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Tuesday, August 20, 2019 

The Times-Record fawns over Hickman's X-retcons

The Fort-Smith Times-Record wrote up a predictably fluff-coated take on Jonathan Hickman's X-Men relaunches:
And lo, as promised, a new line of X -books was announced at SDCC for “Dawn of X,” the umbrella title for the re-launch.

Not that this caused much X-citement, because reboots have become so common in comics that no one really X-pects much when one is announced. Heck, the X-Men line of books just went through a reboot not too long ago, which one would be hard pressed to identify now.

Not this time. These last few weeks, as “House of X” and “Powers of X” have hit the stands, Hickman has X-ploded the status quo. This isn’t your father’s X-Men, or even your older brother’s X-Men. This is an X-Men nobody has ever seen before.
And this is an X-Men few but the most desperate will care about. I just don't see what's so novel in turning almost every character in this franchise into a mutant, regardless of whether it's logical or not, as Hickman did with Moira MagTaggart.
In just the first two issues of “House of X,” Hickman has established that mutants will outnumber humans within 20 years, which adds a little urgency to the many mutant extermination programs (Sentinels, etc.) run by various human groups and nations. Further, Professor Xavier has given up on his dream of human and mutant co-habitation, and created a refuge for his kind on the mutant (and sentient) island of Krakoa, introduced way back in 1975. Further further, Krakoa produces three unique, life-changing drugs, which the “Krakoans” — who have their own language now — will give to any nation that recognizes Krakoa and establishes diplomatic ties. Further further further, Krakoa can grow teleportation portals anywhere its seeds are planted, and now the mutants can teleport instantaneously anywhere there’s a portal, from Jerusalem to New York to the Moon to Mars.
I think that plot's been used too. Nothing novel there either. Though why do I get the disturbed feeling this is meant to serve as an ugly liberal metaphor for the state of Europe being overrun with Islamists? I also find the notion they'd produce drugs disgusting, because the world's got enough of that too as it is. And unless it's an imposter, Xavier forfeiting his vision of co-existence is another galling development.
After a few more furthers we get to another huge knowledge bomb: Moira MacTaggert, a former flame of Xavier also introduced in the ’70s, has revealed herself to be a mutant — one who reincarnates in the womb each time she dies, with all of her memories intact. She is now on her tenth life, which probably explains the title “House of X,” if you read it as “House of 10.”

This is a shocker, because Moira — who spawned the supervillain Proteus with Xavier — has always been depicted as a human. A human sympathetic to mutants, yes, but a human just the same.

But now she’s revealed as a mutant with multiple lives, and as we learn in “House of X” #2, she wasn’t always pro-mutant. Hickman gives us a timeline and salient information about each of her previous nine lives — except for the sixth, about which he tells us nothing. Anyway, in her third life, Moira regarded mutation as a curse, and developed a cure. That would have wiped out mutants had the cure been made public, but Moira was stopped in her tracks — and burned alive — by some familiar mutants of dubious morals. Warned against trying those shenanigans again, and seeing firsthand the visceral hate directed at mutants in other lives, Moira went the other way, allying with, in different timelines, Xavier, Magneto or Apocalypse.

She was warned back in Life No. 3 that she may only have 10 or 11 lives before she’s kaput for good, so she’s decided that this life she’s going for broke — and talked Xavier into it as well. Life No. 10 appears to be the one we’ve all been reading since the X-Men’s debut in 1963, one in which Moira died some time ago — except Hickman’s timelines assure us that her death was faked.

That’s pretty fascinating. And it tells us that there’s a ton more to know yet to come — literally nine other colossal stories that re-write X-Men history as we know it, again and again. Best of all, if there are any elements of X-history that Hickman forgets or ignores or trashes in his current tales ... well, rest easy, longtime X-fans. That thing you loved did happen, but in another of Moira’s lives.

Is that genius, or what?
Nope. Resurrection is a fine thing (unless maybe it's an awful writer penning one), but this type of reincarnation only sounds irritating. Maybe the most horrific part is that it almost makes the obscene acts of mutants burning Moira at stake look justified.
And that’s not the only consideration. For one thing, in the first few pages of “House of X,” it looks like Xavier and Krakoa are growing X-Men in pods. That isn’t explained outright, but it does raise the question of whether anyone you recognize is who you think it is.

And what of Xavier? This won’t surprise anyone familiar with X-Men history, but he was dead until recently. Prof. X was resurrected in “Astonishing X-Men” last year, slightly after Jean Grey’s latest return from the grave, but shortly before Cyclops and Wolverine did the same. In “Return of X,” his psyche was rescued from the astral plane (where it had been held prisoner by the Shadow King) and now inhabits the body of Fantomex (who gave up his body voluntarily, but interestingly, is a man whose mutation includes having more than one brain).

It was at that point that Xavier — if indeed it is him — declared that he would henceforth be known simply as “X,” and had a new dream. Evidently, that’s what’s being manifested in “House of X.”

But is it truly Xavier? This new plan seems much more suited to the segregationist Magneto — who is, suspiciously, now an ally — and X’s actions overall seem like those of a bad guy. Maybe it’s not Xavier, miraculously returned from the dead. Maybe it’s the Shadow King. Maybe it’s one of Fantomex’s other brains. Maybe it’s one of the X-Men’s other psychic foes, like Cassandra Nova or Emma Frost. Maybe it’s alt-Earth villain The Maker, who wears a helmet suspiciously similar to that favored now by X.
Oh, this is so boring. But weirdly enough, this makes it sound like he's become a metaphor for Malcolm X.
This is a huge gamble for Marvel, essentially re-writing the premise of X-Men just as the Cinematic Universe gets the rights to the characters. If and when they arrive on screen, will they even resemble their comics counterparts?

But so far it seems to be paying off. The first issues of “Hox” and “Pox” were the best-selling titles in July, and while most miniseries have a severe drop-off after the first issue, I can’t see anyone reading these books and not wanting to know what happens next.

Which means they are very, very good comics. You might even say X-cellent.
Well I'm not taking a sugar-drenched column like this at face value, and besides, they've still got Joe Quesada to cope with. The real question is whether Hickman's subjects resemble their previous counterparts in the comics of yesteryear? He did have a valid point why the comics shouldn't be going out of their way to imitate the differences made in movies, but that doesn't mean he should resort to awfully easy "revelations" either, which don't guarantee story merit on their own. Turning Moira into yet another mutant, again, is cheap, and doesn't serve the earlier stories well either. Taking civilian co-stars and drastically altering them so they're little or no different from their superpowered leads only lessens the balance and impact.

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"Though why do I get the disturbed feeling this is meant to serve as an ugly liberal metaphor for the state of Europe being overrun with Islamists?"

Nope, more along the lines of Judaism and the theme of making a homeland, i.e. Israel. Here's an explanation from a Twitter thread:

Let's start with the obvious: Jerusalem was chosen almost entirely to point out the similarities a nation like Israel to a Mutant nation. About how ideals can clash with the reality of world politics. Is it a condemning? Not really (at least not as much as it could be) it's more of a wake up call both in text and out of text: good intentions can only get you so far. And Magneto being the active member here makes it look intentional (also about the speech at the end and Magneto's own religion standing is probably a different discussion but overall it seems both in character and somewhat theatrical) but the meat of the story and what cements it in my mind as a very specific Jewish/Israeli allegory is Magneto saying "There has never been a Mutant war". Well there has never really been a Jewish war when we were a minority. But when we have gotten a nation things changed. Because for good or ill your responsibilities changes once you become a nation. And that's partly why this feels more like Krakoa is more a Utopia then actually real. Why the Mutants are falling to the same traps Humanity/Israel has fallen too in the past.

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