So this is what Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men relaunches are all about, which Vox is now fawning over along with quite a few other news sources:
For many comic book enthusiasts, the measure of being a true fan is knowing every single thing that happens to your favorite characters — from every issue to the writers, the artists, the tie-ins, and references in other comics. But with House of X, Marvel’s latest and greatest X-Men storyline, writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Pepe Larraz have flipped that idea on its head by forcing even the biggest X-Men fans to doubt every single page, panel, and sentence, they’ve ever read about Marvel’s mutants with one single twist. Essentially, the more you’ve read about the X-Men, the less you know about House of X.
In House of X No. 2, Hickman and Larraz essentially rewrite the past decade of X-Men comics, by way of a Groundhog Day-like swerve and a journeywoman character known as Moira MacTaggart.
Technically, the term for this kind of editorial move is a retcon (retroactive continuity), and it’s usually frowned on by dedicated fans as reminders of the lack of thoughtfulness by writers or comic book companies. If one can simply retcon a death or an event, then what’s the point of executing these stories in the first place?
That sounds an awful lot like somebody who thinks the worst crossovers like Secret Empire shouldn’t be retconned away at all, despite how embarrassingly bad they are for reputation of heroes like Captain America. The writer’s putting words in fandom’s mouths. Whether fans like retcons or not depends on how much in good taste they are or not. Besides, Roy Thomas coined the whole phrase when he was writing All-Star Squadron, and nobody had issues with him on that.
In clumsier hands, Hickman and Larraz’s curveball would’ve flopped. But thanks to some middling X-Men comics that fans wouldn’t mind forgetting, combined with Marvel’s cinematic arm reacquiring the X-Men and the promise of mutants in the MCU, a perfect storm of excitement for X-Men fans has begun. And House of X is leading the way.
Yep, tell us about. If we’re going to act like every writer of the hour has just scored a bullseye, we’re deluding ourselves. Doesn’t this actually prove the point why retcons can be as good an idea as they can be a bad one? If distinctions aren’t made, nothing’s accomplished. Now, here’s more about the “great reveal”:
Since her first appearance in 1975, Dr. Moira Kinross MacTaggart has been an orbiting character in the X-Men universe. She’s played by Rose Byrne in X-Men: First Class, which offers a riff on her comic book origin story as a renowned geneticist and mutant ally — MacTaggart is human in her original story — often linked to Professor Charles Xavier. Moira’s inclusion in the first issue of House of X makes sense: She and Charles are solid allies (and even sometimes romantic partners), and if he’s creating a brand new world for mutants, having a world-class geneticist who is on mutantkind’s side can’t hurt.
But there’s a universe-breaking reveal in House of X No. 2: Moira is a mutant with the power to “reincarnate” herself. I’m using quotation marks around “reincarnate” because there’s no succinct term to encapsulate what Moira is able to do.
When Moira dies, she goes back to being a fetus in utero with the complete knowledge of the life or lives she just lived. But she also resets the universe around her, as she’s not reincarnated into another body or another being, nor is she even reborn into the present moment when she died.
Every time Moira dies, she goes back to the day her life started for the first time. Equipped with the knowledge gleaned from her previous life and lives, she can theoretically change the universe and her future by choosing a different set of actions than the ones she previously lived through.
I don’t know if this is intended to serve as Moira’s resurrection, but I think this could all have been done without grasping at cliches. Turning any particular character into a mutant is way too easy, and diminishes their impact as “civilian” co-stars, because now, we’re supposed to believe they’d always been mutants behind the scenes for 40-plus years? Sorry, doesn’t wash. Though there is admittedly something from the 90s they’re building on:
Moira’s mutant power reveal changes everything we know about the character. Armed with this new information about her abilities, every appearance she had in the prior comic books comes with the question of motive and whether her actions are a course-correcting measure for her future.
Just an example: In Excalibur No. 80 (1994), Moira has contracted the deadly legacy virus, which only affects mutants. At the time, we had no idea how she, a supposed human, could contract this virus; now that we know she’s a mutant, her diagnosis makes more sense.
So let’s see. Because she was infected in that past story, it automatically “proves” she’s a mutant? I think that’s way too easy. It could always just as easily be established that the virus grew worse in its influence, and latched onto ordinary humans as well, and there’s no need to take such an obvious route. Must I note that, by the time Marvel published Excalibur’s 80th issue, the series was declining?
Like I said, the main problem with this is how it cheapens the role of a non-powered co-star if you’re going to just suddenly establish retroactively they were always mutants and/or superpowered, rather than have them acquire powers more recently through unconnected circumstances. And the whole “mutant reveal” idea’s been obvious for too long. It also risks compounding the impression the X-Men were comprised of – and put too much emphasis on – making mutants the cast members with little or no non-powered co-stars to balance them out. But maybe the biggest problem of all is that it’s just resorting to building story premises far too much on past elements and nostalgia than it is on a vision looking forward, and even crafting stories based on modern metaphors for more pressing issues of today. This is just why superhero comics have plummeted.
Originally published here.