WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Powers of X #6, by Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, David Curiel, VC's Clayton Cowles and Tom Muller, on sale now.
Jonathan Hickman's intersecting X-Men storytelling experiment, interwoven through House of X and Powers of X, has been lauded for its intricate (and sometimes literal) deconstruction of Marvel's mutant heroes. But perhaps nowhere else has that been made more brutally clear than in the final issue.
Powers of X #6 reveals that no matter what timeline they are in, the X-Men will always lose. However, defeat does not come simply because they are overwhelmed by an opposing force -- slaughtered by a fearful mankind for being heirs to evolutionary supremacy -- but because their claim to power proves to be completely, crushingly irrelevant.
Homo-superior. The next stage in human evolution. Mutants. It was an adherence to those epithets, and the beliefs they inspired, that gave the so-called "Children of the Atom" a sense of agency in a human world that hated and feared them. After all, they were the personification of biological adaptation, the ability to survive a natural environment given flesh... or in some cases, fur. That was the very reason they had their astonishing powers, and the catalyst for the belief that the future was not overseen by humanity, but by mutants. Survival of the fittest.
However, as the blue-hued Librarian of the Homo Novissima says to Wolverine and Moira, surrounded by their utopic future prison in PoX #6, it wasn't the Sentinels that defeated mutants. Ironically, it was Time.
The Librarian's line of thinking here is this: Evolution, at least in the classic, biological sense, stopped applying to humans; thanks to humanity building and then relying on other systems -- i.e., technology -- evolution was rendered obsolete.
The belief in their own "post-manifest destiny," then, becomes not an apparatus of existential agency for mutants, but an invisible cage, neatly expressed in this issue by the idyllic prison in which mutants are kept in the future. It's not the death camp we've seen in other dystopian X-Men stories; this time, the human captors don't want the interned see the bars. And that's exactly what the Librarian and the other human-machine hybrids had been fostering with mutants all along: they allowed mutants to believe that they would rule the future while the present insidiously passed them by.
The notion that humans have stopped evolving has been expressed elsewhere, of course, in everything from sociology to science fiction. Humanity, after all, is the only species that truly changes its environment around its needs, rather than any longer adapting to that environment.
It began with farming (corralling nature and eliminating all other competition), and has been expressed more clearly thanks to modern technology. We wield the world in our hands now, thanks to devices like mobile phones. This power comes not just in our ability to affect change within that world at the press of a button, but in our ability to access every aspect of human knowledge.
But the idea is further exacerbated in fantastical worlds of fiction, like the Marvel Universe.
Humans like Tony Stark have built machines that can fight even the most powerful mutants to a standstill (yes, including Magneto). Creatures like the Hulk don't need to evolve naturally; he became "the strongest there is" through scientific advancement. This is the grim belief the Librarian so destructively conveys: The "next step in evolution" is pointless if humans have bypassed it. After all, what worth is a mutant who can speak any language instantly compared to Google Translate? Even in our world, we are all "Omega-level" now.
That belief has led to the Homo Novissima -- the pinnacle of humanity without natural evolution -- choosing to merge with the environment humans created to surpass their own: machines. Powers of X's future humans have chosen to join the physical form of the Phalanx, and the hive mind of the Dominion system to artificially force their evolution into higher beings once again.
And even as they face their own demise, with the death of Earth and all organic life there looming, the Librarian seems to snub humanity's collective nose at Wolverine and Moira, implying, "At least this is the path we chose. We are becoming gods. And we got there without becoming you."
In the end, that's why Moira, Wolverine, and by extension, Xavier, feel so helpless in their defeat: it is the greatest fear they never considered, realized. They don't face extinction, but irrelevance. They are not fighting against a future of death, but one spent as oddities kept in a zoo, completely neutered of purpose and unaware of their own existential failure until it's far too late.
How this belief will affect or inform Professor X and Magneto's plans on Krakoa for the future of Earth and their people remains to be seen. It may explain why Xavier has become more ruthless and calculating, and why he wishes to make mutants functionally immortal. But in any case, it completely redefines exactly what mutants are fighting for, and where they may end up.
Will they become the Tomorrow People or footnotes to a future that is no longer theirs? Time will tell... but maybe not in the way anyone ever expected.