Jonathan Hickman’s run on X-Men is full of nation-building language and allusions to the power of martyrdom. Just last week in House of X #3, Magneto even told Cyclops before he embarked on a mission that “the righteous never truly die” and that the founders of nations are never forgotten.
House of X #4 adds another layer to the larger conversation about the significance of sacrifice taking place. While the X-Men continue their mission to dismantle a Mother Mold on the other side of the solar system, Xavier and company watch from home on bated breath, giving the mission an added sense of importance and urgency. As team leader and direct recipient of Magneto’s grande language last week, Cyclops is an easy choice for martyrdom, but besties Nightcrawler and Wolverine deserve all the adulation this week.
The cynical, gruff Wolverine and chipper, spiritual Nightcrawler may not seem like friends on paper, but they share a deep bond dating back to when the two outsiders first joined the X-Men at the same time. In many ways, they perfectly mirror each other; Wolverine looks like a man but often acts like a savage beast who pulls out the worst in those around him, while Nightcrawler, on the other hand, looks like a mischievous demon but is actually a deeply loving, empathetic person who pushes people to be better. Despite their differences, the two loners have discovered solace in one another, cracking jokes and confiding in each other as they are personally tested.
House of X #4 has numerous applause-worthy character moments as the X-Men methodically work their way through the satellite base, but the issue’s heart comes from one final, introspective conversation between Nightcrawler and Wolverine. Set against the sun with no other options, these old friends volunteer to deliver what is hopefully the finishing blow on the Mother Mold despite knowing it’s suicide.
An incredibly touching moment, Logan opens up to Kurt about his trepidations involving the after-life before they dive into action. Spry and playful even in the face of sudden death, Nightcrawler smirks at his old friend and teases him for thinking about his “soul.” The notoriously tough and loud-mouthed Wolverine is quiet and stoic here, deep in thought over the disturbing deeds he’s performed throughout his long life. No matter how corrupt or wicked Wolverine may believe he is, even at the end of the world, his friend Kurt is always there to make him feel whole and worthy of salvation. There are a lot of new heady concepts floating around the X-Men world right now, but this idea, that two discarded individuals with different backgrounds can find peace and comfort in one another, has been a foundational part of the franchise since the very beginning.
This week’s issue was probably the most straightforward of the crop so far, but it still leaves readers with more questions than answers. With the deaths of numerous fan-favorite characters, the series’ larger conversation about reincarnation and progressing timelines will have to ramp up in order to restore some kind of stable status-quo. No matter how topsy-turvy things get as fans try to make sense of Moira’s timelines, it’s nice to see that emotionally resonant moments between two life-long friends can still serve as a book’s core.
Despite the excitement Pepe Larraz‘s and Marte Gracia’s beautiful artwork brings to each page, something about this issue feels underwhelming. Action and adventure are at the heart of superhero comics, but the fact that Hickman’s most explosive issue may be the least enjoyable yet speaks to what elements make HOX/POX so damn captivating. While the issue’s events seemingly make it obvious that some kind of grand reset is necessary before Dawn of X, Hickman never fails to imbue each tragic incident with a sense of finality. It doesn’t matter audiences probably won’t have to wait long to see Nightcrawler and Wolverine train together or tease each other like teenagers again, House of X #4 still succeeds at giving the X-Men’s best bros a heroic sendoff that feels both significant and necessary for the larger story taking place.
The X-Men may be facing some explosive setbacks when it comes to achieving Xavier and Moira’s vision, but check out last week’s column to see how Emma Frost is still such a dominating force in this new mutant world. Otherwise, see you neXt week after we’ve all switched gears and read Powers of X #4.