POX 1: The Last Dream of Professor X—Part 2: Year 100 and Year 1000
Previously: More in the Hickman X-Men Re-Read!
I. Year 100—Salient Features
A. The Machine-Intelligence Hegemony
An insectile drone creeps from a human foot soldier whose anonymous mask recalls the Hellfire Club’s Knights, many of whom—after being maimed by Wolverine—went on to become militant mutant hunters. This Year 100 human, however, answers to Nimrod’s Man-Machine Supremacy; like her little robot, she’s just another tool of the great machine, here represented by a Sentinel field captain—whose three heads recall both Grant Morrison’s “Wild Sentinels” (from the Genoshan genocide) and the Tri-Sentinel, which was, insanely, Loki’s magical amalgamation of three Sentinels from the Project Wideawake program (see 1990’s Acts of Vengeance). Project Wideawake was the seed from which Nimrod would eventually arise.
Speaking of 1981’s “Days of Future Past” (UX 141-142), that classic dystopia is clearly Year 100’s model, but that Claremont and Byrne story was set in 2013—so, not even a half-century from 1981! But let’s say something like Earth-811 (the DoFP alternate future) occurs some 30 years on from Hickman’s Year 10—or whatever would be analogous in Moira’s ninth life—then by Year 100 Nimrod has probably been top dog for decades.
Year 100 is Earth-811 amplified, exponentially.
Now, unlike in Earth-811, fully individuated AI has taken over the world; we see three Sentinels who have unnervingly human personalities—Nimrod, Omega/Karima, and the three-headed Sentinel.
And here, in our first glimpse of Year 100, one of the last natural-born mutants of his time lay dying, muttering a “mnemonic trigger” as his last words, a mind-wipe program triggered by his encroaching death. With just his golden hue and eyes, Percival—appearing for the first and last time here—recalls Elixir, a healer who first appeared among that early 2000s class of mutants who arrived at a time of company-wide renewal in terms of quality; then, 2006’s Decimation happened, and the mutantkind became an endangered species and so entered “the Lost Decade.”—Year 100 is a lost future.
Regardless, it feels bleakly fatalistic that Percival’s self-lobotomization program is coded in the language pertaining to Xavier’s dream. Presumably, Cylobel either never underwent this programming, as a hound, or it only activates when a mutant is near death.
Cylobel herself recalls Mindblast, a very obscure mutant cyborg and—with Tri-Sentinel—another callback to David Micheline and Erik Larsen’s Amazing Spider-Man run! Cylobel’s name is enigmatic, but not far off from “psilocybin,” which literally means “bareheaded.” Incidentally, the Greek kybe is cognate with kybernan, “to navigate,” which is where we get “cybernetics.” Like with Elixir, though, the Mindblast echo seems to be merely visual.
“Bred as a black brain telepath,” Cylobel’s “a natural Judas”—engineered and conditioned to be immune from all forms of mental intrusion and guaranteed to rebel, an eerie echo of fourth-generation chimeras. Whatever Cylobel is, all of this is a first for the X-Men canon—while the hound program in its basic concept hearkens back to “Days of Future Past,” the Year 100 version is quite different in its details.
Most significantly, the DoFP hounds were mutants captured and tortured into subservience, while those from SalCen Khennil are shaped from birth in a controlled breeding program. Everything that results from that breeding makes the Year 100 version a much more interesting concept. Hopefully, Year 100 is more fully developed down the line; there’s clearly much to explore.
For instance: “SalCen”—which looks futuristic at first glance, but if you consider important X-Men venues, the revelation is just another nasty kick of dirt in the eye: the Khennil must be based in Salem Center, which holds a nostalgic place in the heart of any Claremont-era fan. The Xavier School was on a rural estate in North Salem, whose small but hip town center saw Xavier’s merry mutants mingling with humans—but only while passing as human. So, siting the Khennil in this fictional, rather idealized New York suburb is just one more cruel irony in the cruel awakening from the dream—or rather, the delusion—of harmony. Generations of mutantkind effaced their identities as such in the effort to assimilate with humankind—and for their efforts they’re served up genocide and global apocalypse.
A2. Humans Under Nimrod’s Hegemony
A further wrinkle that “Days of Future Past” didn’t have space to delve into is what changes have occurred within human society. While Earth-811’s Sentinels coldly carry out their programming, however extreme, there’s no hint their robot overlords have made humans psychologically subservient. Here, in Year 100, whenever one of their robot overlords addresses a human, their utter contempt for the species is palpable, even when Karima, bearing a snide expression, names the human soldier woman “Hunter”—little better than a hound. And it seems significant that they bear facial tattoos reminiscent of Bishop’s “M,” a marker for mutants in his own native dystopian future, not unlike the Star of David under Hitler’s rule. Here, we could interpret these soldiers’ tattoos as an “H,” with the brows for the crossbar, standing for either hunter or human. (But the cyborg priest in POX 3 does have a different facial tattoo.)
And while Nimrod takes its name from “the mighty hunter” in The Book of Genesis, that superlative title helps embellish the master-over-minions dynamic. But it also serves to suggest that the master in its throne is just as much a servant of the system it’s in charge of.
Most interesting, though, is the “cybernetic religion” centered around the Church of Ascendancy, which seems to be an early forerunner of Year 1000’s post-human hegemony—at the expense of the “Machine” in the Man-Machine Supremacy, as represented by Year 100’s Nimrod overlord.
We’ll give the Church a closer look in POX 3—including its brief mention of “human heretics.” Again, Hickman’s Year 100 has much more nuance than Claremont’s Earth-811—but to be fair, the latter had almost no space to embellish with compelling worldbuilding beyond the basic mutant-holocaust concept.
A3. Nimrod Ascendant
Unlike the battle-ravaged Nexus area, the Supremacy’s capital, dominated by Nimrod’s Tower in its midst, seems a dream of the future—though ominously, it’s always night!
Perhaps significantly, no one but the story’s narrator refers to this Nimrod as the Lesser. Certainly different from previous iterations, he/it is decidedly quirky—more frightening than anonymous machine intelligence.
But intriguingly, Nimrod wants to place captive mutants in stasis for study. Could they be rescued, then?
Sadly, it’s not likely—since we find Cylobel a withered captive in Year 1000, as seen later on this issue, where she’s the first thing we see of this far future, with her centuries-long stasis at last failing—her final end imminent, like the Earth itself.
Whatever the case, Hickman clearly had fun writing this robot sadist’s perfectly mimed mock-sympathy, managing a kind of charming inhuman cruelty.
However, in my previous post, I mistakenly said Nimrod had been “downsized” by Year 1000; the reality is that Year 1000’s Nimrod the Greater is the Lesser’s “brood,” first brought online here with the capture of Cylobel. We’ll return to this below, but it’s telling that in a universe secretly dominated by ridiculously ancient alien machine intelligences, Nimrod the Lesser doesn’t last long, and its brood fares little better over the ensuing millennium.
B. The Mutants’ Last Mission
The mutant raid on the Nexus is successful, but initially it just seems like a deadly disaster. However, this is the first leg in the mutants’ final mission in our solar system, allowing for the greater success in POX 3, when Apocalypse, Krakoa-Doug, and Logan infiltrate the Supremacy’s archives for data on the exact origin of Nimrod.
The neat parallel between Mystique’s Damage Control raid and the Year 100 infiltration is clarified and strengthened when we discover in HOX 2 that her stolen data pertains to the creation of a Mother Mold, which will lead to the first Nimrod Sentinel, an inevitability foretold by the archive data in Year 100—downloaded into ninth-life Moira in POX 3.
Hickman loves his mirroring effects. The crux is that Moira’s data from Life Nine allows present-day Xavier and Magneto to track the potential emergence of Nimrod Sentinels in Life Ten; Mystique stole the details on the exact location of that imminent threat.
C. The Revelation of Sinister’s Breeding Pits
We find another kind of parallel—echoing the Supremacy’s hound program—detailed in the data entries on the chimeras from Sinister’s breeding pits, pages 22-24.
Wait: “Sinister’s breeding pits”?! That is insane!
But while it’s shocking and depressing to think that this was/is a real/possible future for mutants, this twist effectively argues for its apparent inevitability given the history of Sinister’s character trajectory. Of course, we know this was the reality of Moira’s ninth life, so her tenth could be completely different.
However, one critical limit to Moira’s power is that each of her lives would be exactly the same except for her knowledge, hers alone, and the choices she makes from it. Sinister’s grotesque apotheosis in Life Nine must therefore be either inevitable or an unintended outcome of Moira testing a different course.
Sinister’s role will develop into a central thread throughout the post-HOX/POX era, but that’s not a spoiler. These data pages read as shocking to any longtime reader. HOX/POX is clearly the franchise’s blueprint going forward—and having Sinister set up early on as an essential element in mutantdom’s possible future is wild, thrilling, terrifying. This will be big. This could be the thing that “inevitably” breaks Krakoa.
Another enemy is established. But this one is—delightfully—much more ambiguous.
Looking at page 22, we find Sinister’s iconic diamond, his name, the ominous “Sinister Line,” and all of it connected to Mars, a venue already favored by Hickman for godlike super-science happenings. This entry serves up the Sinister mythos and iconography on a new planetary scale, as tantalizing as it is horrifying.
POX 1 alone establishes Apocalypse and Sinister as major players in the events to come. After Magneto, these two have been the most enduring of the X-Men’s many existential threats. Their inclusion early on would thrill any longtime X fan. But Sinister’s role in this future elevates his years-long scheming and villainy to an industrial capacity. Having the fate of mutantkind in the hands of a cruel mad scientist and ageless posthuman who once experimented on mutants at Auschwitz seems a recipe for certain disaster.
So, let’s acknowledge the opening clause under the “Mutant Breeding Program” as a severe judgment on the failure of both Xavier’s ideology and strategy—and thus on the X-Men’s long history as defenders of their species: Efforts at assimilation and acceptance never worked, and never will. Nothing has happened since readers first saw the DoFP future to guarantee that reality won’t come to pass.
Moira, Charles, and Erik are trying something radically new because that’s the only option left—even from the audience’s perspective. One of the greatest things about the X-Men is the diversity of valid perspectives fans can develop from this fictional universe and share with each other to enrich the conversation. But arguing for the X-teams to continue hewing to Xavier’s dream is only going to become tiresomely Sisyphean as time goes on.
Hickman’s own indictment of that old modus vivendi is severe—a terminal diagnosis. “Evasion-relocation-confrontation,” the dialectic of mutant history heretofore, and especially since the Decimation, leads to Sinister’s breeding pits. Full stop.
The unsurprising revelation of Sinister’s inevitable betrayal begs the question of whether or to what extent Sinister was also involved in the hound program! Given how many clones Sinister has made of himself—seen most extravagantly in the “Everything Is Sinister” arc inUncanny X-Men (2011) #1-4—who’s to say Sinister doesn’t have the last laugh in Year 100. The “human heretics” mentioned by the cybernetic Church in POX 3 are experimenters working on super-geneticist solutions in the existential war against AI. Dissidents from the robot hegemony might embrace a Mister Fantastic no less than a Mister Sinister.
The likelihood that Sinister fakes his own execution in Year 100 is given a decently probable textual clue with the name of “Sinister_05” attached to both page 24 and the closing epigraph. After four generations of chimeras, why not a fifth-generation Sinister? That seems to be the implication “Sinister […] Build_05.”
Regardless, we have further thematic doubling and pairing. The hounds of “Days of Future Past” seem to both pair and contrast with the mutants created in Sinister’s Breeding Pens in the Age of Apocalypse—juxtaposing the two most recognizable futures in the X-Men universe. After all, Moira’s fight in Life Nine is to establish an Age of Apocalypse in the face of a Days of Future Past dystopia.
Imagine a series devoted to the “Apocalypse War” of Moira’s Ninth Life. That needs to happen.
D. Surviving Mutants
Intriguingly, Cardinal plants a black seed to grow a flower-gate back to Asteroid Krakoa, passing through No-Place, which was first named and described in HOX 1, page 12. In Year 100, however, it’s clear that Asteroid K is aware of this No-Place’s existence. Like Moira’s No-Space seen at the end of HOX/POX, this one is upside-down, but its backdrop, though darkly shadowed, recalls the glimmering mineral extravagance of Year 10’s transit hub (looking back again to the previous issue).
The unsettling implication is that something must’ve compromised Krakoa’s original Transit Hub, which wasn’t presented in HOX 1 as a No-Place, necessitating its re-creation as such—another sign that Krakoans have long since fallen from a sovereign people to a desperate guerrilla movement in dire straits.
Without direct sunlight inside Asteroid K, the space habitat is only a little brighter than that No-Place Hub, its fauna blue not green—perhaps a kind of Krakoan bioluminescence? Visually, it’s chillingly atmospheric.
The perfect hue for Apocalypse, the “Old Man” whose appearance next issue is imminent.
Sinister and Apocalypse—both hinted at in this chapter but not yet shown. Names to conjure with.
This is effective storytelling—and it’s radically different from traditional Big Two pacing. We’re being given clear indication that Hickman and company are unfolding a sophisticated long game, and they have Marvel’s full support to see it through. Linewide, Marvel clearly seems to be at the point where it needs to build off the successes in long-term event planning that began in earnest in 2004, with Bendis on Avengers.
Also visually intriguing, the few survivors on Asteroid K are something of a puzzle. Most first guesses here were doomed. While it’s obvious this “Magneto” must be a chimera, being a chimeric blend of Dane/Frost is surprising; Krakoa hasn’t revealed a previously hidden humanoid template—it’s Doug’s corpse; and neither Xorn nor Wolverine are chimeras. (Given the HOX/POX narrative, we know that Wolverine can no longer be said to be the “original” Wolverine, if we’re talking what body he’s in. It’s a clone body, but he’s still Logan. Same here in Year 100 it appears, but it looks like his last resurrection would have been closer to Year 10.) We’ll discuss these characters further with POX 2-3.
Regarding Asteroid K, you might recall that Krakoa spent about 30 years of publication history in space, after Polaris shot it up there at the end of Giant-Size X-Men #1. Apparently, it’s returned to space! Comically, the name is an early easy-to-miss hint that Magneto—because any space rock lucky enough to be Magneto’s home would surely be known as Asteroid M!
D1. Mutant Colonies in Shi’ar Space
The rest of mutantkind is in Shi’ar space, which makes sense given who the Year 100 Shi’ar Majestrix is. The space station Benevolence gets its first mention here, but we’ll see it again sooner than later in Year 10, where it’s still a just another outpost hub.
With the interstitial data entries on Year 100’s surviving mutants, we have a first easy-to-miss hint that this is Moira’s ninth life: the page 35 entry is from Moira X’s files as seen at the bottom, indexed as “Apocalypse build” in “ML_09”—or Life Nine.
What’s startling here is the smaller colony on the Shi’ar homeworld, Chandilar—and how many mutants make up the Imperial Guard, a traditional antagonist to the X-Men.
But the footnote clarifies the situation enough to lend it a satisfying sense of inevitability for longtime fans. Xandra in our present-day Earth-616 is not yet an empress and has only appeared previously as a child in Mr. & Mrs. X #3-5 by Kelly Thompson and Oscar Bazaldua, introduced as the posthumous daughter of Xavier and Shi’ar Majestrix Lilandra, bred in vitro and now aging through childhood at an accelerated rate—of course; she has Omega-class potential. So it could end up making perfect sense to have mutant colonies in Shi’ar space.
We find reference to Xandra and the Shi’ar Imperial Guard on the top left of the next page, but the rest of the coding around these names remains mysterious.
II. Year 1000, pages 37-40
In Year 1000, what was the seat of state-sponsored terror is now a mutant library, albeit frozen in entropy. Cylobel’s withered body in failing stasis is the first thing we see. (Note also the Librarian’s helmet, which seems a very clear echo of Cerebro; after all, the Librarian is in a library archiving mutant history in toto—the ultimate comics collection?)
The Human-Machine Monolith no longer towers over the city skyline; in Year 1000, it’s dwarfed by towers less rectilinear in outline. This is a world without Homo sapiens; the Librarian and his/her/their(?) kind are the posthuman Homo novissima, the apparently surprise trump card that won the war in favor of humanity’s heirs—once the machines had done the work of exterminating all mutantkind.
Or almost all.
Only in POX 6 do we have tragic confirmation that the Preserve first cameoed here is a keep for mutants, presumably the last on Earth. Probably, the last panel in POX 1 is showing us the sylvan silhouettes of Moira and Logan.
Of course, there’s an unavoidable echo here of Eden. Is it a cynical use of that imagery or might it imply that the rest of humanity has fallen while a dwindling pocket of mutants retains a primal innocence?
After all, we end with the wise words of Rasputin IV—herself the creation of another kind of soulless devil: “You’ve forgotten that machines have no soul and that the humans lost theirs a long time ago.”
This is prophetic of Year 1000’s end, when the Librarian—shockingly—turns to Moira for salvation.
Moira X, Saint of All Mutants…?