Of the two books fueling Jonathan Hickman’s giant X-Men relaunch, Powers of X is tripper than House of X, given that it’s juggling four separate plots in four separate timelines. And while two of those timelines — X⁰, set before Charles Xavier founded the X-Men, and X¹, the present day — expand on stories unfolding in House of X, the other two — X², set 100 years in the future during a war between highly advanced mutants and the Man-Machine Supremacy, an alliance of humans and evolved Sentinels, and X³, set 1,000 years after that, where humans are (kinda) extinct — are largely playing out in their own spaces.
But Hickman, artist and inker R.B. Silva, co-inker Adriano Di Benedetto, colorist Marte Gracia, letterer Clayton Cowles, and designer Tom Muller (who’s behind the many text pages and cyphers in the Krakoan mutant language) aren’t so caught up in blazing a new frontier that they leave the reader behind. Instead, Powers of X #2 affirms that there was a reason for everything that’s happened to the X-Men over the years, and building on top of the past, that there’s a new future coming for mutantkind.
[Ed. note: The following analysis contains spoilers for Powers of X #2.]
The issue opens in X⁰, with Professor X and Moira MacTaggert meeting an embittered Magneto on an “Island M” in the Bermuda Triangle. Moira telepathically reveals to the longtime X-villain, as revealed in last week’s House of X, that she is a mutant who reincarnates in a time loop and has lived all the myriad ways Xavier and Magneto’s dueling dreams for mutantkind have failed. Dumbstruck by all his dismal failures, Magneto asks why they showed him this.
“Because,” Xavier replies, “[Moira’s] truth [of all her lives and what she’s witnessed] is profound and life-changing. And apart, we always lose. We believe it’s only together that you and I — that all our people — can survive.”
Moira chimes in to explain that their plan is not about survival, it’s about uniting all mutantkind and “assuming our rightful place on this Earth.” Magneto agrees, pledging to keep watch over Xavier the whole time.
This scene implies that most or maybe all of the crap the X-Men have been through for their entire history — from the Dark Phoenix Saga to Fall of the Mutants to the death and resurrection of everyone from Wolverine to Jean Gray to Professor X himself — has been orchestrated by Xavier, Moira, and Magneto in service of the newly-founded nation of Krakoa.
Connecting Powers of X’s timelines
In X¹, Xavier and Magneto reveal to Cyclops that the flash drive Mystique, Toad and Sabretooth stole from Damage Control in House of X #1 contains schematics for a Mother Mold: a giant version of the Master Mold, a Sentinel that makes only Sentinels. But the Mother Mold makes other Master Molds.
This Mother Mold is at the center of The Forge, a space station that a bunch of new characters and ex-X-Man, Omega Sentinel Karima Shapandar, were shown boarding in House of X #1. The flash drive also reveals, as X and Magneto explain, that Karima and the others — ex-members of SHIELD, AIM, SWORD (aka SHIELD in space) and HAMMER — have banded together as Orchis, dedicating themselves to building a huge Sentinel army to wipe out all of the newly united mutantkind (as research now indicates they’ll surpass humanity in 20 years). Orchis is so dedicated to the genocide that the group even recruited some Hydra folks to help out.
Xavier and Magneto reveal their fear that not only will next-gen Sentinels be built at the Forge, but so will Nimrod, the highly advanced future Sentinel who first appeared in the iconic Days of Future Past storyline … and is shown leading the Man-Machine Supremacy in the X2 timeline.
A flash forward to the X² timeline reveals the mutant resistance we saw last issue is led by none other than longtime X-Men foe and one of the first mutants in history, Apocalypse. As he gears them up to assault the Supremacy, Wolverine notes it’s a guaranteed suicide mission. After all, the team member killed in the last issue could cloak them from the machines. But Apocalypse — always a fanatic but now driven to survive at all costs by whatever this war has done — doesn’t seem to care anymore.
The Marvel Universe’s very own Third Impact
Like Powers of X #1, this issue concludes in X³, revealing the next stage of the Librarian and Nimrod’s plan. But a whole glossary of planetary societies is lobbed at the reader, and it’s tied up with the appearance of a future version of longtime X-foes, the Phalanx.
The Phalanx are basically Marvel’s version of the Borg, techno-organic beings formed by organic life willingly infecting itself with the Transmode Virus of the Technarchy (the robot alien race of Warlock, the longtime New Mutant). In the past, we’ve learned the Phalanx are linked by a hive mind and exist only to consume and absorb all life into its collective. They first appeared in 1994’s The Phalanx Covenant storyline, when anti-mutant bigots turned themselves into Terminators to destroy the X-Men.
X³ introduces a far-evolved version of the Phalanx which, having apparently been summoned by a signal, asks the Librarian what they want.
“Ascension,” the Librarian replies.
The glossary spells out exactly what that means, ranking the types of societies that have sprung up in the far future using Species Intelligence (SI) — defined as “the thinking power of a single mature being possessing average intellectual abilities” — as a metric. It explains that this far future version of the Phalanx, which has an SI ranking of 1,000,000, is so advanced, they’ve added whole galaxies to their collective. “Ascension” is what they call the act of consuming galaxies.
To bring it back to the Borg, the Librarian is offering up the entire galaxy, willfully, for assimilation.
Whether that’s a hopeful thing or a sign of madness on the Librarian’s part, I can’t say yet. But this plan — to willingly submit oneself to oblivion — recalls the shocking ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion. That series’ movie sequel, The End of Evangelion, revealed that NERV boss Gendo Ikari had engineered all the attacks by the monstrous Angels and brought about the apocalypse in order to reunite with his dead wife and rule over all of creation. Is the Librarian planning a similar gambit? It’s possible.
Ultimately, what this issue establishes is that Hickman and Silva (and Pepe Larraz, the artist on House of X) have made a Grand Unified Theory of the X-Men. The establishment of Krakoa by Moira, Charles and Magneto — the outcome to which every X-Men story ever was theoretically building to this entire time — clearly has repercussions for the two future timelines. Could that include the last mutants pulling a Dr. Manhattan and deciding to just peace out of existence altogether? The possibilities are what make Powers of X and House of X so immediately compelling.
Tom Speelman is a writer for Polygon, Comic Book Resources, and more, as well as a proofreader, adapter and copyeditor for Seven Seas Entertainment and others. He’s the co-host of Gotta Watch’em All!, a new podcast making fun of the Pokémon anime. It’s very funny and he thinks you will like it. He’s on Twitter @tomtificate.