By Steve Morris
Unity is an absolute concept. There’s no room for a whole which leaves out unpleasant truths, and in the penultimate issue of House of X we see Krakoa welcome in a whole new group of mutants: the “villains”, the unpleasant truths themselves. In this moment it becomes completely clear that Xavier is working on an absolute level, whereby his idea of a mutant world is incomplete without inviting in all the mutants who have previously worked and conspired against his personal dream. Apocalypse, Sinister, Selene and many other villains or ‘difficult’ mutants walk their way through the Krakoan portal and into the new world, and their footsteps fall both in line with one another and in time with Xavier. This is his ultimate victory, then, with Krakoa independent and isolated, leaving the almost entirety of mutantkind by themselves, free to make whatever they want of whatever they want.
By no coincidence it’s also one of the most unnerving issues of this project to date, even before those villains of the world make their way to shake hands with Xavier. Apocalypse – who speaks for these new additions to the island – is presented as their diplomat, and he’s one of a number of delegates who play nice for the crowd throughout the issue. Emma Frost; Storm; Xavier himself – a number of mutants have stepped up to speak on behalf of mutantkind, putting aside their self in order to better proclaim mutantkind. Apocalypse, of course, is the most pleased by all of this – by taking what is rightfully theirs, Apocalypse believes the mutants have finally bypassed the need for war and conflict, having ascended through all battles into a higher power which is unchallenged by any other on Earth. His survival of the fittest mantra required there to be constant fighting – but here he bows to Xavier’s ability to sidestep conflict and render it impotent: more on that later, but bear in mind how little of this series has been spent with action sequences. It took a long time to get any real fighting at all, and when we did? It’s an inevitable victory for the mutants, which uses foresight and scientific advancement to make it impossible for the mutants to lose.
Another mutant who steps up into the diplomatic spotlight here is Storm, who appears to have taken up a role as advocate for Xavier, and in particular his ability to bring dead mutants back to life. Having gathered together five mutants who in combination can essentially “hatch” a mutant egg and regrow any DNA back into a full-grown adult, Xavier can now grow mutants should they ever be lost. That makes battles somewhat irrelevant: if the X-Men win, then great. If they lose, they can resend the same mutants to rejoin the battle the next day, no worries. He also ensures there is no question that the mutants are “real” – Storm gives a long speech declaring so, as Xavier concludes each rebirth by implanting the original consciousness back into the mutant’s new body. So, in essence, the mutants have the dead person back in every way that matters.
Except the original mutant is dead, and here is a new mutant whose life has been granted by Xavier; a man who doesn’t show his face. Again: unnerving.
It’s telling that we see Nightcrawler up front and centre at this point, being the character who’d usually be most concerned about what this means. He’s just been regrown artificially through mutant science, and then given a consciousness. Missing in that mix? A soul, hypothetically. He remains wordless in this issue, however, so any reaction will have to come at a later point in time, if it will at all. This is a replication of mutant life rather than a continuation: and it relies on several external factors which could well be fallible if not outright predatory. With new life created in the womb of the world, it is perhaps fitting, then, that the proclaimed Goddess Storm is the one who properly conveys to the crowd that these are the mutants they lost, brought back to life. She is Xavier’s voice to the greater crowd.
She presents the reborn mutants to the rest of Krakoa as being a divine act of intervention: a mutant miracle. As she shows them off, it’s worth noting how they’re naked, innocent, and unworried. These mutants are Adam and Eve, cast without sin, unconcerned about their own nudity. Angel unfolds his wings out to help with the imagery; note how he’s no longer Archangel. Now, yes, Storm’s speech in the issue is inspiring and powerful on one level, showing to mutantkind how humanity can’t take anything away from them ever again. The humans and machines tried to kill these X-Men, but they were restored and brought back for everybody to see – this is a world where persecution essentially has no net result on a scientific level. In this new vision for the X-Men, the hate and fear they inspire still exists as it always has and always will do: it’s simply that neither have any actionable affect on mutantkind anymore. If a mutant is killed, they’ll just grow another one.
The speech consistently refers to the idea of the whole as being better than the individual, with Storm saying “his name if Cyclops, but he is more than that”, before getting the crowd to raise their arms and chant “mutant!” together. Clearly the individual is less important than the group they represent. With the representation of Cyclops and Jean and all the other X-Men stood up on a stage, it doesn’t matter if they are the same mutants who went up into space: what matters is that they represent what those mutants were and are. Storm asks personal questions to show that the mind of each fallen mutant has been restored, but it’s just trivia. This is a bold new undertaking, but it can’t be forgotten just how worrying each step forward is. By thinking about “mutantkind” as a perfect whole thing which is to be restored and then protected forever, we’re rapidly losing track of individual voice and dissent. If even Apocalypse has nothing bad to say, there has to be a worry that things are too perfect. Too uncanny.
In this issue the only characters to speak are mutants, and humanity is typically only spoken of as being the enemy; the other. “Man has killed so many of us” Xavier says to Magneto, aware that he is saying this to one of the few survivors of the Genoshan genocide. Another of those survivors, Polaris, appears at the start of the issue and asks her father if there is any good in humanity at all, before watching a mutant miracle. Elswhere Emma Frost mocks humanity, Storm invokes them as an opposition…. the common view through mutantkind is that humanity is unquestionably an enemy, a flawed group of people who are unable to unite and form a common goal and dream. And that’s… y’know, completely true. Humanity have always persecuted mutantkind and they always will. You don’t “end” racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism. But, here, Xavier is presented through the issue of having found a way to negate it.
That plays in much the same way as the long-stretched narrative of Powers of X: because we see so far into the future in that series, you see the essentially vapid nature of prejudice. Here, again, we’re shown a world where prejudice is non-functional, and mutants have at this moment found a way to ensure that they remain eternal. The consequences are suggested throughout – what if the wrong consciousness was in the wrong body; what if they made duplicates – but never really dealt with. The whole of mutantkind as a society is what’s important, rather than individuals with personalities and agendas. As Apocalypse shakes Xavier’s hand at the end of the issue, he’s playing into that role of the complete and perfect mutant dream: no dissent, no disloyalty, no second-guessing. Everybody is united.
And that, really, is a massively creepy thing, to be honest. There’s an element of it which feels empowering – even Apocalypse is on their side! – but a stronger element feels unsettling. It’s not just that the mutants diminish mankind as being an “other”, which to be honest feels fair and justified: humanity has been nothing but awful. But, for example, look at the scene where Magneto and Polaris watch new mutant life being born. This is a remarkable, seismic achievement, in which five fairly random and newly-established mutants are brought together in sync to create replicas of the people they used to know and give them life. But in this moment Magneto specifically diminishes them as individuals, saying that these five mutants are “not transcendent” until they worked together. Hope Summers doesn’t matter: it’s that she can bring balance to this procedure. Proteus isn’t important: his ability to rewrite reality in service to this task is what’s important. As ever, the script invites comparisons between the workings of this mutant system and the workings of the machine system. Just as Mother Mold was capable of endlessly creating new sentinels, so Krakoa is apparently capable of creating endless mutants. None of the five mutants speak – that’s not what’s needed in the issue.
House of X continues to show mutantkind as a hive of industry, nestled away deep in the natural settling of Krakoa. But don’t forget that the wild, beautiful Krakoa has been scientifically adapted: the first person Xavier sent into the island was Doug Ramsey (himself part-machine at this point, it seems), who helped adapt the island into somewhere that mutants could live. The three groups (humans, mutants, machines) keep reflecting one another as the series continues onwards, and in this issue you can sense that he’s turned Krakoa into a factory, set the mutants to work, and created a hive-mind mentality. Everything is for the good of the whole, and if there’s anybody who can scratch that idea of perfection, it could bring the whole thing shattering down.
House of X #5
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.
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