POWERS OF X #4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: R.B. Silva
Color Artist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Issue four of Powers of X is titled Something Sinister because it is devilishly focused on the big bad of this series, Mister Sinister. The story is divided into three parts. There is X^0 which is all about Mister Sinister, X^1 that explores Xavier’s interest in Krakoa, and X^3 introduces more of the Phalanx.
The most substantial aspect of this issue was Professor X and Magneto interacting with the various Sinisters at Bar Sinister (note: this is the part of the book I will primarily focus on). Now, we know from previous issues that Sinister is a geneticist. He has a goal of becoming genetically perfect, and he also has a big hand in eventually betraying Mutant-Kind and allowing the deaths of 40% of the mutant population. He is no joke. However, Hickman decides to shroud his villain with an air of hilarity as opposed to the bold and direct drama we have experienced in previous issues. This works nicely. Professor X and Magneto declare that they need Mister Sinister to catalog all of the mutants DNA. And the first sinister could not be any more bored or bothered by them. He muses, flamboyantly, over the interaction of him with a cape. He states that he must have one. He kills a server of his who didn’t tell him that he should wear a cape.
The utter ridiculousness of this scene if fabulous. R.B Silva works wonders at rendering the faces of all of these Sinisters. Each is drawn uniquely while still maintaining the air of all of them being the same. Not to mention, the dramatics of Nathaniel Essex is captured with such detail that you know how the dialogue is meant to sound. I mean, Silva draws he’s sitting on a white fur throne of sorts while Clayton Cowles letters his conversation with quite a lot of italics and boldness. The characterization hits a homerun from writer, artist, colorist, and letterer so significantly. They leave no room for misinterpretation. He is just sassy and funny.
The funniest moment of it all, however, is after Charles asks one version of Mister Sinister to catalog mutant DNA. He refuses and then another Mister Sinister's shoots him dead. The theatrics of this man knows no bounds. Hickman proves through this interaction that he is not above having some fun in his comic. I do feel as if such an intense tonal shift should be a bit more gradual. I feel like this interaction at the beginning of the issue makes the severity of the rest of the book fall flat. But Hickman does leave their interaction with a foreboding thought that certainly isn’t funny for those of us critically thinking about all the eggs he is laying. Charles uses his powers to have Mister Sinister forget why he’s cataloging the mutant gene until the day Charles tells him to remember. I’m not even sure what that could mean. I am not the most well versed X-men reader, but even I know that this is not good news. Knowing from past issues about Sinister breeding mutant super soldiers and how almost half of them die, it feels like we are at the edge of the iceberg waiting for it to melt until we drown. The writing delivers so much tension and curiosity; it’s astounding.
The rest of the issue falls entirely flat for me. A large part of it is how X^1 returns PoX to it’s previously established serious tone and atmosphere. Charles, with his colonist's views of Krakoa, brings Cypher to the island for reasons unknown until Charles has him “speak” to it. We get a very beautifully colored rendition of Krakoa’s backstory. There were lots of purples, oranges, and pinks to illustrate the dreaminess of it all. The art is a nice touch as we know it is Cypher who is telling Charles about the sadness Krakoa feels; it aides in us visualizing it for ourselves. However, this fragment leaves me wanting more. I felt as if this scene felt incredibly short compared to X^0. I feel like if I knew the original origin story of Krakoa, this segment would feel and read much differently to me.
We then dive into X^3, which also remains short. This part focuses on the Phalanx, and this is a complete miss for me. Objectively, I know Hickman is rising tensions. The idea of the Phalanx being able to absorb copied human intelligence into a higher machine system to utilize for their greater collective. It is a lot to wrap your head around. It begs us to delve into the more profound ideas of HoX and PoX, that idea being human evolution. In this case, development through mutant-dom or a machine. I suppose my disengagement from this part of the narrative isn’t from a, “I don’t understand what’s in front of me” but from a, “How does this issue contextualize House of X #5?”. There is no doubt that Hickman's sidestepped pushing the narrative forward in favor of backstories and exposition. X^3 is showing the costs and threats that Charles is up against when it comes to protecting all of mutant-kind.
At the end of this issue, I feel a sense of dread, wonderfully. I feel as if this issue is simply the stepping stone for something grander with deadly costs. I can't shake the feeling that HoX #5 is going to be insane. I suppose that is the fun of Hickman’s writing being so damn good. The book achieves elevation by his all-star team of R.B Silva, Marte Gracia, and Clayton Cowles. While this may not have been my favorite issue of this series, it certainly was one that made me think a lot.