In Jonathan Hickman we trust. After a few years of decent, sometimes great, but mostly “meh” X-Men stories, the merry mutants are back on top. The mix of sci-fi sensibilities and a new direction for the entire line has made it more exciting than ever. It also makes more sense. In the latest issue of X-Men, Hickman is going back to the events of House of X #3 and adds new layers to the narrative we didn’t know about. We also get a hint that details in HOX and POX may come back very soon in the main narrative.
As the cover suggests, this is Mystique’s story. It opens with Mystique enjoying a sunset with Destiny (Irene Adler). Soon, we’re getting a recap of where the space station near the sun is at with their rebuild after the mutants destroyed part of it in House of X #3. Hickman and Matteo Buffagni give us just enough info to catch us up and point our eyeballs at where the threat is rising. The story does a good job cutting between now and then filling in gaps and leading us along. By the end of the issue, it is becoming clear Xavier is up to no good, but at the same time doing what he can to keep the greater good at peace and in a kind of harmony. Unfortunately for Mystique, the greater good does not benefit her.
There are two elements that will stick with readers. The first is how Magneto and Xavier basically put Myqstique–a woman–in her place. They tell her she can’t have what she wants until she gives them what they want even though their requests are asking too much. They’re also getting in the way of Mystique’s ability to love and live. The way Buffagni draws these men, they are overbearing, controlling, and clearly in an unhealthy dispute with Mystique. For however many transgressions Mystique has enacted, we will feel for her. The second element that’ll stick with you is how this issue sets in motion a great danger for Krakoa and further Moira. I recommend folks go back and read House of X #2 after reading this book to refresh yourselves on Destiny.
Hickman has layered this world so thickly it’s quite amazing when something pops up and its ties to a sliver of what came before. At face value, this issue is only a couple of scenes — barely anything to make waves, but underneath its surface, there are implications that can change everything. It actually makes me nervous to read a book like this since it offers a promise or two of possible directions this story could go, but with how large the X-Men line is and how slow things can come out god knows if the plot here will matter in a month or a year.
Buffagni’s art is strong, depicting Xavier and Magneto with domineering body language that’s subtle enough to require you to key into it. It’s not overbearing or overt, but natural. In a single page of four panels, we’re whisked across space to check in on things and the hard science fiction visuals are strong.
This is a titillating sixth issue that offers a whole new threat to dig into going forward. If this is the end of the arc, Hickman has left us wondering from which direction the mutants will be attacked first. Once again, Hickman has shown a subtle hand can drive your imagination.
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