Powers of X #1 Review: It's the End of the World as We Know It

It’s not hard to remember that this comic is pronounced “Powers of Ten” after reading it. [...]

Comic Reviews - Powers of X #1
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

It's not hard to remember that this comic is pronounced "Powers of Ten" after reading it. Both the premise and execution of this issue make excellent use of exponential growth in its time-jumping exploration of mutant history. The "powers of ten" are four sets of years representing the exponents of 0, 1, 2, and 3 which correlate to years 1, 10, 100, and 1,000 with 10 representing the present timeline in House of X and 1 falling in the not so distant past. While the year 10 story does intersect with that sister series, it only does so for four pages focused on expanding a single plot thread from House of X #1 (albeit ever so slightly). The majority of this issue's focus and page count is dedicated to the future and that notion of how time compounds to produce increasingly unpredictable and astounding changes. It is in this look forward that Powers of X finds its own heart, independent of House of X, one that is engaged with the existential and exponential problems of today.

It's not difficult to perceive ruminations on climate change and political instability in the time-crossing threads laid out here. Each era offers a greater degree of difference with increasing severity reflected in living conditions, populations, and hinted-at-histories. Readers are intended to infer the changes between years 1 and 10 via general comics knowledge of the X-Men, but the much larger leaps ahead are assisted by infographics. Tom Muller's design for pages summarizing key events and showcasing statistics are enthralling. Fans of history (fictional or real) are bound to thrill to these pages that provide ample details, but not so much as to hamper the issue's pacing too much. They can easily be accessed as glossaries after the fact or read alongside the comics pages as they are embedded mid-story. These bits are essential as they outline how quickly events spiral. Moving between years 10 and 100, both the future's appearance and description of how it reached that state sound familiar to many forecasts about our Earth without mutants. Just as mutants provide a broad metaphor for oppression, this mode of storytelling provides an equally broad metaphor for catastrophe.

This language of revolution, change, and decay emphasizes humanity, even as the story primarily features mutants (and some robots). Humanity is at the heart of this narrative, talked about with strains of fear, disgust, and loathing depending on the character and era. There is a direct connection between the human species and the destruction woven through this history, one that fits well with the events of World War II, the Great Depression, and so many other subsequent humanitarian crises. While the status and actions of humans are still being clarified, there is no doubt that the worst of what is being observed is the result of their actions. In this fashion, Powers of X is as much about the human race, the one reading this book without any superpowered protectors, as any fictional spinoffs.

All of this fails to even mention that Powers of X is an incredibly fun comic book. While the short sequences set in years 1 and 10 primarily offer up hints at what's to come and new mysteries, the much longer introductory stories to years 100 and 1,000 deliver superhero comics that are simply entertaining. There's a real density to these stories as they simultaneously work to present history, new conflicts, and new characters, but that work is used to make for flavorful new futures. Nimrod stands out as a particularly delightful surprise, cast in a Hans Landa-like role as a gleeful executioner of atrocities. While there are plenty of questions to be asked about these new narratives, they carry their own narrative weight by presenting engaging stories filled with humor and action.

Powers of X #1 does something seemingly impossible in reaching the very high bar established by fans' reaction to House of X #1 last week. It provides a new series of layers to an already ambitious narrative with an exceptional degree of confidence. The very structure of this half of the overall story deserves its own recognition, too. This is not a haphazard delivery of flashbacks and flashforwards, it is a careful use of time and comics in order to examine the nature of change. Powers of X deftly expands upon the mutant mythos and addresses the nature of humanity's greatest challenges, providing a new legend and new meaning for the X-Men.

Published by Marvel Comics

On July 31, 2019

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by R.B. Silva

Colors by Marte Gracia

Letters by Clayton Cowles

Design by Tom Muller

Covers by R.B. Silva & Marte Gracia