Open House: HoXPoX and a New Era for X-Men

Logan stands in the shadows

It wouldn’t be misspeaking to say that we enjoyed House of X and Powers of X around here, as a bunch of die-hard X-Men fans. Now that the twin series are wrapped up, we sat down to have a chat about the moments that worked for us, the moments that didn’t, and what we hope to see going forward.

First Question: House of X or Powers of X, and why?

Wendy: Is it really or? They are one book with chapters that slip forwards and backwards in time, intrinsically connected. Hickman was clear on the order he wanted the story read as a whole and so I feel like, despite the separation in titles, they simply can’t be separated for me. I’m looking forward to holding the complete edition in my hot little hands so I can truly partake of this wonder in its entirety, flipping back and forth and cross referencing long boxes and wikias.

Nola: It’s definitely an ‘or’ for me, because there are two definitive stories here–one is Xavier putting his house in order, and the other is a story about Moira, her past lives, and why things are the way they are now. Of the two I think I liked Powers of X more–but only just barely. I honestly really enjoyed the heady sci-fi stuff that most people complained about, the Phalanx stuff in the far future.

Emma: I think my answer changed after both series ended. While they were releasing, I would have called House of X my favorite of the two, because I was more initially more interested in the Krakoan present day than the other timelines. But when I went back and reread both series after finishing Powers of X #6, and having the benefit of full context I ended up agreeing with Wendy on enjoying them best as one conjoined whole.

Kayleigh: House of X has the slight edge for me because I absolutely adore Pepe Larraz’s artwork. R.B. Silva’s work on Powers of X was phenomenal, but House of X reduced me to a 14-year-old girl sitting cross-legged on her bed and scrawling a big red heart around the words “PEPE LARRAZ’S ART” in my diary. I’m very excited to see his next (and dare I hope, still X-related?) project.

What was your favorite moment? 

Wendy: I could say the shocking Moira as a reincarnating mutant revelation, but maybe someone else will speak to that. In reality, my favourite moment was seeing Emma Frost at a business meeting wearing a pantsuit, then later agreeing to embrace Magneto and Xavier’s new world, “for the children.”

Nola: I think my favorite individual moment was the one where Scott reminded Reed that his son’s a mutant. He felt so easygoing and so dangerous at the same time.

Emma: The celebration at the end of each book: mutantkind coming together to celebrate their new future, a wide scale party that took time for moments like Siryn and Dazzler making fireworks together, Scott, Jean, and Logan sharing beers, and Exodus entertaining the youth of Krakoa that show the beginnings of something new. By the end of Powers of X, it felt like this celebrating can’t last forever, but at least for now, reading the X-Men celebrating a victory that wasn’t complicated by sacrifice for once, was a really satisfying end.

Kayleigh: There are a lot of fantastic moments between Xavier and Magneto in HoXPoX, but my favorite may be the very last, where they stand on a cliffside, fireworks blasting behind them, and look on the world they’ve made together. It’s what they deserve, you know? I think Xavier and Magneto are much more interesting when they’re on the same side, and I’ve wanted to see My Two Dads reconcile like this ever since X-Men: First Class.

What’s something you felt could’ve really been handled better?

Wendy: My least favourite moments were in House of X #4 where Cyclops leads the team against Mother Mold. After being so overwhelmed by how well Hickman was writing the characters, the culminating issue of this battle presented me with characters that I did not like or recognize. Specifically, I need to understand why Jean Grey, who has faced down death and told a cosmic entity to fuck off, was curled into a child-like ball begging for guidance, instead of being the fierce warrior and leader she has become. This battle pulled me out of the awe because the characters just didn’t fit, after fitting so well up until, and after this point.

Nola: Same. Easily the weakest point of the entire thing for me. Felt like scaling Jean back all the way back to her pre-Claremont years.

Emma: Absolutely, it’s the same answer for me as well. Between this moment, and Jean returning to the Marvel Girl costume and name, Jean felt reduced in the text to a younger, weaker version of who she’s become.

Jean Grey, House of X, Marvel Comics, 2019

Kayleigh: As the resident “crazy cat lady, but swap ‘cat’ for ‘X-Men character Jean Grey’” of WWAC, I’m deeply relieved that I’m not the only one baffled at how that issue treated Jean. (At least they seem to be moving away from the ’60s Marvel Girl costume.) So instead I’ll say that the “future” sequences became much less interesting after Rasputin, Nimrod, and the other Life IX characters were wiped off the board. The Phalanx scenes bounced off my head like a rock, and they may be the, ah, “Tales of the Black Freighter” bits for me when I get the hardcover–AKA the parts my eyes skip over.

What was the wildest theory you came up with over the course of the event? Was it proven or disproven?

Wendy: Towards the end, I couldn’t believe that this new reality was real. The new status quo of resurrected mutants living in cultish harmony in Krakoa couldn’t be the end game. It would surely shape the new dawn, but with the revelations around Moira’s various timelines, I was sure this one would turn out to be like the others: a failure from which she learned and would shape the timeline that would be what we end up with. Because there were a lot of big and little things that didn’t quite click, such as the characterization of some of the major players in the battle to destroy Mother Mold. Hickman sent a team to their deaths, many of whom had died before, yet they approached death as if this was their first time. Then there was the logistics of how and when Xavier’s pet plant project was growing. How long did it take Doug to learn the language? How long did it take to refine the resurrection process? How did all of this come together in such a way that our merry band of mutants could grow into a cult, complete with rituals?

Hickman is showing me a world where the X-Men and mutantkind finally have hope and have set aside their infighting to build harmony and peace. After decades of fear and prejudice, this all seemed too good to be true and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. But the simple answer is: this is comics. Hickman can and did do whatever he wanted, defying predictions and theories. But the key that will allow me to look over any of the discrepancies is the fact that, unlike too many of the “earth shattering” events that have gone on in Marvel Comics over the past few years, and with the X-Men specifically, Hickman did his research and has orchestrated an event that respects the past, even as it reshapes it, and promises a future that isn’t comprised of the same, tired stories we’ve been seeing.

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.

Nola: I really, truly thought Xavier was controlling folks somehow. It was a flimsy thing but there is a level of unity amongst the mutants that still doesn’t read quite right to me, a level of bygones that doesn’t click. On top of that, the last time we saw Xavier (or “X” as he prefers) in action, he was literally manipulating Warren into murder and then mind-wiping the O5.

Emma: I was pretty convinced for a while that one way or another, the technarch Warlock was going to come into the story to play a role in Powers of X, given the reframing of the technarchy in the X^3 storyline. I couldn’t really nail down the details of how I thought it was going to happen but I felt so bizarrely confident that Warlock would have a role to play, outside of being Doug’s new arm. And so that ended up being absolutely off base nonsense.

Kayleigh: I correctly guessed that the mutants coming out of the pods in the first pages of House of X #1 were Jean Grey and Cyclops, though admittedly it’s not that hard to connect the “redheaded woman and guy with sparks coming out of his eyes = JEAN AND SCOTT?” red strings on my Pepe Silvia conspiracy wall. I very quickly gave up any attempt to predict where the story was going, though. It’s hard to guess Hickman’s next move when he’s set the chessboard on fire.

Now that we have all the details, what do you think this means for the future of the X-franchise?

Wendy: Outside of the Mother Mold battle issue I mentioned above, I have been so pleased to see characters acting in character — something that has eluded X-Men storytelling for too long. That’s not to say they are stagnant throwbacks to who they were when I first met them. Hickman has distilled what makes each character who they are because he seems to know them as well as he should as their writer, and is writing stories where the characters feel like they are making organic choices, rather than making choices that fulfill the writer’s fannish ideals. To me, this means that characters will finally be allowed to grow out of the cocoons they too often keep getting pulled back into. And maybe it even means that characters will be allowed to do cool things like actually retire and make room for the many others to take their place and bring new perspectives into the X-world.

Nola: Oh, this is a house of cards. There are some things that are gonna stick, but this whole thing’s gonna blow up in their faces. Moira said it best: “We always lose.” There’s no narrative meat in a life where mutants get to live in an idyllic paradise, there’s no continuing story there. That said, taking death out of the equation forces the stakes of the fight to change; X-writers have to be more thoughtful now about how they’re adding drama to their storytelling. Personally I hope this means a maximum amount of soap opera nonsense.

Emma: On a practical level, at least for a little while, the X-franchise has room to get much more creative writing dramatic stakes in this new status quo where no mutant can die. I also think that Krakoa can’t last forever narratively, but for now, it’s changed the status quo. There have been a lot of very nostalgic X-Men comics recently, but I think HoxPox changed the world of the X-Men enough that the future of the franchise will hopefully look different than what’s come before.

Kayleigh: Putting aside all my knowledge of how Marvel’s treated the X-Men franchise for decades, why can’t Krakoa last forever? What’s the alternative, the Xavier Institute blowing up again? We’ve been eating stale crackers for years and now we have a feast. Obviously, there will be conflict, this is still a superhero comic, but like creepy baby Moira in the womb, Hickman/Larraz/Silva decided to break all the rules of what we think an X-Men comic should be. Xavier’s dream is dead, but it’s not a tragedy, it’s an awakening. Death for the X-Men was mostly meaningless anyway, so let’s actually interrogate that. Mutants are the future! After HoXPoX, I never want to read another “the X-Men are hunted down to the brink of extinction” story ever again.

Hickman gave a wide variety of characters a share of the focus in the two books. Which character stole the show for you?

Wendy: Emma. When she was absent, I could feel her presence prowling in the background, and when she finally appeared, she was everything I have wished her to be, owning every scene. Her attire, her demands, and her posture. She is a woman in command who has always played chess — not necessarily to win — but to ensure what’s best for her and hers.

Nola: Emma. She literally stole whatever scene she was in, she made a power play on Xavier for an extra council seat, she was just utterly perfect in every moment.

Emma: Cypher, I feel I have to answer Cypher. He’s a good example in general of one of my favorite things about these two books, which is how previously sidelined mutants, such as Cypher or Goldballs, were recontextualized and made relevant in this new status quo. It’s fun to see Cypher’s very academic mutation being put to new use.

Powers of X #4, panels from pg. 16, art by R.B. Silva and colors by Marte Gracia.

Kayleigh: For years I actively despised Cyclops and Emma Frost as characters, so know that it really means something when I say that Hickman/Larraz/Silva gave them scenes that had me playing “Turn Down for What” inside my head. But the secret MVP of this series has to be Destiny (“No escaping that for me!”). She is a long-dead character who has only one scene in twelve issues, and it’s so crucial and brutal that she still makes it onto the cover of the HoXPoX collected edition. “Burn her. And slowly, so she doesn’t forget how dying like this feels.” Damn, bitch!

Which plot thread left hanging at the end of both series are you most interested to see resolved in Dawn of X?

Wendy: Destiny told Moira that she foresaw ten, possibly eleven lives for her (which is part of why I had my doubts about *this* being the new now we’d end up with). But now Moira refuses to allow Destiny to be resurrected, despite Mystique’s demands. This will surely come to blows sooner, rather than later.

Nola: DESTINY YES. She needs to come back. It’s wild to me that she’s stayed dead for so long. We’ve gotten more play out of Spider-Man’s dead uncle than Destiny, and he’s like the one character who’s supposed to stay dead!

Destiny in profile, her mask reflecting Moira's face, as she commands Pyro to burn Moira slowly
House of X #2 Declan Shalvey variant cover (Marvel Comics, August 2019)

Failing that I think my biggest dangling plot thread is whatever Sinister has planned with Madelyne Pryor. I admit I’ve been heavy in that headspace for a while now–we’ve been doing some deep dives on Ms. Pryor here at WWAC for…reasons.

Emma: I’m definitely also really curious about Destiny, and just how far Mystique is going to be willing to go in her attempts to ensure Destiny’s resurrection. Given how far Mystique has gone in the past attempting to resurrect Destiny, it feels like Mystique could be one of Krakoa’s greatest threats, even as she sits on its government.

I’m also really curious about the Krakoa-Arrako plot, and Krakoa speaking to Cypher in the same script as demons of Limbo suggesting that maybe Limbo is connected to Krakoa.

Kayleigh: I want to see if the implied Scott/Jean/Logan triad is really going to be explored on-page, or if it will be limited to Sinister’s bitchy gossip columns and writers giving winking “haha, I don’t know…unless?” answers to interview questions. It’s a novel approach to all this love triangle nonsense, let’s be adults about it.

Cyclops speaks about the harm done to mutants. "Did you think we were going to sit around forever and just take it?"
Cyclops confirming that he plans to do at least some topping

Over the course of the two series, the X-Men franchise underwent a handful of significant paradigm shifts. Which did you find most engaging, or most rewarding?

Wendy: Despite my issues with the Mother Mold battle, looking back at it, and the reaction of Xavier when the away team was defeated, I found myself looking at things very differently. The purpose of their efforts was to bring an end to the man made robots that hunted mutants almost to extinction in the future. Those were just one of many massacres that have depopulated mutantkind. But with the destruction of Mother Mold, Xavier’s words were “No more.” The cost of this victory was Pyrrhic, like all X-Men victories are. The whole assault team died. But, we learned in the next issue, they could be resurrected. I initially read that “No more,” as Charles’ pain over the loss of yet more mutant lives. But after the resurrection, it brought new meaning: this was the first massive step in ending the slaughter of his people. Of course the loss of his children hurt, but a man who lives his life focused on hope in the face of so much pain would not have stopped to mourn them if he was 99% certain they could be brought back. Going back to read that section helped solidify my own hope for what this means for the future. Yes, mutantkind will still be hated and feared, but no more will that be the overarching theme that leads to more and more mutant massacre storylines. Now is an opportunity to move forward and address those who stood by and allowed that to happen, while ensuring that it never happens again.

Nola: I think it’s gotta be the formation of the Quiet Council and the establishment of their respective houses. It elevates mutantkind, I think, beyond the days of Xavier’s or Magneto’s camps. The council isn’t exactly democratic (and that’s part of the reason it’s gonna blow up in their faces) but I enjoy seeing a group of mutants finding a path forward together, despite differing views. Y’know, for as long as it lasts.

Emma: The introduction of Homo Novissima was such a good moment and such a good twist for me. It absolutely made me go back and think about HoXPoX differently, but this concept also sets up a lot of new directions to take X-Men stories. And now, with the formation of Krakoa, the old mutant vs. mutant rivalries have largely been forgotten, and it feels like a really optimal time to see some old foes recontextualized or some new enemies introduced.

Kayleigh: NO MORE GENOCIDE. For nearly twenty years–since Genosha was blown to hell by Sentinels in New X-Men, at least–the X-Men books have been repeatedly dunked in the misery well, with few bright spots to liven up the stories about mass murder, forced depowerment, and mutantkind constantly being on the verge of extinction. The X-Men conquering death, and in fact undoing the crimes perpetrated on them by humans like the P R E T E N D E R  W A N D A  M A X I M O F F, is an exhilarating change. The fact that any mutant can show up in a story now opens up a lot of fun possibilities too, though my favorite Obscure Dead Mutant No One Else Cares About, Larry Trask, is one of those verboten precogs. Curses!

What did you think of the utilization of the data pages, and are you pleased to see they’ll be sticking around in Dawn of X?

Wendy: I admit to not understanding some aspects when it got too technical and sciency, but I still appreciated every moment they appeared to help shape the new reality. And I love the variety of formats and information presented. With so much being presented to us overall and with such a huge shift in the way we are meant to look at life for mutantkind now, the data pages were, despite being informational deluges themselves, a helpful breather thanks to their visual simplicity.

Nola: I loved the data pages. I loved the way Tom Muller organized them, and I loved the way they seeded plot points or provided context for things that would’ve otherwise weighed the story down. The page of Sinister’s little tidbits is maybe my favorite of those–I can’t wait to see what’s planned with Maddie, but I appreciated having it seeded in that way because there’s not really a place in the story those details would’ve fit otherwise.

Emma: I loved the data pages from the get-go. I thought they functioned well on multiple levels; they lent punctuation to the rhythm of each issue, and simply laid out dense information. I liked that they were a different way of communicating information than what we normally get in a comic, I enjoyed the contrast between the rich visuals of the story pages and the clean design of the data pages. I’m glad to see them stick around because I thought they were invaluable in worldbuilding, and I’m curious to see how different writers will use them to fit the different titles going forward.

Kayleigh: Tom Muller’s design work really elevated the HoXPoX experience, and I’m glad to see the data pages continuing throughout Dawn of X. They set the X-books apart from everything else Marvel is publishing right now, and truthfully, every other superhero comic on the stands.

With the new dawn upon us, our coverage of this new era for the X-Men continues every Monday. See you there!

Nola Pfau

Nola Pfau

Nola is a bad influence. She can be found on twitter at @nolapfau, where she's usually making bad (really, absolutely terrible) jokes and occasionally sharing adorable pictures of her dog.