Jonathan Hickman Powers of X #1 Perfectly Mixes Character and Plot
One criticism people have against Jonathan Hickman is that he focuses more on plot than character development. For House of X #1, he certainly focused a lot more on plot, but that’s only because he was laying the groundwork for the series. However, for Powers of X #1, we get a healthy dose of both.
Hickman Powers of X shows Past, Present, and Futures of the X-Men
In X-Men stories focusing on the future, we generally get two instances: Days of Future Past, taking place about 30-50 years after whatever is happening at the moment in the X-Books, and Cable’s future timeline, which is something like 3000 years in the future. Hickman starts filling in that 3000-year gap in Powers of X #1.
We get four time settings: Year One, which is a little ambiguous in time—it’s definitely not when Xavier was putting the X-Men together as he is walking, but it certainly can’t be before that either since the next setting is Year Ten, when House of X takes place. Since Hickman loves number symmetry, Powers of X #1 jumps to Year 100, where most of the story takes place. And if you’ve been following the pattern, you’ll know that the last setting is Year 1000, which takes us to a wildly different future than what Cable has another 2000 years later, can a far cry from the Days of Future Past era. However, the eras are all connected in a brilliant way.
Powers of X Gets Experimental and Breaks Comic Rules
Throughout Powers of X #1, Hickman gives us sheets of history and scientific data on the history of mutants. DO NOT SKIP THESE. As we read each encounter, we learn about what happened between the X-Men of today and the X-Men of Year 100, and between Year 100 and Year 1000. They even make the issue worth reading a second time, and not as a chore. Of course, Hickman doesn’t tell us everything that’s happened in a 1000-year period, but there’s enough to fill in the gaps and keep us intrigued. Occasionally there will be a bit of prose writing in a comic, but it’s usually extra material easy to skip. All of Hickman’s scientific-style writing is essential to the book. It also makes the characters of the future that much more compelling, even though they already were.
Nimrod the Lesser, Nimrod the Charming
The Nimrods were highly advanced sentinels that laid waste to mutants around the DoFP era. By the time we get to Year 100, there’s Nimrod the Lesser, a king of sorts for robots and watching over humans. But now, it has a very human mind, so much so that I am struggling not to gender a robot (I’ll go with they/them/their). When we first see Nimrod the Lesser, we’re expecting the cold and heartless robot. We get something much different. They’re…fun? Sure, they’re still committing mass murder, but they do apologize for it. Hickman makes you fall in love with a genocidal robot within two pages of Powers of X #1.
The X-Men of the Year 100
The characters Hickman created are great, and it’s wonderful following them throughout Powers of X #1. The most compelling character is Rasputin, a genetically bred mutant who carries the powers of several X-Men of the past, such as Illyana Rasputin, Quinten Quire, and Kitty Pryde. She’s a badass fighter, a caring sister, and, when needed, as rough and coldhearted as the Punisher. When her teammate, Cardinal—one of many defectively bred mutants who turned pacifist—refuses to fight to save one of their own, Rasputin tells him, “You’ve forgotten that machines have no soul and that the humans lost theirs a long time ago.” There are several other characters, but to keep this as spoiler-light as possible, we’ll talk about them in the next installment.
The X-Men of the Year 1000: The Ascended
Between Year 100 and Year 1000, the “Man-Machine” war ends, and mutants win. Obviously, this doesn’t last since, by the time we get to Cable’s timeline, humans and mutants are at war again. What we get in this era is very ambiguous, but really captivating. We now have Nimrod the Greater, but they’re very different from Nimrod the Lesser, almost like they’ve grown up. Nimrod the Lesser acts even childish in some scenes. It’s also, artistically, the most beautiful pages in Powers of X #1; Hickman’s story bursts with life thanks to the artists.
The Powers of the Artists of X
Though Hickman is crafting an amazing story, Powers of X #1 still owes a lot to the art team of R.B. Silva (Artist), Adriano Di Benedetto (Assisting Inks), and Marte Garcia (Color artist). There’s an energy here that sets a much different tone than House of X—and shows why we need two intersecting series instead of one big 12-issue mega-series. The stories in Powers of X need to feel different, not just in writing.
Hickman and Silva’s Powers of X #1 is even better than House of X #1. Marvel named this one of the pivotal moments in X-Men history, alongside Morrison’s New X-Men and Giant-Size X-Men. Right now, this feels much bigger.
Grade: Epic +
See what’s coming after Hickman completes House and Powers of X!
(Featured photo from Powers of X #1, Hickman and Silva, Marvel Comics)
Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 and now teaches writing and graphic novel literature at various Philadelphia colleges. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He's currently working on his next novel and hoping to find an agent soon.