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.
House of X #2
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencils by Pepe Larraz
Colours by Marte Gracia
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Cover price: $4.99 USD
After the powerhouse tour de force of worldbuilding that was House of X #1 and the escalating plot that was Powers of X #1, I was curious as to where Hickman would take things with his two X-Men miniseries. House of X #2 builds off the momentum of both series and forces readers to reexamine the events of both series, along with the X-Men as a whole, using an interesting concept, excellent execution and stellar art to create a thoroughly intriguing character out of one I barely cared about.
The issue focuses on Moira MacTaggert, a longtime supporting character for the X-Men who hasn’t seen much use in recent years. Hickman brings her back to prominence, revealing that Moira is a mutant who has lived multiple lives — literally. Hickman reveals that she has lived lives in the past and remembers all of them. He then explores the various lives she’s led, managing to weave a grand tapestry across her lives that tells a story about a woman desperately trying to make the world better. The concept is explored in interesting ways, such as constants throughout her life that she approaches in different ways, as well as large status quo shifts utilising various parts of X-Men lore. However, while other writers would’ve taken this as a chance to portray vastly different worlds, every life of Moira’s that Hickman presents feels connected, like they all branch off from the same world, and this makes her character arc in the story feel more natural, despite the high-concept nature of it all.
This story reshapes a lot of the X-mythos in big ways, and does an excellent job forcing readers to reconsider House of X #1. Xavier’s seeming knowledge of Moira’s powers, as presented in Powers of X #1, and the outcomes of her various decisions re-contextualises what has happened so far in Hickman’s saga. While the issue does an excellent job furthering the moral ambiguity of Xavier through Moira’s eyes, it also positions Moira herself as a larger architect of the world than Xavier himself. Even the graphics and pages of exposition feel better integrated this time around, even better than in House of X #1, truly serving to elevate the comic and better explain the complex-on-the-surface ideas presented in the issue and maintain its pacing.
Pepe Larraz once again does an excellent job with the art. The premise of the issue allows Larraz to draw all manner of images, from sentimental quieter moments to foreboding sci-fi imagery, Larraz does an excellent job doing it all. There are less big moments this time around, but Larraz doesn’t need them — he still does an excellent job with facial expressions, knowing when to be subtle and when to go all out. He also knows when to be less flashy with his layouts and when to change things up, such as with a montage of assassinations. This issue could easily serve as a portfolio for Larraz, because it shows just how versatile he is. And, once again, Marte Garcia is a perfect match for Larraz, being equally as versatile and adept at lush fields to convey optimism, moody darkness for a sense of foreboding, his presence also maintaining a consistency between House of X and Powers of X.
House of X #2 manages to elevate the already excellent Hickman X-Men run. It elevates a supporting character in an interesting way, with expert execution by the creative team, that already forces readers to reexamine the previous issues of Hickman’s story, and maybe more. House of X #2 plays to its creative team’s strengths in the best ways and is easily one of the best comics to come out in 2019, and the best X-Men comic to come out in a while.
5/5 – Amazing
Scene Spotlight: Establishing the Rules for Moira
The concept of Moira reincarnating throughout life is interesting in and of itself. However, the fact that the universe is consistent over what she can change is what makes this comic work as well as it does, giving her an arc across her multiple lives and firmly establishing the causality of things. One of the best moments comes from Moira learning that she actually has a limited number of lives, from deceased X-Men character Destiny, along with the rules of the “game” they will play.
In Moira’s third life, she creates a mutant cure. Her lab is attacked by the Brotherhood of Mutants, led by Destiny, who has the power to see the future. Destiny makes clear that while the lab was a target, so was Moira herself, because Destiny knows what her power is.
This page largely serves to set Destiny up as an intimidating presence, showing her manhandle Moira and very detached, in contrast to Moira’s seething expression. Larraz has some fun with the lighting, but Hickman does the heavy lifting here, establishing that Destiny and Mystique have all the knowledge they need, while Moira is fumbling around the situation. He continues this on the next page.
Hickman establishes that Destiny the all-seeing seer, who knows humanity’s intentions and how Moira’s abilities work. Pepe Larraz uses a simple 9-panel layout to effectively break up the scene and what is, let’s be honest, a lot of dialogue. But beyond that, the smaller panels and close-ups create a sense of intimacy in Destiny and Moira’s conversation (which Mystique is clearly not a part of, with how Larraz frames her). He does this again on the following page.
Larraz does a lot with what little space he has, and once again his facial expressions shine. Even with Destiny, who is masked in a way that would make emoting difficult — even with comics, where artists can alter the properties of her mask — Larraz does an excellent job using flippant body language to convey who is in control where he can, which isn’t too hard considering Moira is tied to a chair. Hickman throws exposition about how Moira’s abilities work, firmly laying down the rules of Destiny and Moira’s conflict and Moira’s goals that will encompass the rest of the issue. However, the ellipses in the second panel, and Moira’s own defiance, leave it possible that Destiny is lying to a degree, or at least not speaking factually, throwing a nice curve ball into the mix.
Finally, the scene ends with a bang. The 9-panel layout gives way to wider panels and a climactic finale as Destiny sets the game in motion — and Moira on fire, ending this iteration of Moira’s life and making it clear she will carry out he threats.
For what it is, this scene is very well-executed. Hickman is extremely well-versed in explaining high-concept chess games, such as the rules of the incursions presented in New Avengers. This situation is much simpler, but Hickman manages to give his characters unique voices while still laying down the groundwork for Moira’s lives to come: she can’t kill Destiny, Destiny can kill her, she needs to help mutants before her time is done — but there’s a possibility of the person explaining the rules lying. Hickman excels when he’s exploring high-concept ideas, and this idea of a multi-life game of wits is intriguing. Of course, Moira follows through and truly does try to help mutants in he subsequent lives, and Destiny is currently deceased, but so was Moira at the start of this issue.
This issue was spectacular, introducing a high concept idea that does make you rethink previous X-Men stories. Even having read a lot of classic X-Men media, I barely cared about Moira MacTaggart before this issue, but Hickman has managed to turn her into the most important person in the X-mythos in an intriguing way. Even the graphics did a top notch job helping the pace of the issue. I can only hope that House of X, if not both House of X and Powers of X, maintain this momentum and quality. Kudos, Hickman, you wrote the best single issue of the year (so far).
See you next time for Powers of X #2!