The trope of the “big bad” might have gotten a bit of overuse in the last decade but for good reason. The idea of an overarching “ultimate” bad guy is appealing, as it can tie together disparate story threads as well as provide a centering influence on a serialized story. It definitely appears that Powers of X has been setting up the big bad of this new X-Men era, but which foe is that threat?
Jonathan Hickman, RB Silva, Adriano Di Benedetto, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller dive deeper into the multiple timelines we’re exploring.
While the present and past X-Men begin hatching plans to ensure the survival of mutants, the X-Men of the future begin a desperate plan. With Apocalypse in the lead, they have one chance to stop the machines and save all of mutantkind. Meanwhile in the distant future a massive threat makes itself known…
This issue feels like storytelling version of setting up dominoes before you start to knock them over. Hickman builds tension throughout this story, with multiple threats that all share thematic similarities. It creates a bit of interesting cohesion that didn’t quite exist in the first issue. It also makes it clear that the threat is the machines, and mutantkind needs to stand united to withstand them.
Hickman and Muller also do a great thing here by creating a unified theory of machine intelligence and its evolution in the Marvel Universe. It ties together several existing bits of Marvel Universe mythology, such as the Kree Supreme Intelligence and the Technarch. However, in the final pages it also reveals that an existing X-Men villain is the ultimate form of machine intelligence, in a moment that seems hopeful but is actually terrifying. And that is none other than… the Phalanx.
The revelation of a major player in this context is huge for the story. Hickman has long said he’s a big fan of the mid-90’s X-titles, which is when the Phalanx came into prominence. With this revelation, it appears they’re going to play a big part in the overall story, and that could be absolutely terrifying for the X-Men
Silva, Di Benedetto and Gracia continue to do next level work here. Silva’s design sense creates a stunning base of operations for Magneto in the opening pages, and then returns in Asteroid K, making the future X-Men’s home feel wholly new and unique. Silva and Di Benedetto draw us in with their layouts, such as using wide, close-up panels for emphasis mid-conversation, or panning out to a full figure to show us the emotion running through our characters. There’s also great small touches within the panels, such as one stunning close-up on Cyclops, that includes two other characters in reflection on its surface.
Gracia’s color work continues to be stunning. In the past, he uses colors that look a little more flat, evoking the techniques of the era that story’s set within. Meanwhile, in the present and future stories he fills the pages with light and color, but uses different tones and color textures to set them apart. It’s beautiful work that should lead to awards for him in the near future.
I don’t praise letterers often enough, but Cowles is also going great work. His placement and positioning of captions and bubbles is great. However, he also is able to use bold and italics to emphasize lines that we normally would have glossed over or not read into. It’s small and subtle but really enhances the experience.
While not as stunning or game-changing as previous issues, this is still a very exciting and engrossing read.
Powers of X #2 is available now from Marvel Comics.