Powers of X #2
VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Marte Gracia (colors), Jonathan Hickman (writer), Tom Muller (design), R.B. Silva (artist), R.B. Silva & Adriano di Benedetto (inkers)
August 14, 2019
This review contains spoilers for Powers of X #2.
In the press for House of X and Powers of X, Jonathan Hickman warned us that the revelations of every issue would change the way prior issues should be understood and lead to a “new X-Universe.” It was an exciting claim that honestly felt like it might end up being mostly marketing. After all, didn’t Uncanny X-Men #11 just remind us that all X-Men stories are the same? However, by Powers of X #2, the fourth issue in the combined House of X and Powers of X mini-series, it doesn’t feel like empty marketing in the slightest. Each new issue of Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia, Adriano di Benedetto, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller’s twin series is a revelation that demands reexamination of not just the prior issues of House of X and Powers of X, but of the fifty-six years of X-Men stories that have come before.
Like the first issue of Powers of X, this issue opens in Xavier’s zero year, in the era of The Dream, and continues the chapters opened in Powers of X #1 set ten (The World), one hundred (The War), and one thousand (Ascension) years into the future. The revelations in these chapters complicate the story thus far. The idea of Ascension means something dramatically different at the end of this issue than it suggested at the end of the first issue of this book, more of the X-Men of a century into the future reveal themselves, and the first few pages of this issue challenge classic conceptions of Xavier and Magneto’s friendship, conflict, and role in the history of the X-Men.
In a much quieter way, Powers of X #2 does for Magneto what House of X #2 did for Moira: a classic, beloved character, who has been so integral to the world of the X-Men for so many years, is quietly redefined, and a lifetime (or more) of hidden intentions is revealed. Magneto has never been what we believed, just as Moira and Xavier have not, and with Powers of X #2, Hickman pulls back a curtain just enough to suggest to readers that everything they knew about Magneto and Xavier was simply what they had wanted people to believe, not the hidden truth.
Even within the issue itself, the scope of this story is staggering. There is a millennium-long story being condensed into thirty page installments, and every issue of Powers of X has raised more new questions, just as Tom Muller’s immaculately organized data pages provide answers to other questions readers hadn’t yet thought to ask. The hints of the world to come that have been told rather than shown continue to be as intriguing as ever, and even as they keep the story from stumbling over exposition, ideas this big and fascinating deserve exploration, which I can only hope lies ahead in the eight issues of House of X and Powers of X still to come. Without spoiling the actual contents of the issue, the redefinition of the Phalanx and the Technarchy in particular stands out along with Powers of X #1’s revelation of chimera mutants as a freshly engaging spin on concepts classic to the X-Men franchise.
R.B. Silva’s line art and Marte Gracia’s color art remain vibrant and dynamic, the Island M of the past, Krakoa of the present, and the Asteroid K and Nimrod’s fortress of the future each stand out as equally distinct locations, the cityscapes of the future just as vibrant and lush as the vegetation choked Krakoa, in very different ways. Every panel feels vital and vibrant.
This issue bounces between poignant character moments- Cyclops affirming that he’ll do anything that must be done, the reveal of the X-Men’s leader a century into the future- and plot moments of giant scope-the conversation between Moira, Xavier, and Magneto, or the classification of planetary and galactic societies — which leaves this issue feeling just as far-reaching and expansive as Powers of X #1, but easier to get a hold on. Reading this issue still feels as if there are mysteries left to unlock, but Powers of X #2 reminds us that we already know so many of the biggest players, we just may not know them as well as we thought.