The X-Men function best as a metaphor for oppression when read in the broadest terms possible. While their co-creators, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, were undoubtedly influenced by the Civil Rights Movement when imagining them in the early 1960s, there is not sufficient specificity for them to act as a clear analog for any single movement or demographic. Over the years specific elements have been accessed, Magneto embedded very real genocide when he was made to be a Holocaust survivor and the introduction of Genosha delivered an accessible metaphor for apartheid in South Africa. These examples do not define the entire X-Men franchise though, providing lots of room in which to explore further ideas on this resoundingly complex theme.
House of X #2 explores some new territory or, at the very least, familiar territory in a fresh manner with a concept that can be extended to potentially fit the entirety of the X-Men’s core idea. In the third installment of Johnathan Hickman’s X-franchise relaunch, Moira MacTaggert is reintroduced to readers as a mutant. Formerly known as a dedicated, human ally to the team since the Claremont era, Moira is revealed to possess the power of reincarnation, returning to her mother’s womb with all former knowledge in a reset timeline every time she would normally die. This reconception of the character presents a broad metaphor for the concept of passing.
Passing is a sociological concept in which a person of one identity possesses the ability to be perceived as possessing a different identity. This concept has specific uses and connotations regarding a wide variety of group identities, including race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. The term is most commonly used to describe members of an oppressed or disadvantaged class seeking to avoid those disadvantages. So, in the case of House of X #2, Moira is able to pass as a human being in spite of her mutant identity. While this new element of Moira’s character doesn’t appear to evoke too specific on an analogy, it does provide some insight into the nature of passing when, like the X-Men, it is considered in the broadest sense.
The Dream of a Mostly Pleasant Life
The very first page of House of X #2 is composed of four horizontal panels which map out Moira MacTaggert’s first life from birth to death, like a mundane homage to All-Star Superman #1 celebrating a life lived simply. This life includes a spouse, children, grandchildren, a career of service, and enough years to enjoy retirement. It is described as “predictable, mostly pleasant” and drawn in images that evoke nostalgia and simple joys. Reading about this life is enough to make most human beings envious.
In that fashion, it also serves to establish a sympathetic perspective for why any person might want to engage in passing. The well-lived life with so many inexpensive, yet priceless rewards is exactly what is denied to many people based on race, orientation, religion, and so many other factors. It is not a selfish urge to seek a peaceful life where your children can grow up better than you might have. Moira knows what it means to live as a human being without any systemic disadvantages, and so it becomes easy to see why she would want to retain that life however it might affect others.
The Cost of Passing
In her third life, Moira becomes a scientist and seeks to find a “cure” for her X-gene. She is successful, but is attacked at the very moment she makes her discovery by the Brotherhood of Mutants. It is Destiny who explains to Moira why they are destroying her lab and killing everyone with knowledge of the breakthrough, because Destiny understands that Moira’s actions have a much steeper price than she knows.
There are two harms being explored in this brief confrontation. The first is Moira’s self-harm as she describes her own being to Destiny. “It’s a disease -- what we are,” Moira says with a clear look of disdain drawn by Pepe Larraz. Moira is seeking to kill herself by removing her ability to reincarnate and there is an element of self-loathing contained in her speech. This self-hatred has moved beyond just Moira and she now describes Destiny and other mutants as an infection to be purged.
This leads to the second harm as Moira also helps to exploit other mutants as she passes amongst human society. While her own feelings of discrimination may not lead to any explicit actions, she has supported efforts that allow for mutants to be cleansed from the population. No matter what her intention in doing so might have been, Destiny (on behalf of mutantkind) tells her that her work has propped up future efforts to forcibly eliminate mutants. Passively or actively, Moira’s urge to blend into the oppressor class helps to harm her fellow mutants.
Powers of X0comments
These early lessons in Moira’s life are difficult ones, but they also only represent the first several lifetimes in a story that will span at least ten. As Moira grapples with her abilities to both reincarnate and pass as human, her idea of what it means to be a mutant and how she can best advocate for her people evolve. With each new life, she further complicates her own identity and ideology, producing increasingly hopeful results for the future. Ideas of isolationism, conflict, and domination are run through these lives revealing how many permutations of solutions to resolving oppressive realities exist. The X-Men are not a binary conflict between Xavier and Magneto but a spectrum as wide as the millions of mutants on Earth.
Moira ultimately provides hope for finding a better, if not perfect, solution in the future. In her tenth, and current, lifetime she begins by choosing to expose all of herself to a trusted friend, Charles Xavier. While the outcomes of this life (and a possible next one) are unclear, there is an implication that this lifetime will produce the best version of reality for all mutants so far. There is the eternal promise of superhero comics with endless continuity and no end, and there are the impressive accomplishments already laid out in the story. All of this hope for the future springs from one moment in which Moira declares who she is to someone else, not hiding a single version of her life. There is hope found in embracing one’s own identities and sharing them with those who love us, and that is as powerful of a metaphor as any Omega-level mutant.