REVIEW: Powers of X #1 casts an intriguing shadow upon House of X

Powers of X #1 is out now!

By Zack Quaintance — I absolutely loved House of X #1 last week, giving it a perfect 10 out of 10 score and describing it as ‘a landmark comic.’ Keep that in mind as I tell you now that this week’s companion comic, Powers of X #1, makes House of X #1 look safe by comparison. I don’t mean this as praise or criticism. In a story as dense and assured as the big one being told now in the X-Men comics by Jonathan Hickman, good or bad doesn’t quite factor in. It’s all good, it’s all fascinating and ambitious. Still, Powers of X #1 is the almost-objectively more experimental and less predictable of the two books.

Now, that may sound like an odd point, considering that House of X #1 seemingly begins with Charles Xavier growing Scott Summers and Jean Gray from gelatinous pod seeds embedded in the roots of a giant tree on Krakoa. It’s still true, though. Where House of X #1 remained in present day and focused on building a compelling idea around Professor X leveraging mutant abilities for the creation of a geo-political safe haven for his people, Powers of X seems to careen wildly through time, showing us a bleaker future (in classic X-Men fashion) that poisons its predecessor. After reading House of X #1, there was certainly a sense that all was not as it seemed—Sabertooth and co. are running black ops data retrieval missions, the humans are as always apprehensive, and why don’t we ever see Xavier’s eyes?—but Powers of X #1 confirms it.   

That’s my take on how the two titles intertwine, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they continue to reframe each other from week to week. It’s early in the process. Indeed, we’re only 1/6 of the way into the introductory story of a line-wide X-relaunch, but this type of storytelling applied to these characters just works for me. Hell, I basically grew up with it. The X-Men comic books have such a rich history of playing with time lines and inevitabilities and destinies, that it’s not a leap at all to have one book show us the present and another show us a butterfly effect through the ages. It’s downright familiar. 

So the question then becomes how does Powers of X #1 function as an individual chapter. A few people have asked if they can read just one of these titles, and after this comic, my answer is an unequivocal no. Read both books, or don’t read either, and make sure to read them in the order that is laid out on the back page. It’s pretty simple. This is a 12-issue weekly series (another one!), rather than two separate things meant to stand alone with some incidental crossover.

Powers of X #1 would be nigh-incomprehensible, I believe, for someone who hasn’t read House of X #1. And that’s just fine! It doesn’t really hurt the comic or the project for it to be done in this way. For anyone still hanging in the monthly superhero comic game at this point, this is below the average amount of convoluted logic major stories typically require.

There is, perhaps, a slight shift in the aesthetics from last week’s comic to this week’s, which makes sense given that the former was drawn by Pepe Larraz and the latter by R.B. Silva, with Silva inked here by himself and Adriano di Bendetto, and both books colored by the supremely talented Marte Garcia. My personal aesthetic preference is for Larraz’s work. The guy is a superstar, but Silva is well-suited for the future-looking science-fiction heavy new designs asked for him in mass in this issue. His linework is polished and clean with the scenes of Xavier in and around what we might call the modern day, but it’s when the book starts jumping wildly into multiple futures that he really shines, creating all manner of new protagonists and foils that look so comfortable in an X-Book, I wouldn’t blame lapsed readers for wondering if they’d been around for years.

In terms of the story and plot, this comic is dense and intriguing. It might be a little much to some new folks attracted by the X-Buzz going around out there (I saw two randos in my local comic shop this morning, searching them out!), but I’m not even entirely sure of that. Hickman does a great job orienting these comics with familiar elements—be it Professor Xavier or Nimrod—before asking readers to take a giant leap of orientation with him. And for anyone who’s read Hickman’s past superhero work or even his creator-owned work, this issue should feel nothing but exciting. He’s in total control and clearly has a vision. All he’s asking of us is to sit back and enjoy.  

Overall: Powers of X #1 is a nigh-perfect companion to last week’s House of X #1, recasting it in a slightly darker tone while also seeding its own massive sci-fi epic. These new Jonathan Hickman X-Men comics are, quite simply, must-reads. 9.5/10

Powers of X #1
Jonathan Hickman
Artist: R.B. Silva
Inkers: R.B. Silva and Adriano di Benedetto
Colorist: Marte Garcia
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Marvel Comics
Price: $5.99

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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.