Jonathan Hickman’s House of X and Powers of X books told the story of Xavier, Moira, and Magneto successfully creating a mutant nation on Earth. Separate, but more than equal. Superior in dozens of ways. The land itself, Krakoa, is alive. Considered a mutant as well, it exists not only as a single landmass, but two along with pieces scattered across the planet. Sprung from flowers, the mutant nation created on Marvel’s present-day Earth is far and beyond anything that came before it.
Krakoa is recognized by the United Nations and now has a thriving economy based upon the export of a good they have sole control over (at least until a synthetic version of their drugs can be developed, a seed planted in the first issue of House of X). The X-Men franchise landscape has drastically changed. It was remarkably done within a single Summer throughout 12 books. It’s an amazing feat. It’s also very similar to someone else’s work. I’m not suggesting Hickman plagiarized someone’s work. Not at all. It just so happens that a similar story was initiated by another X-Men writer.
Tom Taylor’s X-Men Red was also 12 issues (with an annual). His story had a newly resurrected Jean Grey pursuing the idea of a mutant nation in which every mutant on Earth would automatically be made a citizen of. Taylor’s story was… rough. While Hickman’s weekly offering was a beautifully bewildering journey, Taylor’s Red was frustratingly indirect in its delivery. Jean’s already nonsensical mission to create a ‘homeland,’ without actual real estate was marred by waves of socially driven grandstanding. Without accomplishing her task, X-Men Red was weighed down by OUR real-world matters such as immigration, social media, and human trafficking.
There is a place for these matters within comics. Especially in X-Men, a book that tackled subjects like racism and even the AIDS epidemic by way of the Legacy Virus. But by no means, as stated by Stan Lee himself, should they be at the forefront of the story. Not in their raw real-world forms. Unfortunately, despite an interesting enough cast and premise, Taylor’s X-Men read like a Twitter timeline. Years from now, people will be able to look back at this run and be able to tell exactly what leftist concerns were at the time. I found it distracting and out of place. And I’m a life-long Democrat.
Whether universally revered or not, Hickman was able to tell a story within the same amount of covers, but unlike Taylor’s tale, his characters accomplished their work. Heck, had Xavier, Moira and Magneto failed, the story would have still won the day for me.
It’s not completely out of hand to compare the stories. I did it myself. Briefly. I acknowledged the similarities but recognized the superiority in the very different styles of approach. For instance, both stories included the sovereign nations of Wakanda and Atlantis. The X-Men have cannon connections to both countries, but their conflicts of interest cannot be ignored. Which is something one of the authors did with little to no real explanation as to how it was narratively or politically navigated.
Before we get into how each author utilized the established lore, let’s lay some of it out. Wakanda has mutant citizens, as well as having a former mutant queen in the X-Man Storm (who played a role in both stories, funny enough). The people of Atlantis are a sub-species all their own, but their reigning monarch carries the X-gene and is widely considered Marvel’s first mutant. A fact that cannot be overlooked is that these two world-powers are bitter rivals, and have been for a long time.
Wakanda and Atlantis, which are still not on good diplomatic terms, have actively participated in acts of all-out war against one another and neither side has shown any indication of signing a peace treaty. So, how did Hickman and Taylor address this? Well, Taylor chose to ignore it. He wrote Jean being able to not just use Wakanda as a sponsor to speak to the U.N. but was able to do so while using Atlantis as a base of operation. She even brought Namor onto her team of X-Men. Uniform and all. All the while in Avengers, Namor was murdering heroes and anyone he deemed a threat to his oceans.
Hickman, on the other hand, used this concept that I like to refer to as ‘common sense.’ While both nations were indeed mentioned in his story, he didn’t Mary Sue any of his characters into brokering peace. Krakoa’s power and political strength rely solely on what they are exporting. Drugs that can cure disease and lengthen the lives of humans. Wakanda is so scientifically advanced, they probably don’t need them, which is basically what they said. Namor, being a mutant, was approached by Xavier, naturally. I assume to possibly hold a seat on the Quiet Council. However, the King turned him down, and sent him away, at least for the moment.
Hickman’s and Taylor’s approaches couldn’t be any more dissimilar in the way they handled this. While Taylor just hand-waved it all away and wrote “Everyone Loves Jean Grey,” Hickman’s goes deeper. Krakoa’s diplomatic relations with the rest of the world is borderline aggressive. Xavier all but gave them an ultimatum. Get along with them and prosper, or oppose them at their peril. Jean was not unlike an orphan begging for food, but still finding time to lecture a planet she hadn’t been a citizen of for years (you know, because she was dead). With Wakanda not needing to recognize Krakoan sovereignty, and Atlantis, though not agreeing to have any part, still something of an ally, Hickman’s handle created depth that can be further explored in future stories.
Some might say I’m harping on the Wakanda/Atlantis issue, but that’s because it’s a big deal. More so in Red than House of X/ Powers of X, but it also delegitimizes several greater Marvel Universe stories and the status quo of their flagship franchise, The Avengers.
While the characters in House of X/ Powers of X and X-Men Red had similar goals- how the two stories pursued those goals were night and day. Logic versus drivel. Proof versus posturing. Hickman told a story that set up an entire franchise, while Taylor publicized his social commentary which was strangely American-based despite being from and residing in Australia (according to his Twitter location). Not saying he has no right to an opinion on American politics. I simply found it odd he centered much of his book around the subject. The only people still talking about that particular one are those that can’t seem to get over what Taylor addressed, not actually what happened or any bit of characterization that occurred during it.
In my opinion, beyond the most basic of comparisons, the two stories contain very few similarities. Anyone accusing Hickman of borrowing Taylor’s concept, or saying one isn’t receiving its fair share of recognition is being short-sighted, to say the least. Just because you share or appreciate the political stances of Red, doesn’t mean it is in some way responsible for the success of House of X and Powers of X, or some sort of recognition is owed. If that’s the case, you can easily compare the Legacy Virus to the Terrigen Mist Cloud.
House of X and Powers of X was far from perfect (still some of the best X-Men writing I’ve ever had in my hands) but at least I was able to finish reading the series. Not to mention, it didn’t make me question whether I should retire from comic book reading… again.