Powers Of X #5 Pulls Back The Curtain…

by Tony Thornley

If Marvel’s Powers of X has accomplished nothing else, the series has been successful in giving us immense amounts of background on what exactly is happening and has happened to get the X-Men to where they are in House of X. Powers of X #5 might be the most fascinating of those to date…

Jonathan Hickman, RB Silva, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller put the pieces of Krakoa together in this latest issue.

In year X^0, Xavier brings Forge into his plans, using his expertise to create the upgraded Cerebro we learned about in House of X #5. In year X^1 (at an indeterminate time between Uncanny X-Men #22 and House of X #1), Xavier and Magneto recruit one of the key players in the foundation of Krakoa, then several months later offer safe haven to the world’s mutant villains. And in X^3, the Phalanx makes their full motives and methods known.

This issue is a marked improvement from the last issue, where we simply got three good vignettes that ultimately didn’t serve any purpose than supplementing House of X. Each of the plots here feel essential, and they all tell their own story, with data pages that flesh them out even more right alongside them. The Forge vignette is the most straightforward- of course Xavier recruited him to upgrade Cerebro and of course he’s the person to take to Krakoan biotechnology the most.

However, the bulk of the issue takes place shortly before House of X began, with Xavier recruiting Emma Frost. It serves to establish Krakoa’s government, but it’s so much more with Hickman’s depicting of Emma might be the best character work he’s done in his entire time at Marvel. She’s smart, she’s confident, and she’s absolutely in control, even standing in a room with Xavier and Magneto. Silva and Gracia’s depiction of her sells it even more than the writing, as she shuts these two powerful men down with a glare, and renegotiates a business deal with an eyebrow raise, all bathed in light.

The least essential but most fun is a scene between scenes of House of X #5, in which Xavier telepathically invites the villains we saw at the end of that issue to Krakoa. We see Exodus and the Acolytes, we see Sinister, and so on. It would just be an unnecessary but well illustrated deleted scene… until Xavier makes it to Atlantis in front of Namor. Silva’s Namor is majestic, imposing and arrogant, but he isn’t threatening or monstrous like we’ve seen from him his past year in the larger Marvel Universe. It’s a brilliant and chilling scene, presenting Xavier and Namor as equal in standing but vastly different.

The last scene really only serves to do more to establish the Phalanx further in the grand scheme of Hickman’s story. Hickman’s background for them is terrifying, and Silva’s depiction of them is extremely unsettling. Gracia uses a sickly yellow to set them apart, while bathing the rest of the pages in darkness and shadows.

And it’s worth noting that this issue is the second time in the series that has explicitly addressed what is within a black hole. The X^2 timeline back in POX #3 implied the White Hole theory as Xorn opened his helmet- that the black hole is a dimensional gateway with a point that matter exits (the white hole) after entering (the black hole). Here in X^3 we get a completely different and wholly terrifying theory with the machines- that black holes are the domain of horrifyingly advanced machine intelligences intent on dominating the universe. It’s heady, intelligent, and wonderful world building for what’s to come.

This all comes together as an issue that feels a bit disjointed, but remains essential to the narrative being told. This really is a bold new storytelling era for the X-Men, and there’s a lot of ground to cover. There’s not a moment wasted on the page, and the issue is better for it.

Two issues remain in this event, and then we find ourselves in the Dawn of X. It’ll be fascinating to see what happens from here.

Powers of X #5 is available now from Marvel Comics.

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