One Story. Four Timelines. Judging from the dozen or so preview covers we’ve seen thus far for Powers of X, it wasn’t hard to guess that there was going to be some time-traveling Tom Foolery going down. Heck, any real X-Men story that’s worth its salt has some degree of time and/or space abuse weaved into it. On those lines, Jonathan Hickman’s Powers of X #1 (PoX) does not disappoint. PoX#1 doesn’t have the gravitas that House of X #1 held, but it’s still a good and intriguing read. As previously stated, the book explores four distinct eras of X-Men. Two familiar and two completely alien.
The first takes place in the past (or year one, the dream), possibly years before the formation of the X-Men. The second is the present (year ten, the world) and most familiar as it picked up right where we saw Mystique and Toad make their getaway and ultimately abandon Sabretooth to the Fantastic Four. The last two take place one-hundred (the war) and one-thousand (ascension) years into the future respectively. Factor’s of 10 if you hadn’t noticed yet. This wasn’t the information dump that HoX#1 was, but there’s a lot of stories to digest, and with that comes lots of questions. Five, to be exact. There are spoilers to be had. If you haven’t read Powers of X or House of X #1 tread carefully.
1. When did Moira MacTaggert Become a Time Traveler?
Fairly certain anyone that’s taking the time to read this article knows who Moira MacTaggert is. For those who are less educated or just not old as dirt like me; Moira MacTaggert is basically the European version of Professor-X. Except that she’s a woman, Scottish, and wasn’t a mutant. Like Professor-X was in the states, Moira was the foremost expert in human mutation and the effects of the X-Gene in her region. So much so, that she operated her own research facility on Muir Island. Her son was also a mutant. Matter of fact, one of the strongest to ever exist. Kevin MacTaggert, better known as Proteus, aptly named after a powerful figure from Greek mythology and also on Hickman’s list of Omega Level mutants. Oh, yeah. Moira’s also been dead for quite some time.
Powers of X #1 kicked off with a conversation between a young Moira and Professor Xavier. From the unfamiliar way they addressed each other, this seemed to be the pairs first meeting. As the conversation developed, however, Moira revealed that she was already acquainted with him, and knew what he can do. She even made a reference to the more intimate nature of their relationship, though that’s not supposed to take place for some time. It’s obvious that Moira knows much more than she originally let on and wasn’t shy about creating a temporal paradox as she allowed Xavier into her mind. So, what business does a young woman with knowledge of the future, but dead in the present, have with Professor-X?
2. What’s on the Jump Drive?
In House of X #1, mutants, namely the X-Men have seemingly found their footing in the world. Not exactly part of it, but had successfully annexed their own little pieces of it. They had political and economic power, but for some, it seemed that wouldn’t be enough. In between the prosperity flexing, we’re shown the likes of Mystique, Toad, and Sabretooth as they infiltrate and steal data from an office building or facility of some sort. During their getaway, they’re confronted by the Fantastic Four. Mystique and Toad manage to escape with what they took but Sabretooth is left behind.
I assumed that particular subplot would have picked back up in next week’s House of X #2, but instead, PoX#1 used the ‘year ten’ portion of the book to further it. Turned out that both Magneto and Xavier were fully aware of Mystique and the company’s activity. From what I can gather, they were the ones that sent them out to retrieve whatever it was. It has to be fairly important. The X-Men have any number of techno-pathic mutants at their disposal, which means the data was locked up tight on a private server. Not to mention an action like that can stir ideas of war, especially if Cyclops’ claims of a diplomatic amnesty are true. What could be so crucial to the Krakoans that they’d risk an all-out conflict with humankind?
3. Does Society, As We Know It, Survive?
During the ‘year one-thousand’ portion of PoX#1, we’re treated to what’s become commonplace for X-Men stories that take place in the future. A bombed-out dystopian husk of a world. The first panel is that of a dead or dying man being examined or interrogated by a human soldier and some sort of three-headed robot. The landscape is broken and reminiscent of the Planet of Junk from 1986’s Transformers: The Movie. Because of the smoke rising in the background, its quite possible that the damage is a result of the fight that killed the man. I say this because in the following pages we’re shown a glimpse of a large, technologically advanced city. There, inside of a towering spire is Nimrod. But one unlike any I’ve seen before.
Sitting upon a throne, he’s obviously in charge, but his behavior is more human than ever. Even childlike in spots. He’s assisted by Omega Sentinel, Karima Shapandar, or what’s left of her. She seems to acts more like his handler than an adjutant under Nimrod’s command. They control what’s called the Man-Machine Supremacy and seem hellbent on destroying the remnants of the mutant race, which isn’t much according to the book’s information pages. For a while, through the HOUND program, the Supremacy bred their own version of mutants to hunt their own, but they abandoned that tactic for more reliable means. I’m guessing three-headed super sentinels.
By this time, mutants number something just under 10,000 total, but only 8 still remain anywhere close to Earth, the planet they were supposed to inherit from humanity. The vast majority of the mutant race reside outside the Sol system (the name of Earth’s sun). Eight-thousand or so are confined to a Shi’Ar installation in deep space. Another two-thousand or less are on the Shi’Ar homeworld and function as a part of the Empire’s fighting forces as part of a deal for being allowed to utilize the station. It would seem human and machine have become one, which in my opinion defeats the purpose of fighting mutant-kind to maintain “normalcy” within human society. With humans seemingly being subjugated by machines and cyborgs, and mutants not even having a presence on their own planet, what are the two sides still fighting each other for?
4. How Does Any of this Matter One Thousand Years into the Future?
When you read a Jonathan Hickman storyline, you have to keep in mind that he writes for the ‘big picture.’ We may not see the fruit of his labor for years. Luckily, that may not be the case here. PoX and HoX are slated to end only a few weeks from now with half a dozen books to follow it and two more after that. This story is going to need to be cleaned up and straightened out far before then. That’s good news because there’s a piece here that’s taking place millennia into the future.
The X-Men have gone forward further than that in past storylines, but it’s only been glimpsed. What typically happens is that a character or two journeys back from that point to the present. It’s rare that anything actually goes down there, much less has any real bearing on other timelines. If you know anything about Hickman’s past stories, then you know everything he puts on paper matters. So it’s probably a bad idea to ignore the little blue kid or the tiny Nimrod that looks more like a ghost from the sci-fi, first-person, shooter game, Destiny.
The era is titled “Ascension,” and the blue-man group reject seems to be studying the past – using what’s left of Nimrod’s thousand-year-old efforts to piece together information. If I had to guess, he’s the end result of a thousand years of evolution and looks back on the ancient wars between man and mutant with confusion. With all that said, I’m still struggling with trying to relate to what it could possibly mean for this story outside of being an epilogue of some sort.
5. What Became of the X-Men?
In two out of the four era’s we’ve seen in PoX, the X-Men were generally annihilated. In another, they were just an unrealized dream. There was only one portion of the story where they or the mutant race, in general, was thriving. That has to mean something. It makes one wonder if everything they’ve gone through, means anything at all. The X-Men are a group of godlike beings, many of them able to end the world as we know it at any moment. Apparently, things do get bad. So bad that they have to turn to Mister Sinister in a very Age of Apocalypse manner to manage genetic breeding pits on Mars. With his help and their blessings, he assists mutant-kind in churning out designer super soldiers.
So how does a cadre of tens or dozens of godlike individuals end up circling the drain? How do they go from the levels of prosperity we saw in House of X #1 to relying on Mister Sinister? Not that it got them very far. Of course, he double-crossed them, and from how it appears, it put the final stake in their coffin in terms of maintaining a presence on their home planet of Earth, or even the solar system for that matter. If you take into account the nefarious and obviously sideways behavior of Magneto and Professor-X, chances are they’re going to gamble with the future of the mutant race and lose big. Question is, was it all worth the risk, now that we know where it ends up?