By Steve Morris
Note: this essay was written after the conclusion of Powers of X.
I thought it’d be interesting to hold back an issue of HoX/PoX and go back to it at a later date, so I could write about it with the same kind of insight that Moira has about the future of the X-Men. She knows what’s going to happen and so it gives her a little more awareness of the intricacies of the moment, and so here I am, having finished these “two series which are one” and with a little more awareness as a result. Also, this is easily the issue I liked least, so I couldn’t be bothered writing about it at the time.
That said, the issue does fit into the overall picture better than it sat as a standalone piece of work, and it does so through excluding Moira entirely from her own narrative. For a character so completely revamped and rewritten, Moira is the core of this project – and yet she vanishes for much of the middle section of the narrative, leaving her vision in the hands of other, probably less capable people. The three scenes in the comic show Xavier working on Mister Sinister and then Krakoa, which we now know was done largely without Moira’s guidance (or, in the instance of Sinister, consent). The Sinister section, in particular, benefits from the later-revealed shock that this is Xavier and Magneto working outside their brief.
Mr Sinister was not meant to be reached out-to, probably because Moira knows he’s destined to betray them at some point in future – which led to one of her previous deaths, in fact, if not two of them. When readers first got this scene, it was a Looney Tunes-inspired bit of silliness which posits Sinister as this camp pantomime of a mutant, gleefully parading round his own nightclub filled with clones of himself – most of whom he murders at random, according to his whims. It’s complete parody on first reading, which reduces the danger in the character even as he first-hand murders more people than we’ve maybe ever seen before. He doesn’t normally get his hands dirty like this, working from the shadows – here, he’s incredibly hands-on. It’s like if John Inman were a sociopath.
On second reading, what’s more clear is Xavier and Magneto’s side of things, where they approach this ridiculous character in order to bring him into the fold. Their serious appearance belies their true purpose, as they deliberately intrude upon Sinister, intimidate one of his lackeys, and then try to negotiate a deal. Everything feels ever-so-serious on their end, even as Sinister grows more and more ridiculous. Eventually, however, Sinister manages to execute (pun intended) just a big enough joke that he draws a smirk from Magneto. And that’s where you see the crack come into play. Xavier and Magneto are serious and devoted to their cause – but they’re still playing to their own indulgences.
Moira’s got a game plan which she stoutly devotes herself towards without deviance, but Xavier and Magneto, “radicalised” as they are, still have that tendency to waver. Where they should be following a set route, they instead seek out cross-purposes and deviations which overestimate their own abilities. They see Sinister – who, let’s not forget, is a formative X-Men villain and somebody who will never be honestly trusted – and they see someone they can bend to their cause, given time. Magneto’s smile gives away that he thinks Sinister’s madness is something they can work with, but the reality is that Sinister completely has the upper-hand here. Following their discussion, which Xavier punctuates with a final mind wipe, we are then given ten “rumours” from Bar Sinister which basically spell out that the mind wipe hasn’t worked and Sinister knows far more than he is letting on.
It’s no surprise Moira isn’t happy when she finds out about this, as detailed in the final issue of this miniseries. The two men she’s using as foundation have just revealed several cracks which could bring down the whole thing.
The foundation is developed further in this issue, despite the flaws we now know have been developed. Xavier brings Doug Ramsey to Krakoa, so they can establish symbiosis. Doug gives us a rough look at the history of Krakoa, which again seems to sets up further issues in future – this time with Apocalypse, who we find out has spent time dealing with Krakoa before. If Moira sees everything that’s to come, then here Xavier and Doug learn everything that’s come before, which is a blindspot Moira doesn’t appear to have anticipated yet. She knows everything about the future, but it’s unclear what she knows about the past. Apocalypse, as a result, holds cards which nobody else can even guess at. The cracks continue to develop, from the past and present, and they’re suggestive of a rocky future.
The future sections of the comic, as we now all know with hindsight (and to be honest, predicted at the time), are largely useless and boring here. They’re already accounted for by Moira, and it’s very tempting to overlook them. So I shall!
The focus of the issue here is Xavier, but it’s so fascinating to think about the relationship he holds with Moira at this point in time. We see here that years before he takes Doug to Krakoa, he’s been working on his own purposes, without “permission” from Moira. That’s his instinct, sure, but the happy-go-lucky nature of Xavier as he grows into this tenth life is something which can’t be overlooked. We don’t know how much difference there is in what he knows and what Moira knows, but we can see them acting in different ways with the information they have. By opening her mind to Xavier, Moira puts a lot of trust in him – and in this issue we can see him transferring some of that plan across to Doug Ramsey, in turn placing his trust in Doug. Moira’s inner circle is a very small one – perhaps just Xavier and Magneto, perhaps Apocalypse. But Xavier’s circle is much wider, and he’s much more open and willing to give away his grand plan without any assurances.
Moira knows Xavier through several different lifetimes: Xavier knows Doug only the once, if you go by the continuity we’re currently offered. And Xavier doesn’t know Sinister at all – and yet here he is working a deal with him. Moira’s idea of survival is a typically brutal one informed by first hand experience. By comparison, Xavier’s dream is an aspiration based on his own ambitions and by the information Moira has chosen to show him. Those previous lives are stories to him, whereas they were something she’s lived through. As a result you can already see him being a little more reckless than perhaps Moira would like. As Krakoa grows and grows in future, their troubled relationship forms the third crack which could collapse the whole thing. The past, the present, and the future all hold their own dangers for the dream.
Powers of X #4
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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