Powers of X #6: See The Cage

Powers of X #6: See The Cage

Powers of X #6 VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Marte Gracia & David Curiel (colorists), Jonathan Hickman (writer),  Tom Muller (design), R. B. Silva & Pepe Larraz (artists) Marvel Comics October 9, 2019 This review contains spoilers for Powers of X #6. R.B. Silva and Marte Gracia's cover to Marvel Comics' Powers of X #6, out Oct. 9,

Powers of X #6

VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Marte Gracia & David Curiel (colorists), Jonathan Hickman (writer),  Tom Muller (design), R. B. Silva & Pepe Larraz (artists)
Marvel Comics
October 9, 2019

This review contains spoilers for Powers of X #6.

Moira X stands over the bodies of defeated X-Men on Silva and Gracia's cover to Powers of X #6

R.B. Silva and Marte Gracia’s cover to Marvel Comics’ Powers of X #6, out Oct. 9, 2019.

If I’m being honest, I think that Powers of X #6 was always going to be the hardest sell of this run. The twin series of House of X and Powers of X have engaged fans in a way that few superhero comics have to this degree in recent memory, and expectations for the finale were high. Thanks to social media, from the moment Marvel started running teasers, the fire has been stoking itself, with #HOXPOX speculation on social media running all throughout the week, and starting anew every Wednesday morning. It’s been a long twelve weeks of theorizing and debating and speculating, and the conversation has been involved and lively enough that the stakes for Powers of X #6 were high. No one ever wants to be disappointed by the ending to a story they’ve enjoyed. I, for one, wasn’t.

Powers of X #6 is a quieter end to the loudest story the X-Men have told in years, but it’s ultimately satisfying because of that. This issue ties up many of the loose ends that have haunted Twitter’s #XSpoilers tag and tucks others under the rug to be tripped on later, as the six initial Dawn of X titles kick off this coming Wednesday with Jonathan Hickman, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Sunny Gho, and Clayton Cowles’ X-Men #1.

In short, what is so good about Powers of X #6 is the deftness with which it answers some of the largest questions left hanging following the past eleven issues of House of X and Powers of X. And within this clever narrative, the answers we’re given are such that even Powers of X #1 reads differently in light of them. Hickman doesn’t hold readers’ hands at any point in this series, and that’s certainly true of this over-sized finale.

After Moira’s heavy prominence early in the two series and her conspicuous absence through the middle, this issue gives Moira X nearly as much focus as House of X #2 did. If that issue showed us who Moira had been, this issue shows us the parts of Moira we hadn’t yet seen, and who she has become at this point in her tenth life, as a result of the prior nine. The dynamic of the Moira X, Xavier, and Magneto trinity becomes clear, through Moira’s journals that show the history of mistrust and betrayal between the three of them, but also their cooperation and the lengths they have gone together for the dream. And in a final conversation between the three, their alliance feels far from foolproof; Xavier and Magneto have made promises Moira cannot abide, Moira refuses their offerings of tea, Moira’s role going forward comes into question. In the beginning of everything, when the full scope of Moira’s initial revelation to Xavier becomes clear in this issue, she tells him that he’s been dreaming the wrong dream. By the end of the issue and this story arc, Magneto and Xavier tell her it’s time for her to step aside. Not only is this Moira X’s last guaranteed life, this is her last dream; but it’s a dream she’s lost control of.

Moira X speaks to Charles Xavier about hard truths in this panel from Powers of X #6.

Panel from Powers of X #6, with art by R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia, and David Curiel, from Marvel Comics in Oct. 2019.

The introduction of Homo Novissima, from the Latin superlative for “the newest,” re-contextualizes the entire story, forcing a rereading of the Man-Machine Ascendancy and the Church of Ascendancy of the X2 timeline, the human-machine-mutant war of the X3 timeline, and of Moira’s thinly sketched seventh life shown in House of X #2. In one panel, as the Librarian tells Moira X that she’s spent six lives missing “the real enemy [she] faced,” we see the origins of Captain America, reinforcing the idea that it’s not just Sentinels and Nimrods or Reavers and genetically modified Purifiers who have been a danger to mutants. It is also the Captain Americas and Yellowjackets and their Ultrons and Visions—remember Avengers vs. X-Men?  Mutants haven’t just been hurt at the hands of human bigots and their machines, but also by human heroes, who are the first iteration of what will become the posthumanity that tries so hard to supplant mutants.

One of the draws of the series has been that it honors rereading: each issue changing the way audiences can interpret prior issues. In revisiting two sequences, Moira’s first meeting with Xavier in her tenth life and the celebratory conclusion to House of X #6, this final issue reinforces this. Each of these two scenes read differently than before: the first, completed and changed by the benefit of added context, and the second, re-contextualized by new narration. I appreciated the circular nature of returning to the beginning as we begin the end, though starting the issue by repeating in full a sequence we’ve already seen excerpts of twice did feel like a slow start. Hickman likely could have truncated the opening scene and retained the full effect, but nonetheless, it functions as a very neat framing device of this issue’s big reveal. Finishing the X3 storyline within the context of Moira’s revelation to Xavier, and couching the new within the old, emphasized that the twist had been in front of us all along, and gave the closing of two open questions an added satisfaction because of this.

Going into the Dawn of X as Powers of X ends, more than anything else, I’ll miss R.B. Silva, Pepe Larraz, and Marte Gracia’s consistently excellent art. But, after twelve weeks of undelayed releases, the artists certainly have earned as long of a break as they want. Even while Larraz and Silva each have a distinctive style, shifts between pages drawn by each in this issue felt effortless in their transition, aided by the shared work done by colorists R.B. Silva and David Curiel, who stepped in on the final issue of each book. The clever coloring of the controlled and monitored preserve in the X3 timeline feels starkly unnatural in its organicism as it contrasts against the cool, purple-hued context of the future. This choice in coloring, along with the visual cues to Krakoan flowers and the cover which skews closer to the color palette of the Preserve rather than what we’ve seen of Krakoa, add depth and texture to this issue, and wonderfully conclude a run which has been visually astonishing.

Magneto speaks to Xavier on Krakoa, assuring him that "[he] is not ashamed of what [he] is."

Panel from Powers of X #6, with art by R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia, and David Curiel, from Marvel Comics in Oct. 2019.

“See the cage,” the Librarian tells Moira in this final issue. “That’s inevitable.” In Moira’s ninth life, Krakoa fell. In others, Homo Novissima—humans made new by the inevitability of technology—or humans aided by their Sentinels and Master Molds won. In no life has Moira yet succeeded, in every life mutants have lost, no matter how long their struggle lasted. This predisposes the fear, as we enter the Dawn of X, that the X-Men we know, the X-Men of Moira’s tenth life in the 616 universe, are living on borrowed time. That Krakoa will fall again, that the fear of being replaced and the drive to innovate out of fear will once again lead to a post-humanity intent on outpacing mutant evolution, and that, for the tenth time, dreams will not be enough.

But in this same issue, “I am not ashamed of what I am,” Magneto proclaims. After years of acquiescence, of hate and fear, and of turning the other cheek, the X-Men have a new mandate, to not apologize for differences, and to refuse to cede ground to those who mean them harm. Moira has never seen a timeline where mutants don’t lose. But never have we, as readers, seen X-Men stories that so fully reject the fear of difference and celebrate what makes mutants unique in the Marvel Universe, and the X-Men unique among superhero teams and franchises. No longer will anyone ask Nightcrawler to hide behind an image inducer, nor will a ‘mutant cure’ be anywhere as relevant as Krakoan pharmaceuticals. Krakoa might have an uncertain future as the Dawn of X breaks, in the same way Genosha and Utopia once did, but for the first time in a long time, the X-Men aren’t beholden to a world that hates and fears them, and the X-Men franchise is no longer sidelined. Instead, House of X and Powers of X have built a home where no mutant is hated or feared, and no mutant again will be asked to feel ashamed.

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Emma Snape
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  • Kriselda Gray
    October 15, 2019, 4:39 pm

    The one thing I’ve been wondering about is how Moira’s lifespan affects things – especially after the exposition by the librarian explaining how if Moira dies before the Acendency happens, it won’t happen at all because her death will end that timeline. What does this mean for mutants?

    Even if they end up surviving this time, will that only last as long as Moira’s life? If she doesn’t get another life, does all of time end with her or will a new Moira-less timeline begin, with mutants having to start over again as well, but this time without her input or manipulation? The only way around this that I see is if time/the Universe/etc. "knows" when she’s reached her final death and just keeps going instead of resetting the way it has been, but that almost feels a bit too easy to me.

    I’m hoping this will be addressed at some point…

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