They say the only three certain things in life are birth, death, and change. When it comes to comic books those things are also certain as they come in the form of retcons, reboots, and resurrections.
For our purposes retcons are elements that are retroactively added into a character’s history after the fact, reboots are either big full change revivals of a character/title or are extensive changes to their canon, and resurrections are characters making the return from death or character limbo.
Each week we’ll explore the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to Retcons, Reboots, and Resurrections.
Charles Xavier had a dream, a dream that mutants and humans could coexist in this world and build a better future together. Along the way, there were many humans that were allies to him and the X-Men, as well as the many offshoot teams, but none were as big or meaningful over the decades as Doctor Moira MacTaggert.
A longtime friend and ally, and prior romantic partner, to Charles Xavier, Moira was also a motherly figure to Rahne Sinclair/Wolfsbane, a stalwart colleague to Excalibur, the romantic partner to Sean Cassidy/Banshee, and a scientific powerhouse that faced down some of the biggest mutants around in her time.
In the ’90s she was the only human that caught and passed away from the mutant infecting Legacy Virus and was one of the few characters to stay dead after their death.
Until she didn’t. That’s because Moira didn’t have the virus, didn’t die, and she wasn’t even human. She was a mutant all along.
What Was It?
As stated above Moira was one of the most stalwart longest human allies that the X-Men and mutant kind had. She was there for a great many events, and there were a vast number of times where it was made quite clear that she was human. In fact, her DNA was studied by some of the greatest minds around during the time where the Legacy Virus was killing her. In the end, the virus and an attack by the Brotherhood ended her life in the very early 2000s.
Except, it turns out that was all part of her plan.
In 2019’s House of X, Jonathan Hickman introduced the idea that not only is Moira a secret mutant but her mutant power allows her to live a certain amount of lives. When a life comes to an end, she reverts back to the beginning of her timeline in essentially an alternate go at things, while retaining everything she knows from before. Imagine having to live over your baby and young years over again while being fully aware of having lived a full adult life previously with all those thoughts and feelings still.
Through the previous nine lives, the tenth one is the current Marvel Prime/616 Universe that we know, she attempted different things from seeking out Xavier to creating a cure for mutants (and then being burned to death for it by the Brotherhood) to trying Magneto and Apocalypse’s way to going full-on assassin. All to try and stop the inevitable rise of A.I./machines and the eventual inevitable fall of mutant-kind.
Through various manipulations in some of those lives and a long time to really study what happened in each one, life ten is painted as the one where she knew how to approach things to avoid the grisly end for mutants. That involved her approaching Xavier and telling him everything, and then them approaching Magneto and letting him in on it. Essentially the rise of Krakoa and mutant resurrection and all those trappings were things that Xavier, Magneto, and Moira were cooking up behind the scenes around all the X-Men stories we’ve been reading for decades according to this retcon.
Basically from the very beginning of what we know of as the X-Men, Xavier and Moira were working towards this end and manipulating others along the way to get to this point. As for why it took so long to achieve these goals, there are references in Moira’s journal to the idea that Magneto’s many attempts to create mutant homelands and strongholds came from what he saw when Xavier shared all of Moira’s lives with him. Therefore these deviations and the various splits of the X-Men groups and so many deaths (Xavier among them for a time) took away from their plans.
As mentioned before Moira was never pinged as a mutant in the past, before this retcon. This was never explained on the page but seems simple to extrapolate that her powers style masks her from appearing as a mutant in any way and likely she and Xavier made sure that she was masked from Cerebro.
With the Legacy Virus and her studied DNA, we learn from the timeline of lives provided in House of X #2 that when Moira was thought to die it was actually a Shi’ar creation that took her place and died. In fact, that version might have even been the one with the virus and had all those adventures with Excalibur and such before death. Likely the golem also went to the afterlife and was the version of Moira that was seen returning to life briefly during the ‘Chaos War‘ event years ago. The idea is that Moira went into hiding in order to put all her effort into the work that needed to be done, so it was best to take herself fully off the table.
This new Moira that we see post-Krakoa and post the revelation has been isolated and is paranoid about what a precog like Destiny will do (as they had an altercation in life three, the one with the cure, and Destiny was the one that had her burned to death), and secretly runs things with Xavier and Magneto from a place under Krakoa so no one knows she is alive. Currently, the event series Inferno is dealing with the repercussions of the actions of these three in regard to trying to stop Destiny’s return and their failed attempts to stop Nimrod/A.I. from rising against them.
Was It Good?
Overall this was a very good retcon as it was shocking and opened a whole lot of intriguing doors, and led to a big shakeup in the world of the X-Men. Something that was sorely needed after a lot of years of status quos that were not working out.
Retcons are a tricky thing and when you look too closely at some and try to fully attach them to what we know and have seen, they will crumble apart. Such as the issues after her death where Xavier is mentally monologuing (to no one but himself) about how they met in a way that doesn’t match this retcon (naturally since it happened almost two decades before). This and many other examples surely put holes in this “they were all plotting together the whole time” idea, but it doesn’t entirely matter in the end.
Continuity needs to be a tool used in shared universes to help in the creative process, not hamper it or chain it down to stuff that came long in the past. Wholesale ignoring things that might have been beloved or actually made characters who they are isn’t the prescribed method, but using those moments or ideas to take things in a new direction is the key.
It’s clear through the work that Hickman was indeed a fan and knew a lot of stuff and picked out the things that would help make the story he wanted to tell work. By nature, retcons are a creator taking a big swing, and sometimes they miss but other times they connect and hit that amazing home run.
This one was probably more of a grand slam-type affair.
Next Week: A fantastic voyage to the place beyond to meet one’s, literal creator