Powers Of X #2
Mutant and machine collide in different times in Powers Of X #2, by writer Jonathan Hickman, artist R.B. Silva, inkers R.B. Silva, and Adriano Di Benedetto, colorist Marte Gracia, and letterer Clayton Cowles. Hickman keeps with the storytelling conceit of the first issue of the book, splitting the action between the four most important years of mutantkind, as mutants are faced with a lot of tough decisions.
In X-Men Year 0, Moira and Charles go to Magneto to reveal Moira’s secret to him. In Year 10, the present, Xavier and Magneto reveal the information that Mystique, Toad, and Sabretooth stole from Damage Control to Cyclops. In Year 100, Wolverine brings Cardinal and Rasputin to the X-Men’s leader, and they plan a daring raid on the machines. Finally, in the Year 1000, the Mutant/Machine alliance are confronted by a higher life form they called down themselves, the Phalanx.
A lot is going on in this book. First off, in Year 0, Charles and Moira revealing her secret to Magneto and bringing him into their confidence changes a lot of what X-fans have known for years. Has Magneto always been a secret ally, testing the resolve of the X-Men? Preparing them for the hardships of the future? Or did something in the intervening years that made him try and destroy Xavier’s dream before accepting it? This is probably the most interesting question this issue brings up and it fits with the Moira retcon of House Of X #2. Hickman isn’t satisfied with restoring the status quo that X-Men fans are used to, but tweaking it in intelligent and powerful ways. Both Moira and Charles had worked with Magneto in the past before Year 0, so they would want to bring him in on the big secret, trying to unite mutantkind so they can survive. What he’ll make of all this remains to be seen, but Hickman has proven that he’s trustworthy.
The other three times in the book are all related in that they all involve mutants preparing to come up against machines. In Year 10, Charles, Magneto, and Cyclops prepare to strike the Orchis Initiative and their Master Mold. In Year 100, the X-Men get ready to attack Nimrod and the humans to retrieve information. In Year 1000, the Phalanx come to Earth, called there by a worldmind the post-human society. that was built specifically to signal them (the worldmind is described as a planet transformed by a thinking machine into a sentient world). The juxtaposition of mutant and machine in this book so far is pretty fitting. Mutants are the next phase of mankind, but machines are the things that mankind makes to make themselves better. They both represent evolutionary steps for humanity, but they work in different ways. Mutants exist to supplant mankind. Machines to make sure mankind survives. It’s interesting that in the Year 1000, mutants and machines live in harmony and society has sought out even more powerful machines to join with. Is this the ultimate expression of evolution? Whatever it is, it is definitely thought-provoking.
R.B. Silva’s art is stronger than it was in the last issue. His detail would slack a bit on long shots, but that’s not a problem here. Again, he flexes his design muscles with his designs for the future X-Men in Year 100 and a new look for the Phalanx. But a place where his work really shines is in the backgrounds. The scenes on Krakoa in Year 10 and the background of the room where the X-Men’s leader is revealed in Year 100 are excellent. He does some great work in Year 0 and Year 1000. He captures the lush vegetation of Magneto’s Island M (the design of Magneto’s citadel is pretty great), while later showing what the future will look like when man, mutant, and machine have melded.
Powers Of X #2 is more than the sum of its parts. It shows mutantkind at four distinct points its evolution and juxtaposes mutant and machine in a way that will get readers’ brains working. Hickman is known for his dense plotting, and there’s an unpredictability to this book makes it so powerful. There’s no way Hickman won’t weave these seemingly disparate plot threads together, but the joy comes in seeing how he does it. R.B. Silva’s artworks so well because of his eye for design. He sets the scene for the script wonderfully, sucking readers into each different era. Powers Of X #2 is a wonderful example of Hickman’s bravura storytelling. He subtly changes what readers know about the past as it pertains to Charles and Magneto while also showing the evolving relationship between mutant and machine. It’s storytelling like this, that X-Men fans have been missing for most of the 21st century.