Hanging with the HiX-Men, Part 10 — Powers of X #5 Review

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 long-time 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 #5786508._SX1280_QL80_TTD_

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencils by R.B. Silva
Colours by Marte Gracia
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Cover price: $4.99

Juggling three or more timelines, Powers of X has struggled to maintain any focus as a series for a while. It has failed to engage as well as its sister series, House of X, and more often than not just come off as boring. This issue, however, is one of the better ones, playing off of previous issues of Hickman’s X-Men work well to deliver much-needed answers while allowing for strong character moments, supported by some good art.

After the revelations of previous issues, Powers of X #5 reveals how Krakoa and Cerebro’s “back-up” function came about. We follow Xavier and Magneto as they talk to Forge, Emma Frost and the cavalcade of villains who appeared at the end of House of X #5. We also catch another glimpse at the future of Earth as the Phalanx comes to a conclusion regarding humanity and we learn just why they have been invited to Earth.

This issue does a good job of making exposition entertaining. Definitely, this issue is all just explaining how things have come about or the plot overall, in the case of the Phalanx story, but it manages to be engaging thanks to Hickman’s strong dialogue and fast pacing. Hickman’s various time jumps feel more effective now that they are all working towards one clear goal — explaining how Hickman’s setting of Krakoa was established. However, the scenes with the Phalanx are still an anomaly, in both regards, because it has an abundance of dialogue that only serves as exposition without any characterisation to assist it and the story is still very much detached from the modern setting of Krakoa. As has become expected, the Phalanx story is the weakest link of Hickman’s writing, even though this issue explains it completely.

Part of the reason that the Phalanx story doesn’t work and the others to is the characters. The Phalanx story does not possess any named characters, let alone anyone readers can empathise with, whereas the stories establishing Krakoa’s history not only contain characters that readers like, but also strong characterisation for those characters. The characters important to the stories are all given at least one strong moment each, such as Emma Frost muttering that she will help Krakoa for the sake of the children, while also maintaining a snarky air of superiority throughout her scene. When Hickman is writing established X-Men characters, he does an excellent job of letting them shine.

Character moments like this make the amount of exposition bearable.

Silva’s pencils do a good job of further imbuing Hickman’s dialogue-heavy script with character. While there isn’t much for Silva to really work with, his poses and facial expressions do a good job of conveying personality. His layouts do the same, adding meaning and depth to otherwise mundane or static scenes, such as when he has a panel of Emma Frost flanked on both sides by Magneto and Xavier as they try to coerce her into assisting them.

Gracia’s colours are, per usual, excellent. Not only do they do an excellent job maintaining a consistent look between House of X and Powers of X, but they are also subtle enough to not be overpowering while shifting with the scenes of Hickman’s script. The lifeless browns and greys of the aforementioned Emma Frost scene at the Louvre is perfectly juxtaposed with the lush blues of Krakoa. His colours never fail to establish a scene or change of locale. Gracia’s colours are what held my interest in the Phalanx scenes, the overpowering black conveying the lifelessness of the future setting far better than any of Hickman’s verbose dialogue.

Gracia’s colours are as versatile and effective as ever.

Powers of X #5 delivers some much-needed answers in an entertaining way. While the Phalanx plot still feels unrelated at best and lacks what makes this a good issue, the strong character work from the rest of the issue carries it, along with some strong art. Here’s hoping that the next issue will be able to bring it home and tie a neat bow on the first phase of Hickman’s X-Men saga.

3.5/5 – Good

No scene spotlight this week. While I found this issue a big improvement over the previous issues of Powers of X, it didn’t have a particularly standout scene. Emma bringing up the children is good, however.

The assignment is done and I’m pretty much done with uni for the year. I’m behind on reviews and may not end up reviewing some things from last week that I wanted to, if any, but them’s the breaks — I’d rather skip that week and stay on target for this week’s stuff, rather than be a week behind for a while or have to pump out stuff I’m not happy with. It doesn’t help that, when it comes to writing anything, I’m a bit burned out thanks to that assignment.

The finish line for the first phase of Hickman’s X-Men run is within sight and I’m excited for what comes next. I read somewhere that some people consider these two series to essentially be a textbook for Hickman’s run as opposed to an actual story, and I think that’s a disservice — there is a narrative, even if it does have a known conclusion in terms of establishing Krakoa, and an interesting one at that, especially when it comes to House of X. But I am excited for what X-Men brings… even if I am not looking forward to Leinil Francis Yu being the artist for an ongoing series, since I think he does his best work when given arcs at a time or miniseries.

See you next time for House of X #6!


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