Welcome to X-ual Healing, the column where Bleeding Cool reads all the X-books every week and tell you what happened in them so you don't have to. I'm your host, Jude Terror, a man who once wrote about comics all the time, but then, when there was just a tiny sliver of my soul left, bailed and now write about pro wrestling most of the time and comics only a little. But I still keep this column going for you, the beloved readers. You're welcome. Last week, Marvel published four X-books in the last week before the X of Swords crossover: X-Men #12, Excalibur #12, Hellions #4, and Marvel's Snapshots: X-Men #1. The way this column works is that this same intro will appear at the top of each recap, so if you already read this in one of the other recaps, you can just scroll on down to the recap portion. Also, way down at the bottom of this article, you'll find a table of contents type series of links to click to any of the other recaps of X-books that came out last week. Understood? Okay, great. Let's get down to business.
Comics Drama Alert!
Superstar artist and eternal drama magnet Rob Liefeld found himself the subject of Twitter ire last week when he commented on a tweet announcing a new creative team for New Mutants saying that he wouldn't be swooping in to save the book again. A lot of people took it as an insult to Vita Ayala, the writer taking over the book with artist Rod Reis, but in fact, it's more likely a shot at Jonathan Hickman and Ed Brisson, as the so-far writers of a series that is allegedly in need of saving. In fact, if I were a betting man, I'd bet money that Liefeld, after reading the headline, didn't even click through to the article to learn who the new writer was. Rob's thought process pretty much goes like this: Is he feuding with DC right now? If yes, then everything DC is doing sucks. If not, then DC is doing great. Is he feuding with Marvel right now? If yes, then everything Marvel is doing sucks. If not, then DC is doing great. He's feuding with Marvel right now, and on top of that, he's had beef with Hickman's X-Men relaunch from the beginning, so there you have it.
As to a lot of criticism leveled at Liefeld in response to his comments, the one area that I think really misses the mark is the idea that his comics don't sell, citing sales statistics from the pre-pandemic era saying that New Mutants is currently selling more than his last X-book, Major X. But that's not really a fair comparison. At the time Major X was running, it was not only at the tail end of a decade of Marvel willfully reducing the stature of the X-Men to spite Fox for holding their movie rights, but also during a lame-duck period where we knew a big reboot was coming and nothing being published was really gonna matter in six months. In that environment, Major X was the second-highest selling X-men series, behind only Uncanny X-Men (and the Wolverine: Exit Wounds one-shot powered by Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, and Sam Keith). It sold roughly double what the Age of X-Man titles were selling.
If Liefeld were to get an X-book in the current environment, where the X-Men feel like Marvel's top priority, things would be different. The main X-Men title, back in February before the world went to shit, was the number two top-selling book in the Diamond (and the number three top-selling book). Uncanny X-Men, in June 2019, was the twenty-third best-selling title. It was selling about 50K, compared to the 92K X-Men #6 sold in February. Major X sold around 30K by issue #5 in June. The main Age of X-Man title, Marvelous X-Men, was selling 15K, half that of Major X. Whatever you may think of Rob Liefeld, whatever perfectly valid criticisms you may have about his social media usage, one that you just can't legitimately make is that his name and work doesn't sell comics. It does. If you gave Liefeld a Dawn of X book, it would probably sell pretty damn great. But he won't get a Dawn of X book, and that's not because it wouldn't sell. It's because he doesn't really work well with others, which is,really, the whole point of all this.
As for Vita Ayala on New Mutants, I think that's a great choice and the book does need a jolt of creativity since it's already devolved into playing out the comics industry's personal vendetta against the media in its latest storyline. Ayala's Age of X-Man book, Prisoner X, you may recall was lauded as the best Age of X-Man title here in this column. A multi-time Wolverine's Weiner X-Pick of the Week Winner. The series was about Bishop trapped in a psychic prison maintained by Legion where any of the mutants residing in Age of X-Man who questioned X-Man's status quo were sent. It was a psychological horror title far better than the throwaway X-event it was a part of. So if sales were based on quality of the storytelling in a comic, Ayala's New Mutants would probably get a big boost. Of course, that's rarely actually the case for books from Marvel, which focus more on event tie-ins, #1 issue reboots, and variant covers to affect sales.
Isn't being a comic book fan exhausting?
Speaking of event tie-ins and crossovers, X of Swords officially kicks off this week, and last week's X-books (soon to be recapped below, I promise), focused mostly on building up to it. But is X of Swords an essential crossover for understanding the X-books going forward? Jordan White answered that question, and I wrote about it, here.
Oh, hey, and you should check out Greg Anderson-Elysee's latest Is'nana the Were-Spider comic on Kickstarter. I interviewed Greg about it here. I also got to read an advance copy and can honestly tell you that it's very good.
And now, without any further ado, on to the recaps!
Sworn to sell comics for Marvel executives who feared and hated the fact that Fox owned their movie rights, The Uncanny X-Men suffered great indignities. Still, thanks to a corporate merger, a line-wide relaunch, and Jonathan Hickman's giant ego, the X-Men can finally get back to doing what they do best: being objectively the best franchise in all of comics for lovers of soap opera drama.
X-MEN MARVELS SNAPSHOT #1
(W) Jay Edidin (A) Tom Reilly (CA) Alex Ross
The Marvels Snapshot tour through Marvel history continues, showcasing Marvel's greatest characters through the eyes of ordinary people! Or does it? In this case, the "ordinary person" is teenaged Scott Summers, witnessing the dawn of the Marvel Age from a Nebraska orphanage and wondering what his place in it might be. What was it like to experience the debut of the FF, the Hulk, Iron Man and more? To wish you could be a part of it all? Writer Jay Edidin (Thor: Metal Gods, Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men) makes his Marvel comics debut, teamed with Tom Reilly (Immortal Hulk), to tell a story of upheaval and decision that would shape the X-Men (and the Marvel Universe) forever after.
In Shops: Sep 16, 2020
Marvel Snapshots: X-Men Recap
This comic is one of those one-shots curated by Kurt Busiek. It doesn't appear to be connected to the Dawn of X books, which is nice for a change. It starts out with young Scott Summers, dreaming of the plane crash that separated him from his parents and brother, living in the State Home for Foundlings. Later, he tries to stop some kids from bullying another two kids who are building a toy rocket ship, but he has a headache attack before he can do anything and a teacher breaks up the fight.
Scott wakes up in the infirmary, just in time to see The Fantastic Four battle Namor for the first time on the news. Scott becomes obsessed with superheroes after that. He feels there's some deeper meaning he should be taking from all of this but can't figure out what it is. Meanwhile, more heroes are introduced.
At the school library, Scott learns that Reed Richards (along with Tony Stark and Dr. Peter Corbeau, whose presence is a nice reference to that love shown that character on writer Jay Ediden's podcast) will be speaking at the grand opening of a nearby agricultural tech center, so he decides to go and see him.
Of course, the talk is interrupted by an attack, from a new villain called Dr. Mantis, riding on a giant Preying Mantis. She takes issue with Richards' plans to eliminate pests from crops with quantum physics. Scott is enjoying watching Mr. Fantastic battle her when the floor collapses and Scott and everyone else fall through to the basement. Iron Man shows up and helps defeat Mantis. Scott, trapped in the basement, uses a piece of glass to reflect light and get the attention of a firefighter so that everyone can be rescued. Without powers, he made the decision to be a hero.
Later, Scott visits the library at school again and checks out a bunch of general reference books about all sorts of things. He wants to learn how to react to any emergency situation. The librarian recommends that instead he read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Scott loves the bok and reads it over and over.
Scott is accosted by the bullies from earlier about his book. He decides to put some of its strategy to use to beat them, but they're too strong and kick his ass anyway. But while he's lamenting this, he gets his powers, unleashing an optic blast that blows through the school. He runs away with nothing but the clothes on his back, his ruby quartz glasses, and The Art of War, believing he's become a monster, the kind that his heroes battle against.
Later, walking through the city, Scott sees an air conditioner about to fall on a construction site and kill some workers. Forced to make a decision, he uses his optic blasts to obliterate it. Then we jump forward a few years and see the X-Men teaming up with the Fantastic Four, and to show how far Scott has come (along with another Corbeau appearance). Now, he and Reed Richards are peers.
I loved this comic. Not much more to say about it than that. Nothing "important" happened… it's just a showcase of Cyclops and the kind of things that drive him as a character, or used to before Wolverine came along with his two dicks and every Cyclops story became about his sexual fetishes. Not that I don't enjoy comics about Cyclops and Wolverine's sexual fetishes. I enjoy them very much. I'm just saying I like a little variety sometimes.
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This post is part of a multi-part series: X-ual Healing X-Men Recaps for the Week of September 16th, 2020.