House of X #2
VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Marte Gracia (colorist), Jonathan Hickman (writer), Pepe Larraz (artist), Tom Muller (design)
August 7, 2019
Jonathan Hickman has only one expectation of you in House of X #2, dear reader, and that is to unlearn everything you have learned.
I have spent the last few years lamenting the fact that there is no sane place to invite a new reader into the immense world of the X-Men, with all its twists and turns. And yet, here we are with the second issue—third entry—into Jonathan Hickman’s brave new world that somehow distills everything—everything—that has come before it into a tiny seed that then grows and bursts in a kaleidoscopic explosion.
House of X #1 introduces us to Krakoa, Charles Xavier’s new mutant utopia. Powers of X #1 catapults us into a future where Krakoa has long since fallen and mutants are hunted to the brink of galactic extinction. House of X #2 returns us to the past, picking up on the conversation that started in Powers of X #1 between Moira MacTaggert and Charles Xavier on a park bench. For established fans, this meeting of the minds is well known. Moira’s role in the building of the X-Men and her work with the mutant gene has been pivotal, if not always at the forefront; as Professor X’s human science partner, she works diligently in the background to uphold his dream.
But what if there was so much more to her existence?
What if she herself is a mutant with her own, very unique gift?
Without breaking further into spoilers—because this series really must be experienced in its pure authenticity—Moira’s story in issue #2, titled “The Uncanny Life of Moira X,” crosses time over and over again, rewriting a character we thought we knew—or rather, rewriting how we now see her. Disparate timelines are not a new element in X-Men lore. In fact, the diverging timelines and multiple universes over the decades lead to the convolution that makes explaining the X-Men in layman’s terms almost impossible. Yet somehow, by adding more strings, Hickman seems to be mending the holes and frayed edges of the ever-expanding tapestry to create something cohesive, answering so many questions even while giving us a thousand more to ponder.
Tom Muller’s informational interludes continue to be the MVPs of the series. With clean, simple designs, they feel less like info dumps than breaths of fresh air to prevent the story from being bogged down by art and expositional word bubbles. Which is surprising, given that this is a comic that’s supposed to be telling its story through panels, art, and text. But, like everything else, the placement of these pages is done with care to break up the overload of new information and faces and experiences with… more information. The amount of information being disseminated about this new way to perceive the X-Men could easily become overwhelming, but the simplicity of the pages and their placement serve to create a delicate balance with the visuals.
Death has become a meaningless joke for the X-Men, with the inevitable return of characters no less un-amusing, but Hickman’s thrown out that particular script when it comes to who gets to exist in this new world and when. Thus far, he hasn’t erased any of the existing convoluted canon. Instead, he acknowledges it and uses it to the advantage of whatever this story will become.
Each character that appears to deliver a pivotal speech or usher in a defining moment has clearly been selected with meticulous care and given the gravity their character deserves. Even those who have appeared so far only in passing—some only recognizable by a hand, or the corner of a costume—seem to be placed there with such purpose. And where characters have too often been written out-of-character of late, through a few pithy words or a grandiose speech, Hickman is able to capture who each one is and what they have meant to the evolution of the X-Men.
Though this is Moira’s story, Destiny has her moment in House of X #2. A favourite character of mine whose death still haunts me, Destiny as seen here was powerful, not merely because of her presence, but again because of how Hickman has written her moment to burn a new marker in X-Men history.
Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia present her with the matriarchal majesty she deserves, and, with just a touch, express so much about the relationship she shares with Mystique. The faceless golden mask she wears has always been disturbing, given its appearance and its history, but even more so here when she confronts Moira alongside the Brotherhood of Mutants, with flames surrounding them and reflections seeping in at just the right moments.
To make Destiny's mask on #HouseOfX #2, I got inspiration from Constantin Brâncusi's "Muses". He was a Romanian sculptor from the XIX-XX centuries. The extreme synthesis of the shapes is both calming and disquieting, as the whole Destiny's scene is too.
Colors by @martegracia pic.twitter.com/LMZEhU43As
— Pepe Larraz ⚔️ (@PepeLarraz) August 8, 2019
As Moira reveals her truth to both the readers and to Charles Xavier, we also get to see Professor X through her eyes and see just how well she understands the man behind the dream that has pushed and broken and remoulded the X-Men over their decades of existence. The introduction of a creepily benevolent, god-like Professor X has led to the speculation that this could all be yet another evil Xavier plotline. While it’s not implausible, given what we’ve seen so far in the pages and Hickman’s own excitement, something so gauche seems like it would be a waste of all our time. After this issue, speculation might shift to Moira being the unwanted evil, but that is also too simple an interpretation of the revelations here.
In Powers of X, we’ve seen the role technology plays, a glaring contrast to the organic nature of House of X’s Krakoa. Evolution in terms of mutants versus humans is an intrinsic part of the X-Men’s story, but so too is the technology that has so often been used to defeat them, including in the future revealed in Powers of X. Though mentioned seemingly only in passing, there is a moment of that technological evolution that stands out for me and inspires yet another question about Hickman’s new world. That the X-Men were created to be an allegory for oppression is not a new conversation. But are mutants really the top of the evolutionary ladder?