Despite the high-stakes cliffhanger at the end of last week’s explosive House of X #4, Jonathan Hickman expands his focus and simultaneously slows things down this week with Powers of X #4. As the writer’s prologue to his massive X-Men saga reaches the ⅔ mark, the moment everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived: Mr. Sinister has made his glorious return.
The classic villain has already been mentioned a few times throughout the HOX/POX saga, but Powers of X #4 sees Mr. Sinister formally step into the swing of things. Leaning into the eccentric traits that writer Kieron Gillen utilized during his Uncanny X-Men stint, Mr. Sinister has a presumptuous attitude here, just as likely to belittle you for being handicapped as he is to praise your sense in fashion. Hickman already got his hands on the character during his universe-altering Secret Wars, but this first glimpse at Nathaniel Essex’s place in the new mutant order is equal parts anarchic and elegant. Depicted in a way that reminds me somewhat of King Joffrey, a cocky yet cordial fellow who is happy as long as he remains the center of attention, it’s clear that Sinister has multiple cards up his sleeve to ensure his ambitions remain unchecked. Regardless of how evil this rascal may be, I just want X-Men fans to remember that “Mr. Sinister” and “Mr. Fabulous” both have 10 letters, so feel free to call him whichever you prefer.
Behind the sassy dialogue lays a minor peak into Sinister’s true purpose in the overall story. Xavier and Magneto, already aware of some of the dastardly deeds that Sinister will one day perform thanks to Moira’s resurrection and memory-retention abilities, still find it in their best interest to strike up a “sinful, secret confederacy” with the devil. As part of their long-game to establish a safe world for mutants, they ask Mr. Sinister to slightly deviate focus away from his obtuse mission of cataloging the world’s DNA in-order to establish a database filled with mutant DNA samples. Earlier issues of Powers of X and new, hybrid characters like Rasputin have already shown the possible good outcomes that can be achieved from collecting these DNA samples, but it’s still unsettling to see the leader of the X-Men discuss handing over genetic information on people who both love and trust him.
Sure, Xavier decides to wipe Sinister’s mind so he seemingly forgets the true purpose of why he started the mutant library, but their decision to hand over rare mutant DNA is extremely risky. Regardless of the mutant leaders’ good intentions, Xavier and Magneto’s actions inadvertently lead to the dangerous “Inferno” storyline that saw Mr. Sinister create a Jean Grey clone named Madelyn Pryor and a demonic force attack New York City. Sinister’s chaotic court, filled with various versions of Nathaniel Essex serving as everything from trickster to bodyguard in this gaudy society, may serve as a comedic setting, but it is clear that Xavier and Magneto do not hold all the cards, and that somebody, likely another, unseen version of Mr. Sinister, is behind the scenes manipulating things in his favor.
The X-Men are known for having colorful costumes/uniforms, but capes aren’t necessarily a big part of the team’s look. Fortunately for the mutant crew, Magneto has made them a staple of his look from the very beginning. Fashion forward fans aren’t the only ones who noticed apparently, as Mr. Sinister himself, multiple versions of him to be exact, comments on how lovely the Master of Magnetism’s cape is. No matter how many plans he has going on simultaneously in his head, Mr. Sinister makes time to take in his surroundings and reflect on exactly what he likes or dislikes.
Tom Muller’s beautifully designed infographic pages have been a big part of the combined HOX/POX narrative since the beginning, but this week’s entry is probably the most delicious. A gossip column coined The Red Diamond full of Bar Sinister’s juiciest secrets, the page is chopped full of coded plot-points that Hickman is sure to bring up throughout his run. It’s nice to remember that no matter how dangerous and world-threatening Mr. Sinister may be, he always has the time to spread a little bit of drama about reintroductions and hot affairs. More than anyone else in the X-Men world, this man feeds on drama. While it’s clear the villain has a vital, predetermined role to play in the larger narrative, a tweet from Hickman himself suggests that Mr. Sinister’s presence could always be expanded if a certain writer wanted to tackle the character.
As much as Powers of X #4 pushes the plot forward, it once again leaves audiences with as many questions as firm answers. Just how high will the Phalanx ascend and can mutants halt their pursuit to absorb more information? What does Krakoa’s ancient backstory, and his connection with Apocalypse and the original Four Horsemen, mean moving forward and is the Summers family fighting Arrako on the cover of X-Men #2? And, most importantly, why does every page give off such a horny vibe despite the high stakes and dense material?
For anyone looking for a real treat, my fantastic editor Samantha Puc recommended reading the Mr. Sinister chunk of this issue with Lizzo’s “Boys” playing. While I’m not normally one for reading and listening to music at the same time, the track definitely enhances each page — especially the hyper masculine poses R.B Silva and Marte Gracia present characters like Magneto and the various Sinisters with in court. After reading the issue, just try and tell me these lyrics don’t fully embody everything that transpired between Xavier, Magneto and the sassy Sinisters:
“From the playboys to the gay boys
Go and slay, boys, you my fave boys”
If this column was a bit too revelatory (or steamy) for you, take a look at last week’s more somber piece about Wolverine asking his bro Nightcrawler if he’s a good person; otherwise, see all you mutant-lovers neXT week!