Jonathan Hickman’s era of the X-Men franchise has gotten off to a brilliant start. Hickman has immediately transformed the X-Men into Marvel’s must-read comic. Both House of X #1 and Powers of X #1 have been fantastic reads and offered readers an exciting new direction for the X-Men franchise. I fully expect House of X #2 to be another excellent read. Let’s go ahead and hit this review!
Words: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Pepe Larraz
Colors: Marte Gracia
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Moira MacTaggert as a 13-year-old child and being deathly ill. The doctor did not expect Moira to live. However, the next morning she awoke and was miraculously healed. Moira went on to get married, have children, and then grandchildren. She loved her family and her life. She died peacefully in her sleep at age 74.
Moira was then reborn. Not only was she reborn but her second life took place in the same time frame as her first life. Moira had all of her memories and knowledge from her previous life. Therefore, Moira was deemed as a prodigy due to her amazing ability to read and write so early. Moira left secret that her memories and skills were due to her remembering everything from her prior life. She knew that it would scare people. Moira did not know the fact was that she was a mutant.
Moira went on to study at Oxford University. She focusing in the areas of psychology and biology. She did everything in her second life as she did in her first life. Moira was like a passive participant in her life. But, Moira realized that if she became an active participant that she could create divergent paths for her life.
However, Moira viewed her mutant power as a curse and not a blessing. Moira met her husband from her first life and married him. However, familiarity bred contempt and knowing everything about him from the beginning destroyed any chance of re-creating what they had in her first life. Moira had no love, no children, and no grandchildren.
Moira saw a television interview with Charles Xavier where he admitted to being a mutant. Charles said that there were others in the world like him. Moira hopped on a plane to go to America to see Xavier. However, Moira’s plane crashed and she died.
In Moira’s third life, she aggressively dove into the life of science. She specialized in the areas of genetics and anthropology. She actively sought out Charles Xavier. Moira thought that Xavier was only pushing ideas that served his own interest. However, this was the moment when Moira took what she learned from Xavier and learned that she was a mutant.
However, a combination of Moira’s distaste for her mutant powers and Xavier’s arrogance and what she thought was a thinly disguised god-complex made her fearful of revealing to Xavier that she was a mutant. Moira viewed being a mutant as having cancer. Moira decided to come up with a cure.
After years of research, Moira created a cure for the X-gene. However, Moira’s lab was attacked by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. All of Moira’s scientists were killed. Moira was tied up in a chair. Mystique and Destiny then questioned Moira.
Moira says that she invented a cure for mutants to voluntarily take if they wished to do so. Destiny says that man will take Moira’s cure and force it upon all mutants.
Destiny said that she can see the future. Destiny says that she is older than Moira. That if Moira comes to kill Destiny that Destiny will foresee it and avoid Moira’s attempt. Destiny says that if Moira tries to create the cure in her next life and then hide from Destiny that Destiny will also foresee this and come and kill Moira. Destiny says that there is no way Moira can win. Destiny tells Moira to change or die. That Destiny will eliminate Moira in all of her lives.
Destiny also reveals that Moira’s mutant powers are not unlimited. That Moira is not stuck in an eternal loop. That Destiny sees that all Moira has are ten to eleven lives. Destiny also says that Moira can be permanently killed if she is killed prior to turning 13 when her mutant power kicks in.
Destiny says that the choice is Moira’s to make. Moira can either try and hurt mutants and be killed or Moira can try and help mutants and live. Destiny then tells Pyro to burn Moira to death slowly so she will always remember what this slow and painful death feels like. Pyro then roasts Moira to death.
In Moira’s fourth life, she threw herself into studying the human-mutant dilemma. Moira then began to look past herself and at the potential benefits of Homo superior. Moira sought out Charles Xavier. Moira saw beyond the arrogance to what was underneath. A mutant who was determined to make sure his people had a place in the world. A mutant with a dream.
Moira and Charles fell in love with each other. They established the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. We see the gifted years with the original X-Men. We then see the years of hate and fear with the classic 1970’s/1980’s X-Men. We see the lost decade. (Basically, the X-Men from 2010 to the present. Hilarious.) In the end, the Sentinels killed the X-Men, Professor X, and Moira.
In Moira’s fifth life, she felt that aggression was the only appropriate response to the threat of man. Moira ran away from home at age 13. She sought out Charles Xavier before they were supposed to meet. Moira shared with Charles her memories of his first four lives. This radicalized Charles. Instead of creating the School For Gifted Youngsters they create a legion of mutants who were based in a domed city away from man. However, in the end, Sentinels come and kill all of the mutants.
In Moira’s seventh life, she spent her entire time eradicating the Trask bloodline. We see Moira assassinating Simon, Donald, Gwyneth, and Simon. Moira came for all of the children. Moira then learned a terrible lesson. Artificial Intelligence is like fire. It is a discovery, not an invention. All Moira had done was to stop a Trask from being the first human to discover AI. Like mutants, machines simply emerge at a certain point during societal and environmental evolution. We see the Sentinels being created. We see the Sentinels killing Moira. This experienced radicalized, Moira.
In Moira’s eighth life, she left behind Charles Xavier’s dream and embraced the necessary evil approach of Magneto. Moira joined Magneto and shared with him all of her memories of her prior lives. This led Magneto to attack the world of man. However, the combined forces of Earth’s superheroes including the X-Men defeated Magneto and Moira.
In Moira’s ninth life, she turned to Apocalypse. If the humans and their machines wanted war then Moira would give them a war without end in the form of Apocalypse.
In Moira’s tenth life, she decided to do something revolutionary. That she and Charles Xavier would break all of the rules. We cut to the scene at the county fair from House of X #1. Xavier asks if he knows Moira. Moira says that he knows her. Moira tells Xavier to read her mind. Xavier reads her mind and gets a stunned look on his face. End of issue.
The Good: Hickman had delivered impressive reads with House of X #1 and Powers of X #1, but the reader was left wondering if Hickman was going to deliver some bombshell retcons or changes to X-Men continuity with his new direction for the X-Men franchise. Well, House of X #2 drops that bomb on the reader in stunning fashion. Hickman is clearly bending the X-Men’s continuity and with it the continuity to the entire 616 Universe.
There are several surprises revealed in House of X #2. The first is that Moira MacTaggert is retconned from a normal human into a mutant. The next surprise is that Moira’s mutant power is for her to be reincarnated within the same time loop over and over again. This then leads to the biggest reveal. That the X-Men have had multiple continuities due to Moira’s multiple lives.
This is not at all what I was expecting. But, this is definitely pure vintage Hickman and I love it. House of X #2 causes the reader to have so many questions after the conclusion of this issue. Has Hickman just soft retconned the X-Men’s continuity? Is the timeline that existed before Hickman took control of the X-Men franchise Moira’s Life Four or is it Life Ten? Do the X-Men continuities in each of Moira’s lives continue to exist after her death with each subsequent life creating a new parallel time-line and continuity for the X-Men? Since Moira has eleven lives are we still going to see the X-Men continuity get rebooted at some point in the future? Last, what is up with Moira’s missing Life Six?
All right, let’s take these one at a time and break them down. First, there is the question of these ten different timelines and which one is the current X-Men timeline. Life Four does mirror the original X-Men continuity, the Chris Claremont era, Avengers v. X-Men, and Days of Future Past. However, Life Ten is also consistent with the current X-Men timeline as well.
I think that Life Ten is the current X-Men timeline with some minor tweaks in it. It is possible that Hickman is using the multiple lives of Moira in order to mix in the numerous different dystopian futures that have focused on the X-Men in the past. The X-Men’s continuity is notorious for having multiple timelines and for constantly hopping from the present to the future. This is one huge reason why the X-Men’s continuity is so convoluted and a bit of a mess. It is also what makes the X-Men so hostile to new readers. It is nearly impenetrable.
However, this concept of the ten lives of Moira is the perfect literary tool for Hickman to attempt to clean up the X-Men’s convoluted continuity and bring some order and logic to these various different futures. It is a brilliant way to make sense of the chaos that is the X-Men’s history. The many lives of Moira give cohesiveness to the X-Men’s continuity. Hickman is able to construct connective tissue that links the different futures together and explains how they relate to and influence each other. WIth House of X #2, all the different futures from the X-Men’s history all exist. All of these disparate futures are now connected via the common thread that is Moira’s different lives. And the explanation for why each future is different is due to Moira’s different viewpoints in each of her lives. This is all so complex and yet simple. This is Hickman at his best.
Hickman’s many lives of Moira also allows him a Life Eleven where he could reboot the X-Men’s continuity at some point going forward. This is a cool little back door that Hickman has built for himself. I am not expecting for Hickman to give the X-Men continuity a full reboot, but the possibility that it is out there is certainly exciting.
While Hickman does deliver a ton of new information and impressive continuity work with House of X #2, he does leave one massive mystery dangling before the reader. That is Moira’s Life Six. Hickman completely skips over Life Six in the actual story of this issue. This is continued in the infographic at the end of House of X #2. The infographic also skips over Year Six.
There is a meaning to every little thing that Hickman does in his stories. Hickman purposely being cryptic about Life Six immediately signals to the reader that there is something important about that life. I have no idea where Hickman is going with this mystery of Life Six, but I am excited to find out. It is little details and mysteries like this that make Hickman’s stories such a joy to read.
I love that Hickman uses Moira as the catalyst for such a massive change to the X-Men’s continuity. Moira is a character with a long history with the X-Men franchise, but one that often is on the periphery. I have always liked Moira’s character but never have been that particularly fascinated with her. Moira has been nothing more than a bit of a beige character to me.
That has all changed now. Hickman takes a relatively bland character and transforms her into a character that is quite compelling and complex. I found Hickman’s Moira to be a character that captivates my attention. This is not just brilliant world-building, but also incredible character work. Not many writers could pull off both simultaneously. I also found the retconning of Moira into her being a mutant to be a great idea. And Moira’s mutant power? Absolutely fantastic. Moira’s mutant power is pure vintage, Hickman.
I love the structure of Moira’s lives. They organically evolve from the prior one in a logical fashion. Hickman does a masterful job conveying the evolution of Moira’s approach to mutants and the human-mutant conflict in each of her lives. The psychology behind each of Moira’s lives is fascinating. Moira evolves from self-hate, to acceptance, to dreaming, to defiance, to nihilism, to whatever her current plan is going to be.
From a technical standpoint, House of X #2 is incredibly written. Hickman brings his usual impeccable plotting to the table. House of X #2 is a complex read that is highly immersive. This is a world and story that the reader can easily lose themselves in and does not want to leave at the end of the issue. Hickman continues to perform amazing world-building as he constructs a strong foundation for his run on the X-Men.
Hickman continues to employ a steady pace with the story. This is not a fast-paced, but it is not slow or meandering, either. Hickman keeps his laser focus and moves the story ahead with a clear direction. The controlled pacing serves to increase the reader’s sense of excitement and yearning for more. Hickman floods the reader with such a rich story that is crammed full of content. Therefore, I am glad that Hickman is delivering this story in a controlled manner so that the reader has time to properly process the intricate details of each issue.
Hickman’s infographics and information inserts continue to be an absolute joy. I love these literary tools and how effectively Hickman is employing them in order to make his issues new reader-friendly and to deliver more backstory and information to the reader without ruining the flow of the story or requiring the use of pages of talking heads.
We get two inserts of text describing Moira’s Life Two that sets the stage for this issue and explains Moira’s mutant powers. However, the star of House of X #2 is the gorgeous infographic that Hickman delivers at the end of this issue. I am an absolute sucker for infographics and Hickman knows how to deliver phenomenal infographics.
The infographic details the many lives of Moira X. This is a wonderful way to fully explain and put into clear context the different lives and what happens in each one. The reader is able to note the different occurrences in each timeline and compare the timelines to each other. This is an excellent way for Hickman to tie neatly tie together a complex issue. My favorite aspect of this infographic? I love how Life Nine involving Apocalypse is the only past life that continues on forever.
Pepe Larraz does a solid job with the artwork. The art never gets in the way of the reader. There are some panels where Larraz’s art shines. In particular, when Magneto is battling the super-heroes and the one-page splash shot of Apocalypse.
The Bad: House of X #1 is a slow burn approach. The pacing is quite measured. There is also not much action at all to be found. Some readers may find House of X #1 to be a bit too slow or dull.
Larraz continues to be a bit uneven when it comes to the characters’ daces. Sometimes they look great. Other times they look sloppy and generic. Larraz also tends to deliver panels that have no background at all or lack detail which can make the issue look a bit dull at certain moments.
Overall: House of X #2 is another excellent read. Jonathan Hickman is like a master chef meticulously crafting an exquisite and sumptuous meal from the finest ingredients. There is not a single superhero comic book on the market that can match the world-building, complexity, and immersion that Hickman is delivering with his work on the X-Men franchise. What makes it even better is Hickman is able to make his story appealing to long-time readers while still remaining very new reader-friendly. If you still have not given Hickman’s X-Men a try then you must go to your local comic shop and start reading both House of X and Powers of X.
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