Whereas HOX 4 was the climax of the maxiseries’ violent action and HOX 5 seemed to essentially clarify the establishment of Krakoa’s sovereignty and its mutant demographics, Powers of X #5 swerves from standard, post-denouement narrative resolution, instead amplifying all the lingering mysteries—and there are so many.
Previously: More in the Hickman X-Men Re-Read!
The bizarre but frightening choice of cover—Sinister gloating over resurrection sacs in the Hatchery—and Xavier’s opening epigraph are unsubtle warnings right up front: They will think we are doing one thing, but the truth is we are doing something altogether different.”
(But who are “they”? Most obviously, it’s nonmutants. Out of context in an epigraph, though, it could also be a reference to readers being in the dark—which is always exciting. Darkly or cynically, this might imply, too, that everyone is being fooled; after all, Xavier and Magneto are fooling their own people as well, knowing that Moira is alive, her true nature, and that everything they’re doing is at her direction.)
Now, before diving in with our sequential readthrough, let’s also think back to initial impressions and puzzlements regarding Year 1000: After the postapocalyptic Year 100 blowout in POX 3 and then— connected to those future X-Men’s actions quite directly—the Year 10 attack on Orchis in HOX 4, many readers might’ve begun viewing the Year 1000 material as a strange afterthought, or perhaps a commentary that felt too cryptic and static to be relevant or helpful to the rest of the narrative.
At least in hindsight, however, I hope the skeptical came to appreciate what an excellent and economical slow burn this material was. From POX 1-5, Year 1000 takes up just 24 pages total, or 22 if you ignore purely visual infographic inserts (this issue and in POX 2—which before POX 6 gives us the most detail).
This issue, we really see the Librarian’s doubt about posthumanity’s imminent fate, setting up the twist things take at the end in POX 6. Perceptive readers would’ve surmised by the conclusion of Year 100—Moira’s ninth life—that Year 1000 was her sixth. So, the question then became: What knowledge is gained from her longest-lasting incarnation?
Whatever the case, our understanding of Year 1000 by the end of HOX/POX remains incomplete, and what Hickman and co. do with it will be altogether different from what any reader might currently predict.
I. For the Children
But first, the rest of POX 5, starting with the title page: “For the Children,” which with the focus on Emma this issue—looking at Xavier and Magneto’s recruitment of her for the Krakoa project—makes sense: Anyone who knows her history understands that this erstwhile villainess has in fact always been motivated by a desire to empower young mutants—inspiration and guidance no adult had given her as a youth. However, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t a bad influence early on at her Massachusetts Academy, but really, six years after her first appearance in 1980, she started down a new path as a mentor for the New Mutants, in Xavier’s absence and in support of the hapless Headmaster Magneto (beginning in New Mutants #38). Given Emma’s history as a teacher and headmistress, the “once more” portion of the subtitle makes sense and is echoed by her grand statement on page 13:
The contrast between her ability to interact with mutant youth and Xavier and Magneto’s paternalism has long been clear.
Meanwhile, the second part of the subtitle—“I need three”—seems to echo Emma’s request for three seats on the Quiet Council this issue. However, there’s no direct connection between Council representation for the Hellfire trading company and children. What’s clear on a close read, though, is that Emma does perceive a need for at least one staunch ally—which Shaw most assuredly isn’t—because she clearly suspects Xavier and Magneto cannot be wholly trusted. (Look at p15—would you trust those bozos?)
II. Year 1 Mysteries (pgs3-7)
Let’s start with the central mystery of this scene: It’s still not clear when it takes place. However, if you’ve caught up to X-Men vol5 #8 (2020), you know that Petra and Sway from the secret, ill-fated rescue team that failed to rescue the O5 and friends from Krakoa (as revealed in X-Men: Deadly Genesis, 2005) have been resurrected. Ergo, the enhanced version of Cerebro that Xavier requests here of Forge, must be active before Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975).
But we don’t need to go beyond this issue to find the relevant clues. Throughout these Year 1 scenes, Xavier’s wheelchair has been an indicator for the general time period (still a problem with POX 4, though). And here we have what might be most recognizable as the wheelchair from the X-Men movies, but Xavier used the very same wheelchair in the flashback sequences of Brubaker’s Deadly Genesis, and it was prominently displayed on the Marc Silvestri series finale cover:
Further, if Xavier’s been discussing Cerebro with Beast, this scene would likely take place before Beast’s departure from the O5. And while Forge (debuting in Uncanny X-Men #184, 1984) is shown here in what looks like an X-Men uniform from the late 1980s, his belt buckle is blank, without the characteristic “X” those uniforms sported—but most importantly, we find in Uncanny X-Men #262 (1990) that Moira designed these outfits in the first place. Returning to Deadly Genesis, Brubaker himself took this idea and showed Moira’s secret students wearing them in Xavier’s “virtual” training sessions:
[X-Men: Deadly Genesis #4]
They’re also wearing these uniforms in a brief flashback image in Mike Carey’s X-Men: Legacy #210 (2008), page 11—although it’s not clear whether that training session is astral/telepathic illusion or not.
Regardless, there’s no reason Xavier couldn’t have known of Forge well before Giant-Size X-Men, and he’d make sense as an occasional supporting character behind the scenes, uninterested in field action—especially with his memories of the Vietnam War so fresh at that time—and a shoo-in for technological support. Maybe he wore this unofficial uniform when doing work for the Professor, and he could’ve been aware of Moira’s existence (not her status as a mutant) prior to her first appearance in X-Men #96. After all, he had no connection to the team back then, so he’d have compromised nothing.
A. The Shi’ar Conundrum
But this does leave us with the strange fact that Xavier already knew about the Shi’ar before X-Men #97 (1976), where he first dreams of this as-yet-unnamed interstellar civilization at war. There’s no indication that he knew anything at all about these aliens before those night terrors. And yet, here in POX 5,
My prediction, then: Hickman is going to retcon Xavier’s discovery of the Shi’ar’s existence so that Claremont’s early stories of Princess Lilandra seeking out the Professor’s aid actually makes sense! After all, why would the Majestrix of a highly advanced interstellar civilization be mystically drawn to this mud speck lost amidst millions of stars on the periphery near the tail end of one of our own galaxy’s vast spiral arms? Yes, she “sensed” the psychic force he’d manifested in expelling the invading Z’nox from Earth [as seen in X-Men #65, 1970], but hopefully, Hickman’s more reasoned approach to storytelling will give the origin of Lilandra’s relationship with Xavier a more compelling footing for modern audiences—especially given Moira’s directing influence behind the scenes.
[Xavier shaken by a dream of the yet-unnamed and unmasked Lilandra, in a freaky spacesuit, X-Men #97]
Of course, one obvious new wrinkle is that Moira would’ve informed Xavier of the Shi’ar’s existence—whether or not merely by way of her memory-dump—and given that the Shi’ar already had a small presence on Earth, which had a traumatic impact on the Summers family years before the X-Men were formed, there’s no reason she’d have tried to hold back this critical piece of intelligence. Lilandra seeking him out came well after the Imperium had established at least a terrestrial spy outpost—run by Erik the Red (Davan Shakari; again, see X-Men #97).
It’s too bad we don’t know which Shi’ar spacecraft had been parked in Earth’s orbit at the time of this visit to Forge’s Dalla home (for more of which see his early appearances in Uncanny X-Men #184-188). But who knows, we might eventually find out—along with how Xavier knows anything about alien logic crystals. It’s quite interesting, though, that now Forge also knows about the Shi’ar, well before the X-Men do.
Overall, it sure is funny how much is reliant on Shi’ar tech and goodwill!
B. Iterations of Cerebro
As to placing this discussion in the context of Cerebro’s many iterations, Hickman’s numbering here is new, making the very briefly mentioned “Cyberno” seen only in a retcon backup in X-Men #40 (1968), and described there as Cerebro’s prototype, Cerebro’s first iteration. The second then appeared in X-Men #7 (1964), and the third is presumably the portable “Mini-Cerebro” Beast engineered in X-Men #49 (Polaris’s debut, courtesy of Hank’s reinvention). And Xavier acknowledges Beast’s work on the device on page 4 of POX 5. However, this may have been the fourth generation after all, because unfortunately, I forget which issues debuted the helmet and the separate dedicated Cerebro chamber—but all of this was certainly well before Giant-Size X-Men (1975).
[Xavier reveals at last his secret machine that collects “ESP data,” in X-Men #7 by Jack and Stan.]
Interestingly, the version of Cerebro in use in the ’80s and early ’90s and its databases were destroyed during 1994’s Phalanx Covenant by Banshee—to keep it out of Phalanx hands. Later, in 1997, Bastion attempted to hack Cerebro’s next iteration in the Operation: Zero Tolerance event. I bring these up because it’s interesting to think how much more was really at stake—per Hickman’s retcon—with mutantkind’s mortal enemies closing in on, secretly, one of their most precious resources.
And what a precious resource it is! But at what cost? Unbeknownst to anyone in this Year 1 scene save Moira and now Forge, Xavier then planned to enhance Cerebro even further with the ability to thoroughly scan and upload mutant minds in their entirety—memories, personality, everything (short of souls?). It was already a potentially highly invasive prosthesis for telepaths to radically amplify their powers.
Moreover, Xavier in this scene looks hardened, even somewhat wicked—or at the very least a man enraptured with his own schemes, the very definition of a mad scientist. And was his desired enhancement of Cerebro really beyond the Beast’s capabilities? No doubt, Forge is by far the greater inventor (given that his mutant power is being a technopath), but Forge’s interest in this device is thoroughly amoral; he’s fascinated by the technical challenge more than anything else. (In other words, did the Professor omit why Henry was so “emphatic” about deterring him from this project?)
So, is there perhaps something sinister about Xavier’s challenge to Forge? (Forge’s knowledge of Beast, when none of the O5 are aware of the former’s existence at this point, also feels kind of creepy. And anyway, he’s about to have some kind of access to this new Cerebro as he works on engineering it.)
Also, when Forge asks whether he should “construct an entirely new system [for Cerebro] or integrate it into … the existing one?” Xavier punts the decision back to the mutant technopath—and he also looks, again, kind of wicked there, from one panel to the next, ending with Xavier’s blunt appeal to Forge’s ego. (And why is there an ellipsis before “the existing [Cerebro] system”?
At the very least there continues to be disturbing (read: uncanny) parallels between the mutant archives of Xavier, Sinister, and the Librarian.
C. A Potential Technocracy?
On the page 7 data page, we have a note about “Forge’s mastery of ‘Krakoan tech,’” that is, biotechnology or even more specifically bio-machining (to coin a phrase). He’ll soon be responsible for a “revolution” in this field—but to what end?
We also learn here that “once a year” Xavier needs three uninterrupted days (Could this be the reference, or one of them, that the subtitle is making?) to do a “hard backup” of all Earth’s mutants at once. Wow. And we’re sure he’s not an omega? Regardless, this really is an extraordinarily invasive process, which, surely, must’ve been used before now as a means of some form of surveillance?
There’s a more directly disturbing note that “there has been no experimentation regarding what happens when you combine a mutant mind with a husk that is not their own”—which really feels like (yet another) Chekhov’s gun!
But most unsettling of all are the implications of the last two toneless, parenthetical notes here: Xavier has twice replaced his own mind with an earlier “legacy” version, which yes, sounds “incredibly difficult,” but must’ve also been extremely dangerous—What if there was a glitch?! Whatever the case, this means he’s redacted his own memories more than once. WHY?! (Something sinister?)
(Lastly, I believe this is only the second mention of Krakoa’s No-Place, which we don’t actually see until the series’ end.)
III. Recruiting a (Dubious) Queen—or King (pgs8-18)
A. Wooed in the Louvre
In X-Men: Black – Emma Frost (2018) by Leah Williams, Emma pulled off a violent coup against Shaw, Black King of the Hellfire Club. Since the end of Rosenberg’s Uncanny run, we’ve seen no mention of her being the new Black King, though that was her first step after Shaw’s incapacitation (not his murder as some readers have assumed). There, Emma was in a sense finishing a process that Magneto had begun in purging the Club’s most dangerous elements (including herself; see X-Men: Blue #23-31 if you care to follow that nonsense Mothervine plot), but her aim isn’t vengeance like his; rather, it’s righteous usurpation. As we see further here in POX 5, being the master of the Inner Circle means, as it always has, leading a business, or more specifically, a multinational conglomerate of business interests affiliated by—what exactly?
[Emma’s coup in X-Men: Black – Emma Frost; art by Chris Bachalo]
This is an aspect of the Club’s structure I’ve never understood—that’s never been adequately articulated. Is it just like-minded individuals comfortable among their own kind (i.e., parasites) as they ruthlessly gobble up humanity’s wealth and nature’s resources? Surely, there’s something more ideological that holds the Club as an institution together. As mentioned in our previous piece, one vein of ideology that has most clearly been present in the organization’s modern history is antimutant bigotry. So, going forward, can we really expect that Emma will wield complete control over any such lingering elements in the organization?
Whatever happens there, friction with the world’s financial elites will be par for the course now anyway.
So let’s turn to the drama of Year 10 here: the scene and setting of Xavier and Magneto wooing Emma to Krakoa, and of Emma’s fateful decision (with echoes of Caspar David Friedrich’s most famous painting of the sublime!).
But first, we’re talking Classical Greece, with the statue Nike of Samothrace, named for the goddess of victory, most famous in that context (not as a sneaker) for being the death cry of the soldier who sprinted many miles to Athens after the Battle of Marathon, to herald the Grecian victory—the first major success against Persian encroachment into the Adriatic, and commemorated in our concept of the marathon. (Although it must be said it was a much bigger deal to the Greeks than the Persians, for whom this scuffle had taken place on its vast empire’s periphery. But incidentally, it did teach the victors the future potential of their traditional phalanx formation against truly foreign enemies; after all, they’d only had each other to fight against before the Greco-Persian Wars of the late 5th century BCE.)
Then Emma telepathically puppeteers all the museum-goers in this particular room at the Louvre out. Interesting choice for this meeting of previously adversarial minds.
We can take it at face value for now that Emma’s recruitment will turn out a redemptive success story, which might be in marked contrast with where Xavier and Magneto could potentially end up.
And Emma certainly has reason to suspect them, especially with “the two of [them] together,” which we haven’t seen for a long time, not since their relatively low-key “reunion” in Mike Carey’s X-Men: Legacy and then, before that and more notoriously, House of M and its aftermath. So she’s right: “This is either going to be incredibly heroic or terrifyingly reckless”—and she doesn’t find much humor, much less reassurance, in Xavier’s sarcasm: “Couldn’t it just as easily be both?” Of course, when she hears the pitch, her conclusion is that their Krakoan scheme is pure madness.
Unsurprisingly, her first association with this notion of a mutant island-nation is Genosha, which she personally survived (as did Magneto; hence her “You should know better”).
But when Xavier lays out what they want from Emma—“helping us to form a mutant government”—we’re seeing him in the shadow of Nike’s statue, apparently looking up at it. And with Marathon in mind again, the parallel couldn’t be more obvious: When the Greeks defeated their vastly superior enemy (in numbers and geography), they pulled together with a sense of Hellenic destiny, creating the seedbed from which Western civilization would flower. This is an overly simplistic view, but a major tenet of Western civ profs! Still, it was truly a huge deal—meaning the final defeat of the Persians, not merely that first victory—and they knew at the time that they’d established a kind of “national security” that must’ve felt permanent (after all, it basically lasted three centuries). None of this is to say there wasn’t much internal conflict. But surely, parallels that could be drawn between the Athenian-led Greeks and the nascent nation of Krakoa are merely incidental! 😉
(And what would Athens being history’s model democracy have to do with Krakoa’s Quiet Council, which seems more like an oligarchy of “philosopher-kings” out of Plato’s Republic? Well, the former did exclude about 70% of the Athenian adult population from voting, so … Still, it’s interesting that before attempting any kind of democratic elections, the city-state was ruled by “archons”—which any fan of The Invisibles by Grant Morrison will recall as the eponymous anarchists’ archenemy. Is Xavier an archon? Undoubtedly. Will he brook elections? Who. Knows.)
Snarkily, Emma lets Xavier know that she led him to this particular part of the Louvre once she sensed him, apparently when she’d been viewing some work by the Romantic era Italian sculptor Antonio Canova, who created such works as “Mars the Peacemaker”—celebrating Napoleon as the warrior to end all wars (alas!)—and “Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss”—an erotic homage to a complex classical allegory about love and spirit, and so starkly in contrast with Xavier and Magneto’s tactical “wooing” of Emma. This sculpture is probably the one she was referring to. Good tactics on Emma’s part, then! Who’d want to talk to either of those crusty worthies while gazing at marmoreal eroticism?
B. Looking Out Across Her Domain?
Speaking of Romanticism, Emma strikes that’s classic Caspar David Friedrich pose:
[above right is Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Mist, c. 1818]
There are many less famous paintings from this era that also depict tourists/sightseers looking out at various sublime splendors of nature, not a few of which include elevated vistas, waterfalls, and misty gorges. But what we’re meant to get here is that: Emma really is going to gain regal status here… (Of course, there’s also the niggling fact that the sublime is as much a source of beauty as it is of uncomprehending terror—essential to Enlightenment/Romantic-era aesthetics and philosophy. This is literally the seedbed for cosmic terror in the vein of Lovecraft and “weird” fiction. I wonder if Krakoa will end up being a source of terror, then. Oh, perish the thought!)
The narrative continues at a highly compressed rate as we transition to Krakoa suddenly on page 13, with Emma now wearing a cape—and associated bling! A regal gift from her crusty benefactors? Regardless, she’s the first “Krakoan leader” we’ve seen—both here and back in HOX 3—who feels like she’s been exhibiting any real qualities of leadership. Xavier and Magneto by comparison are just kind of creepy.
And will she satisfied with a 20-year contract? Of course not! Just imagine, though, 50 years of Emma being, well—“the East India trading company of mutantdom.” The first part of that phrase is indeed fraught, but we’re meant to take it somewhat ironically, although not the basic gist: Her role as a Krakoan will take her and the people she relies on around the world, to no doubt interesting places.
Also, Xavier assures that IP theft is almost impossible with Krakoan meds: Yet another Chekhov’s gun???
But here’s the biggest Chekhov’s gun of all this issue: Inferno; right from Magneto’s shadowy lips (pg15). However, my prediction is that, given my belief that Hickman simply loves the classic Inferno event, this portent isn’t meant to be taken as a sign of complete disaster. And in any case, Magneto offers this fiery vision as one of Krakoan power and pride. Still, I’m sure whatever Hickman’s version is, it will be fraught with consequences.
C. The Shush Council
While HOX 5 gave us the international outlook for the early days of Krakoan sovereignty, this issue’s data for Year 10 gives a brief but heavily redacted view of Krakoa’s internal hierarchy. What’s clear is that everything is so exclusive, even here at Krakoa’s very foundation. It’s not just undemocratic; it’s secret, elitist, even antisocial in the lack of any sense of community built from the ground up.
And this QC diagram definitely doesn’t present as temporary, ad hoc, or interim… Further, both “silence” (top left) and “the law of the land” (bottom right) feel ominous, suggestive of something oppressed.
It will be surprising, however, to see who quits the Council first.
IV. The Invitation Goes Out—with almost complete success (pgs19-21; epigraph)
This three-page montage of this issue of Xavier not inviting but summoning (huh) feels calculated and tactical—though it sort of blows up in his face with Namor. And honestly, it’s not surprising; think about:
Does Xavier present as either emotionally persuasive or appealing? Not really!
It makes you wonder what these traditionally adversarial mutants actually think of his brotherly “summons.” Brotherly? Sure.
Furthermore: What an odd choice of invitees! The Acolytes are the first stop; then Sinister standing amidst Sinister corpses or vessels (told by Xavier in this panel, “You have a place here”); Gorgon of Hydra; and—most bizarrely of all—Omega Clan—three clones of Omega Red.
Soon, Xavier will express a hard immigration ban on clones, no less explicit than the one on precogs. But the latter, though inhumane and hypocritical, has clear “national interest” reasons (though Moira and co. would argue that it’s necessary for species morale—a dubious and exceedingly condescending claim). However, the clonal restriction is a little more abstract but somewhat sensibly grounded: After all, if clones were allowed on Krakoa, that would quickly normalize the notion of altering the Resurrection Protocols into Cloning Protocols, and thence into Chimera Protocols—all of which Krakoan leadership in the know rightly fear. In reality, though, it’s a completely muddled policy: Logan’s two clones Laura Kinney (Wolverine) and Gabby are citizens, but Xavier’s disfavor entirely falls on Madelyne Pryor. However, it was unclear for some time whether or not Laura’s resurrection would be allowed, but it’s still not clear if Gabby’s would. But really, why make these exceptions? There should be one universal rule for all mutants if there are already no qualifications on the likes of Apocalypse, Exodus, and Sinister (who’s more a clone than any other clone!): Citizenship should be extended to all clones who had their own unique memories and distinct identities.
Moreover, it’s apparent that Xavier has made scans of clones—how many we don’t know—but why not resurrect whomever there’s such a record of? If other mutants discover he’s been holding back, trust is gone. Forget whatever betrayal the X-Men felt in Brubaker’s Deadly Genesis; this will be next-level fallout.
However, before any of this anti-clone business comes up, we have here Xavier extending an invitation to clones of Omega Red. What?! Whatever the case, none of these invitees are shown responding one way or another—except:
The only invitee given panel time to articulate a rebuff is a surprise guest-star because it’s been some time since he’s prominently featured in an X book: Namor, who, characteristically Nietzschean, is clearly including himself in the category of those “beyond such quaint descriptors” as good and evil. The “they” slandered in Namor’s speech is obviously humanity—but Xavier himself appears no less pitiful.
That, at least, is Namor’s view. But what’s crucial here is that Namor has offered the biggest direct challenge to Xavier so far in this series: How far is he actually willing to go to separate mutantkind from humanity and create a global superpower in the process? The King of Atlantis has already shown himself quite willing to play at world domination or at least worldwide revenge—at a moment’s notice.
Also, what a clear parallel and contrast between a modest-looking Magneto standing before Apocalypse and Xavier looking much the same in front of Namor’s throne. However, Namor isn’t submitting (and it’s still questionable that Apocalypse’s homecoming to Krakoa was anything like submission).
It’s too bad we haven’t had Namor and Apocalypse in the same scene yet!
(Note as well the striking parallel and contrast that the inhuman icon above and behind his clamshell throne make with that of Krakoa itself—or rather, the part of itself that manifests as a freaky tree-face at the QC, seen in HOX 6.)
The closing epigraph of this issue reiterates that Namor will be acknowledged as superior, and he’s presenting a direct challenge to Xavier’s ability to manage this new era. After all, he has no experience with kingship. This also presents a clear problem for any kind of democratic rule on Krakoa.
We’ll have to finish up this issue as a prologue to POX 6—after HOX 6, of course. But for now, looking again at that epigraph, note that it comes right after a data page telling us that Titanian Dominions are threatened only by universal abstracts (like Death and Eternity), Galactus, and the Phoenix. And remember Namor was once possessed by the firebird. So was Emma. Xavier and Magneto never had that experience. It’s interesting, at least as a juxtaposition.