This article contains major spoilers for Marvel’s X-Men reboot, House of X and Powers of X.
House of X and Powers of X are now complete, and the event, which was billed as a huge reset for the X-Men comics universe, did everything promised. It took a major retcon for one of its characters and used it to reposition the X-Men concept in the greater Marvel Universe, reinvigorating the mutant metaphor and seeding years of stories that changed the past, present and future of the entire world. The changes are dense, and can be confusing, so we picked through all 12 issues to figure out what you need to know heading into Dawn of X.
What Happened in House of X and Powers of X?
The two books took different tacks to lay the groundwork for the X-Men’s big changes. Powers of X looked at four different timeframes on exponential scales: X^0 took place generally 10 years before the present day of the comics continuity; X^1 is present day; X^2 looked 100 years out; and X^3 looked 1000 years down the road.
With one exception, House of X focused on the X^1 timeline, the present day of the current Marvel Universe. That one exception was a doozy, though.
House of X #2 dropped a MAJOR retcon on Moira MacTaggert, until now a human geneticist ally of the X-Men. HoX #2 revealed that Moira was a mutant, and each time she died, her consciousness was transported back to herself in the womb, resetting the timeline, leaving her with perfect recall of her past lives.
Moira’s first two lives were uneventful: she lived a happy life, not realizing her power activated at 13, and died surrounded by family, and then died again after figuring out she was a mutant.
Her third life was spent trying to cure herself of her mutant gene, and right as she succeeded, her lab and lab partners were blown up by the Brotherhood. Destiny, Mystique’s precog partner, saw what would come of the cure – weaponization by humans – and she saw Moira’s power. She also saw that Moira’s cycle would end if she died before her power activated, so she told Moira to stop trying to fight mutants and had Pyro burn her to death to make sure she remembered.
Her fourth life was spent trying to help: she married Charles, and X-history progressed about as it did in the 616 before ending in a sentinel massacre. Life five saw Moira push Charles into an isolationist pose early, but that one ended in robotic hellfire too.
Moira’s Sixth Life
Moira’s sixth life was depicted by the X^3 timeline in PoX. She and Wolverine lived for a thousand years, with the robots somehow figuring out that she needed to be kept alive or she would reset the timeline. They lived in a wildlife preserve, maintained by a new branch of human evolution: Homo novissima, a fusion of humans and machines.
The Librarian, our POV character, is part of a society trying to ascend to join the Phalanx, an intergalactic machine intelligence so dense it’s about to collapse into a singularity. If they do collapse, that would make the machines knowledge of this life separate from space and time – when Moira resurrects, they would know and be there – winning the war for the machines forever. However, before the ascension is complete, Wolverine stabs the Librarian in the face, then kills Moira so she can reset.
Her experience in the sixth life radicalized Moira – she’s certain if the war even starts, the mutants always lose. She spent life seven going full Rambo, killing every Trask she could find before they could create the Sentinels. Unfortunately, AI is like fire – a discovery, not a creation – and she died at the hands of a wild jungle Mastermold. In life eight, she convinced Magneto to go to war with the humans, but she died after he was stopped by an army of superheroes.
Moira’s Ninth Life
The only major mutant figure Moira had yet to ally with by this point was Apocalypse, so she awakened En Sabah Nur early in her ninth life and went to war. This life was largely depicted in the X^2 timeline, and bore a strong resemblance to the Age of Apocalypse: many of the traditional Marvel heroes along with Xavier and Magneto were defeated early on by Apocalypse. Apocalypse and Mister Sinister used rampant genetic engineering to create a mutant army, but they were still losing.
Because of her experience in her sixth life, Moira had flagged the emergence of Nimrods as a paradigm shift in the war with the humans – Sentinels “bought the humans years,” as the Librarian told her, while “Nimrods bought [them] decades.” So to prevent this from coming to pass, Apocalypse’s crew stages an assault on a machine data storage facility to get precise knowledge of how Nimrod came to be. Having that data, it was given to Moira, absorbed immediately, and she was killed by Wolverine so she could be reborn.
Moira X, or the modern Marvel Universe
Moira went to Charles again for her tenth life, which covers the X^0 and X^1 timelines. This time, she said, they would try something different: all mutants together. The X^0 scenes in PoX looked at Charles and Moira recruiting Magneto, and then Magneto and Charles recruiting Sinister and Forge to their new mission: finding a way to put all mutants together in their own fortress, and a way to keep mutants from ever dying.
They bring all mutants to Krakoa, their new fortress (ALL mutants – heroes like Marvel Girl or Cypher; villains like Apocalypse or Gorgon; even dead ones like Xorn or Sophie Cuckoo). They use Krakoan fauna to create three drugs – to cure most illness, heal mental trauma, and extend human life by five years – and then use those drugs as leverage to gain UN recognition for the island and amnesty for any mutant in the world.
The mutant island’s formation triggers the Orchis protocols: a gathering of human scientists with the goal of creating machine defenses for humanity. They’re joined by Karima Shapandar, the Omega Sentinel and erstwhile X-ally, as they repurpose an old Iron Man dyson sphere to build a Mother Mold – a Sentinel factory that builds other Sentinel factories. Charles and Magneto believe this is the moment that Nimrod emerges, so they send a team to destroy it before it comes online.
That raid turns out to be a suicide run: Penance, Cyclops, Archangel, Marvel Girl, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Mystique are all killed ejecting Mother Mold into the sun as it wakes up.
But they have a way to cheat death, as well. They die in horrible ways in space, but are almost immediately brought back by The Five:
– Goldballs, a mutant introduced in Brian Michael Bendis’ Uncanny X-Men run with the power to…shoot gold balls out of his chest. In House of X #5, we found out they’re actually eggs.
– Proteus, the reality warping child of Moira and Joe MacTaggert, who would tweak the eggs to match the bodies of the deceased mutants. He was a big X-Men villain from right before the Dark Phoenix saga, who now uses husk clones of Charles as fresh bodies when his power burns out the old one.
– Elixir, an Omega mutant from the Academy X days with the power to heal completely (or kill) with a touch.
– Tempus, another Bendis creation, with the power to manipulate the flow of time who could age the bodies to their peak age.
– And Hope Summers, the first mutant born after the Scarlet Witch depowered 98% of all living mutants in House of M, with the power to mimic other mutants and smooth out the application of their powers in themselves.
After the celebration of their resurrection, a ruling council is named: Xavier, Magneto, Apocalypse, Marvel Girl, Nightcrawler, Storm, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, Exodus, Sinister, and Mystique. The series ends with a Return of the Jedi-style celebration on Krakoa.
The Unanswered Questions of HoXPoX
One of the most impressive things about HoXPoX is the sheer volume of ideas dumped into the books that are left for Dawn of X titles to eventually pick up and run with. It’s reminiscent of classic X-Men stories: when the comics first became the cultural juggernauts they grew into, plot threads were left dangling for years, even decades, for other creators to tease out in their own books. This interconnected continuity made X-Men fandom a community in ways other comics didn’t ever manage to pull off. What follows are some of the ideas on the table that caught my eye.
Omega Sentinel and the Real Path Forward
Karima Shapandar is on the Orchis base and helps the humans kill Cyclops and Mystique, but she is clearly uncomfortable with her role there – when Nightcrawler runs into her on the base, she’s almost bitter about how she’s being excluded from Krakoa. Moira’s plan for the mutants is “everyone together,” but the one thing they haven’t tried in all her ten lives is allying with the machines. This feels prominent.
Mother Mold came online as Wolverine was hacking off its supports to drop it into the sun. It regaled Logan with a speech about how the humans and the mutants were both failures, and the machines will burn them both. This tracks with Nimrod and Omega’s attitudes in life 9: they fight the mutants, but they have a powerful dislike for humans as well. The point here is that Nimrod is almost certainly online.
Arrako and Apocalypse’s History with Krakoa
Powers of X #4 gave us a brief history of Krakoa – it was originally one island, Okkara, that was split in two by an invasion from what appeared to be Limbo, a realm of demons. The demons were repelled by Apocalypse and his first horsemen, and Krakoa was left on Earth, while Arrako and possibly the first horsemen were sealed away in another realm, with the first horsemen standing guard in case of another invasion. With Apocalypse now on Krakoa, this almost has to be addressed.
The first act of the Quiet Council was to set out the three baseline rules for living on Krakoa: respect the island, make more mutants, and no killing humans as they can’t be resurrected. Sabertooth was convicted of violating the final law for the murders he did, specifically against Magneto’s orders, in the heist in House of X #1 to steal data about the Orchis base. His punishment was not death, as that would have placed him in resurrection protocols. Instead, he was swallowed by Krakoa to be kept in stasis for an indefinite period of time.
Doug Ramsey’s first appearance in the series had him sporting a fancy, techno-organic arm. His best friend in New Mutants was Warlock, a mutant technarch and member of the race we now know as the beings who sweep up organic material for the Phalanx to power their ascension. When he first visited Krakoa, his T-O arm brushed Krakoan fauna, and it looked an awful lot like he infected the island.
Sinister betrays mutants in every timeline. Every single one.
Namor and Atlantis
Namor was long considered the first mutant (until the various Apocalypse retcons started pouring in). He’s also the king of Atlantis, the country that exists undersea and thus, beneath Krakoa. He declined Charles’ invitation to join them on Krakoa, but he’s still out there lurking. And he’s got a long history with powerful blonde women.
The Red King
There’s one seat on the Quiet Council of Krakoa left unfilled. The Hellfire Club’s table has a space reserved for a Red King (with Emma Frost being the White Queen and Sebastian Shaw as the Black King). The identity of that Red King has been teased, but not detailed yet.
The Tarot Cards
Powers of X #1 introduced us to a tarot card reading for Moira that happened early in the X^0 scenes. The three cards she drew were the Magician, “a metal metamorph” with a “great sword and the girl with one foot in two worlds;” The Tower, a “pillar of collapse and rebirth;” and The Devil, “the red god and the lost cardinal of the last religion.” The Tower’s meaning is obvious – there was tower iconography throughout the two books, in all four timelines (on the various islands in X^0, on Krakoa in X^1, Nimrod’s base in X^2, and in the preserve in X^3). The Devil and the Magician are also clearly Cardinal and Rasputin from X^2, but there’s a strong implication that at least Rasputin will be showing up in the current timeline. That’s because…
Powers of X #6 confirmed that data that goes into a singularity exists outside of space time. Rasputin died in X^2 when she took Xorn’s helmet off, unleashing the singularity in his brain. Cardinal was also caught in that singularity. Can that transfer them to the current timeline? What else came through? Does that mean that the Xorns, who we clearly see in the background of HoX #1, exist like Molecule Man did in Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers books and events, as consciousnesses that span multiple time periods?
Krakoa needs more pylons
The undercurrent of most of House of X is, in a very nerdy and specific sense, one of resource management. There are five Cerebro backups in the world. The Five who perform the resurrections are the only ones capable of doing that job, and so far, Charles is the only one who can drop the backup souls into the bodies. Omega Mutants are flagged as Krakoa’s most important resource. What happens if one of the five is unavailable? How fast can they get Jean or Emma or the Cuckoos trained up on Cerebro? Who guards the backups? The answer to the last question is likely to be answered in X-Force, but the rest are very open questions.
Franklin Richards is an omega level reality manipulator and the child of Reed Richards and Sue Storm. He’s specifically called out in House of X #1 as important to the mutants. He’s also the one who, according to Hickman’s Secret Wars, the one who recreated the multiverse from nothing. This is DEFINITELY important.
Wolverine and Moira X
Logan and Moira have a close relationship in at least two of her lives, spending centuries together over the course of her 2000-ish years of consciousness. This relationship ended with him killing her, because “this is what [he does],” in both lives we see. Expect this to be explored.
“There can be no precogs on Krakoa”
Mystique’s condition for joining the ruling council of Krakoa is Destiny’s resurrection. Moira is adamant that this cannot happen – she is worried about precogs seeing the future and blowing up their whole plan, or even killing her again to reset the timeline. Charles and Erik basically spend this entire discussion yes-ing Moira to death. I can only speak from personal experience, but when I do this to someone, it means I’m going to do whatever the hell I want, and one of those things that I want is to end the conversation as quickly as I can.
One of the most uncomfortable things about Moira’s big retcon is how it changes her relationship with Joe MacTaggert, Proteus’ father. He was an abusive bastard and Proteus was the product of marital rape. Powers of X #6 specifically addresses this, in a way, as being part of Moira’s plan – her diary mentions that she was looking for a partner for her to have a child with to create an Omega Mutant. It also says that she was doing this for Charles, and his own extremely problematic child is Legion, David Haller, an Omega Mutant with the power to have an infinite and varied amount of powers. I’m almost certain that one of those powers was precognition, and if it wasn’t, it certainly can be without too much imagination required. He’s not accounted for in these books, but flagged in the Omega Mutant data page in House of X #1.
Moira’s 11th Life
Destiny tells Moira that she sees 10 lives, “maybe 11 if [she makes] the right choice at the end” for Moira. We’re in the middle of life 10.
In some of the promotion for the relaunch, other writers privy to Hickman’s plans mentioned that, to paraphrase, he was building out his ideas modularly, stuffing the book full of big ideas but with a way to close off this relaunch if it didn’t resonate with readers. Moira’s theorized 11th life feels like that reset button, set out on the table and ready to be pushed when it’s needed.
What’s Next for Mutants in the Marvel Universe?
Dawn of X is the umbrella covering the first wave of post-HoXPoX X-Men comics, and now that we’re through the introduction, we can see an outline of what those books will look like moving forward.
X-Men is the flagship book, written by Hickman with art from a rotating team that includes Leinil Francis Yu and Powers of X’s RB Silva, at least to start. This is the book that looks to be the main story of the mutants, with a rotating cast of X-Men taking on the new world.
Marauders, by Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli, is the story of the Hellfire Trading Company as they smuggle Krakoan drugs around the world. Kitty Pryde, Storm, Bishop, Pyro, Iceman are the main cast manning the ships, while Emma and Shaw do their thing manipulating things behind the scenes. It sounds like they will be, in addition to the main distributors of Krakoan drugs, also smuggling them into countries that have refused to acknowledge Krakoa (like North Korea or Wakanda), and smuggling mutants out of those countries.
X-Force will be written by Ben Percy with art from Joshua Cassara. They are positioned as Krakoa’s CIA, with an intelligence team and a wetworks squad. Sage, Black Tom Cassidy, Beast, and Trinary are the intelligence leads, with Forge running a wetworks shop deep within Krakoa, and Quentin Quire, Marvel Girl, Colossus, Wolverine and Domino as the field team. One of their mandates seems almost certain to be confirming mutant deaths to initiate resurrection protocols.
Excalibur by Tini Howard and Marcus To will deal with mutants and their relationship to magic. Psylocke is taking over as the new Captain Britain, and she’ll be joined by Jubilee, Rogue, Gambit, Rictor, and Apocalypse, and with all of his new backstory floating around, this is one of the most exciting new books on the schedule.
New Mutants will be cowritten by Hickman and Ed Brisson, with art from Rod Reis. This book will feature traditional students – original New Mutants like Karma, Wolfsbane, Cypher, Sunspot and Magik; Generation Xers like Mondo and Chamber; and newer classes like Glob Herman – as one group welcomes new mutants to Krakoa, while the other heads off to Shi’ar space to bring Cannonball home. A “spoiler variant” cover for one of the HoXPoX issues has Sunspot sitting on the throne of Chandilar, the Shi’ar homeworld, and could follow up on ideas introduced in Moira’s ninth life.
Fallen Angels is drawn by Szymon Kudransky and written by Bryan Hill. It features Kwannon, Cable and X-23 out in the world. With the announced additions of Husk and Bling to the cast, this book seems like it will be dealing with mutants with body autonomy issues in their past who are uncomfortable with what the Krakoan mutants are doing.
And finally, announced at NYCC, a Wolverine solo series is coming in February from Percy and legendary Wolverine artist Adam Kubert. Little detail was given about this book, but it’s reasonable to speculate that this might be about Wolverine freelancing instead of following orders from his X-Force compatriots. This would also be a logical place to examine the Wolverine/Moira relationship in greater detail.
Why Does HoXPoX Matter?
Aside from the continuity implications (which are huge), the biggest thing that HoXPoX accomplished was truly astonishing: for the first time in probably twenty years, it really felt like all of the superhero comics reading public was united in their glee from these books.
Superhero comics fans are a large group with a lot of strongly held opinions, but what HoXPoX showed was that we’re united in our desire for X-Men comics to be big and fun and meaningful again. The X-Men line suffered a devastating wound from House of M, and when they were (seemingly) shuffled off to the side once the MCU got big, comics felt a little smaller, a little less meaningful, almost a little meaner.
HoXPoX gave us a big, sweeping, fascinating story and paired it with utterly stunning artwork from pencilers Silva, Pepe Larraz, and colorist Marte Gracia who all did career best work on these books. And they made comics a ton of fun to talk about again. If you don’t believe me, go check out the #XSpoilers hashtag for three days after each issue dropped. I’ve had a pull list for a decade, and have been reading single issues as often as I could grab them for longer. I’ve never had this much fun reading a comic as it came out before. I can’t wait for what’s next.