House of X/Powers of X—A Deep Dive into the Storytelling

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(Examining the first 7 issues of 12)

A brief preface here, since I haven’t used my blog in about a million years (so it may seem). I had originally intended to discuss this comic series on YouTube, but after a series of missteps, my software isn’t working, my mic is not cooperating, and well…I just don’t have the time nor energy to put into correcting that right now. I do intend to get the Writing & Geekery channel going to talk about things I love eventually, but for now…I’m going to stick to my blog until I get that sorted. Also, I wrote this at seven a.m. after tossing and turning and not sleeping, so if I missed typos, I’m apologizing in advance. I’m tired. I tried. lol

That said, let’s dive right into this. Since it’s blog form and not a video, I don’t want to go through a long, written synopsis of the storyline itself. I assume if you’re reading this that you have read the comics. I strongly urge you—if you haven’t—to do so. This post WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS, as well as POTENTIAL SPOILERS for the rest of the series. If you don’t want to accidently be spoiled on the off chance I might be right about something that hasn’t happened yet, I encourage you to proceed with caution and run when you get to the section about foreshadowing. For those who are reading this post and haven’t read the comics, House of X and Powers of X are published by Marvel Comics, written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Pepe Larraz and coloring by Marte Garcia. There’s a neat little chart in the back of each book with the reading order so you won’t have a hard time figuring it out if you are starting midway through or even after all the books are out.

I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying this series, even though I was worried it was going to be a lot of hype with no payoff. That all changed with House of X #2, and I feel like that might be one of my all-time favorite comic books to date. I usually hate retcons, but this one was so surprising and interesting in the overall scheme of things that it really impressed me. Though I know there is some controversy surrounding that issue and where the idea for it stemmed from (I’m not going to discuss that, but I am aware of it).

A part of what makes this series really stand out to me is the scope of it. Spanning 10 lifetimes and 4 timelines, there’s a LOT of story in these 12 issues. So much so that it needs pages of exposition in paragraph or chart forms to help cover it all. I’ve seen many comic reviewers gripe about these because they feel pages of text is a rip-off with the higher price point of the comic and it reduces the amount of art pages, and I both agree and disagree in that they are info-dumps, which you try to avoid in writing any type of story. At the same time, these pages set up a lot of foreshadowing in that much of what we seen there either pertain to something in the same book or one of the following ones. It gives information needed for the scale of the worldbuilding without having to be inserted into the dialogue within the comic itself in an unnatural way. That foreshadowing is only one of the elements to this story I want to discuss in this post.

NOSTALGIA

One of the things this series is doing to excite readers is playing on nostalgia while also distancing itself from the past. It’s changing the course of the continuity that has always been a bit shaky, but in doing this we have massive callbacks to characters that haven’t shown up in the comics for some time like the Phalanx or Destiny or Penance (at least I think Penance hasn’t been there a while. I do my comic reading sporadically). Then there is also the costumes the characters are wearing for this series, many of which go way, way back like Jean Grey’s Marvel Girl costume, and others are the costumes made iconic in the 90s for anyone who got into the comics through the animated television show. Not only do the characters look more familiar in some of their older costumes, but X-Men has always been strongest when they’re telling the story of prosecuted minorities. House of X #4 displays this in full force, and it’s an emotional gut punch. We’re given a story that’s back to its roots—even if those roots might take place in this updated version of Krokoa, which appeared in its first iteration all the way back in Giant-Sized X-Men #1, published in 1975.

ALLEGORY (Biblical and Greek Mythology)

This isn’t a new concept. In fact, X-Men uses this a lot by referencing things directly or indirectly to point out social commentary and say a lot about morality. Nimrod, for example was named for a Biblical figure in the book of Genesis known as a “great hunter.” Apocalypse has his four horsemen. Just to name a few things. However, Hickman decides not to sugarcoat his allegory and makes it apparent in House of X #1 that this is a story steeped in symbolism by having a character even point out religious symbolism directly on the page. The book is framed by quotes at the beginning and end of the book (as all the following ones are as well), but this one specifically opens with a scene from Xavier and closes in a scene with Magneto. A quote from Xavier starts the book, with the encryption code (for lack of a better term for it since it is meant to resemble digital information) at the bottom of the page marked “Alpha.” The quote at the end from Magneto includes the encryption code “Omega.” Anyone familiar with X-Men knows this, of course, directly references their power levels as mutants. Magneto is an Omega-level mutant; Charles Xavier is an Alpha-level mutant. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and Omega is the last letter. Alpha is noted on the first page of the book, and Omega is on the ending page of the book. The beginning and the end.

 

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In the Bible’s book of Revelation, there is a passage which reads: “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”

Now, the thing about allegory is that there’s two stories being told. The one on the surface level which is the X-Men story we are reading, and the one using religion, mythology, etc. to reference stories we are all familiar with to create a parallel meaning to what we are reading. After his opening quote, Xavier is standing there saying, “To Me, My X-Men” while two mutants crawl out of pods in the dirt looking remarkably like Scott Summers and Jean Grey—two of the original X-Men characters—the Adam and Eve, if you will, of the entire series. The Magneto quote at the end follows the scene of him pointing out that they chose to use Jerusalem, an ancient city considered holy by not one but three major religions to be symbolic of the message they were sending the humans. He proclaims the mutants to be the new gods now while standing in a paradisiacal realm that humans cannot enter without being escorted into by a mutant. So the subtle placement of Alpha and Omega is not coincidental. And this isn’t the only instance of it.

We see the terms again with the hierarchy of sentinels. The first, most basic sentinels are alpha sentinels and the most advanced (except for Nimrod, of course) are the Omega sentinels. One of the Omega sentinels in Powers of X is actually referred to as a god by a priest at the Church of Ascendency (Ascension, of course is a Biblical word for when Jesus died and ascended to Heaven, leaving his human life behind to become a higher being). And weirdly, with both the inclusion of a Mother Mold and Moira being so vital to the timeline and having the alias of Mother, both the mutants and machines have a version of the Holy Trinity being laid out in front of us. The thing is though, I think this layer goes a bit deeper in that “Alpha and Omega” is often debated on whether or not Jesus is referred to as both, or if God is the Alpha and Jesus the Omega, and there is an argument for both here.

But, looking at the sentinels and knowing how Karima became an Omega sentinel through Bastian—which was a merging of Nimrod that had time traveled from the future and a Master Mold—it seems as though Omega sentinels could not have been created without Nimrod and his technology coming through time. That means he existed in that timeline and has already come back through time, and he was a creation that was actually, in a linear fashion, created last in this hierarchy of sentinels but was responsible in the creation of the more advanced ones.

Whereas, with the mutants, Charles, the “Alpha” isn’t the first mutant, though he is the one that “creates” the X-Men and is the father figure to the team. There’s a character much older, more god-like that precedes him in age and existence. And that’s Apocalypse. He’s widely believed to be the first mutant, though that is up to some debate, due to Selene’s backstory. For this argument, however, let’s say he is. Apocalypse is the Alpha. Nimrod is the Omega. Mutants are the beginning of this mutant-man-machine war. Nimrod is the ending. And we see this in action when Apocalypse faces off against Nimrod in Powers of X in order to give Moira, the Mother, “the seed”…if you will…of information to use when she enlightens Charles Xavier and Magneto, the Alpha and Omega, to try again to stop the machines in life ten.

So, for reiteration here because that just sounds confusing no matter how many times I try to make it not sound that way… you have symbolism here

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of mutants and machines as gods. Krokoa in a sense can be looked at as a take on the Garden of Eden, Olympus, (or, in a somewhat grimmer light…the Elysian Fields of Greek mythology). Xavier, Magneto and Moira seem to have created it, and to refer back to my inclusion of Apocalypse in the symbolism from before, Krokoa in the sense we see it in this series doesn’t exist in this way until Moira’s ninth life—where she is with Apocalypse. The church of Ascendancy in her ninth life sees that humans are being changed into machines and worshiping machines like gods. In the year X³ timeline, the machines have fully taken over and what is left of humans are on preserves where they run naked like animals giving another Adam and Eve-like parallel in the series.

The Greek mythology seems actually lighter than the Biblical references, but it’s there, nonetheless. Some of which I stated above in terms to Krokoa, but the most obvious moment so far is the speech, given by the Mother Mold in House of X #4 in which she says, “If man made me, then they are God. And you are titans, the spoiled lineage… But while you war, we children sit in judgement of those above us—we judged and found you both wanting. Do you hear us, Olympus? We have stolen your fire…and with it, we will burn you all.” This is in reference to the gods of Olympus clashing with the Titans, where the gods overthrew the Titans and imprisoned the majority of them to take control of the world. A Titan named Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans. In punishment, he was bound to a rock and a giant eagle would devour his liver every single day after it had time to grow back.

What’s interesting is that this passage from Mother Mold makes perfect sense, yet the allusions to the mythology are a bit contradictory—which, of course, shows that the programing was not completed at the time of activation, and it wasn’t fully sane enough to be brought online yet. When referring to the gods of Olympus, it uses the singular, proper noun God, and in reference to the Titans, this word is in lowercase when used by the Mother Mold. The humans, who directly created the Mother Mold, are referred to as the One True God of the Christian faith in this comparison, and the mutants, the Titans, are taken down a notch by making the proper noun into the a common one in juxtaposition to the capitalized G in God. Titans are the spoiled lineage in more than one way here as “spoiled” can have various meanings depending on the context used. They could be spoiled in that they over-indulged by being treated with too much reverence to the point they then became spoiled, as in tainted by their own petulant behavior. They could also be spoiled the way one could be spoiling for violence without good reason, in that Kronos did try to eat all of his offspring in fear that one would overthrow him, not realizing that his very actions were the cause for the battle of Olympians versus Titans. In the meantime, Mother Mold says the machines—observing the humans and mutants warring among themselves, two species that are directly related to one another, as in the gods of Olympus were the offspring of Titans—and found them wanting. They took what Prometheus gave them, fire, and are coming for Olympus (Krokoa is very Olympus-esque in that it’s where the mutants reside) and will watch both man and mutant burn—a thought echoed in an earlier conversation with Karima and Dr. Gregor where they discuss machines deciding humans are where mutants came from and the machines might choose to eliminate the problem from the root. The fire in Mother Mold’s statement is not literal, but metaphorical. It’s the spark of life, the spark of enlightenment.

I’m sure there are other instances of allegory I did not touch on here. Did you notice anything I didn’t discuss?

ALLUSION (Literary)

I’ve picked up on a few literary allusions in the last two issues. Starting where I left off with that Prometheus reference…did you know that “The Modern Prometheus” is a subtitle to a famous literary work? Well, it just so happens Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is the full title to Mary Shelley’s 1818 horror novel. Frankenstein, of course, is the story of Victor Frankenstein, who creates a living creature, giving it sentient life. It’s labeled a monster and feared for being something other or unknown. Victor Frankenstein would be the modern Prometheus in that he stole the spark of life and created a living being. Essentially, he played God. This story does directly reflect on the narrative of X-Men in that, mutants, like the monster, are feared for being different, though the sentinels and artificial intelligence are what humans end up creating.

In House of X #3, Emma Frost tells the humans, “It’s a brave new world, darlings… Best get used to it.” Brave New World is a dystopian novel that was

written by Aldous Hurley and published in 1932 featuring a futuristic, intelligence-based society and genetically modified people. The fear of losing one’s identity to technology is a universal one, and the reason this book is so often referenced in pop culture and remains relevant to this day. It’s also highly relevant to this X-Men story where we see an actual church in the future making humans into machines, and the process for becoming Omega sentinels is an actual loss of identity the humans become aware of when the process is nearly complete.

The third literary reference I noted was in the same issue as the last, and that was in reference to the “Heller-Faust line.” This took me a moment because it sounds like a lineage to possibly a character from the comics, but it’s actually the line between morality and knowledge questioned by Erich Heller in his 1962 article for the Chicago Review. This article was on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s version of Faust, and was titled, “Faust’s Damnation: The Morality of Knowledge.” I tried to get a copy of the article but was unable to. Though, I am quite familiar with the story of Faust, having had to read not only Goethe’s version but also Marlowe’s and Bulgakov’s in college, so was able to decipher the meaning here. Faust is a German legend about a man who makes a deal with the devil in exchange for knowledge and pleasure, only to become corrupted in the end. It’s a cautionary tale, so Faust’s “damnation” was seeking too much knowledge (among other things), and therefore the lust for knowledge is his downfall. In terms of the scene in the comic, it either can imply that not understanding why this was damning makes it immoral, or from the viewpoint of an omega sentinel, thinking too much knowledge is damning would make it sociopathic. I did check to see what other people made of this after I did my deep dive, and it looks like other reviewers came up with the same article in their search for meaning of it as well.

 

FORESHADOWING AND DRAMATIC IRONY

The way this series is set up has us jumping ahead in time and backward in time and seeing timelines side by side that aren’t in the same lifetime. Because of this, we end up knowing things before characters do if we see them in an earlier point (dramatic irony) or are given enough information that if you are astute enough you can figure out the twists and turns of the plot before it happens (foreshadowing). This section may contain POTENTIAL spoilers from speculation. Last warning on that…

Now, there has been more on the foreshadowing side of things than the dramatic irony, and I say that because the things we see and know ahead of the other characters happen in different timelines. We find out all about Mr. Sinister’s betrayal in the ninth timeline and still haven’t seen him in the tenth yet. Going back to that Biblical allegory from earlier, Sinister is definitely the Judas character of the group. Will Moira and the others trust him in their circle in the tenth life knowing he betrayed them in the ninth and will probably do it again? (and I have to point out because I just realized while editing this section that a betrayal from a Judas figure happening in the ninth life is another literary reference, this time to Dante’s Inferno, where the ninth circle of hell is reserved for those who betray. Judas is one of the sinners there, along with Cassius and Brutus, who betrayed Julius Caesar). Powers of X #4 is titled “Something Sinister,” but will we be seeing him in the ninth life, the tenth life, or maybe he plays heavily in the sixth life? (I strongly believe the sixth life is the timeline where the Phalanx arrives, and since Cylobel existed in that timeline to be killed by Nimrod, Sinister still may possibly play into it somehow).

We have also seen a new version of Jean and Scott being born from pods in Krokoa in the opening scene of House of X #1 (not to mention the covers for the six new X-Men books following the end of this series shows all the characters that just died in House of X #4 alive again. There’s definitely some dramatic irony at play there. Though, honestly, I wish those covers weren’t shown early. And the cover art for Powers of X may have spoiled something major for the end of the series as well, but I will get to that shortly.) So it seems pretty likely that we were shown at the beginning, and reminded through the information on Sinister’s breeding program, that it is possible to make copies of the X-Men to replace them. Knowing this ahead of time doesn’t quite answer everything, but makes the tragedy of the that issue a little easier to stomach.

As for foreshadowing, there’s so, so much of it. And I want to take a moment to mention the Chekhov’s Gun principle: if there is a shotgun in a story, the shotgun has to come into play by the end of the story. There are a few key information pages I feel this is definitely pertaining to, and that’s the Omega Protocol, Technarhs in the Galactic Society page, and the Omega Process.

Omega Protocol: Calls for the protection and nurturing of mutantkind’s “greatest natural resource” which is the Omega-level mutants. There hasn’t really been much showing this in action. Yet. But, my prediction on this is that Moira is possibly taking up the mantle of mutant cloning since she is a geneticist in life 10, and she’s had another lifetime to study how Mr. Sinister did it. If Nimrod is the culmination of the worst of the worst (or best of the best) in regard to sentinels, and even Apocalypse can’t do much against him, what can? I believe that, if humans have to have a reason and a purpose to create Nimrod, and they already had plans to do it in life ten, the attack on the Mother Mold will ignite the humans in their quest to eradicate mutants. If Nimrod was only a possibility before, he will be an actual goal going forward. The mutants will need to create the mutant equivalent to Nimrod. Would this be a clone of all the omega mutants combined, or at least five of them since that seemed to be about the limit in Moira’s ninth life? Is such a thing even possible?

With the title of House of X #5 being, “Society,” I turn back to the pages on Planetary and Galactic Societies again and can’t help feeling the amount of times it says technarchs can’t see other technarchs and don’t know they were created by a Phalanx is definitely a sign that something is going to happen with a technarch or be revealed as a technarch. It’s even in the encryption coding for the page. The most interesting aspect here to me is that the word “seeded” is used for how techno-organic viruses are planted by a Phalanx into a technarch. Seeds of course are relevant to three other aspects of this story: Krokoa seeds which are used to create portals for mutants or used as a super drug for humans, Apocalypse seeds which makes passive mutants like Cardinal able to act on violent tendencies, and on the Apocalypse and his Horsemen chart of all places. On the Akkaba page, it has the encryption, “Rise Akkaba, Mother. Stasis.” that foreshadows Moira being woken at the end of the comic. (Fun fact: it actually spoils the end of that comic on the title page in those little encryptions by repeating the title, which is what she says to Wolverine before he kills her, followed by “end 9” to signify the end of life nine. Pay attention to those little words in the brackets!) The Apocalypse side however is “Last Horsemen. Seed Seed.” With two references to Apocalypse and seeds, is it possible, with the ninth life being the first use of Krokoa in this way, that Apocalypse is who discovered how to use the seeds for Krokoa? And what does technarchs and seeding techno-organic viruses have to do with it? If anything. One way or another, the Phalanx and technarchs will have some part to play, maybe even in a different timeline than we currently are seeing them in.

Last but not least, and this is a big possible spoiler if true. The Omega Cycle lists how a human is infected and becomes an Omega sentinel. It goes

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into full detail showing that they will behave as though recovering from a trauma once they realize what is happening to them before they fully become machine. I thought it was weird that it was so detailed, but then I went looking to see if that promo image of Moira and Apocalypse kissing was going to be a variant cover (I write romance. Okay, I want that cover if it is one. Don’t judge. LOL) and looked a BIT too closely at the Moira cover for Powers of X #6 posted here, of her standing on a pile of dead mutants. There is a subtle pink aura around her and the pink triangle on her chest is very similar to the design for Nimrod. I’m a bit disappointed that they released this image if it is the big spoiler it looks like, but I

mean…it is Powers of X and not House of X. This could be what happens in the sixth life, or since there is a lot of Biblical allegory, then maybe Moira, like Eve, is tricked into getting infected with this nano-sentinel tech and Krokoa is lost to them like the garden of Eden when she kills them all. Or, perhaps I am on to something with a mutant clone designed specifically to defeat Nimrod. Maybe that’s not Moira at all but a clone of Moira combined with specific omega-level powers. If she becomes machine or is cloned, would that be the “maybe” eleventh life Destiny predicted? Would Destiny have seen her betraying mutants if she became a machine?

I have so many questions, but man, this series is so good. If you’re reading it as well, do you have any predictions or theories on how it will end?

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