While You Slept, the World Changed: Answering 12 Important Questions About House of X and Powers of X

The journey has come to an end. House of X and Powers of X are complete. Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, RB Silva, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, Tom Muller and friends delivered an unforgettable story, and one that certainly commanded a level of attention we rarely see in the comic conversation these days. They were a dominant force, turning each Wednesday into the land of #XSpoilers on Twitter until you were able to read the comics, at which point you immediately want to talk about them because they compelled you to do so.

And now it’s time for the Dawn of X. There’s no rest for the merry mutants as X-Men #1 is launching this Wednesday. But before we get into that, I wanted to take a minute and look back on these two titles and 12 issues, as let’s be honest: they were a lot. I contemplated writing a traditional review for these titles, but there’s much more to consider than anything like that can really deliver. This was a beast that contained multitudes, and if I wrote about everything I wanted to write about, it’d feel schizophrenic in review form. So instead, let’s examine these two series that were really one by answering 12 important questions about them, or one for each issue that was released. Let’s get to it.

Moira MacTaggert from House of X #2, art by Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia

Who was the MVP of the series character wise and creator wise – if you don’t include Hickman?

When I was rereading the series for the seemingly 500th time, I tried very hard to find a character to pick as the MVP that wasn’t Moira. Professor X was obviously a big deal. Magneto was too, and he was always cool while doing it. Cypher was an essential part, and Sinister was undoubtedly the Most Fabulous Player. Namor had the highest rate of killer moments per page because everything he said was amazing and he was in the comic for precisely one page. Nimrod the Lesser was the most entertaining character, and Rasputin was the coolest new cast member. Not to be outdone, Emma Frost was 100% the coolest overall.

But it has to be Moira, right? There is a very strong case you can make that Moira is now the most important character in the entirety of the Marvel universe. Think about it. Moira is now a one character path to an entire line relaunch, and god only knows Hickman has one in his system at all times. I don’t think that’s what is going to happen. He’s already played that trick, and as much as he likes nod back to previous beats, that’s a substantial amount of recall. But it’s a fascinating escape hatch he’s built in for Marvel as a whole.

Plus, she’s now the orchestrator behind not just the current state of the X-Men but also effectively the entirety of their history. In fact, that’s arguably the biggest takeaway from this whole exercise, and that’s that Moira has been repositioned as the fourth pillar that holds up the building the X-Men franchise resides in. 15 Xavier might be the Alpha and Magneto may be the Omega, but Moira is the puppet master behind everything, a position that overrides the others.

Quick note: If Moira is the MVP, then the shadow MVP has to be Destiny, a character whose looming presence – despite being actually dead! 16 – is the one thing Moira seemingly fears and the one thing that could trigger the collapse of everything the mutants are doing besides the rise of post humanity, or homo novissima as you might call them if you were fancy.

As for the MVP creator beyond Hickman, who is the obvious pick, I’m going to cheat and give Pepe Larraz and RB Silva the top spot as a tie. These are two books that are one, and these two artists did everything they needed and more to make these titles feel that way. Even better, they both seemingly come from the Immonen school of art, and while they had their own look and feel, it was similar enough that they complemented each other nicely. Larraz and Silva were already A-listers in my heart, but now they’re A-listers in reality. Hire these men for your comic books.

The sleeper choice, though, is Marte Gracia. Gracia’s colors were the unifying visual element to the whole traditional comic part of the story. Without his colors, this whole thing doesn’t look as consistent visually. That was necessary for it to work. Larraz and Silva might be the right picks, but Gracia has a claim as well.

From Powers of X #4, art by RB Silva and Marte Gracia

Okay, that was an obvious character to pick. Let’s phrase that differently. Excluding the previous pick, which character was the most improved from where they were before to their current state?

If we exclude Moira, who went from a dead person in continuity to the most important character in Marvel comics from a potential impact standpoint – a healthy delta in terms of character relevance if there ever has been one – then we see a vast sea of opportunity because this puppy was loaded with ascension, and not just of the Phalanx variety. There are plenty of choices here, but I’m going to go with a character who also previously had been dead or unimportant, 17 and that’s Doug Ramsey – aka Cypher – a character that mostly made me think of another character 18 on the rare occasion I did think of him.

Ol’ Dougie is now the straw that stirs the Krakoan drink, as Hickman found a way to actually fully utilize Cypher’s language abilities by pairing him with the X-Men’s new home. He’s the one that makes that whole place work, he created the mutant language, and he’s the only one that can collaborate with Krakoa. That by itself makes him an essential part of this story in a way he has never truly been in the past. But when you factor in Doug infecting Krakoa with the Transmode virus and how the Phalanx and other, larger, related organisms like Dominions and Titans loom large – making Doug a key player in those future stories – you have an even bigger potential going forward.

Cypher wasn’t much of a deal before. Now he’s a big deal. He has well and truly ascended, even if it could lead to hard times in the future for our guy Doug.

Second place goes to Goldballs.

From Powers of X #1, art by RB Silva and Marte Gracia

How would you rank the Powers of X timelines?

I’d rank them in the only reasonable way to rank them. Here they are in reverse order, worst to first, so to speak, even if that’s not accurate because I liked all four.

X 3. Year One Thousand (Ascension): The whole Phalanx/Ascension story was one that had a lot of spice to it, with high highs – it’s where we learn the hammer point of the whole series – and the biggest heat check in the Phalanx and Dominion stuff. 19 But fittingly for the story set the furthest in the future, this storyline feels like it was the most about where we’re headed rather than where we are now, even if it was the much bandied about sixth timeline for Moira. Hickman’s not someone who just casually disregards Chekov’s Gun. If something shows up that’s as substantial as the expansion of those universal concepts – to the point he busts out the Kardashev Scale to contextualize them – it’ll come back. But that’s about tomorrow. Today, this timeline was the least interesting one, even if it was still fascinating.

X0, Year One (The Dream): As much as it pains me to not have the whole Bar Sinister sequence represented higher on this list, Year One itself was heavily built around “the most important scene in X-Men history” between Moira and Xavier. While it was objectively important – as was its partner in the form of Moira’s reveal to Magneto – it wasn’t as subjectively entertaining as the others. That’s enough for third place but no higher than that.

X1, Year Ten (The World): This probably should be third, as much of it is designed to establish the interconnectivity between the two titles. Yet it gets second because of the Cypher sequence that finds Ramsey familiarizing himself with Krakoa, the Emma section where she establishes herself as a key player, the Moira stuff that wraps the whole series up, and most importantly, the stone cold killer of a scene featuring Namor. It’s maybe not as important as the others, but there is some exceptional character work that keeps the ball rolling overall.

X2, Year One Hundred (The War): The timeline to end first, Year One Hundred was certainly the most exciting one as well as the one that had arguably the second biggest impact overall. It was Moira’s ninth life, and the one that found the squad discovering when Nimrod first came to be, empowering the X-Men in her tenth life. Most importantly, it featured the Chimera mutants Mister Sinister created, which very well may have been the coolest idea from the whole endeavor. Also cool: Xorn’s last moment, the first Rasputin fight, everything Apocalypse does, and, oh yeah, the GOAT that is Nimrod the Lesser. My man! I can’t talk about Year One Hundred without mentioning The Notorious NtL because he is the best. All of that combined makes this my favorite timeline, hands down.

Destiny and Moira from House of X #2, art by Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia

Which big moment from the series worked the best?

When I say big moments, I mean the ones that are designed to be the hammers that reveal something big or operate as game changers for something in the story, or the ones that are just notable well done because you gotta respect the narrative hotness. The way I see it, each issue had at least one, with most issues having multiple of them. Here they are in full.

  • Charles Xavier enters the pharmaceutical industry
  • Orchis is revealed
  • Magneto telling diplomats from around the world “You have new gods now.”
  • Rasputin attempts to save Cylobel
  • Moira is revealed as a mutant
  • Destiny and Moira face off
  • Pick a moment depicting really any of Moira’s lives
  • Apocalypse is revealed as the leader of the remaining X-Men in Year One Hundred
  • The Phalanx arrive
  • Rasputin removes Xorn’s mask
  • Wolverine kills Moira after feeding her Nimrod’s origin
  • Erasmus blows himself up on The Forge in an attempt to take out the boarding X-Men
  • Wolverine and Nightcrawler sacrifice themselves to send the Mother Mold into the sun
  • The Mutant Sinister takes over
  • Cypher tells the tale of Krakoa and Arakko
  • The Five are revealed
  • The villains submit to the X-Men at Krakoa
  • Emma joins the squad
  • Namor doesn’t join the squad
  • The Quiet Council meets for the first time
  • There might be an orgy
  • We find out the mutants always lose

Okay, that’s a lot. But those are the ones I determined were absolutely essential beats for one reason or another. Not bad for twelve issues! But let us eliminate the obvious ones before we move further.

As much as I loved Sinister’s appearance, I can’t pick that. Emma joining and Namor not joining were fantastic, but several orders of magnitude down in importance. I’m certainly pro orgy, but it’s hardly essential. Erasmus’ self-sacrifice was a traditional issue conclusion, which made it fine but not transcendent. Xavier + Big Pharma and Orchis being revealed was immense and cool, but not much compared to the rest. Moira’s reveal as a mutant was important, but less so than the other beats from that issue, and the varying lives of Moira are incredible but less a moment and more what had to happen there. 20 The Apocalypse reveal, the Phalanx’s arrival, the Quiet Council’s first meeting, any time Wolverine killed Moira, and the villains submitting…those are all out. The biggest initial cut ends up being finding out the mutants always lose, for reasons we’ll cover later on. That leaves us with the following.

  • Magneto telling diplomats from around the world “You have new gods now.”
  • Rasputin attempts to save Cylobel
  • Destiny and Moira face off
  • Rasputin removes Xorn’s mask
  • Wolverine and Nightcrawler sacrifice themselves to take out the Mother Mold
  • Cypher tells the tale of Krakoa and Arakko
  • The Five are revealed

Now things get difficult. The first cuts are both Rasputin scenes. As rad as they are, they split the vote and are out. The Five reveal was mind-blowing and massively important, but I would say it was more well-conceived than remarkably executed. 21 The whole Krakoa and Arakko bit was incredible and will be important going forward, I’d wager. The whammy wasn’t fully there, though. That leaves a top three, and because I’m nothing if not committed to completing a power rankings, let’s rank those below.

  1. Destiny and Moira facing off: This felt like a foundational moment for the entire series, it was perfectly executed, and it was just an unbelievably clever establishment of a counter-balance to Moira’s newly found powers
  2. “You have new gods now.”: The final beat to House of X #1 almost acted as a mission statement for everything to come, and it was just an unbelievably potent moment
  3. Wolvie + Kurt sacrifice themselves: My two favorite proper X-Men – and two characters with a long, well-established relationship – giving their lives for the greater good was beautifully handled, even if it was almost immediately reversed
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  1. The other three being Xavier, Magneto and Apocalypse, as evidenced by those four being the only people who had open and close quotes besides Namor, and that’s only because Namor cares not for how things are meant to work.

  2. Which hardly mattered in the past for the X-Men, but somehow matters less now.

  3. More often than not, at least.

  4. Warlock.

  5. I compared Hickman trying to make the Phalanx an essential element of this story to a master chef trying to make a killer Sloppy Joe’s recipe. I stand by it.

  6. Plus they all cancel each other out in terms of ranking.

  7. It’s both, but it’s verse not chorus, so it’s not getting stuck in my head.

  8. The other three being Xavier, Magneto and Apocalypse, as evidenced by those four being the only people who had open and close quotes besides Namor, and that’s only because Namor cares not for how things are meant to work.

  9. Which hardly mattered in the past for the X-Men, but somehow matters less now.

  10. More often than not, at least.

  11. Warlock.

  12. I compared Hickman trying to make the Phalanx an essential element of this story to a master chef trying to make a killer Sloppy Joe’s recipe. I stand by it.

  13. Plus they all cancel each other out in terms of ranking.

  14. It’s both, but it’s verse not chorus, so it’s not getting stuck in my head.

  15. The other three being Xavier, Magneto and Apocalypse, as evidenced by those four being the only people who had open and close quotes besides Namor, and that’s only because Namor cares not for how things are meant to work.

  16. Which hardly mattered in the past for the X-Men, but somehow matters less now.

  17. More often than not, at least.

  18. Warlock.

  19. I compared Hickman trying to make the Phalanx an essential element of this story to a master chef trying to make a killer Sloppy Joe’s recipe. I stand by it.

  20. Plus they all cancel each other out in terms of ranking.

  21. It’s both, but it’s verse not chorus, so it’s not getting stuck in my head.