You Humans Love Your Symbolism, Chapter 12:

Prophecy in Powers of X #6

Chapter 12: Prophecy – Foreknowledge Motivating Change in Powers of X #6 – I Am Not Ashamed

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: R.B. Silva with Pepe Larraz
Inker: R.B. Silva
Color Artist: Marte Gracia with David Curiel
Cover Art: R.B. Silva and Marte Gracia

Not once in all my lives have you changed…” Moira says to Charles.

“Thank you,” he replies with a sheepish smile.

“It’s not a compliment,” she bluntly retorts, stone-faced.

Change is exactly what Moira wants. During their first meeting in the X0 era, having purposefully sought Charles out, she allows him to read her mind and see her past nine lives. Before the release of this series, Hickman advertised this as “the most important scene in the history of the X-Men” and has now included it in three different issues (see also Chapter 2: Powers of X #1 and Chapter 3: House of X #2). Moira reveals all the knowledge of her past lives, potential foreknowledge of possible futures, along with her cynical truth, first mentioned in Chapter 4: Powers of X #2, “We always lose.” She tells Charles her purpose in doing so, “hard truths are what’s called for when dealing with radical realignments to old ways of thinking.” She wants to break him; force him to change: “Because that’s what has to happen now.”

In doing so, Moira has taken on the role of a prophet. The primary purpose of prophecy, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is not in foretelling the future in order to give reassurance about an uncertain outcome, but rather to reveal truth in order to motivate change, usually repentance.

An excellent example is Jonah, the prophet known mostly for being swallowed and later vomited up by a huge fish (see Jonah 1 & 2). God sent Jonah to prophecy a warning to the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). They respond immediately by repenting of their evil deeds. And God, in his mercy, does not destroy them (see Jonah 3 & 4). One finds the same message summarized by God himself in Jeremiah 18:7-8, “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.” The Old Testament of the Bible includes many books known for their “doom and gloom” prophecies against nations or peoples who have turned away from God and done evil. The goal is their repentance; motivation to positive change.

In returning to the theme of prophecy, Hickman brings his series full circle; prophecy was also the central focus of Chapter 2: Powers of X #1. As written in the essay on that chapter: “Powers of X as a series can be interpreted as the apocalyptic literature [a form of prophetic writing] of Hickman’s young X-Men run. The tell-tale characteristics of this genre of religious writings are found throughout the series.” And they return in this issue.

Many prophets share the same prophecy multiple times, sometimes from different points of view, sometimes adding and refining certain aspects. The first scene in this issue is – with the exception of a new first page – a panel for panel reprinting of the first seven pages of Chapter 2: Powers of X #1. We find the same emphasis on the fortune teller at the fair. We see the same tarot card inspired images of the X2 era. And, as already mentioned, we experience anew the first meeting of Moira and Charles in the X0 era. This section ends, once again, with the crucial moment he reads her mind.

Although only hinted at in Chapter 2: Powers of X #1, and discussed in that essay more thoroughly, the creative team implies more explicitly in this issue that Prof. X reading Moira’s mind is a framing device, giving him the visions of the X2 and X3 eras which we have seen throughout this series. These eras have both now been revealed as events from Moira’s ninth and sixth life, respectively. (But what about the X1 era?) In this issue, Charles reading Moira’s mind ends the first X0 section and is then followed by the X3 section. At the end of the X3 section, the narrative immediately returns to Charles reading Moira’s mind, confirming its role as the framing device. Nearly all apocalyptic literature begins with a framing device; the prophecy is in effect a story within a story, allowing for the non-linear plot elements which jump throughout the past and the future.

With the jump to the X3 era, the creative team finally reveals the identities of the symbolic Adam and Eve seen in the final panel of Chapter 2: Powers of X #1. They are, in fact, Wolverine and Moira, kept alive for a millennium through the healing power of Wolverine’s blood. One must assume that Hickman purposefully chose this allusion to Adam and Eve, as their story involves so many themes found in this series. Most obviously, Paradise in the Garden of Eden, referenced in connection to Krakoa (see Chapter 1: House of X #1). Interestingly, this issue includes a subtle irony; the post-humans of the X3 era hold the last existing mutants on earth captive in a garden paradise, while they themselves live free in a cold, metal mega-city.  Another theme, the soul (placed into Adam and Eve in the creation story), has been so important to this series (see Chapter 10: Powers of X #5), especially to the idea of Ascension. And of course, the creative team has already alluded to the Original Sin as a symbolic analogy of the post-human’s desire for Ascension (see Chapter 4: Powers of X #2).

The Original Sin was an attempt to become like God; the serpent tempted Adam and Eve into eating the forbidden fruit by saying, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Slowly revealed issue by issue throughout the X3 sections, and summarized here in an impressive amount of exposition on the part of the Librarian, in Ascension the post-humans also see a chance to become godlike: “All that we are – all that we have done – all that we have known – will become one with that collective… One that lives outside of space and time, and what was once our post-human society will exist forever as part of that godhead.” Unfortunately, it will cost them their individual organic bodies and also cause the complete destruction of Earth.

But the Librarian has doubts about this godhood, “My problem is this… I question the wisdom of it.” The seeds of doubts had been, at least for the reader, implicit in the subtext of all X3 scenes so far in the series. The creative team never made the idea of Ascension appealing. Finally, the Librarian expresses these same apprehensions, wondering if Ascension is “something that’s really just an idea of existence. Something immaterial.” He has recognized the difference between knowing everything as part of a nearly omnipotent intelligence and actually experiencing some of those things as an individual person. As he analyses a beautiful flower, he laments: “Never touching someone again. Never walking through the woods. Never seeing the wonders I see with my post-human eyes.” He seems to have realized that the pursuit to become godlike (the Original Sin) leads not to a paradise, but to “what I suspect might be a fake existence…” Perhaps this is the last trace of his humanity coming through.

In keeping with the theme of revealed truth motivating change, the Librarian has come to Moira, the symbolic prophet, knowing of her mutant power to reincarnate after death, seeking an alternative to Ascension: “How would you prevent it? With all that you’ve learned in your many lives, how would you stop us from losing our post-humanity and surrendering to the machines?” The conversation does not end well, as the Librarian returns to the religious theme of predestination in saying, “And if you have no real alternative to offer, maybe this is my fate as well. Immortality. Divinity. As I have no choice but to become a small part of god.” Fortunately, at least for the mutants, this is not his fate, as Wolverine swiftly pins the Librarian to a tree with his claws, killing him instantly.

But, just before this end to the exposition, the Librarian reveals the true origin of the post-humans; an origin filled with another, unfortunate, religious topic: hypocrisy. Humans feared and hated mutants for their powers, which occurred naturally, because of the obvious advantage they gave them. So the humans actively modified themselves, giving themselves similar powers through genetic engineering and technological advancement. The end result was the same, people with extraordinary and potentially dangerous powers. But, to the humans, one such person was hated as a villain, while the other was praised as a super-hero. This monologue reveals a crucial truth to Wolverine and Moira: the actual, principal enemies of mutantkind, the ones who would eventually defeat them completely, were not the genocidal sentinel robots, but the humans and post-humans hiding behind them.

With this knowledge, Moira can be “sent on her way” in a sequence that parallels the final two pages of Chapter 5: Powers of X #3. Similar words and phrases are said, although the speaker sometimes changes. Silva includes a similar panel focused on Moira’s mouth and the phrase, “this is what I do,” followed by a nearly identical silhouetted image of Wolverine killing Moira. Both sequences end with the revelation that these events occurred in one of Moira’s previous lives; the X2 era in her ninth, and the X3 era now revealed to be in Moira’s sixth life (which we readers really should have seen coming). As written in the essay on Chapter 2: Powers of X #1: “Apocalyptic literature commonly uses parallel narratives, at once emphasizing the sovereignty of God’s plan throughout the past, present, and future (seemingly coincidental occurrences are all actually providential), while at the same time highlighting the universal truths that run throughout all time periods.”

For all of the focus on truth in this issue, the establishment of the sovereign mutant nation of Krakoa is built upon a foundation of lies and manipulation. Here, again, the unfortunate religious topic of hypocrisy returns.  Moira, Prof. X, and Magneto all withhold important truths from everyone else, including Moira’s fake-death and current integral involvement. As Magneto says, “We’re all up to something, Moira…”

Moira especially acts contrary to her symbolic role as prophet in demanding, “There can be no precogs on Krakoa. We cannot – will not – tolerate mutants who can see the future… What happens if we bring her back and she tells everyone what she sees? What if she tells everyone the truth?” At least Charles and Magneto seem to understand that this duplicity cannot go on forever: “We’ll put all of them off, but one day… They deserve to know the truth.” Moira believes that her secrecy and manipulations benefit the greater good, arguing, “You really want them to know – that we always lose?” But sadly, for the most part, she comes off as the biggest hypocrite of them all.

Be that as it may, this series reveals Moira, the prophet, as the driving force for all the major decisions in the long X-Men history. As written in the essay on Chapter 3: House of X #2, in which Moira’s mutant power of reincarnation was first unveiled: “One immediately realizes that Moira no longer holds the status of ‘forgotten X-Men side-character’ and now potentially becomes the most important person in the X-Men mythos.” Moira’s prophecies, her revelations from the futures of her past lives, motivate Prof. X and Magneto to change things in this life.

They openly give her the credit in a speech at the end of this issue; a speech placed in caption-boxes over the reprinted images of the victory celebration on Krakoa, drawn by Larraz, originally shown at the end of Chapter 11: House of X #6. Once again, the creative team repeats a story already told in a previous issue, a typical narrative device in prophecy, this time adding a new perspective through the different dialogue.

In the end, whereas Moira holds on to a truth both cynical and pessimistic, “We always lose,” Xavier and Magneto hold on to the hope that Moira’s prophecy will bring positive change:

“The truth is that until now we have always lost… but this time it’s going to be different.”

“For we are different.”

“And that is all because of you.”

Note: All biblical quotes are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version NIV, Copyright 2011 by Biblica, Inc.

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David L Canham (@BBelafat) grew up in Arizona watching X-Men: the Animated Series and reading mostly X-Men and Spider-Man comics of the 90s. After a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics with Minors in Math and Religious Studies from the University of Arizona, he received a doctorate in Physics from the University of Bonn in Germany. He now teaches Physics and Math at the junior high and high school level in northern Germany, where he lives with his family. He still loves comics; especially the ones that make him ask deep questions.

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