Hanging with the HiX-Men is a series of reviews of Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men comics, followed by a spotlight of a specific scene and an eventual analysis of each overall arc once it is concluded. It’s what happens when a longtime X-Men fan has his love for the franchise reinvigorated by a beloved writer who has written some of his favourite comics. With that in mind… Welcome to the HiX-Men, hope you survive the experience.
Powers of X #1
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencils by R. B. Silva
Inks by R. B. Silva and Adriano Di Benedetto
Colours by Marte Gracia
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Cover price: $5.99 USD
After the powerhouse of world-building that was House of X #1, the second part of Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men run had a lot to live up to. While Powers of X #1 is nowhere near as good or groundbreaking as last week’s issue, it manages to set up a fairly interesting plot, one that is only a bit hampered by feeling played out.
The plot of Powers of X #1 revolves around a peak into the future by Charles Xavier. Through these visions we see that, 100 years after the X-Men’s inception, the mutant race is once again being hunted by robots in an apocalyptic future. It seems like a deliberate reference to the famous “Days of Future Past” story, but there is a twist, but the setup has interesting twists and allusions to House of X‘s ominous birthing scene. Another jump throws a huge curve ball into the proceedings that will make readers reexamine Charles Xavier’s actions given his knowledge of what will occur. This issue does a wonderful job tying into House of X while still presenting its own story in an interesting way, although the similarities to previous stories and downtrodden tone in a decade dominated by that tone definitely make it feel less significant and special than House of X, and definitely less enjoyable than House of X‘s evolving mutant culture and status quo shifts.
The events seen in the visions themselves are well-written enough, with the operatic, epic dialogue Hickman is known for used to good effect when needed, as well as an interesting take on mutant oppression that is more unique than an outside glance would expect. However, the use of graphics and pages of text to provide exposition is clumsier in Powers of X #1 than in its sister series, with them being presented in higher concentrations and not nearly as well-timed, which hurts the comic’s pacing more than likely intended. While these pages are once again very, very interesting, they certainly aren’t gracefully included.
R. B. Silva’s pencils do a reasonable enough job this issue. His characters — barring a noticeable panel with Xavier’s Charlie Brown eyes — look right for the most part. The emotions aren’t as subtle as with Pepe Larraz’s work on House of X and the blocking and layouts definitely aren’t as interesting, but Silva does his job and does get to draw some pretty epic action moments. What holds the issue together, and gives it a unified look alongside House of X #1, is Marte Gracia’s colours. Gracia does an excellent job with the moodier, more somber moments in the issue. However, without the vibrancy of Krakoa and the optimism of House of X, there isn’t as much for Gracia to really play with or make this issue stand out.
Powers of X #1 isn’t a bad comic. Any other time, I’d gladly take it over other X-books. But after the show stealer that was House of X #1, it feels lacking. It doesn’t feel as unique, as important or as lively, instead feeling like a fairly interesting execution of a story that we’ve mostly already seen before.
3/5 – Above average
Scene Spotlight: Making Xavier Ominous
This issue didn’t really have a standout moment for the most part, at least for me as someone who enjoyed House of X #1 a lot more. Most of the more interesting information was in the graphics and pages of text. However, I found one particular scene noteworthy and that’s the scene with Xavier.
From the first image of Xavier’s new outfit, circulation swirled concerning what it meant. Charles walking is nothing new and was most recently explained by him being in possession of Fantomex’s body. However, the ominous helmet and body suit led to speculation that he was the Maker, the evil Ultimate Universe incarnation of Reed Richards who Hickman helped to reinvent. Powers of X #1, while not leaning into that theory, does do a good job of furthering the ominous, morally ambiguous depiction of Charles Xavier that Hickman has established.
Following up on a scene from last week’s House of X #1, Mystique and Toad return to Krakoa and Mystique goes to give Magneto and Xavier the information she stole from Damage Control.
Here, Magneto is his usual self, very formal and commanding. He’s clearly trying to position himself as the dominant person in the conversation.
He doesn’t manage to really shake Mystique at all and we can clearly see Mystique is in command of the scene, Magneto reaching out to her casual hand and her flippantly pulling back. However, Xavier manages to shake her by casually reading her mind — a pretty villainous thing to do…
And just has Magneto take what he wants. Without his helmet on, and his somewhat disgruntled look in the last panel, it’s not clear if Magneto took it or if Xavier made him take it — noticeably, Magneto’s helmet is nowhere in sight, making it seem like he either trusts Xavier that much or that Xavier is, in fact, manipulating him. It’s all punctuated with Xavier making it clear that mutants aren’t just allowed to live in his new world; they need to work for it.
A lot of the reason this new Xavier works is because of the design. The Cerebro helmet that Xavier wears obscures most of his features, de-humanising him while leaving his mouth visible — a very sinister look that, again, is evocative of the Maker. Cerebro is one of the few obviously mechanical things on Krakoa, in contrast to the mostly natural environment, making it and Xavier stand out all the more. Hickman’s dialogue gives Charles an ominous presence, in addition to his attire, and the result is an Xavier who on the surface gives off an air of benevolence, but also possesses an eerie and sinister presence and feels like a manipulator above the other characters, even other manipulators like Magneto and Mystique.
Part 2 was later than intended because I didn’t get the issue early like last time and was messing around with the new Cyberpunk Red tabletop RPG’s starter kit. It will probably happen again with Part 3 because I have an assignment due very close to House of X #2’s release.
Powers of X #1 wasn’t as “beat you over the head with greatness”-quality as House of X #1. But that’s okay, because it does a good job playing off House of X while also actually establishing a plot. I found the political plot in House of X #1 more interesting, but this is a more traditional X-Men plot.
I’m curious what this issue means for things going forward. Based on preview images, we know that Destiny, Mystique’s lover, will be back. Is Xavier promising to bring people back a la the Jackal in The Clone Conspiracy? Did he force Magneto to take the USB drive and if so, why does he need to bargain with Mystique at all? What does Moira MacTaggert and Xavier’s seemingly first meeting mean for X-Men history, especially since it was said by Hickman to be the most important moment in their history? How does Xavier’s seeming knowledge of the future re-contextualise not only his actions in House of X, but in the past X-Men comics? There’s a lot that can be dissected and theorised here, but I think Powers of X #1 will definitely need to the rest of the series to truly be something special; on its own, it’s a fine X-Men comic. But I’m excited to get back to House of X.
With October solicitations out, we know that the Dawn of X relaunch will begin with X-Men, Excalibur and Marauders. I’m not keen on the latter two, but X-Men has me excited for featuring the Summers family and more of Hickman’s Cyclops. Hopefully the other titles that I care about — namely, Fallen Angels and New Mutants (or at least the first arc that Hickman is writing) come in November.
Anyway, see you next time for House of X #2.