Note: I will do my best to avoid plot spoilers in this review.
My big question in reading and writing this entry: are these books worth purchasing. They’re hefty, with 34 pages of art, 4 title/quote pages, and 8 of those wonderful expository/info-graph pages that I believe Hickman designs graphically himself (based on the art that he did in The Nightly News and Pax Romana). They also come with a hefty price rolling in at $6 an issue. Which, to be fair, is probably a good value when you compare it to the normal price of a 20 page book. Still, $6 is $6. By the time you factor in tax, the entire 12-page epic will set you back around $75. So I’d like to make sure it’s something I will ultimately enjoy.
Artwise, House of X was incredible. Aside from a single action sequence, this book is entirely talking heads. Sure, a crap ton of world-building takes place, and most of the story revolves around politics and culture, so it’s to be expected. But given that, Peppe outdoes himself in making everything exciting to read. He uses the space to flesh out [minor spoiler] what Krakoa looks like, and to really play out the fantasy element of the environment that Hickman is aiming to create here. With a plot involving nothing but conversation, Peppe and Gracia spin gold from straw. Not a single page is boring to look at, and despite the content, the book moves.
Storywise, I was interested. As I mentioned before, this issue was largely world-building. And in all honesty, it feels more like an X-Men fanfic or a movie script than it does a cannon book title: all of the dead characters have returned (I’m sure Legion has something to do with that in the previous series) and all of them seem to be living in harmony. Xavier (as seen in the covers) is walking, and wears that funny Cerebro helmet around. These aren’t really plot elements, they’re just givens, that I’m sure we’re expected to accept. The idea of the premise, like almost every event since Age of Apocalypse, is something that previous writers have addressed. Nothing original happens anymore in the x-universe. In the particular case of House of X, we’ve seen this particular idea at least four times that I can think of immediately off the top of my head. Sure, there are some unique uses of smaller characters in pulling it off, but at the heart of it all, we’ve seen the idea before. I imagine though, that Hickman has some unique way of ending it. Or not.
I was excited to see some of my favorite less-popular characters being put to good use. [spoiler] I’ll mention one of them here, as it’s not much of a spoiler: but Doug Ramsey’s language ability is finally given credit for the amazing thing that it is. In the real world, the ability to speak and understand any language would be incredibly powerful, However, in a world of tights and powerblasts, it gets overlooked. Kudos to Hickman for recognizing the importants of language.
Still, the weak points of the book were that we don’t have an actual protagonist so far. Xavior is likely going to be that character, but at the moment he’s been a plot device and a setting piece. We’ve seen very few actual X-Men do anything other than look pretty; villains have taken the spotlight thus far. I have a feeling that Hickman may set up an environment and then focus on the morality of the people trying to tear it down. Personally, I’m not very interested in that book. I’m hoping to read about my favorite heroes.
I was far less impressed with Powers of X. We’re initially presented with Xavier as the protagonist, which is nice, but then the book jumps far into the future. And stays there. To an outside reader who is more interested in the story than the X-Men, I’m sure this move was fine. For me, as an x-fan, it sucked. We get to meet boring new characters that are just amalgamations of characters we already know, and we’re basically told how the situation presented in House of X resolves. Lame. A mythology was established that felt similar to East of West (interestingly, East of West felt more like an X-Men book to me than Powers of X did).
Artwise, this book was equally as impressive as Powers of X. Or possibly a little less so, as I feel like the script gave Silva more fun things to draw. There was more action than House of X #1, for example.
Overall, I was disappointed. I didn’t become emotionally invested in any of the characters, and I wasn’t interested in any plot mysteries or developments. Furthermore, because it spoiled the outcome of the premise established in House of X, I have now become less invested in that series as well. I am going to read up on what others reviewers thought of these books, but as it stands now I may possibly get House of X #2 and will not be getting further issues of Powers of X.