Warning: The following contains major spoilers for House of X #5, by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, VC's Clayton Cowles and Tom Muller, on sale now.
Death in comic books is something of a running joke. Though the deaths of major characters were once a rare occurrence that was always impactful, it has now been rendered a monthly exercise in narrative predictability. Characters who die in one issue regularly show up alive and well a few months later. No group has more succumbed this unfortunate trend than the X-Men.
Most of Marvel's major mutants have died at least once, even fan favorites heroes like Nightcrawler, Cyclops and Wolverine. While death and resurrection has been a regular part of the X-Men's world for years, the team's relation to death changed, possibly forever, in House of X #5.
That issue revealed that Professor Xavier revealed that he has developed a process that can can clone mutants upon their deaths, afterward copying their backed up memories and personalities with Cerebro. While this essentially eliminates mortality for the X-Men, it does bring a variety of questions with it. The biggest revelation, however, is that several classic characters really did die earlier in House of X.
Attack of the Clones
Despite its seemingly utopian premise for the future of mutantkind, House of X #4 notably featured a mini mutant massacre. The deaths of so many major characters in one fell swoop was shocking and dramatic, and not just in the usual way of shock value that comic book deaths rely upon. The fact that it involved recently resurrected major characters such as Cyclops and Wolverine made it stick out even more. Even though they really died, these characters were promptly resurrected in the next issue. Other formerly dead mutants, such as Banshee, have been resurrected elsewhere in the crossover with even less fanfare.
The reveal of Xavier's mutant resurrection machine also illuminates another fact: the "original" Wolverine, Cyclops, and the other fallen X-Men are all dead. The characters who were resurrected in House of X #5 are not technically the characters first seen in The X-Men #1 or The Incredible Hulk #180. While the characters are still mostly acting like the characters fans know and love, their bodies are brand new.
While this idea seems more apt for an alternate reality like What If? or the Ultimate Universe, it's shocking to see Marvel use this in the mainline books. Nevertheless, it's still shocking to hear that readers will essentially never see the characters that they grew up with ever again, and it's still not clear how long this has been going on.
The Clone Saga
House of X's radical revision of mutant death raises tons of questions, which are really just beginning to come to light.
For one, it cheapens death to an moot point, more than anything in comic books before. The fact that these characters' deaths seemed so real just an issue can't help but be mitigated by their rather simple returns. What risk or tension could possibly befall the mutants if they will simply be brought back upon death anyways? This essentially lets Xavier make his X-Men immortal. If anything, what's to stop Xavier from cloning a whole army of self-duplicating Multiple Man to use as cannon fodder against those who might oppose the growing mutant society?
More than likely, however, the coming conflict will more than likely involve a struggle to copy the technology for the human race, who will most definitely want to weaponize against their enemies. Allowing humans to cheat death the way that mutants now can would throw a wrench in the genetic machine that is set to make mutants the predominate species in Marvel's future.
An even bigger sore point is the death of the cloned characters. Going forward, the Wolverine, Cyclops, and Jean Grey that fans will read in comics will not be the original or "true" versions of the characters. This calls to mind the response to Spider-Man's infamous "The Clone Saga" received. Near that story's 3/4ths mark, it was revealed that the Peter Parker than fans had been reading for over twenty years was in fact the clone, and his supposed clone Ben Reilly was the real deal. This essentially made the last two decades worth of stories seem pointless to fans. While that decision was ultimately reversed and Ben was revealed to have been the clone, these revelations muddy the waters in terms of which versions of the X-Men are "real."
It's not revealed yet how many of Krakao's citizens are actually clones of their original selves, but Xavier's aim is to bring back all mutants who died in the catastrophic destruction of Genosha. There's also no telling what the psychological effects of this cloning process could be on the mutants involved.
While all of these questions may be addressed in the coming months, it looks like no earthly force in the Marvel Universe is a threat to the mutant species, so long as Xavier's resurrection machine remains operational.