Krakoa where they find Wolverine, Magneto, Zorn, and Black Tom Cassidy waiting for them. They report that they lost their two companions, but that they did acquire something the X-Men wanted. Wolverine tells them "the Old Man" is waiting for it.

Finally, in "The Ascension" period a thousand years in the future, a blue-skinned character (mutant, presumably?) called The Librarian sits in what is now called the Archive of Nimrod the Greater, wearing one of Charles Xavier's X-themed Cerebro hats, as the body of Cylobel decays in its tank. The Librarian is sad that they are "losing" her. Nimrod, now existing apparently only as the AI system he created to absorb mutants, apologizes for being unable to preserve the mutants indefinitely. Apparently he succeeded in creating a collective consciousness of mutants, but couldn't foresee that the war the Man-Machine Ascendency was fighting with the mutants was pointless. Humans are now all but extinct, with just a few kept in a dome called "The Preserve" to remind everyone how horrible they are.

The issue ends there.

Learning to Love (or Hate) the X-Men Relaunch Part 2 (of 12)

While House of X #1 introduced a status quo that felt strange and alien, Powers of X #1 tread a lot of familiar ground: a future where everything has gone wrong for mutants, and a few survivors are fighting against all odds for the survival of their race. Perhaps that's part of the reason for a more muted response to this issue, but Powers of X was actually more ambitious than House of X in some ways. For one thing, it spanned a thousand years and unloaded a lot more information about the world(s) it's building than House of X did. Mostly through backup material, we got a broad outline of ninety years worth of war between humans and mutants springing directly from what's happening in House of X. But in a twist on the usual post-apocalyptic story, we went even further into the future to a seemingly peaceful world where mutants have won. Maybe that 1000-years-later future is meant to be dystopian itself, with humans eliminated and a few survivors kept (apparently oblivious) in a dome… but what good have humans ever been in the Marvel Universe? I say good riddance!

On top of all that, we were introduced to some intrigue in the X-Men's past, with an apparent secret history between Xavier and Moira that certainly feels a bit sinister. Moira will be featured in this week's House of X #2, so perhaps we'll learn more shortly.

All in all, my position on all of this remains relatively unchanged. There's a lot of potential here if these stories can deliver on their big ideas, but ultimately what will matter is whether House of X and Powers of X are fulfilling as a whole when complete and whether the new era of X-Men books that launches in the Dawn of X are compelling enough to make a line-wide relaunch worth it. Expectations are high because Marvel has spent the last few months telling us that expectations should be very high. Now they have to deliver in a significantly more powerful way than if a new creative team had simply taken over Uncanny X-Men. This isn't just a changing of the guard. Jonathan Hickman is a messiah that has come to save the X-Men from a decade of stagnation. He's told us as much, and so has Marvel. That's a lot to live up to.

It also remains to be seen whether these stories will reconcile with the last few years of X-Men comics that have been, at least judging by the first issue of House of X, discarded.

One thing I can say is that I can't wait to read the next chapter of this story, so for now, so far, so good. Another thing I'll say is this story was a beast to recap. I can usually blow through these recaps because everything is straightforward, but here I have to do a lot more thinking, a lot more research, and even then I'm not sure I got everything exactly right and didn't miss some crucial bit of information. The creative teams on these two books definitely aren't screwing around.

All of that said though, I have to say I'm not necessarily a fan of delivering more than half the exposition through supplementary pages containing charts and prose. If you're gonna go through all this effort to relaunch a whole line of books, at least show us that stuff in the comic rather than tell us with blocks of text. And if an additional portion of that exposition is going to be written in a made-up language, at least ship these six-dollar books with a plastic decoder ring, fer chrissakes.

The bottom line is we're still in wait-and-see mode here.

Recapping Marvel Comics Presents: The Vigil Part 7

X-ual Healing

(W) Charles Soule, Ryan North, More (A) Paulo Siqueira, Alessandro Vitti, Rod Reis (CA) Arthur Adams
Welcome to the 21st century! A new age dawns for Logan in his mission to stop the demon Truth! Iron Man faces the biggest financial crisis of his lifetime! And a hero reborn for a new millennium, the Winter Soldier returns in brand-new tale by D.C. Pierson (Crap Kingdom, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Alessandro Vitti (Secret Warriors)!
Rated T+
In Shops: Jul 31, 2019
SRP: $4.99

Jonathan Hickman demanded that Marvel relaunch the entire X-Men line for his run, and they complied… mostly. There's still a few stragglers, like Dead Man Logan and the Wolverine story serialized in Marvel Comics Presents. Maybe the loophole is that Dead Man Logan is taking place in an alternate universe (since Logan has returned to the Wastelands) and Marvel Comics Presents is almost certainly not in continuity (even though it was never explicitly advertised as such).

In Chapter 7 of The Vigil, Wolverine's daughter, Rien, narrates the past ten years of Wolverine searching for her, showing up at all the nasty world events of the 2000s (including 9/11) hoping to find her. He finally catches up to her in 2008 at the site of a terrorist attack in Mumbai, where the demon Ron Killings arrives and Rien quickly dispatches him. When Wolverine shows up, Rien tells him to stop following her, that she's not his daughter (even though, yes, Wolverine did have sex with her mother, Sylvie, who Wolverine first met as a small child, and that sex did result in her conception). Rien is nothing, a tool whose only purpose is to stop The Truth every decade, and it's so important she must dedicate every waking moment to it.

But Wolverine tells her he hasn't been hunting her. He's been hunting The Truth, because he wants Rien to go with him to hell to kill the demon once and for all.

The Vigil is a fine story that feels less important now that it's almost definitely not in continuity. Marvel Comics Presents #7 did feature a pretty great Iron Man story that I wrote about here.

Other X-Stuff

Like last week, if you want a deeper dive into all the clues and secrets and theories from Powers of X #1, I highly recommend Xavier Files' annotation column.

X-Men Monday returned to Adventures in Poor Taste this week, but it was just a bunch of filler questions left over from past columns. Of course, you might think that's a good opportunity to ask the question I've been begging Chris Hassan to ask since that column started: when will Chris Claremont be allowed to write something more than a one-shot or short story? Unfortunately, that didn't happen. But if you need more personal insight into the psyche of celebrity editor Jordan White, then this is your week.

In case you were wondering, the Wolverine's Weiner X-Pick of the Week is on hiatus until House of X and Powers of X are over, as they're set to be the only X-books for most weeks for the next few months.

Next week: House of X #2 and Dead Man Logan #10.

Read more X-ual Healing here:

About Jude Terror

A prophecy says that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero will come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events.

Scourge of Rich Johnston, maker of puns, and seeker of the Snyder Cut, Jude Terror, sadly, is not the hero comics needs right now... but he's the one the industry deserves.

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