New Comics on Pause: X-Men Week Edition — HOUSE OF X/POWERS OF X Review
House of X/Powers of X
Writer: Johnathan Hickman
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
HOUSE OF X
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Color Artist: Marte Garcia
POWERS OF X
Pencilers: R.B. Silva with Pepe Larraz (#6)
Inkers: R.B. Silva with Adriano Di Benedetto (1-2)
Color Artist: Marte Garcia with David Curiel (#6)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
X-Men week is a great occasion. Outright Geekery gets to celebrate Marvel’s famous Mutants with our friends at CBI. Plus, it’s my first foray into the world of X-Men comics. I’ve been working my way through select moments in the history of Homo Superior, and passing my new found knowledge along to you in the form of trade paperback reviews. When I turned in my review for X-Men Gold, Gaumer the OG Webmaster, pointed out that it wasn’t actually the newest available X-title on Hoopla. That distinction falls to House of X/Powers of X.
Because each titles’ stories are so intertwined, it’s hard to qualify House of X/Powers of X’s premise, but I’ll do my best to provide a coherent synopsis. Half establishment of a new X-Men timeline, and half vision for the future of Mutantkind, these interconnected series redefine the X-Men as Marvel moves into the new decade. House of X reveals Professor Xavier’s plan to raise Mutants to the same societal level as humans. Powers of X provides the foundation on which the House of X has been built, while also revealing details of the future the Mutants could be headed toward.
As for a plot description, the Mutants have established their own nation-state on the island of Krakoa. On this island grows a plant that can be synthesized to make various miracle drugs. Xavier offers free use of these medicines to the nations of the world, as long as they officially recognize Krakoa’s sovereignty. Of course, humankind has plans to keep the Mutants from rising beyond their station in society. The Orchis Protocol is the newest embodiment of their prejudice. The Orchis Protocol is described as a doomsday project. Early on in the story, we learn that it’s humankind’s reaction to the population increases and power consolidation of Mutants. Hickman leaves it unclear as to if the project is meant to be prevention or fail safe in the event of doomsday caused by the Mutants, or a weapon that will bring doom upon the Mutants. This uncertainty helps build suspense early in the comic and raises the stakes later on in the story.
Writer Johnathan Hickman weaves together an intricate tale in House of X/Powers of X. Cool graphics and info-sheets are interspersed throughout each issue. These extras provide both background information and add to the world building for this new era in Mutant history. They also break up the sections of each chapter nicely. Both mini-series are well written, but I prefer House of X’s main narrative over Powers of X’s. Since the former held the most interest for me, the latter felt like it was delaying plot advancement at times. That being said, there were pieces of Powers of X that I really liked. I was intrigued by Nimrod the Lesser, a character who factors into one of the future plotlines. He’s a robot that displays a “kid with a magnifying glass and an ant hill” mentality. These two traits combined made him a very entertaining character to read. I also enjoyed the nihilistic bent of a Mutant named Xorn. Without breaking the fourth wall, Xorn’s attitude and dialogue perfectly encapsulate aspects of the scenes he’s featured in.
As can be expected from a story rewriting the history of the X-Men, Mr. Sinister is eventually introduced. Now I once attempted to read the collected edition of 2015’s Secret Wars. Before I put the book down out of pure confusion, I did read a scene featuring Sinister. Because of this, I know he’s a wacky character. However, the first scene in which he appears in House of X/Powers of X didn’t feel like it fit into the story’s structure or tone. One of the most intense scenes in the whole book had just finished, and suddenly the reader is treated to several pages of Sinister spouting nonsense and cracking wise. This is immediately followed by a gossip tabloid style info-graphic. I could tell that the info-graph was meant to foreshadow the rest of the story or even events to come in subsequent X books, but between the language used and my lack of X-Men knowledge, a lot of what it was meant to hint toward went straight over my head.
Even with the sheer scale of the plot, it’s relatively easy to follow the overarching story. Though I wager it’ll take multiple reads to really catch all the details. The cohesion between the art teams helps to strengthen the connection and flow between the two mini-series. The art is impressive simply because of the sheer number of characters both artists have to draw. Plus with all the narrative time jumps, the artists also have to keep track of the design of the characters who appear in multiple timelines. House of X’s art has a polished indie look to it. Although he’s talented, I don’t really care for Silva’s line work, but his art style gives Powers of X a more modern look.
The narrative ends rather abruptly, but there’s no denying that the conclusion definitively kicks off a new age of Mutantdom within the Marvel Universe. Throw out everything you think you know about the X-Men and jump into these awe inspiring connected mini-series. The sheer scope of what Hickman has written is mind boggling. In the collected edition of House of X/Powers of X, he puts the “novel” into the term graphic novel. This is long-form story telling at its best. After a week spent reading X-Men comics I’m not sure if I’ve become a Marvel fan, but I’m damn sure I’ve become a fan of Hickman.