What Is Going On Under [REDACTED]? Powers of X Speculation

What Is Going On Under [REDACTED]? Powers of X Speculation

Preview image by Mark Brooks

It’s The Dawn Of A New Day For Marvel’s X-Men

Over the last 3 months, Jonathan Hickman, along with artists Pepe Larraz, RB Silva, Adriano Di Benedetto, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles and Tom Muller, and editors Jordan White and Annalise Bissa, have injected new life into the struggling X-line. Once the most popular titles Marvel published, the books have struggled under the weight of a dense and convoluted history, editorial mandates that have heavily destabilized the books, as well as the effects of Marvel not owning the film rights for the characters.

House of X #1 cover by Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia

House of X #1 cover by Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia

Now, with his interweaving series House of X and Powers of X, Hickman has introduced a stunning and at times unsettling new status quo that blurs the line between hero and villain, and placed the entire mutant race into the most powerful and secure position its ever been--and in direct opposition to the human heroes of the Marvel Universe.

[SPOILERS FROM HERE ON]

Charles Xavier has returned to his place as leader of the X-Men, but this time is different. “The Dream,” as readers have known it, has changed. Xavier seems to have given up on the idea of coexistence, instead embracing a sort of gentle but uncompromising dominance over humanity. The nations of the Human world have been extorted into recognizing Mutant rights, not through the threat of violence but through the “gift” of mutant-created super-drugs that cure most known diseases and extend the human lifespan. This bargain, however peaceful it seems, is backed by a far more Machiavelian view of the use of mutant powers, where demonstrations of immense force and mental manipulation are tools that Charles seems much more comfortable embracing.

This is even further exemplified in the new resurrection “technology,” utilizing the power sets of 5 different mutants in order to untether mutantdom from mortality. Any mutant who dies, as well as those who died in the past, can be brought back, memories restored, in a brand new body rapidly aged by time manipulation. While this allows mutants to be sent on the most dangerous of missions without fear of death, this also raises serious existential questions. Is a mind copied into a husk body the same as the person that died? How will effective immortality alter the morality of those brought back? Can the fidelity of this process really be trusted? Shadows of these questions already hang over the book, but Charles seems unfazed.

Now, Charles’ comfort with morally-grey decisions is hardly new. In the past, Charles has bounded right past moral boundaries when it suits his interest, but extorting humanity and flagrantly cheating death has propelled this to a brand new level. Welcoming some of the most ruthless mutants to their new nation of Krakoa with open arms further drives this point home. This Charles just seems...different.

This difference is even demonstrated visually through the use of his new Cerebro helmet. From the first page of House of X #1, Charles has been in the helmet, only appearing out of it in flashbacks to the “Dream” era (as the past is referred to in Powers of X). Charles explains that he needs to keep wearing the helmet in order to maintain backing up all the mutants on earth, but the text pages reveal that he was able to achieve that without the need for having it on constantly in the past. Plus, all the mutants living on Krakoa don’t need constant back ups by Xavier, as they use “cradles” weekly to update Cerebro’s files on their memories and personalities. This explanation is clearly a lie, so what is the real explanation?

The Helmet Is Designed To Hide Something

The core theme of House of X and Powers of X is hidden agendas. From Moira’s previously-unrevealed mutant powers, to how the knowledge of her previous lives has secretly motivated Charles from the beginning, to the mutant’s new modus operandi in asserting their sovereignty to humanity, Hickman has woven layers of conspiracy into the series. To borrow a title from his run on Secret Warriors, there are wheels within wheels here, and the full picture is being intentionally withheld from various parties, even the readers. That was never more clear than in the first pages of House of X #6.

From House of X #6 by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia and Clayton Cowles

From House of X #6 by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia and Clayton Cowles

Across the preceding ten issues (and as stated above), Charles has only appeared in the helmet in the modern era. Readers get their first glimpse of him out of the helmet in a flashback from “one month earlier,” where Moira, Magneto, and Charles are finalizing their plans--but something is missing. In the three panels that feature clear shots of Charles, the choice of framing and angle ensure that readers don’t get to see the part of Charles’ face that is being covered by the helmet.

Xavier in Helmet.jpg

This is the closest Hickman has come so far to tipping his hand. The otherwise positive and peaceful tone of the issue (morally-dubious capital punishment aside) belies the implication of the choice on these pages. Comics, as a visual media, works best when it shows, rather than tells, and the choice not to show is just as meaningful as the choice of what to show. Not showing means that what is being withheld can be understood, or at least picked up on, through the imagery. In other words, there is something on Charles’ face, above his nose, that would give away whatever Hickman and his team have chosen to hide from readers, and it’s something easily gleaned on the visual alone.

So…What Is It?

The true nature of the mystery surrounding Charles, his new embrace of a more absolutist morality, and his adoption of a face-obscuring helmet is not yet known, but the series certainly suggests a set of possibilities. Given the choices of what to introduce and highlight in the series, there are really only 3 possibilities.

From Powers of X #1, by Jonathan Hickman, RB Silva, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles

From Powers of X #1, by Jonathan Hickman, RB Silva, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles

ONE: NIMROD - This is probably the most obvious conclusion. Nimrod has long been considered a turning point in Sentinel technology, one that means nothing but subjugation and death for mutants. The Nimrod first encountered by readers hailed from the Days of Future Past timeline, and would eventually become fused with a sentinel Master Mold after they were both pushed through the Siege Perilous, creating Bastion (Did I mention X-Men history is convoluted?), a supervillain who devastated the X-Men in the 90s- era Operation: Zero Tolerance event.

The “how” of Nimrod taking over Charles in some manner is murky at best, but the cover for Powers of X #6, with Moira appearing over the bodies of the X-Men in a very Nimrod-esque top, implies that Moira could be the mechanism for Xavier being subsumed by the powerful future Sentinel. Perhaps he somehow piggybacks on her memories and has since taken her over, and was then able to also take over Charles. Given that it would be the version of Nimrod from her past life, it could also explain some of the changes to Charles’ demeanor, with his more dramatic body language and oddly-positive attitude for most of the series. But could this be understood with one image? The Nimrod look is certainly iconic, but it’s hard to imagine it being merged with Charles’ face in a visually satisfying way. That leads us to…

From Powers of X #5 by Jonathan Hickman, RB Silva, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles

From Powers of X #5 by Jonathan Hickman, RB Silva, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles

TWO: THE PHALANX - In the final timeline seen in Powers of X, some familiar looking--but blue--mutants are attempting to ascend, to merge with the hyper-advanced techno-organic intelligence known as the Phalanx. Though this is the least action-oriented and slowest paced of all the timelines seen in Powers of X, the slow burn really began paying off in Power of X #5, where the Phalanx agree to absorb the Earth’s collective knowledge, but at the cost of the brutal absorption of the life force of the remaining mutants on Earth. First, those “familiar looking mutants?” There’s a good reason to conclude that they are Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert, resurrected through the same means Apocalypse uses to resurrect himself. Second, the X^3/Year 1000 timeline is the same as X^2. It’s all the 9th life of Moira X, her previous incarnation. This can be proven through the very first page of the X^3 timeline, where Cylobel, the young mutant executed and merged into Nimrod’s demented “library,” is seen, still preserved there and part of said library. The same library being accessed by the Librarian, who is likely Charles Xavier. If all this is indeed true, then at least one form of Moira is still alive in this timeline, and her memories should, on her death, be sent back to herself at birth in her next life. Which is the same life as every appearance of Moira prior to House of X #2. (Still following?)

This is a lot to assume, but here’s the short explanation: Year 1000 Moira will be absorbed by the Phalanx, simultaneously merging her mind with the Phalanx intelligence while sending her memories into her next life. The Phalanx could have piggybacked some part of themselves into Moira, and she could have then been manipulated into infecting Charles with the Phalanx at some point prior to the flashback in House of X #6. The visual on this would also be very easily grasped, as the look of the Phalanx is well established, and giving Charles Phalanx-eyes would be a pretty stunning visual. However, given some of the other clues in the series, it seems more likely it will instead by Nimrod who is able to piggyback on Moira’s memories (that Powers #6 cover), plus there is a far easier way of bringing the Phalanx, and their new black hole-oriented lore, into the story...

From Powers of X #3 by Jonathan Hickman, RB Silva, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles

From Powers of X #3 by Jonathan Hickman, RB Silva, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles

...so there is enough to counter this as the best guess for the reveal of what’s under the helmet. Which brings us to…

From Powers of X #4 by Jonathan Hickman, RB Silva, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles

From Powers of X #4 by Jonathan Hickman, RB Silva, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles

THREE: MR. SINISTER - In the X^0 portion of Powers of X #4, Charles and Magneto, secretly allied, visit Bar Sinister, home to the morally-devoid master geneticist once known as Nathaniel Essex. Xavier and Magneto (Eisenhardt or Lehnsherr or Magnus or) have come to offer aid to Essex in his work of cataloguing all DNA on earth, asking only that he prioritize the preservation of mutant DNA. He at first rejects this, diminishing the value of mutant DNA after not liking the results of his experimentations with it, only to be assassinated and replaced by one of his other clones who was the result of said experimentations. This new Sinister agrees to their terms, and subsequently has his mind manipulated by Xavier, who makes him forget why he is preserving mutant DNA and that they were ever there.

However, pages later is the “Red Diamond” section, with 10 “Sinister Secrets.” While these read as a mix of fun jokes and serious teases for the stories to come, the tenth upends everything in the previous section:

From Powers of X #4, by Jonathan Hickman and Tom Muller

From Powers of X #4, by Jonathan Hickman and Tom Muller

Charles didn’t make Sinister forget; Sinister has known all along what Charles, Magneto, and Moira have been up to. And Sinister being in on the game, but to no one else’s knowledge, exposes Charles and company to some serious risk. The opportunity to tilt the situation to his favor is one Sinister won’t pass up, and what better way to gain the upper hand than on the most fundamental level.

What if Sinister inserted himself on a genetic level into the stored DNA of Charles Xavier? It’s fair to assume that the Charles seen in the series was resurrected from that genetic material, donated by Xavier under the assumption that Sinister wouldn’t understand enough to know how to manipulate the process. This is the best opportunity Sinister has to take over Xavier.

And how insane would it be if, under Charles’ helmet, he had a Red Diamond?

Special thanks to Kevin Brettauer (@kevinbrettauer) for helping expand the scope of this article.

Kieron Gillen Q&A: In Which We Talk About The Wicked + The Divine

Kieron Gillen Q&A: In Which We Talk About The Wicked + The Divine