By Steve Morris
You don’t get somewhere without putting the work in, and with the concept of this whole endeavour now explained for readers, the creative team behind Powers of X are now looking to make sure they’ve put in enough groundwork that their whole structure will stand. Now we know enough about Krakoa to understand what the rough basics are meant to be and how it operates, this is an issue which brings in some key players to ground the enterprise and show us how – yes – the forethought has been put in, for once. This isn’t a wacky school which springs up from nowhere or a covert black-ops team running without any kind of infrastructure: this push forward for the X-Men is carefully executed and precisely planned.
It’s a relief and a revelation for readers, especially as there was a recent trend for the series to suggest Xavier was going to magically invite everybody to Krakoa with the whole thing already built, and everybody immediately hypnotised by his new wonderful dream. Instead, we get to see that both Xavier and Magneto are putting the work in this time rather than pushing for something to be immediately wonderful, and it’s honestly a proper slog. It’s fascinating to see Magneto, in particular, playing this long game, because he’s always been someone who goes for a more immediate gratification – remember how in a previous timeline, he and Moira were immediately shut down by the combined weight of Marvel’s superhero universe because he rushed the job? Magneto hasn’t always been used to playing a waiting game, but the majority of the time we’ve seen him in this series has already been ten years into his new plan. That’s a new sense of forethought.
Forethought is easier when you have the advantage of foreknowledge, sure, but that temptation to run before you can walk is still present. Xavier’s long-term planning is evident through this series simply through his depiction. At the very start of House of X he’s walking around – then later issues saw him using a wheelchair and now, in the “present day”, he’s walking again. Having seen his entire future right from the start, Xavier has chosen to allow certain patterns in his lifestyle to replicate even as he slowly builds them to a different conclusion. It’s the perfect time to bring in Forge, in other words.
Forge was always going to show up in this series, given Jonathan Hickman’s interests as a writer. Through his other work, he creates a massive superstructure and then explains the scaffolding which holds it up (and often then brings it back down with a crash). Here we see him explaining not just the physical and tangible requirements for Krakoa (which Doug Ramsey spent a year working on); but the necessity of this new ability for the X-Men to cheat death and regrow anybody who dies. Later on in the issue, Emma Frost returns to explain how the wild Krakoan drug bribe is actually going to work – remember, the mutants bought the loyalty of the world by giving them miracle drugs, which is a crazy concept. It’s Forge, though, who is the man to start off the issue, as he and Xavier go back and forth on the idea of storing consciousness “in the cloud” – in essence, so dead mutants can be re-downloaded back into new bodies. Krakoa is iTunes, essentially.
One of the most intricate parts of Forge’s powerset is that if he gets the idea of something, he can immediately piece together how it would work in actuality – which makes him the perfect character to introduce at this juncture. Having had the idea of resurrection shown to us last week, which was shown in a creepy, cultish fashion, this issue stops to show us how carefully planned out the entire process was. This isn’t an overnight thing the X-Men suddenly acquire and own – it’s a device they spent time developing, to make sure it was right. He’s not just planning for a backup plan: he outright tells Forge he wants five of them. Similarly, Xavier’s throwaway comment about how many versions of Cerebro he’s already worked through is there for a reason: it’s there to show that he’s building and developing over the long-term: he’s not going for immediate perfection, but is playing into a long term game.
That would be the point at which I’d probably need to write about the far future section of this comic, but that section is boring and crap so I’m not going to. Instead, what’s more interesting is another feature which I didn’t think we’d see within these prologue issues: dissent.
It felt like we were being presented a society where everybody thinks the same thing and works together: thankfully, that isn’t the case, as the issue finally gives us some real and continued complaints about Xavier’s dream. Emma Frost articulates many of them, as she calls the mutants “reckless” in their pursuit of a new island society. She’s reflective of the readership (or certainly that part of the readership who is, ahem, me) in that she sees this as being a shallow and splashy concept with no leadership or planning behind it – now, it certainly helps that they immediately tell her that she’d be part of the initial leadership, sure, but it’s up to Xavier and Magneto to persuade one of the most rationally-minded mutants that this is actually all a good idea.
Her ultimate acceptance of the new role comes with a sigh of “for the children”, which is an excellent summation of her entire lifetime. But even as she does ultimately fall somewhat in line with the new grand plan, she offers caveats and contingencies, which adds some hugely necessary friction where previous issues offered a blander “smoothing out” of the X-Men. Rather than become part of the whole and step in sync with Xavier, she demands an extra seat at the table, amongst other demands, ensuring that she has more oversight – but more crucially that Xavier’s long-term plan brings in more sets of eyes keeping him in check. Having made it ten years into this new secret plan of his, Emma presumably recognises that he’s nowhere near done. Adding her own choice to the council – alongside Sebastian Shaw, her enemy – will mean that Xavier has to deal with more oversight.
Then again, the graphic that follows this sequence shows that the council table is only balanced because Emma has three seats, so it seems Xavier has planned for this already. Again: foresight is easier when you’ve got foreknowledge.
Namor also dissents – and interestingly, Xavier accepts Namor’s refusal to come to Krakoa. That’s partly because Namor is playing a role in another comic (see also: the mutants in the Winter Guard, as Russia do not support this new Krakoan venture) but remains important because it shows Xavier’s patience. We’ve previously seen him push Magneto to ensure quicker acceptance of the new cause, but he doesn’t do the same for Namor. Different people, different tactics: Xavier isn’t actually treating mutantkind as a legion or hivemind, but does account for different personalities and different perspectives. That again really helps the series overall, because it adds more layers into this whole superstructure: just as Xavier is building Krakoa, so the creative team are building into their story.
We’ve been very simply told that Krakoa is working and is fine and great and everyone’s happy: in 2019, it’s only natural to turn an eyebrow up at that concept. Right now, with how things are going in the real world, anybody who blindly tells you that everything is great is lying to you and can’t be trusted. There isn’t a single smoking gun which will bring down the fascists of the real world, and things won’t resolve perfectly overnight. Work actually has to be done, and what’s hugely satisfying about this particular issue of Powers of X is how it fortifies itself and builds a stronger foundation for the future that mutantkind needs.
Powers of X #5
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciller: R. B. Silva
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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