So I spent some time this weekend diving down the rabbit hole of Hix-Men Fan Theory. That’s theories on what’s really going on in Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men, of course, specifically the twin series House of X and Powers of X. And, hoo boy, is the speculation rife! In the process of reading all this stuff, I learned some things I didn’t know, was introduced to some ideas I hadn’t considered, and put some of my own personal theories into a new context.
It was all terribly interesting, and an awful lot of fun. I haven’t been part of a popular fan debate on anything in a long time, and I’d forgotten how energetic it can be. I mean… I was certainly engaged with other fans of Twin Peaks Season Three, but that’s the David Lynch fanbase, which tends to be more artsy and adult, cheering on Our Hero’s directorial excesses even when they come at the expense of story and common sense. But there’s a real exhilaration in simply engaging with a story, and talking about it with others who just can’t wait to find out what happens next. So I decided to spend this week’s column talking about that instead of doing my usual long-winded reviews. Hope you enjoy it, but be forewarned: SPOILERS lie ahead. An endless array of them…
So What’s the Big Deal Here, Anyway?
The big revelation of the series so far, if you don’t already know, is that longtime X-Men ally Moira MacTaggart is actually a mutant with the power of reincarnation. Or, rather, the power of rebirth. Moira lives her life over and over again, born each time with full memory of all her previous lives, and obsessed with finding a way to prevent the mutant genocide she’s witnessed so many times. She’s currently on her tenth life, which we’ve been lead to believe is X-Men history as we know it. There’s even a timeline showing what she’s been up to across all ten lifetimes:
Close examination reveals… rather a lot, really (and I left that image extra-big so you can do just that. Download that puppy, and read deep). Moira’s tried many different variations on things, some happier than others, but it always winds up the same way: mutant genocide at the hands of humans and their robots. With that in mind, considering her several lifetimes of genetics research, it’s not much of a stretch to believe that she married Joe MacTaggart specifically to give birth to Proteus, a reality-warping mutant whose powers are essential to the resurrection process introduced in last week’s House of X #5. If your goal is the survival of the mutant race, after all, figuring out a way to bring them back from the dead would be a good start.
(We still don’t know what happened to Life Six, by the way. Though some have speculated, based on some black panels in the sequence of her lives, that she may have been stillborn. Even though it’s been suggested that her mutant power won’t really manifest each time until she reaches puberty. Hmm…)
There’s loads of other stuff in there, too, including a few significant ret-cons. The biggest (aside from Moira’s mutant status) is that she let Charles Xavier read her mind on the day he first had the idea for the X-Men. So Professor X has spent all these years knowing a lot more than he seemed to, planning (presumably) for the situation we’re in now.
Years later, you’ll notice, they also let Magneto in on the plan. I really wasn’t sure when they did that, but people who are bigger X-Men fans than me have pegged it (based on the island base he’s living on when it happens) to sometime not long before X-Men #150. That’s where Magneto started his long turn toward heroism, refusing to kill Kitty Pryde in battle and fleeing to the peace and safety of Asteroid M. Fifty issues later, he’s pardoned by the UN, and not long after that, he’s the new headmaster of the Xavier School.
A few years after that, the timeline mentions a “schism” between Moira, Xavier, and Magneto. We don’t know when that happened or what might have caused it, but some are speculating that it happens just before the beginning of the Jim Lee “adjectiveless” X-Men series of the early 90s, when Magneto returns to being a villain. Which makes sense, I suppose. That Magneto seems lost and aimless, and easily lead back to villainy by his own acolytes. A split with the architects of the mutant master plan might well leave him that way.
But my money’s on it happening just before the beginning of the Grant Morrison run. There’s been a bit of a mutant population explosion, and they’re starting to form a distinct culture all their own. Xavier’s methods change in response, as he opens the school up to many more students than it’s traditionally hosted, and publicly comes out as a mutant. That’s a significant moment in at least one of Moira’s earlier lives. Hickman even copied the speech verbatim.
The Morrison Scene:
And the Hickman Scene:
So if the other two thought he was moving too soon, I could see that causing the split. It might also explain why Magneto strung himself out on power-enhancing drugs to better-disguise himself as Xorn, with the goal of eventually joining the faculty at the Xavier School and destroying it (and all hope of peaceful human/mutant relations) from within.
A few years after that, we’re told, Moira faked her own death using a “Shi’ar Golem” (whatever that is). And that, much to my surprise, is a total ret-con of a story in which Moira was assassinated by Mystique. So Moira’s been dead in-story for some time now, and is presumably still considered dead by most, if not all, of the cast.
And that begs a rather important question…
Where is Moira MacTaggart?
We’ve seen plenty of Moira in this book, in flashbacks and scenes from her previous lives. Some think that we may have even seen her in the future, in scenes from the X-Men: Year 1000 sequences in Powers of X (more on those in a minute). The one place we haven’t seen her is in the present-day (designated here as X-Men: Year 10). We’ve seen plenty of Xavier, forging a new mutant nation and recruiting every single mutant on Earth to join him there. We’ve seen Magneto in close conspiracy with him, discussing the ins and outs of the plan. We’ve seen them, together, sending a core X-Men team on a suicide mission. But no Moira. So where is she?
We don’t know. But there are theories out there, most of them revolving around another important question…
What’s Up With Professor X?
This is a natural question for a book like this. Hickman’s pulled enough swerves so far that virtually everything is worth (or seems worth) second-guessing. Some of the fan theories get pretty far out there. But questioning Xavier’s current actions seems entirely worthwhile to me. He’s embarking on an incredibly ambitious plan that, in some ways, goes against his core philosophy of “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?” He’s suddenly arguing for mutant separatism, for one thing, and gathering as many mutants as he can onto a single land mass.
(A single, sentient, mutant land mass known as Krakoa, which has been known in the past to trap other mutants within itself and feed off their life force. It doesn’t do that anymore, of course, but still… You’d think somebody would be at least a little worried about how this is going down. Especially the part where they help Krakoa spread itself around the globe, and even onto other planets. But, nah. That couldn’t possibly be a problem…)
Now, all Xavier’s really arguing for at this point is for mutants to be governed by mutants, instead of by humans. And considering the multiple genocides committed against various mutant populations over the years…
…that doesn’t sound entirely unreasonable. It’s sort of like Mutant Israel. But in this case, it’s also rather elitist. Unlike Israel, the establishment of Krakoa puts mutants not only outside the bounds of human law, but also above it. And while nobody’s arguing for mutant rule of the human race yet, more than one prominent member of Xavier’s inner circle has expressed opinions in that direction.
It’s not just a philosophical change, either. His demeanor and body language are also quite different than what we’re used to from the staid, professorial X-Mentor. I suppose it could be explained away by his finally being able to stop pretending. He’s finally carrying out the master plan he and Moira cooked up so many years ago, and I could see how that would be freeing to him. So freeing that he’s got this “holy man” vibe about him at times. Which is appropriate, I suppose, considering how the resurrection process was sold to the mutant masses.
Yeah… Xavier’s not building a nation. He’s building a cult.
But he’s also more touchy-feely than we’re used to seeing, with more delicate gestures. To the point that some have described his movements as “feminine.”
Also? He’s only taken that damn helmet off once. And when he did? He was totally dressed up like his evil twin sister.
So, yeah. What the hell IS up with Professor X?
As you might have already guessed, there seem to be two dominant theories. One is that his body’s being inhabited/controlled by the not-dead Moira MacTaggart. Or that her consciousness was placed in an Xavier body grown as part of the resurrection process. I mean, the official documentation we’re shown explaining that process does SPECIFICALLY SAY that nobody’s had their mind put into another person’s body yet. But that documentation might also be lying. And considering that just two paragraphs before that, it describes how they’ve solved the problem of Proteus burning out his bodies by making him a bunch of stand-by husks MADE FROM XAVIER’S DNA… There’s clearly a loophole.
(Alright, so Proteus can move his own mind from body to body without the need of the resurrection process. So TECHNICALLY it’s true that they haven’t mixed up mind and body as yet. But, yeah. That’s one hell of a loophole.)
The other dominant theory (and the one that I personally hope is true, just because it’s really cool) is that Xavier is actually his evil twin sister Cassandra Nova. Now, Xavier clearly has a male body, and even Cassandra’s emaciated stick of a frame wouldn’t look that male in a skin-tight outfit (black body socks don’t leave much to the imagination). But she’s jumped bodies AND implanted herself in Xavier’s mind before. So there’s precedent. There’s also a reference made to a “progerian mutant” in the Mister Sinister gossip column from Powers of X #4, and progerian might very well describe Ernst, the aged little girl form Cassandra was put into after her initial defeat.
Yes, yes. I know Grant Morrison’s original intent there was either completely misunderstood or purposefully ret-conned after he left the book, and that Ernst and Cassandra have since been established as two separate people. But screw it. The original idea was a lot better, and I’m holding out hope that Hickman’s going to ret-con the ret-con.
So, yeah. That one’s probably just a red herring.
But a man can dream, can’t he?
At any rate. Whatever’s going on with Xavier, this represents a real sea-change from his original dream, and it’s one that many people may have a hard time accepting. Which brings us to another often-asked fan question:
So the X-Men are Villains Now?
Well… Not villains, really. It’s more complicated than that.
I mean, sure. They welcomed some real nasty customers into the fold in last week’s House of X #5. A collection of genuinely evil mutants, including Apocalypse himself. But the idea is that they’ll agree to live by Krakoan law, or suffer the consequences of mutant justice.
So, yeah. It’s complicated. We haven’t seen everything of how they plan to interact with the human world. Emma Frost did, admittedly, work some mind control on a UN delegate or two to get Krakoa recognized as its own sovereign nation, and Xavier acknowledged that without damning her for it. But he also warned her of the dangers inherent in such things, and toasted her sacrifice.
And alongside that, there’s the miracle drugs they’re offering humanity: cures for cancer and dementia that can only be produced on Krakoa by mutants. Those are bargaining chips to convince other nations to recognize Krakoa, of course, and probably also function as some small deterrent to another genocidal attack. Who wants to give up a cure for cancer, after all, just to get rid of some people who simply want to be left alone? But, still. Those are genuine boons for the human race, and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Also, I’m pretty sure that Marvel Comics wouldn’t give Jonathan Hickman carte blanche to just turn one of their biggest franchises into a villain book. So I’m sure that, going forward, the X-Men will still be getting up to all manner of heroic deeds. They’ll just be doing it in front of a more morally-complicated backdrop.
None of this deals with another major fan question, however, this one most often being asked by people who aren’t completely on board for Hickman’s storytelling and the new status quo.
Why’s That Year 1000 Stuff Even There?
The one X-Men time period that seems utterly detached from everything else that’s happening is the far-future world of the X-Men: Year 1000. Mutants and machines have come together to overthrow humanity (keeping the last remaining Homo Sapiens in zoos), and now seek Ascension with the Phalanx, some kind of cosmic machine intelligence that either absorbs or destroys every culture it comes into contact with.
Hickman’s really getting out there with this sequence, tying together all the various Marvel machine races into one vast hierarchy that includes the Kree Supreme Intelligence, the Xandorian Worldmind, Warlock’s people, the techno-organic virus, and (somewhere way out at the very far end of things) the Celestials.
I only caught maybe half of this, you understand, and had to have the rest explained to me by people who’ve read a lot more X-Men comics than me. I had no idea, for instance, that the Phalanx had even appeared before. But they were evidently the subject of an entire X-Men storyline, and had something to do with the story that launched the modern version of Guardians of the Galaxy, too. Here, they just come off like one of those awesome Hickman-Riffs-On-Kirby things that he does from time to time. I didn’t need to know any of that to understand the story, either. It’s just interesting to me.
From my perspective, the Year 1000 stuff speaks to two very important questions about this story. First, it’s the ultimate payoff on all the Sentinel stuff Hickman’s been developing. Though the machines seem to be mutantkind’s doom in the short term, they may turn out to be its salvation in the end. Which may mean that Moira’s life experience, prodigious as it may seem in human terms, is too short-sighted. It may be that, in preventing Nimrod from going on-line and destroying the Orchis Mother Mold, the X-Men have doomed themselves to eventual destruction at the hands of machines far more advanced than anything Moira’s even dreamed of.
Second, though, the Year 1000 stuff also speaks to one of the series’ bigger metaphysical tangles: when Moira dies and is reborn, do the timelines of her previous lives just… end? Or do they keep going on past her, developing and growing without her? Is Moira MacTaggart just caught in an endless loop, or is she somehow taking the whole damn universe along with her every time, dooming it to end unless she can find a path to immortality?
I hadn’t even considered the latter possibility until I ran across it on a forum somewhere. Now, I can’t get it out of my head. And I guess the answer hinges entirely on whether the Year 1000 sequence is the future of Moira’s tenth life, or (like the Year 100 sequence before it) if it’s simply the far future extension of one of her previous lives.
We haven’t necessarily seen Moira in the Year 1000, by the way. But there is an Elder who’s masterminding everything we’ve seen, who has a helmet much like Xavier’s current Cerebro jobbie. And considering the effective immortality Our Heroes have developed… Well. It’s not completely out of the question, is it?
Something that probably IS completely out of the question, though, is covered by our final query:
How Could I Have Forgotten About Fan-Kink?
As I said at the outset, I haven’t been an active participant in any truly popular dork fandom in a very long time. And somehow, I had forgotten how horny certain elements of the fanbase really are. I mean, I’m aware of things like shipping and erotic fan fiction, but I haven’t personally run across it in ages. At least, not until I started digging into X-Men Fan Theory.
It’s only natural that X-Fans are into kink, I suppose. It’s baked in. Chris Claremont, the granddaddy of modern mutant adventure, often worked out his own personal sexual fantasies in this book. That’s why there’s so many dominatrix outfits. And I don’t even wanna THINK about Claremont in relation to the adult baby stuff from the very first X-Men comic I ever read.
So, yeah. X-Fans do seem to love their kink. And Hickman seems to have set them off with a passing comment that a group of mutants should be called an Orgy. Which is a funny line, but wow. Some people have gotten REALLY into the idea. I’ve seen fantasies of mid-air threesomes and couplings involving all manner of mutant genitalia (and a few tails). And I haven’t even made the dive into any actual X-rated fan sites. This is just in regular funnybook forums, mixed in with theories about alternate timelines and how this character or that came back from the dead.
The best of this stuff has to be the things people have been saying about the Mister Sinister rumor column. Without going into detail, I’ve read theories about various characters reuniting for the lesbian/gay/interspecies love affair they were always meant to have but never did, or speculating on various dom/sub combos implied by rumors that I thought were fairly innocuous (or is “red shoes” code for something I’m not aware of?). My absolute favorite, though, is the (apparently long-running) theory that Wolverine, Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Emma Frost are all involved in a polyamorous relationship. This idea has inspired long treatises on the new mutant morality, and how they might be tossing aside all manner of human rules on Krakoa, especially the ones about sex and romance.
I’m not knocking it, you understand. No kink-shaming here. People should get into whatever they’re into, as far as I’m concerned, and more power to ’em. It’s just weird to go from posts detailing the events of “The Phalanx Covenant” to rapturous fantasies about the joys of telekinetic free love.
And since I couldn’t possibly top that, I think it’s time to shut up…