By Steve Morris
House of X #2 bluntly states that Moira MacTaggert is a mutant who has the power of resurrection. It’s a coldly released piece of information in an issue full of exposition, a bluntly rational look at a life often lived.
Whenever Moira dies she returns to the start of her life cycle, spending nine sentient months back in her mother’s womb before going on to live her life from the same starting point she had before. As a teacher and then a scientist, she’s thus able to turn her life into an incredibly long-term scientific experiment, using herself as the pilot to find out what kind of ripple effect one Scottish woman can generate. At the same time she then forms Jonathan Hickman’s scientific experiment, as he looks at how he can change the momentum of the mutant race across various lifetimes, all lived through the same woman as she grows more and more inwardly focused on her own mutant nature.
As such, it’s a fairly controversial decision, and the sort that the series needed to make. It’s essentially the sort of concept you’d have got in Manhattan Projects, where each issue would take a new scientist and burden them with some kind of hugely complicated gimmick which wouldn’t really play much into their actual character arc. Here, Moira is the first to get the overhaul, and it’s a choice which plays to the grandstanding idea that “this is the important run which will change things”. House of X has been built up to such an absurd extent that it needs to do ridiculous things to its characters, for whatever better or worse it might return for readers.
Adding the mutant gene to Moira, one of the most prominent human characters in the X-Men franchise, is an attempt to add something new to her, and increase her importance. However whilst adding to her, it also takes away, and that’s the imbalance which overloads this issue. The addition of her mutant ability gives her a new direction and a concerning vision in hindsight, but more than this it takes away her humanity. It was important that there were humans and mutants working together in helping the betterment of mutantkind: Moira’s devotion to the cause was all the more heroic and aspirational because she wasn’t part of the group she was trying to protect and nurture. It served as a (lopsided, but well-intentioned) early attempt at showing allyship across cultures.
And further, the dynamic between her and Xavier shifted over time in recent years so we saw her as the protector – and Xavier as the abuser – for the children they adopted into the X-Mansion. She had their best interests and tried to do everything that was best for them, whilst Xavier was busy sending them off on suicide missions and wiping their family’s memories. Over previous years we saw Xavier’s dream as a corrupt and dangerous presence, therefore, which militarised children and resulted in him increasingly using “necessary” and troubling methods to achieve his goals. Here, we see him in a far more innocent light.
Firstly we find out that Moira’s first attempt to do something different leads to her being self-destructive: she puts together a voluntary “cure” for the mutant gene which she likely plans to use on herself – the unspoken logic being that her mutant power is resurrection, so if she isn’t a mutant she won’t resurrect anymore. However Destiny and Mystique see how short-sighted this idea is and how it will be used by humans moving forward, so they firebomb the lab and kill Moira after challenging her to try out some variables across multiple lives – which Moira does, finding new information each time. She tries Xavier twice and falls for his charms, but ultimately pushes to more destructive forces like Magneto’s camp super-villain posturing or Apocalypse’s blunt-force genocides. Nothing gets her any further, so she returns once more to Xavier – which is the current Marvel timeline established by Stan and Jack.
Yet what’s most important about all this is that we’re watching a deliberately redacted experiment. Moira’s fate in several of the timelines is hidden from us – as is the entirety of her sixth lifetime, which isn’t mentioned at all. The timelines which stretch out in Tom Muller’s final infographic refer to things we have no basis for, and considering that Destiny pitches this to Moira as a rational scientific trial, we’re not being told what some of the variables or results are. That’s what’s genuinely fascinating about the whole thing.
From what we’re told here – and we are mainly told things here – Xavier’s dream is the only one which seems able to work. He is the only person Moira returns to time and again, so the comic is clearly suggesting the merits to Xavier’s dream. It also then works hard to show him as less in charge of his own actions than we thought, with him controlled by forces beyond him… just as Moira and Destiny each are in turn. Showing her mind to Xavier is an act of grooming on Moira’s part: Hickman explicitly calls him “radicalized” as a result of seeing her past. Whilst we’re told that Xavier has hints of self-adulation and initially puts Moira off, that is overwhelmed by the fact he’s just seen his own life retold, and that he’s put on an unnatural new pathway as a result. His instincts were just small facets of his personality before Moira walked in and forced him to take things into more extreme directions.
By making Moira a mutant in this fashion, she acts as a way of drawing some of the poison out of his character: he was influenced from the outside, so his choice to erase the odd mind or enslave the occasional alien sentience was really out of his hands. The Xavier who fell victim to his own worst nature is overwritten by an Xavier whose worst nature is a necessary and calculated part of the plan. It helps shape the X-Men’s internal narrative back towards a simpler pathway where Xavier is the moral choice; Magneto is the immortal choice; and Apocalypse is the infernal choice. It’s interesting how those are the only three choices shown here as having any real merit, though – we don’t see Moira use her knowledge to found the X-Men herself, or to meet Destiny again. Moira doesn’t even get to speak the majority of her own narrative, as it’s provided for her by an unseen narrator whom she occasionally interrupts.
It serves to add a lot of importance onto her character and removes all the emotional stake at the same time. Xavier and Moira are both unreadable and impossible as of this point, which is incredibly intriguing and exciting, if frustrating. They’re less characters for this moment and more experiments thrown out into the world, to see what kind of reaction they’ll provoke – and your enjoyment of the issue will hinge on how much you enjoy watching a scientific trial slowly unfold.
House of X #2
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciller: Pepe Larraz
Colourist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Designed by Tom Muller
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.