I had no idea who Hickman was, in the time leading up to the House and Powers of X, I only heard second hand information about his previous work at Marvel. I knew a minimum amount of details about him turning Mr. Fantastic evil or putting Captain America and Ironman at each other’s throats, again. After the X men had been in a drought for years as far as excitement was concerned, I was welcome to the idea of any sort of shake up after the writers had finally sent the past versions of the original 5 X men back to the time they came from.
I stuck with House and Powers of X during the issue’s releases over 12 weeks. I won’t deny it started off intriguing. Xavier had returned with a mission, his brain no longer being hijacked by the Red Skull. The X men were gathering and refocusing their efforts. One large change being that the X men had a home again, trading the Xavier School for gifted Youngers for the entire living island of Krakoa. The biggest change of all was the X men’s newfound collateral with the Human race; 3 lifesaving drugs to better the quality of human life before they disappear while more of the populace evolves into mutants and they’re inevitably replaced.
Even the “truth” about Charles Xavier didn’t seem so bad at the time. Xavier apparently had advance knowledge of many of Mutantkind’s fates thanks to Moira Mactaggert’s suprise mutant power of reincarnation, which in retrospect isn’t so much a mutant power and is more of a cheat code courtesy of the universe. However, my opinion changed when the X Men went on a mission into space to destroy a sentinel factory orbiting the sun. They all died, or at least, those bodies did.
According to John Hickman, Cerebro was more than a Mutant finding machine, it was a device to copy the minds of every mutant it located and put it into a storage collective. The constantly updated data is then uploaded into a new copy of the individual’s body, courtesy of Krakoa. This was performed in a ceremony troublingly similar to that of a baptism, turning the X men from people into something more like replaceable apostles or mouthpieces for Xavier’s plan.
X men comics have had many writers over the decades that brought in changes to shake up and update the X men for new audiences.
John Byrne and Chris Claremont injected individuality into the earlier incarnations of the team and introduced Kitty Pryde and started shifting the team dynamic to a family dynamic.
Scott Lobdell helped to orchestrate the Fatal Attraction arc and truly pushed Charles Xavier to an emotional breaking point, showing us an emotional vulnerability from the stoic teacher we’d never seen before.
Grant Morrison finally made the Xavier “School” an actual school and not a training facility.
Joss Whedon managed to pick up the pieces after Morrison’s run ended and set the team into motion despite Charles Xavier being out of the spotlight.
Each one of these men breathed new life into this beloved team with new ideas too. Hickman also has ideas, however he explores these ideas at the expense of character development, not to mention he basically invalidates decades of story-telling to say that he had the true story the whole time. Charles Xavier has always been a teacher, I don’t think it would be unfair to say that Xavier would never treat the lives of his X men so casually in all his years offering his home to them, Charles Xavier would keep tabs on mutants but never “collect” them without their knowledge only to copy them, and Charles Xavier is just as human on an emotional level as anyone can be.
I think the idea of gathering mutant consciousness into one giant mass of intelligence to create a God is a cool idea, but the characters aren’t growing as a result of this idea. What Hickman has done is essentially jerry-rig the characters to stagnantly go about their duties in order to explore the idea. The X men have become the tools of Charles Xavier, or rather, they have become the tools of John Hickman.
There were ways to introduce these ideas without compromising the character’s status as people. For starters, let Charles learn what Moira knows in a more recent context rather than making it a secret he’s kept to himself most of his life. Secondly, instead of reducing the X men to data, just make Krakoa a source for advanced healing. Thirdly, SHOW this Mutant nation being built with a little more skepticism from it's residents rather than show these characters gather and accept all these revelations with the conformity of a cult.
And furthermore for the sake of fairness, the concept of data being human after all has been done successfully. However it works in stories like Ghost in the Shell, Nier Automata or Star Trek: The Next Generation; stories where either the concept of identity is flimsy from the get go due to circumstances constantly switching characters through multiple bodies OR a character is data from their inception and they yearn to learn. Doing this with the X men just feels like a hollow plot device.
Thank ya Hickyman, you have dampened my enthusiasm for my favorite hero team.
Oh, and you let Wolverine do WHAT? He’s been a home wrecker for decades and you’re just giving him access to Jean? The internet can celebrate Scott, Jean and Logan having kinky threesomes, but I can’t ignore that Wolverine has been acting selfishly for years when he has a number of his relationships with women that have ended in failure. Years of fan fiction and guy on guy art have not changed the fact that Logan and Wolverine are never and have never seen eye to eye morally or ethically and are incredibly unlikely to start having sex in the same bed.