A friendly reminder: This HOX/POX reread contains no spoilers beyond these two series that are one. But logical theories will be worked out here and there as we go along.
Previously: More in the Hickman X-Men Re-Read!
Thus, a prefatory note: Spinning the Wheel of Fortune
Looking back again at Moira X’s opening epigraph of POX1, it was indexed as “M_X_theta.” I didn’t think initially to look into the symbolic meanings of the Greek symbol for the number nine—perhaps assuming that since we’re in Moira’s tenth life, the letter’s numerical value wouldn’t signify much. But researching just a bit more, one discovers: theta once symbolized death; it was derived from the Phoenician letter teth——which looks just like the Ancient Egyptian symbol for the soul, having a numerical value of nine; and Hellenized Egyptians might have taken the Greek letter to represent the world, the sun, the cosmos, or all three—bringing to mind the celestial spheres, that pristine cosmology long since shattered by modernity.
Even so, in the Roman numeration of the Tarot’s Major Arcana, card X—the Wheel of Fortune—represents destiny (moira) and is usually depicted with a sword-bearing Sphinx figure and a dog-headed humanoid (which might recall Apocalypse’s First Horsemen). In other words, Hickman is using ancient symbolism—ideas of order the modern world no longer takes seriously—to design his narrative patterns, which we’ve already seen in POX 1 with the Magician, the Tower, and the Devil.
Perhaps there will be characters in the Dawn of X who seek to order their world in like manner. (After all, one of Emma’s all-but-forgotten students—sure to return per the Resurrection Protocols—had the apt name of Tarot!)
But while these various ancient and medieval symbols resonate with one another, at least visually, they’re not necessarily equivalent; and if we’re still looking at the Tarot: the thirteenth card is Death, the nineteenth is the Sun, and the twenty-first is the World—or Kosmos.
And while mileage may vary for readers here, it could be worth considering connections between the Tarot and Moira’s lives. It certainly wouldn’t unlock any secrets; finding sensible correspondences would likely merely make the story more meaningful to the reader—which is all any storyteller wants!
However, Moira’s first life certainly seems more that of the happy fool than the powerful magus. But there’s something to be said for looking at her second life as a yearning after answers; her fourth and fifth lives as the quest for a great man by a woman yet to come into her own (inevitable errors of youth?); her sixth—although almost entirely unknown—as a deeply intimate millennial pairing (literally sharing their lifeblood) through great tribulation; her seventh as warlike, her wrath ultimately self-defeating; her eighth as aligned with (classic Silver Age) lawful evil and/or might; her ninth a kind of corruption of her humanity in extremis, but also a kind of recovery, ultimately a chance at ultimate success, her final destiny. Take it or leave it, this is just another way of reading—and that’s never a bad thing.
I. Wrapping up HOX2 with a look back at Moira’s Third Life
There at the end, she did indeed vacillate in her doubt and ignorance, after what she’d deemed so much fruitful action—alas, what foolishness. (Again, the fool! Oh, Moira, she is everywhere. The Fool is unmoored, always, a disaster or a boon ready to drop off a cliff, a cloud, into our destiny when least expected!)
Moira was not, after all, the master of her third life; it was Destiny—the iconic figure of the clandestine within the X-Men mythos (with her clandestine sisterhood, with Mystique, the chaos to her order, together in secrecy, passing through the world in layers of almost indecipherable coding—yes, including queer—ready at a moment’s notice to burn it all down—maybe).
A. Destiny Notes
Artist Pepe Larraz, brilliantly inspired by modernist sculptor Constantin Brâncusi’s “Sleeping Muse,” effectively makes Destiny’s masked appearance “both calming and disquieting,” as he noted on Twitter. Appropriately enough, the given name of Irene Adler—whom her creator Chris Claremont intended to be Sherlock Holmes’ classic frenemy—descends from Eirene, goddess of peace, again marking her as a figure of order to Mystique’s wielding of chaos.
Another clever little piece of visual storytelling is the subtle reminder of Destiny’s blindness—represented by the panel of blackness on page 10. Via her precog powers, Irene could actually see seconds ahead of her with precision. The certainty of her foresight fell off beyond fifteen minutes into the future. (But it would seem like her scanning of possible futures would disrupt her present physical coordination! Who knows.)
The Destiny of Moira’s Tenth Life, Earth-616, was slain by the Shadow King in Uncanny X-Men #255, 1989—on Muir Isle, incidentally, home to Moira X’s Mutant Research Center, where Moira herself was “killed” by Mystique in the “Dream’s End” crossover, 2001. (A very confusing time in X-Men history, but it’s notable that the shapeshifting assassin was working alongside Toad and Sabretooth, then. Unfortunately, Raven was “insane” at the time, a condition exacerbated by discovering, in Fabian Nicieza’s X-Men Forever, that Irene had all along been working to destroy mutantkind! Perhaps, along with Chaos War: X-Men #1-2 by Claremont and Simonson  we’re supposed to happily forget these weird stories by classic X writers who should have left well enough alone.) Of course, as we learn in POX 6, Moira faked her death. (Again, it’s baffling that Destiny’s ghost in the Chaos War mini would be tricked by a resurrected Shi’ar golem into believing it was Moira; not great.)
Regardless, Destiny and Moira are fated, someday, to confront each other again.
In Life Three, however, she gave Moira a choice and apparently, she made the right one in Destiny’s view, such that she never pursued the Ouroboran mutant again—as far as we know.
But if Moira’s experience of the world in each of her lives necessarily alters every subsequent life, does Destiny’s precognitive vision itself alter the Ouroboran Moira’s future? Well, let’s not get a headache, but we do know that every Destiny in Moira’s lives will know Moira as a mutant and Ouroboran. That means that she likely never told even Mystique, her wife, about Moira’s secret—at least in Life Ten!
B. Destiny Diaries
Visually impaired from birth, she was considered legally blind months after her mutant manifestation—during which time she’d written the entirety of her diaries, a record of her future visions—in 13 volumes!
These books were first mentioned in X-Men #105 (2000) and X-Treme X-Men #1 (2001). But they were accidentally destroyed in a Marauders/X-Men battle in X-Men #203 (2007), and there’s been no mention of them in the past decade of stories.
C. Defining Moira’s Mutant Power
On page 13, Destiny says: “You are born each time with the knowledge of your previous lives, but if you die as a child—before your mutant powers manifest—then you will not reincarnate. You simply end. Like everyone else.” This is strange, distinguishing Moira’s knowledge of her past lives, which is always with her (as noted on page 3) from her reincarnating power. But I suppose it makes sense given that, unlike Ouroboran Harry August—whose reincarnations are potentially infinite—Moira will one day be born into her last life, never to manifest her ability again, but she’ll retain her prior-lives knowledge even then. Also, like with Claire North’s novel, it lends her a storyable limitation: she can be ended as a small child (but it needs to be much earlier—in infancy—in the Claire North story).
D. Moira III’s “Cure”
Moira III’s “cure” echoes a similar creation in Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men #1 (2004), the work of human doctor Kavita Rao, who developed the gene therapy from the Legacy Virus cure that Moira X had created several years earlier. Another Hickmanian loop! (Fortunately, Rao’s “Hope Serum” is no more—except for a vial stored somewhere in Beast’s labs, as last mentioned in Si Spurrier’s X-Men: Blind Science, 2010.)
While the Legacy Virus might’ve been the death knell for mutantkind, Moira was believed the first human to be infected by it—but now it all makes sense!
II. Powers of X #2: We Are Together Now, You And I: Year One
A. Island M
POX 2’s cover is beautiful, but I don’t find much direct insight there regarding this chapter’s story—beyond reminding us that it was the “evil” trio of Mystique, Sabretooth, and Toad who retrieved the critical info on Orchis’s plans. But the British Mortimer is looking very ’60s mod, which is hilarious. The fluffiness of Sabretooth and Emma’s couture helps too!
And Silva is showing us the Krakoan House of M here—again, very lush and psychedelic—so it’s safe to say that there’s a Krakoan portal between Magneto’s two posh island homes …
So, let’s do the time warp and visit Island Magneto—
Silva’s design here has a 1960s vibe, as well—almost psychedelic and very paradisal, a place to get marooned and have trippy adventures! (Nightmarish ones in Illyana’s case! See Uncanny X-Men #160, 1982.)
But this can’t be the same island Magneto used as a base in the Silver Age (X-Men #4, 1964) because he raised Island M from the ocean not long before UX 147-148, 1981. Claremont and artist Dave Cockrum gave the venue its fantastical Lovecraftian design, which property—the Cthulhu Mythos—is sure to become more relevant to the Marvel Universe as long-contested rights issues have recently been resolved.
Now, in POX 5, page 7, we see that the island is listed as the location of Cradle 2. On page 21 of that issue, we see King Namor on his throne surrounded by Cthulhu décor, which parallel with Island M might become a thing …
But back here in Year One, we’re not in 1964. No, this scene must be set sometime after UX 161, when the X-Men finally leave after their post-Magneto-fight holiday turned disaster (see Illyana, above; also, Xavier infected by the Brood)—but before UX 199-200, when Magneto was arrested and put on trial—wearing his flamboyant purple costume. (It should also be prior to New Mutants #23-28, 1984-1985.)
In any case, the HOX 2 timeline has Moira and Xavier recruiting Magneto when Moira’s 43. Essentially, HOX/POX’s Year One indicates anything before the recent past; just read it as Hickman retcon time!
So, let’s get to the substance of this all-important meeting. It’s touching, really. Despite Magneto’s epigraph, the “gap” between this classic dyad is bridged by scene’s end. Their dyadic relationship is made clear with this chapter’s title, while Moira’s address to Magneto on page 3 is bordered in orange and red, setting her apart from their dynamic.
The reality implicit throughout this scene is that Erik already trusts Charles, to be whom he believes him to be. In fact, the abovementioned UX 161 is their classic pre-X-Men backstory, when they worked together helping Holocaust survivors in Israel. This story, with UX 150—when Magneto stopped battling the X-Men immediately after realizing he might’ve killed Kitty Pryde, a young girl at the time—were the first stories to humanize the Silver Age villain. Thereafter, his character became more rounded and humane, eventually leading to his time as headmaster at Xavier’s, following UX 200.
To contextualize further, Claremont, himself Jewish, established Magneto as a Holocaust survivor—specifically as a child in Auschwitz—both in this scene where he holds an unconscious Kitty and then in 161, pictured below.
And after allying with the reality-displaced X-Men in Jim Shooter’s Secret Wars, he stayed with the team, growing closer to Kitty, who in the 1980s was the only mutant to have been explicitly established as Jewish. Thus were his growing protective feelings toward her given greater meaning. (Magneto’s Jewish identity was only heavily implied until Greg Pak’s Magneto Testament miniseries in 2008. Oh, Marvel. Better late than never, I suppose.)
After all, the girl he’d almost killed might not have existed in the first place had the Nazis been victorious. So, setting Magneto’s joining of Moira and Xavier’s secret plan to save mutantkind during this era of reform makes perfect sense.
Kudos, Hickman! You know your X history, and fans should trust you to know what you’re doing.
B. Visions of “Other” Magnetos
Now, when Moira, via Xavier’s telepathy, delivers her memories of previous Magneto incarnations, let’s remember that these are not alternate-timeline Magnetos. They are Magneto exactly as Earth-616 Magneto would be except for Moira’s various decisions in each of her lives.
Aside from the vision of Magneto in chains—an imminent fate here in Life Ten—the other visions haven’t been repeated as far as I know. It’s likely that S.H.I.E.L.D. captured him in Life Eight; and the Sentinel could be from almost any of Moira’s lives; but then there’s the raging monster that to me is reminiscent of the Shadow King—which might be an interesting story!
But back on Island M, Year 10, the clandestine pact was sealed. Of course, Erik (or Max, his given name)—a Holocaust survivor—has always sought more than mere survival. But Moira X herself has been through many horrific lives now, and she’s committed not “just surviving … but thriving.”
All together now, these three would begin forging a third way, which does seem to be a realistic compromise between Xavier’s alpha—his dream of assimilating with an inevitably outmoded but still dominant species—and Magneto’s omega—his sometimes-fascist mutant separatism. It’s certainly a subtler, longer game than what Moira tried in Life Nine with Apocalypse! And it more firmly cements a friendship and alliance that should’ve had more solid footing by now (but, you know, Claremont was fired + editorial was a mess).
Regardless, Hickman has set himself a monumental task in backfilling the logic of this partnership that would’ve had to continue to evolve during the decline and regression of Magneto’s character in the ’90s.
Closing epigraph: “We are together, or we are nothing.”
(Note that lined up together, the epigraphs in HOX 1 and POX 2 create a chiasmus: Xavier/Magneto/Magneto/Xavier. And those of POX 1 and HOX 2 do so too, in a sense: Moira/Rasputin/Apocalypse/Moira—if read as Y10/Y100 X-Men/Y100 X-Men/Y10. Mirror, mirror.)
III. POX 2: Year 10
While it makes sense to have a schematic Sentinel face laid over Orchis’ Mother Mold plans on page 8, it also looks kind of funny! (Could be a subtle moment of levity?) Still, Silva’s Krakoan biotech continues to look awesome.
Magneto references Operation Paperclip, a real-world US intelligence program to bring in perhaps 2000 or more German scientists and engineers—many of them powerful Nazis—to assist the US against the USSR during the Cold War and the Space Race. (The Soviets did likewise, of course.) Thus, Orchis:
“[American intelligence] also held their noses long enough to Operation Paperclip in a few ex-Hydra.”
On page 10, Scott makes a snarky reference to “raining Sentinels,” no doubt thinking of UX 98-100 when the robots were being made and sent down from space. Back in 1976, however, the threat did feel silly, so Scott’s dismissiveness is justified, for the moment.
An earlier Sentinels-in-space story was X-Men #59, 1969—where Claremont’s credited with plot assistance (he was barely 19 years old!)—where Scott convinces the Sentinels that the Sun is the source of all mutation, so they should take it out. Yes, they actually fall for it—and fly into the sublime furnace of creation, annihilating themselves. Right on.
But no, Scott—we’re talking Nimrod, the “mighty hunter,” the “giant” king responsible for the Tower of Babel—and also, in Year 100, the Monolith of Ascension—which surely echoes the biblical legend. After all, from that towering structure, the posthumans of Year 1000 call down their own annihilation …
(The result also of a totalitarian future world, in which humans set aside their multitudinous differences to annihilate the great Other—mutantkind—a timely cautionary tale on the poisonous promises of fascism. Banding together to defeat a “common enemy” can have dire consequences—when it means assimilation into a greater system or machine indifferent to the vitality and dynamism of diversity at all levels. A warning as well, perhaps, to the Krakoans themselves. And for fans who fear Hickman treats beloved characters as mere parts in a heavily patterned narrative, I’d argue that he understands the dangers of his project—and that’s why he’s working with so many different voices to make sure individuals—even and maybe especially the fractious ones—will continue to shine, maybe brighter than ever.)
More on this piece of work next time.
For now, remember that this big bad is from the “Days of Future Past” Earth-811 future, but it’s never been revealed when exactly Nimrod “becomes operational.” Apparently, that dark day is imminent.
This scene sets up the rest of the HOX narrative—some of the greatest, most dire action X fans have seen.
But first, in the rest of this issue and through POX 3, we find out how Year 100 and Moira’s Ninth Life ends, allowing for the success of the Life Ten, Year 10 mission to the Sun.
(X 59, 1969—Claremont’s first big idea at age 19?)