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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Powers of X #6

When assessing the greatness of a particular story arc in comics, there are many factors to consider. There’s the quality of the writing, the strength of the characterization, the cohesiveness of the plot, the vibrancy of the artwork, and how it all fits together in terms of the greater narrative. Many comics succeed in some of these areas and are worth reading. Very few manage to succeed in most.

I usually try to avoid spoiling too much of a great story, but I will spoil one thing. “Powers of X #6,” and the overall story arc it capped off, is among those select few. In the history of X-Men comics, Marvel Comics, and superhero comics in general, this is one of those stories that will likely stand out as an example of what’s possible when all the right story elements are in place.

Writer Jonathan Hickman has always been someone with big ideas who builds even bigger stories around them. He starts with a concept. Then, he positions the characters around it in such a way that requires them to evolve in ways that they’ve never dared. From there, the story only gets bigger in terms of scope, scale, and impact.

He did it with the Avengers. He did it with the Fantastic Four. Now, he’s done it again with the X-Men. As a lifelong X-Men fan, who has seen some pretty awful runs and some exceedingly dark times, I cannot overstate how refreshing this story is. I honestly cannot think of a time when an X-Men story arc felt so meaningful and relevant.

I’ve highlighted and praised various issues of House of X and Powers of X before, but “Powers of X #6” faces a unique challenge that many story arcs fail to overcome. It can’t just end the story on a particular note. It has to fill in some lingering plot holes while leaving just enough unfilled for future stories to build on. It’s a difficult balance to strike and one past X-Men story arcs have come up short.

That balance never falters in “Powers of X #6.” It fills in a few key plot holes, most notably the events of Moira MacTaggart’s mysterious sixth life. At the core of this story, and everything that stems from it, is the impact of Moira MacTaggart. It’s not hyperbole to state that she is now the most important character in the X-Men mythos.

Her role doesn’t just involve revealing what worked and didn’t work in terms of mutants trying to survive in a world that hates and fears them. In “Powers of X #6,” she witnesses the ultimate endgame for the human/mutant conflict. She sees the inevitable result of this conflict, regardless of which side she takes.

It doesn’t matter if someone sides with Magneto.

It doesn’t matter if someone sides with Professor Charles Xavier.

It doesn’t even matter if someone swears allegiance to Apocalypse and fights by his side.

The events in “Powers of X #6” establish that none of these conflicting groups, who have been clashing in X-Men comics since the Kennedy Administration, will be vindicated in the long run. Ultimately, they will be defeated, but not by the forces they think.

It’s a point that Hickman makes clearly by building on key moments established in past issues of Powers of X and House of X. Within these moments, harsh truths are dropped and fateful choices are made. They help give the achievements that played out in “House of X #6” even more weight. They also establish the stakes the X-men, and the entire mutant race in general, face moving forward.

These are powerful moments that impact the past, present, and future of the X-Men. Through Moira, the greatest threats facing mutants takes a very different form. It’s not a menacing new Sentinel. It’s not some mutant tyrant, either. It’s not even some bigoted human who thinks interment camps are still a good idea. I won’t spoil the particulars, but c makes clear that the X-Men have an uphill battle.

That’s saying a lot, considering the mutant race is more united than it has ever been. They have a home in Krakoa. Teammates who have been dead or missing for many years are back. They have valuable resources that the world wants. They’ve even won over their greatest enemies, like Apocalypse.

However, even with Moira’s foresight, that still might not be enough.

It might be the greatest achievement of “Powers of X #6.” It is an ending to a bold new beginning for the X-Men, but it also redefines the challenges they face. Through Hickman’s skilled world-building and artist R. B. Silva’s brilliant renderings, it genuinely feels like a true paradigm shift for X-Men comics.

They’re still mutants. They’re still the same superheroes they’ve always been. Their goals haven’t fundamentally changed that much. What has changed are the stakes, the forces opposing them, and their approach to dealing with them. It feels both hopeful and dire at the same time.

Whereas “House of X #6” establishes the promise of a brighter future for mutants, “Powers of X #6” reveals the ultimate barrier to that future. It’s not something they can shoot, blast, stab, or punch. If they want to succeed, then they have to fundamentally change how they go about Charles Xavier’s dream. Moreover, the dream itself needs to evolve.

Years from now, X-Men fans will likely look back on “Powers of X #6” as a defining moment for a narrative that has been unfolding for over 50 years. Those moments are few, far between, and precious. This one in particular may go down as one of the most uncanny.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: House Of X #6

There’s an unwritten rule in superhero comics. Heroes can enjoy a happy ending every now and then. However, it can only go so far. For every happy ending, there must also be a setup for the next conflict. It also can’t be too happy. The struggle can never stop or slow down. More epic battles must follow. Where else will Marvel and their Disney overlords get ideas for new billion-dollar movies?

Sometimes, the happy endings are as short-lived as they are shallow. This is especially true of X-Men comics. Their struggle is more complicated than fighting hordes of Hydra soldiers or battling invading Chitari armies. Sure, they regularly battle killer robots, but the primary source of their problems come from hatred and fear. There’s only so much they can triumph over that. A typical internet comments section is proof of that.

As a result, any victory the X-Men enjoy seems fleeting. Any semblance of a happy ending or true progress comes off as shallow or temporary. That has been my experience, as a lifelong X-Men fan. Then, “House of X #6” comes along and in the span of a single book, those unwritten are bent, broken, and redefined.

Throughout the X-Men’s colorful history, there have been many defining moments. Unfortunately, most of them often involve tragedy, destruction, and decimation. The moments that involve a triumphant, happy ending that feels like real progress in their struggles are few and far between. That only makes “House of X #6” more precious in the grand scheme of things.

This epic, world-building narrative began with a simple proclamation from Charles Xavier. While humanity slept, the world changed. In “House of X #6,” the sheer breadth of that change becomes clear. Xavier doesn’t just announce to the world that things are different. He explains why and how they got to this critical point.

It’s the kind of speech that leaves you anxious, astonished, concerned, and elated, all at the same time. He doesn’t talk around the truth or rely on alternative facts. He lays out clearly what mutants have been through. Even if you haven’t been following the X-Men comics for the past several decades, you get a clear understanding of how they got to this point.

They’ve been bullied, attacked, ignored, and driven to the brink of extinction more than once. They’ve clashed with other superheroes while being held to a different standard. In a world where so many other people have superpowers and aren’t subject to constant killer robot attacks, mutants are seen as a menace.

Now, they’re not just outcasts fighting for their lives and working towards impossible dreams. They’re a full-fledged society. They now have a home in Krakoa, which is now a full-fledged nation. They have their own culture and identity that they’re willing to fight for. These all feel like changes that are exceedingly overdue. Writer Jonathan Hickman finally put it into words while artist Pepe Larraz gave it vibrant visuals.

It’s a beautiful, cathartic moment that X-Men fans of all kinds can appreciate. On top of this momentous announcement, Hickman adds a few more details to the world-building. Now that mutants have their own nation, they have to go about governing it. It’s the kind of detail that tends to get overlooked in most superhero narratives, but it’s those same details that give depth to this emerging status quo.

The government of Krakoa is not overly complicated, but it’s still comprehensive in its vision. Hickman does not skimp on the details. We even get to see how Krakoa handles difficult issues, such as major laws and what to do with those who break them. It’s not quite like watching a mutant version of C-SPAN, but it gets the point across.

This isn’t just mutants consolidating their power. They’re trying to function as a real nation with real connections in the international community. They’re not going to be some isolated enclave. They actually have something to offer the world with the miracle drugs Krakoa produces. However, they’re not treating them as bargaining chips or gifts. They’re real assets with which to create standing in the world.

It’s uncharted territory for mutants. It also opens the door to a new host of complications, but for once, they don’t involve drawing battle lines between humans and mutants. Xavier still seeks peace, but not through impossible dreams anymore.

This is a huge shift for Charles Xavier’s character. It’s a huge shift for the X-Men, as well. They’re not just a team of mutant superheroes anymore. They’re something greater and “House of X #6” is their way of announcing that to the world.

I won’t spoil the many other ways Hickman and Larraz explore this exciting new world. There are plenty of moments that set the stage for a very different kind of struggle with the X-Men. There are also a few hints that they’ll be dealing with a few threats down the line, some more familiar than others. That’s unavoidable, both for superheroes and blossoming nations.

However, I will spoil one critical detail. “House of X #6” gives the X-Men, mutants, and long-time fans a reason to celebrate. It wasn’t that long ago that the X-Men were in a dire state. Marvel was going out of their way marginalized them in favor of propping up the Inhumans. Major characters were being killed off, left and right. Now, in wake of this issue, those dark days feel like distant memories.

The events of “House of X #6” feel like the end of a long, tumultuous period of tribulations and the beginning of a new era. It’s not all doom and gloom, for once. There’s reason to be happy. There’s reason to grab a beer and celebrate. If the X-Men comics were to end with this issue, it would be a damn good ending.

A new world has been built. A new era has arrived for the X-Men. It’s as satisfying as it is overdue. To X-Men fans of all kinds, get some friends, grab a cold beer, and have a party. Hickman has given us a reason to celebrate.

 

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