For the 50th episode of Krakin’ Krakoa, I felt it was time to return to the source that inspired this X-Men deep dive project, and now that House of X and Powers of X are fully available to read on Marvel Unlimited, it’s the perfect time to explore what made the event so special, search for clues that take on new light in the wake of X-Men’s Dawn of X, and craft all-new theories I didn’t see the first time around.
Today I’ll answer:
- + How the theme of “Breaking All The Rules” dominates House of X, specifying which rules are broken and what that means for future comics.
- + How Moira X’s 10th life holds the secrets for mutant survival
- + Predictions for the trick Jonathan Hickman has up his sleeve to blow this whole era up and take X-Men comics to the next level
Spoilers for discussed comics may follow!
Related Reading Orders:
The quote “we have to break all the rules” becomes the apparent theme throughout House and Powers, but it helps to elucidate why that’s necessary. What are these rules that need to be broken, and how were they identified? In other words, who here is the rulemaker?
This is where Moira MacTaggert and the revelation of Moira X’s 10 (or eleven!) lifelines changes everything. Through the preceding 9 lifelines Moira has experienced, she has accumulated the knowledge of all the rules that mutantkind has to break in order to *finally* survive and thrive on the longest term plan imaginable.
One of the angles I find most intriguing re-reading House of X and Powers of X is what separates Moira’s life 10 plan from the previous 9 (or really previous 6, since those are the lives she spent trying to preserve mutants). I’d theorize that all the changes in this lifeline, however apparently minor, are with great purpose, or at least they should be if mutants are to find success.
This is a big reason why I find Powers of X so utterly compelling on re-reads, as visions of future lifelines in “Year 100” or “Year 1000” are full of attempts at mutant triumph, only to be met with defeat after defeat. It’s essential to remember throughout the Dawn of X that Moira’s 10th life – what may be her final chance at all of this – isn’t a stab in the dark, it’s based on literal lifetimes of failure. Radical shifts are necessary to succeed!
Otherwise, as Emma Frost puts it: “What’s going to make it different this time?”
Rule 1): Extermination
Mutants are exterminated, regularly, over and over, and they (mostly) stay dead. As Professor X says at the end of House of X #4 “Every victory… ash. Every triumph… defeat. They’ve murdered so many of us the world has grown used to it.” Culminating in the dramatic resolution, “No more,” also a deliberate inversion of Scarlet Witch’s decimating “No More Mutants.”
So, in life 10, how do Moira, Magneto, and Professor X plan to break this rule? The first significant measure is taken in House of X #5, when the recently deceased X-Men lineup that blew up Project Orchis’ Mother Mold and apparently stopped their plans to eventually activate a Nimrod are all resurrected in an emotional ceremony in front of Krakoa. Resurrection protocols are promptly explained, and long story short a combination of Cerebra’s “essence” backups of all mutantkind, Mister Sinister’s genetic base, and the mutant Five combining their powers create an all-new scenario wherein all mutants can be brought back from confirmed deaths.
We’ve also seen in X-Men #7 how “The Crucible” will restore depowered mutants. Hickman’s vision for X-Men pulls no punches with “The Great Pretender,” Wanda Maximoff, longtime Avenger and more recent “fake” mutant, responsible for depowering nearly 1 million mutants in the post House of M M-Day Decimation.
In order to rectify this injustice, and restore mutants to their powered abilities, mutantkind avoids suicide or euthanasia in favor of a Roman Gladiator arena swordfight with Apocalypse (at least in the initial example we’ve seen in Dawn of X). Mutants have to fight for their birthright, and in so doing earn the gifts of death and resurrection on Krakoa.
Digging into the details of resurrection, it’s not just the fact that resurrection is an option on Krakoa, it’s the specifics of the 5 that perform these resurrections, in particular the inclusion of Proteus, the son of Moira MacTaggert.
I’m going to come back to this for the final rule breaking as well because I’m pretty fixated on the details here, but for now let’s just consider the following.
I’m positing that Proteus is new to lifeline 10 (from Moira’s journals in Powers of X #6). If he wasn’t present in life 9, this would confirm (in theory) that the Krakoan nation state existed in Moira’s ninth life, but without resurrection protocols – they would have lacked the proper reality warping abilities, plus Moira’s journal indicates this idea stems from Charles Xavier specifically in life 10.
Likewise, Moira’s 5th life – in which she embraces Xavier’s dream and they move mutantkind to a protected habitat away from humankind – is very similar to Krakoa (or really Genosha, Utopia, any of the mutant getaways attempted over the years in X-Men comics). It makes sense to me that a key difference would be the addition of Proteus and resurrection.
Notably, Lifeline 10 is only one to call out marrying Joseph MacTaggert (which – given the awfulness of that pig – is a HUGE why would you do it otherwise?) and giving birth to Proteus in Moira’s 31st year. This alone doesn’t mean the events didn’t happen in any of Moira’s other lives, but coupled with the Journal entry, it certainly gives the implication that this coupling is a first, and that it’s done entirely because Joe provides a genetic match for the birth of a reality warping mutant.
Again, after her first life, Moira doesn’t take time to have kids – she’s on a mission. This is a cold, calculated decision to fulfill the potential of mutant resurrection, and perhaps more.
And finally on this first rule, not only is the sting of death systemically alleviated, but the limits of evolution are – very likely – completely upended. This will be especially important when we get to rule #3, but the process of resurrection allows for mutants to come back with enhanced powersets, performance levels greater than the ones they had prior to death, and eventually all sorts of custom modifications. This is teased in both the event data pages, and again in X-Men #7. The ability to resurrect mutants with omega level powersets added to their own is a game-changer.
Rule #2) Schism
Mutants are never truly together, always butting heads over plans and approach and philosophies. Professor X dreams of peaceful co-existence with humans, Magneto dreams of mutant domination, and Apocalypse dreams of weeding out the unworthy and unfit. The list goes on and on.
Breaking this rule requires unity. As Professor X tells Magneto: “Apart, we always lose. We believe it’s only together that you and I – that all our people – can survive.“ They’ve had peaceful moments, sure, but this is true, no turning back togetherness.
Even with this knowledge, the road to unity is full of complications, whether it’s Moira and Charles losing Magneto in 1991’s X-Men #1 to #3, or even broader differences of vision between Professor X and Magneto throughout all of X-Men history. It can be easy to undersell the complexity of actually bringing all mutants together, something that has clearly taken years in X-Men history.
Whatever the path, through Moira’s lifelines, mutantkind is never united like they are in life 10. After all, one of Apocalypse’s first moves in life 9 is to *kill* Xavier (and later Magneto).
Likewise, Moira’s lives turn to the various leaders in turn (Professor X in Life 5, Magneto in Life 8, and Apocalypse in life 9), rather than this final call to combine their efforts.
It’s not like the X-Men have never teamed up with quote-on-quote villains before (Gold Loves, Man Kills stands out as a personal favorite example), but this instance stands out because of the scope of the alliance (truly, all mutants), and because it’s clearly the summation of Moira’s learnings rather than another individual approach.
Rule #3: We Always Lose
This is Moira’s hardest learned truth and the hardest rule to break because it is, in reality, the entire ballgame.
Nimrod will ascend. Rise of machines and post-humans is inevitable, and evolutionary biology can not compete. Mutantkind just can’t stop losing.
In truth, we don’t yet know the final answer to breaking this rule, and we won’t until Jonathan Hickman decides his years long plan for X-Men has reached a finale. Nonetheless, there are enough clues in House of X and Powers of X, plus preceding years of X-Men stories to theorize ways to break the chain of loss.
I’ll start with some of the simpler ones, and work my way up to the more expansive theories. In the wake of Powers of X #6 revealing humanity’s genetic engineering and post-human state are an even greater long-term enemy than the machines, there’s a strong argument to be made that natural mutant evolution is too slow to give mutantkind enough of an advantage to fight back sentinels, nimrods, and eventually “Year 1000” post-humans seeking ascendancy to the Phalanx.
The librarian asks Moira X^6 and Wolverine “What happens when humanity stops being beholden to its environment?” My takeaway from that and the statement that “Evolution is no match for genetic engineering” is to flip the question: “What happens when mutants stop being beholden to evolution?”
To me, this sounds like Mister Sinister’s entrance music (I’m hearing Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” for the record). Sinister’s genetic engineering efforts, and those resurrection infused upgrades we mentioned earlier, feel even more essential. In Life 9 Sinister’s 4th generation chimeras are omega-based, and although the hive-mind chimeras are a part of Sinister’s ultimate betrayal of mutantkind, the idea for an army that strong remains tantalizing. It would also explain Krakoa’s stated goal of omega level mutants as the most valued natural resource of mutantkind.
Importantly – and this is where the idea of true rule breaker falls apart – Sinister’s engineering is not actually a part of Moira’s plan. Instead, it’s a decision Professor X and Magneto make without her consultation or approval.
Again, from Moira’s journal entries, it’s clear she disapproves, perhaps understandable given Sinister’s betrayal of mutants, and the lingering thought that her lifeline with Apocalypse might have worked but for Sinister!
Two more quickfire theories for how mutants break the losing rule:
Could Okarra be another game-changer? In the timelines of Moira’s lives only Krakoa is mentioned, for example the mutant nation state that exists in life 9, but falls 30 years after the 1st generation of Sinister mutants. Presumably, Apocalypse and Moira rescue the first horsemen from the same fate as described in House of X #5, in which the islands are separated, but the “Fall of Krakoa” later isn’t “The Fall of Okarra.” This could easily just be convenient naming (Chicagoans still refuse to call our largest building anything other than the Sears Tower), but it could be more. Perhaps making Krakoa whole is way more meaningful to mutantkind’s success than we yet realize.
Likewise, the idea of mutant leverage is truly unexplored in our knowledge of Moira’s past lives. Krakoa’s life-changing (and in some cases, life extending) drugs for humanity could be everything from new idea that buys time and resources to part of a plot that ensures humanity can’t rise up to post-human achievements. Krakoan flowers could also be a trick Moira’s pulled before – we simply don’t know yet.
This is also where we really start to tap into the following quote from Moira: “There can be no precogs on Krakoa. We cannot – will not – tolerate mutants who can see the future.“ What is it exactly that she’s so terrified of mutants discovering?
Regardless of the answer, we’re definitely not done with these questions of leverage, and the purpose behind them. I was struck re-reading the comics that on the mutant diplomacy data page, Wakanda’s status for rejecting Krakoa’s drugs is both unique – “They do not need mutant drugs” – and colored in red (a coloring choice so far only utilized for absolutely game-changing turning points in the Hickman era of X-Men). My first thought is a competing drug war from Wakanda that brings the nation into conflict with Krakoa, but it’s likely something far more inventive.
3 Big Theories For How Mutants Win
With all that said, lets now get into the three biggest theories for how Moira and mutants are planning to break the chain (cue Fleetwood Mac soundtrack).
1) Lifeline Travel
First, let’s dig into the seemingly simple ways Moira’s ninth life benefit the tenth, and how that lays the groundwork for something far more complicated. In Powers of X #3, Moira’s 9th life learnings are obtained in order to take out Nimrod early in life 10. Nimrod activation is seen as a point of no return, and an assurance of decades long war, accompanied by unimaginable levels of mutant death. The X-Men of life 10 take this knowledge, and send a Mother Mold crashing into the sun in House of X #4 – losing their lives in the process – to keep Nimrod from activating in this life.
As we’ve seen in X-Men #6, this may not have been successful, as Mystique discovers a Nimrod still in development within Orchis (perhaps even accelerated due to mutantkind’s actions).
Another, perhaps more unsettling possibility: Couldn’t Year 100 Nimrod have grabbed the grand mutant plan from Apocalypse’s head and traveled to Moira’s 10th life? Originally, Nimrod is a time-traveler from the “Days of Future Past” timeline. This would have a similar feel. After all, we never actually see life 9 Apocalypse killed, the battle ends with Nimrod firing energy into his skull.
With all of this, I think it’s key to remember Moira is not infallible. In fact, by her own admission, she has done nothing but fail, despite her herculean efforts. Just because it’s a part of her carefully acquired plan does not ensure any degree of success.
Speaking of traveling across time and space, the real “rule break” could stem from travel across Moira’s lifelines.
In Powers of X #6, the librarian explains to Moira and Wolverine that by existing outside of space and time, a Dominion (essentially a godhead composed of interconnected blackholes) could “see” outside of all Moira’s lifelines, effectively retaining their knowledge, status, and power regardless of Moira’s death and start of a new lifeline.
Earlier in Powers, could (Death-Seed) Xorn, Rasputin and Omega from Life #9 have traveled similar routes via blackhole? The repetition of language – both scenes reference singularity and black holes – and ominous foreshadowing (“Do you have any idea what les at the heart of a real black hole”) – feels like near certain connections.
Maybe Moira did scheme for Rasputin to enter that Black Hole with Xorn, and bringing her 4th gen Chimera DNA through to life 10 will advance the cause of mutant genetic engineering without any need for Mister Sinister. Maybe that’s why she’s so bothered by Professor X and Magento’s inclusion of Mister Sinister without her (although I’ll admit there… why not just tell them of this plan?). It’s dense and full of complex science fiction in the hands of Hickman’s Kree Supreme Intelligence master brain, but I really think there’s something to this, and it would be a game-changing shift in Moira’s tenth life.
Plus, consider the unknown logistical status of Sabretooth’s “exile” and Krakoa’s no-places. The undefined science of either option presents the possibility for connection to alternate life blackhole travel, or even better yet – as a handful of eagle-eyed Krakin’ Krakoa readers have suggested to me – a future Exiles comic book starring Rasputin, Death-Seed Xorn, Omega, Sabretooth and perhaps a few add-ons. Considering the original early 2000’s Exiles written by Judd Winnick was one of my favorite mostly mutant books from the early aughts, I love the ways this could weave into the narrative of Hickman’s X-Men.
More concretely, there has to be a reason Rasputin is among “The Tower” and Cardinal on the Tarot Cards that Moira discusses with Charles in their park meeting scene (which is reproduced twice across House and Powers, as if to emphasize the importance). Look at the language used for Rasputin’s card: “See the magician, the metal metamorph, the great sword and the girl with one foot in two worlds…”
We’ve seen plenty of the recurring “tower” across a variety of places, including the Powers of X home of Nimrod the Greater, and in X-Men #7 as the cathedral of Nightcrawler on Krakoa. To my mind, next up would the reemergence of a character with one foot in two worlds, or in this case, lifelines.
2) The World
The second major theory for mutant’s breaking the “we always lose” rule is hidden in plain sight (to the point that it’s almost too easy when you start thinking about it). In Powers of X, The X-Men: Year One is “The Dream,” and Year Ten – where we are in the present day Krakoa story – is “The World.”
Thing is “The World” has major meaning in X-Men comics, and I’m increasingly thinking that applies to Hickman’s narrative!
What is “The World”?
In short (spoiler: it’s not short), “The World” is an environment developed by the Weapon Plus program (the same one that experimented on Weapon X, Wolverine, and Weapon XIII, Fantomex), specifically designed to run controlled, accelerated time to conduct experiments on weaponized super-soldiers. Most frequently, developed weapons are for the purposes of winning the war against mutants. We’re introduced to “The World” in the pages of New X-Men during the debut of Fantomex.
The way the pieces add up here is kind of thrilling. Grant Morrison concept? Check. Fantomex – last known owner of the World – giving up his body to Xavier prior to HoX PoX in the Charles Soule written Astonishing X-Men? Check. Trying something new by “Worlding” out a Krakoan nation-state, and then watching the Professor move his findings to “reality.” Why not?
To me, this feels like the big “button” Hickman keeps alluding to in interviews when he talks about the next stage of things, and how there are deliberate plans to blow up the status quo whenever the Dawn of X hits a wall. I think it’s very conceivable the X-Men are in some form of “The World,” perhaps without their knowledge or consent, hence the secrecy from Moira and co.
The ambiguity of the Powers “Year One, Year Ten” could be explained by “World-Time.” For example Year One is both Moira meeting Charlie AND Moira and Charles visiting Magneto at his Bermuda Triangle Island M (likely after Uncanny X-Men #150 – this makes sense too because they’re waiting for that post Kitty moment when he starts to soften). If this is all meant to be a literal year one, it’s cramming a little less than 20 years of X-Men stories into their “first” year. More importantly, this also completely fails Moira’s timelines where we’re told Moira meets Xavier at Age 17, and they recruit Magneto when she’s 43.
While “Year One” can still easily just be a category rather than a literal year, I also think it makes a great deal of sense if we’re working within accelerated “World-Time.” Fantomex describes time in The World as liquid, which is frankly a gift to Marvel creators and editors exploding and exploring as much continuity as House of X and Powers of X attempts.
Another consideration here is how the Children of the Vault rival and threaten work within The World. In X-Men #5, Professor X refers to the Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo creation as their greatest threat, which frankly makes more sense when you consider The Vault and The World are very much two sides of the same coin.
Here’s a Morrison selection on The World from New X-Men #142: “…Splicing human genetic material with Sentinel microtechnology, we’re then able to sculpt the resultant strains through high speed realtime scenarios using artificial evolution technology…”
And here’s Hickman on the Vault in X-Men #5: “Time flows different inside the Vault. The ideas behind it is essentially the same as the World – that out here in the real world, time moves at its normal pace, but in there it’s accelerated. The difference between the two is that the World is evolutionarily based… the Vault however it’s something else entirely. Human adaptation along technological lines, not evolutionary.”
The slight differences between the two are eerily similar to the distinction the Librarian makes between post-humans and mutants in Powers of X #6.
Moira’s death is a liability – when she dies the lifeline seems to “end” (I can’t quite get my head around the timey-wimey logistics here – does this mean she has to be eternal? – but this is what she tells Magneto and Professor X in Powers of X #6). The World allows a test site to work around that, while simultaneously leveraging the adaptative technologies the Weapon Plus program was integrating into human subjects in order to win their perceived mutant-human war.
3) The Omega 5
Rules are made to be broken. In anticipating where the future of mutantkind might be going, the key question remains: What hasn’t Moira tried? That’s why my final theory – and the one I’m most excited about – centers around reality itself.
Legion and Proteus and particularly fascinating because the entire purpose for their birth appears to be ways for Moira and Charles to produce reality altering mutants! To reiterate, after determing their lack of a mutant with the ability to tweak primal matter and give reality a push, Moira “finds potential matches for both Charles and [herself] to produce such a mutant.” If you were looking for ways to describe grey morality and cold and calculating, I think “produce such a mutant” to describe your own children is pretty spot on.
The reality (pun intended) is that Legion, David Haller, and Proteus, Kevin MacTaggert, aren’t just mutants, they’re omega level mutants. That means Charles Xavier and Moira’s kids account for 1/7 of the known omega level mutant population. That’s an enormous percentage, and not a coincidence, which leads me to believe both are intended for much greater purposes to come.
One element that really sticks out to me is that Legion at various times in X-Men history has been responsible for two such monumental disturbances in reality that they caused their own new alternate reality “Age” in X-Men comics. For Legion, his actions in “Legionquest” (aka killing Magneto in order to create a path for his father’s dream) lead to the “Age of Apocalypse,” and later his powers create the “Age of X.”
I won’t sink too deep into this, but it’s also fascinating that in “Age of X” Legion’s mind manifests an alternate Moira MacTaggert (at the time presumed deceased) as his proxy in this alt-reality. He’s worthy of his own deep dive, but Legion’s the son of Charles Xavier, raised for a time on Muir Island by Moira, and his omega level powers are some of the most extreme in all Marvel. There’s no way he doesn’t play a huge role in the plan here.
For my money, I’m ready for any of the following: Age of Moira (The Moira Millennium sounds better), Age of Sinister, or Age of Destiny (I quite like that name!).
Speaking of Destiny, again, worthy of a solo deep dive, but Legion and Destiny have a surprising connection in X-Men as well. For starters, in Uncanny X-Men #255, Legion (then possessed by the Shadow King in the build-up to the “Muir Island Saga”) kills Destiny during a Freedom Force mission that involves Moira’s Muir Island mutants and the cyborg Reavers.
This act results in some sort of psychic merger between Destiny and Legion, and in X-Men #38, Destiny appears to Legion in a dream to tell him “if the dreamer rises, perhaps redemption is not far off.” Legion’s interpretation of this message is that Magneto blocked Charles Xavier from fulfilling his dream of mutant and human co-existence, and he attempts to take out Magneto setting off the “Age of Apocalypse” as a result.
It is possible, though, that Legion misinterpreted Destiny’s words, and that actually it was Moira’s actions – breaking Charles Xavier early in his life – that kept the dream from being fulfilled. Given their tense, fatal encounter in Moira’s third life, Moira and Destiny more or less can’t co-exist, to the point that Moira says “There can be no precogs on Krakoa. We cannot – will not – tolerate mutants who can see the future.“ In addition to Mystique’s clear plans to bring Destiny back, the Legion and Destiny connection remains another possibility around this to throw a wrench in Moira’s grand plans.
Of course, Legion isn’t the only mutant with reality-warping powersets we haven’t seen much or any of yet. Other mutants that break all the rules include:
- Nate Grey
- Scarlet Witch (yes, I know)
- Mister M
- Mad Jim Jaspers
- Jamie Braddock (we’ve seen him)
- Franklin Richards (we’ve seen him)
And I’m sure plenty of others I’d like you to nominate in the comments!
Given that five of these reality-breakers are on the mutant known Omega Level list (Legion, Proteus, Mister M, Jamie Braddock, and Franklin Richards), I wonder if there’s a possibility of another “The Five” in mutant lore: The Omega 5, who break the bonds of reality in order to give mutants long sought peace.
At the end of the day, the only thing I’m certain of is we can expect major shifts to the already shifted status quo developed in House of X and Powers of X. Hopefully by defining the rules of mutants and the need to break them, we’ll at least have an inkling of what we can expect when the time comes.
On a final note, here’s a list of some of the biggest questions or items we still haven’t really seen developed in the Dawn of X that I’m looking forward to. I’d love to hear what’s on your list as well!
- How does Moira’s 6th life *get* her to that point in the distant future?
- Dominions/Black Holes HARD SCI FI
- Red Wakandan Diplomacy
Music for Best Comics Ever by Anthony Weis. Check out more music at anthonyweis.com.
To learn how you can support Best Comics Ever and receive more exclusive content from Comic Book Herald, check out the Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/comicbookherald
For the Comic Book Herald reading club through every year of Marvel Comics, check out mymarvelousyear.com