Warning: MASSIVE SPOILERS for House of X #4
Just when it seemed like the X-Men might be able to save the future of Mutantkind, everything has gone wrong. Marvel fans knew that House of X #4 would be historic in one way or another, but the last thing anyone expected… was the death of the X-Men.
That’s no exaggeration, as readers of Jonathan Hickman’s House of X and Powers of X relaunch have now discovered. After the previous issue finally made this X-Men reboot make sense, and positioned most of the classic X-Men heroes to save the future once and for, disaster has struck. It isn’t the loss of one Mutant superhero readers will need to process, and which Marvel will need to explain. With House of X #4 the slaughter of the X-Men is so extensive, and so unforgettable, it’s hard to even imagine what the new future of the X-Men universe will look like. Needless to say, SPOILERS ahead.
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The X-Men’s Most Important Mission. Ever.
A nightmare–a waking one–and the beginning of the end, unless I’m mistaken. These are plans for a Mother Mold–a Master Mold that makes other Master Molds–in orbit around the sun. As far as we can tell, construction has been completed. It’s just been in a dormant phase… waiting for the right catalyst… We think this is where NIMROD becomes operational. (Powers of X #2)
Despite how complicated and confusing the overall X-Men relaunch has been to this point, readers won’t actually need much context to appreciate this latest twist (and therefore join the most devoted X-Men fans in their confusion over Marvel’s decision to wipe out the team). But let’s no get ahead of ourselves. The final mission led by Xavier’s strike team also happens to be the most important. Most likely, in the history of the X-Men as a whole.
The previous issues revealed the dark future of the X-Men and Earth, which begins–like always–with a war launched between humans and Mutants. It’s just another variation of the same war, as the now time-looping Mutant Moira McTaggert has witnessed, always proceeding the same. First the humans create Sentinels, then Sentinels evole and take over the planet, and ruin soon follows. So to stop it, Cyclops leads the X-Men on what they know is their most dangerous mission yet: destroy the Mother Mold built in orbit around the sun before it can come online. But things go bad–fast.
X-Men Are Killed Almost Immediately
Remember: this will be a frontal assault of an orbital station tens of millions of miles away built by a secret organization whose sole purpose is the extinction of mutants. Can such a thing even be done? (Powers of X #2)
As mentioned before, Cyclops is informed that the mission is nearly impossible, but necessary. And for their part, the X-Men team of Cyclops, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Mystique, Archangel, Husk, and Penance come up with the best plan they can. But when the human alliance aboard The Forge space station surprises them with an act of explosive sacrifice, they are caught entirely off gaurd. And it costs the lives of Archangel and Husk in a heartbeat. Setting the stage for what’s coming, as the X-Men respond by sticking to the plan: manually detaching the four connections keeping the Mother Mold from falling into the sun. But it isn’t the last time they underestimate the commitment of the humans to defending their own race…
The Death of Mystique, via Space
The death of Erasmus proves to be the tipping point for this dark chapter in X-Men history (the soldier who realizes the X-Men are attempting to infiltrate the base, and detonates the explosives on his person). It’s all the motivation that his surviving love, Dr. Alia Gregor needs to make this as bloody a defense as possible. And while Wolverine and Nightcrawler make short work of their assigned docking collars–using intensely lethal and non-lethal means, respectively–the good doctor chooses her target carefully.
As Cyclops takes out the third connection with a well-placed optic blast, Mystique notices that some thing doesn’t “feel” right about her own assignment. She barely has a moment to lock eyes with Dr. Gregor before being blasted out of an airlock. The death of one of the oldest X-Men enemies may not be as tragic as the heroes who first fell… but it’s also not the last soldier lost.
The Death of Nightcrawler
The loss of Mystique is a hard blow, but Dr. Gregor leaving the entire area surrounding the target open to the vacuum of space means that none of the other X-Men could safely reach it. Even if one of them could brave the lack of oxygen, Dr. Gregor’s decision to bring the Mother Mold online early gives them just seconds to decide. With Nightcrawler suffering from internal injuries, and seeing no other option, both he and Wolverine inform Cyclops that they’re both willing to do what needs to be done to complete the mission, and save the future.
With some final words–Kurt promising that he will find Wolverine in the next life, whatever that may be–he teleports the two out onto the unprotected space station. Next to the connection collar, and exposed to the full heat and radiation of the nearby sun, Nightcrawler is turned to ash instantly. Leaving Wolverine with only a heartbeat longer to do what he does best: cut.
The Death of Wolverine
Yes, it seems like just yesterday that Wolverine returned from the dead. But as the sun burns off his flesh and his healing factor does what it can to resist the obliteration witnessed with Nightcrawler, Wolverine guarantees that his teammates’ deaths were not in vain. Unleashing his claws on the space station’s final connection to the massive Sentinel Mother Mold, he inflicts enough damage to sever it completely, with only seconds to spare.
There are only so many times Marvel can kill Wolverine before the sacrifices begin to run together. But there is something to be said for giving Logan the kind of death people write myths about: slashing into the Sentinel that would have eradicated his people, as the pair slowly drift into the sun. All things considered, Hickman and artist Pepe Larraz may have delivered the most epic death of Wolverine yet seen. Unfortunately, the death toll rises even higher.
The Death of Cyclops, Too
While we’re on the topic of X-Men heroes Marvel can’t stop killing, Cyclops watches as Wolverine and Nightcrawler make their sacrifices, referring to Logan as “the bravest man I know.” Telling Jean to inform Charles Xavier (via her telepathic link) that the job has been finished, Cyclops notes that it has cost them their friends and family. But it was likely still worth it, if it saved the future of all Earth’s people. But as the man in charge of the mission that claimed Dr. Gregor’s love, Cyclops must pay his own debt.
Saying a final goodbye to Jean Grey after being shot in the back, Cyclops takes a short-range shot that leaves little doubt as to his fate, as well. So with only Jean Grey left drifting in an escape pod–oh, Penance earlier fought and died so that Jean could board it and escape–the death of the X-Men is almost entirely complete.
And Finally, The Death of Jean Grey
Yes, as the narration begins to take over in the final pages of House of X #4, the Sentinel guards of the station finally descend upon Jean Grey’s escape. Tearing it open and blasting her with their energy weapons, the mission is finally finished. A success in that it achieved the destruction of the Mother Mold, and the avoidance of the future Moira MacTaggert warned was coming. But in terms of Charles Xavier’s team, and the beloved heroes of the X-Men universe… one of the bloodiest failures in comic book history.
Now, how long will it stick? There is guaranteed to be immediate doubt cast over the deaths, since the deceased heroes have already been announced as leading the new wave of X-Men comics following Hickman’s relaunch. So will these sacrifices be revered, avenged, repeated in another time loop, or are they not what they seem to be in this issue itself? Hopefully those questions will be answered sooner rather than later.
House of X #4 is available now at your local comic book shop, or direct from Marvel Comics. The story will continue in Powers of X #4 arriving on September 11th, 2019.
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