When it comes to reading comics, I live by a simple rule: If I start to dislike a title I’ll stop reading new issues until the series becomes better or the next writer is someone I trust to do a better job. I’ve had an on and off again relationship with the X-Men since Brian Micheal Bendis took up the main series and wrote Avengers vs X-Men. Ever since then, it feels like this last decade has not been kind to the X-Men. Since 2012, the franchise has seen more than its fair share of disappointing titles, events and movies. Sure there’s been some exceptions to the rule like the “Old Man Logan” series by Ed barssion and the “Logan” movie in 2017, but there’s a reason issue #2 of “House of X” refers to this era as the “lost decade.”
In comes Johnathan Hickman, writer of previous titles and beloved runs such as his Avengers (2013-2015), Fantastic Four (2009-2012) and The Black Monday Murders (2016-present). And what Hickman does to the X-Men is what he always does; simultaneously deconstructing and reinventing the wheel by expanding the mythos of a franchise and taking it to an area few dared to imagine.
In an attempt to avoid as many spoilers as I can, the companion mini-series of “House of X” and “Powers of X” tell the story of the X-Men’s past, present and future by revealing new opportunities for the mutant population to create their own nation state. This nation known as Krakoa, is founded by Charles Xavier & Magneto, among others who have set aside their differences in order to be united as one people with a common goal: To survive and thrive.
Hickman manages to convey a story whose span is typical for those who are fans of his writing: A long overarching narrative that is relatively light on the action one would expect from a superhero comic (at least for “House of X”, “Powers of X” tries to compensate for that lack of action) and instead spans through multiple points of view and time periods, with key details and information scattered all over the place; even in graphs and fragments of text documents that resemble a Declassified CIA dossier.
Seemingly minor characters become huge players in the story through retconned character development that is so masterfully crafted and thought out that they come off as natural progression. Hickman also knows exactly how to tell his story, as each issue is basically a snapshot of the most important parts of the story, even if their importance is not immediately known.
It has become well known to many readers and non-readers that Marvel has been lacking in the Art department with many of their titles (“Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” being the most notorious example). I am happy to announce that these two titles are the exceptions to that rule as Pepe Larraz and R.B Silva both do an amazing job in House and Powers of X respectively. Characters are well designed and lively, the environments are detailed to the point that it can feel like a character itself (and in certain cases, it actually is) and the vibrant colors make the action and non-action scenes stand out more than other titles Marvel currently has on shelves.
Hickman already won my fanatical support back when I first read his Fantastic Four run and became enamored by his portrayal of Reed Richards and Doctor Doom. But I think that this may be his greatest contribution to Marvel yet.
For the first time in a very long time, I feel optimistic about the future of the X-Men as a whole. House & Powers of X was a great launching point for this new rebranding of the merry Marvel mutants that is decisive in its direction and allows for different writers to follow the new status quo. The X-Men have been a major pillar of Marvel’s mythos since the 60s, as they have told stories and created characters that have inspired and entertained millions of readers from all walks of life. They deserve no less than the best anyone has to offer, and with Hickman leading the helm, it seems like they have that.
Recommendation to buy?
Yes, this is a must buy for any fan of the X-Men. It doesn’t matter if you stopped in 2012 or kept reading through all the years. This is a great starting or returning point to the series.