Let's Talk About House Of X #2 // Spoilers
Hi, I'm David Harth, and today, we're going to talk about House Of X #2. Jonathan Hickman dropped a big, fat retcon on longtime beloved X-Men character and it kind of changes everything. In my review of the issue (which you find here), I was very vague so as not to ruin the shock of the whole thing, but here I'm going to try and go more in-depth with it. So, you know, SPOILERS.
You've been warned.
So, Moira MacTaggert, mutant researcher and friend of Charles Xavier, has been a mutant all along. Not just any kind of mutant either, but one who reincarnates. She's functionally immortal, as long as she doesn't die before her powers kick in. At this point in time, she's on her tenth lifetime. This is a rather huge change to a character that has thus far merely been a science buddy for the team. It also better explains her desire to help mutants in general, beyond her role as a biologist. She's had more skin in the fight than readers have known.
The real changes, though, come to who she is. In her lifetimes, she's created a mutant cure and paid for it with her life. She's been a helper to Xavier, spurred Magneto to attack the world and cost his life, and murdered all the Trasks. She's been a Horseman of Apocalypse. That's a lot of experience for one person, and with all she's brought to the table, it's strange that she wouldn't have come out as a mutant earlier. However, as seen in both Powers Of X #1 and House Of X #2, Charles Xavier has always known she was a mutant. She allowed him to see it during their first meeting. He's just kept it from everyone,
This isn't a big surprise; Xavier has been shady for… well, forever, really. His dream is admirable, but he's not above lying and manipulating the people around him, even the ones he cares about, to make his dream come true. The thing about it is, though, is whose idea was it for him to keep this information secret. Personally, I think it was Moira's. Throughout her lifetimes, she's learned a lot and has become very pragmatic. In her third life, she decides the best course of action is to create a mutant cure, an act which causes the end of her life. In another life, she teams with Xavier and tries the superhero route, and that ends in tragedy. In another, she convinces him to break away and create a haven for mutants. This ends just as badly. These lives drive her to some dark places. As she ends up going to Magneto and in her next life, Apocalypse, as a way to deal with what she has begun to see as an inevitable cycle of death.
At one point at the beginning of the comic, she talks about the observer effect- that even if she just watched, by merely existing, she changed things. However, she's seen in the past how much her actively participating in events could make things perhaps worse. In every world where she was an active participant, things ended in tragedy in one way or another. Maybe in this, her tenth life, she decided to take a different approach. She'd show Xavier all the ways things could end badly. Then together, they could plan a way forward for mutants that might not lead to genocide or at the very least, not complete genocide.
This also makes two more things from the past make even more sense- the birth of her son Proteus and her contracting the Legacy Virus. Proteus is an Omega class mutant, and while most other Omega class mutants were born to human parents, some are born to mutants. The thing is, though, that she would be able to test him for mutant genes, even in utero, and possibly even know how powerful he could become (this theory isn't even mine, I got it off someone from Reddit) and had him on purpose in hopes that power like his could make a difference. It's possible that she had him in another life and thought that in this one, she could harness his power better, which is why she built the containment system for him. It also makes her contraction of the Legacy Virus makes more sense. Before this retcon, she was the only "human" ever to contract it. It made no sense that a virus explicitly created made to target mutants would jump over to a human only once. There is always a chance that viruses that affect one species can mutate to infect another, but it rarely if ever only happens once.
What's really intriguing about this comic is that nothing is known about her sixth life. It's not elaborated on in the issue. It's not in the timeline at the end (which should look familiar to Hickman fans- it's reminiscent of a timeline he put into an issue of East Of West). It's a complete blank. We, as readers, have no idea what happened in it. There's not even a hint. This is very tantalizing, and it may hold the key to everything that is happening right now. Maybe in this life, she and Xavier did the whole Krakoa thing Xavier is doing right now, and it ended in disaster. This is the biggest unanswered question in the book so far and could hold the key to everything.
Another thing that goes unanswered is what exactly happens at the end of her ninth life, the one spent with Apocalypse. The issue opens with a quote from Apocalypse and readers never see Moira die in that timeline (although it's sure she does at some point) or how the battle with Apocalypse ends, and whether humans are able to destroy him. Hickman is a very deliberate writer. If he's leaving things open like this, there's definitely a reason for it. Plus, as we found out from SDCC, Apocalypse will be a part of the X-Men. Could this be because of Moira? While this isn't the same Apocalypse from her ninth life, could he, like Destiny before him, know about Moira, perhaps because of the extra power given to him by the Celestial armor he wears? Does he agree to join the X-Men because of something Moira tells him?
Finally, there's the whole question of how Moira's multiple lives affect the Marvel Universe as a whole. Does she create new universes with her actions? Would they still be considered the 616 universe? She's pretty willfully manipulating the timeline, changing events as she goes along. Will there be a consequence to this meddling? Anyone that has read Hickman's Avengers run knows that he's fond of using the Marvel Multiverse, so how does Moira fit into that? We know that there are various groups out there that patrol both the timeline for beings like Moira that meddle with it, such as the Temporal Variance Authority. Will we see them in the X-books soon?
This issue changes so much that readers have known and introduces so many potential storylines to the X-Men. Personally, as a longtime X-Men reader, my favorite run has always been Grant Morrison's. Chris Claremont did a lot of work building the X-Men, but Morrison took the concept and pushed it into the future. It was the first time that mutants actually felt like they were the next evolution of mankind. In only three issues, though, Hickman's run is shaping up to be something that is just as revolutionary as what Morrison did, perhaps more so. As much as I love it, Morrison's run didn't really change anything. It redefined things, made mutants more of a culture than any other run before, but there were minimal significant changes to the X-Men themselves. However, he brought something vital to the table, the Genoshan Genocide, something that Hickman has referenced, a momentous event that serves as a watershed moment. Like any good writer, Hickman is using the past to build a new future, but he's also set to drop some fundamental changes. Morrison kept things in the school but went much further with the concept than just about any writer before him. Hickman is taking the next step, creating a new country for the mutants, complete with a new language (shades of the Builder alphabet from his Avengers run). It's reminiscent of the Utopia years, but Hickman separates it from that dark time (both for mutants and for readers- that was back when Marvel seemed to be actively punishing the X-Men for existing) by making Krakoa a rising world power instead of a colony of a dying race.
And that brings us to this. Retconning Moira shifts nearly everything about the X-Men that readers thought they knew even if it only seems to affect Moira herself. As I was reading the book, I had a sense of disbelief at what Hickman was doing, the change he was making seemed so audacious to me. This was Moira MacTaggert. She was important, but she was just "the good" human, the one who saw past the hatred and wanted to help mutants. This new Moira is an entirely different character. Sure, she's still the same genius scientist, more so with her ten lifetimes of experience, but she's also a coldblooded killer. She's been a hero and a villain. Plus, as I've said above, Charles knows all about her. Has always known. That changes everything we know about the X-Men. I don't know about you, but I haven't been this excited by the X-Men in forever. What comes next remains to be seen, but if what has transpired so far is any indication, it will be an amazing ride.