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.
EXCALIBUR #12 XOSP
(W) Tini Howard (A) Marcus To (CA) Mahmud Asrar
SECRETS OF THE BOOK! With Rictor in his clutches, Apocalypse must survive long enough to begin the ritual he has waited on for eons.
In Shops: Sep 16, 2020
Excalibur #12 Recap
At The Eternal Caldera in Krakoa (I think I lived in an apartment complex called The Eternal Caldera once), Apocalypse meets with the Liefeldian group known as The Externals. He has gathered them to explain that mutants now have the same powers of resurrection and thus eternal life as Externals do. He says the Externals are "the fuel" to "feed" the new mutant community and he's hoping they won't fight back.
A prose page endeavors to explain the Externals. That's a lofty goal because The Externals never really made much sense. Rob Liefeld, using his mutant power to eternally think like a 12-year-old boy, just thought they f**king sounded cool and that was pretty much it. Meanwhile, Rictor tumbles through darkness as he went through a half-completed Krakoan gate trying to reach Apocalypse from Otherworld. He comes flying out in the lava of The Eternal Caldera. Gideon and Selene team up with Rictor and Apocalypse. Rictor slaughters the rest of the Externals other than Absalom, who survives and is forced to join Apocalypse.
We see a magical diagram for creating a gate, in fact, the gate to Amenth as seen in X-Men #12 (read the recap by clicking the link down below). They use the four dead Externals to grow giant pink crystals in the shape of an X… except one of the four doesn't work. It's Candra, whose life force has apparently been empty since before Rictor's attack. Of course, we know that's because Gambit found the gem containing Candra's powers in a broom closet in Otherworld at the end of last issue.
Speaking of which, we see what Rogue and Gambit are up to now. Both recognize the gem but claim not to know from where. But Gambit knows, as he's being sexually harassed by the ghost of Candra right now. Gambit wants to know what Chandra is up to or he'll sell her stone to Apocalypse. She explains what Apocalypse is up to and asks Gambit to protect her. He doesn't have time to decide as priestesses begin chasing them.
Elsewhere in the Citadel, Captain Britain chats with Saturnyne. Betsy introduces herself as Captain Britain, but Saturnyne says Betsy is a fluke and that she has other Captain Britans. She shows Betsy the alternate universe Captain Britain Corps made up of Excalibur members from other dimensions, frozen in pink crystals. The bottom line is that Saturnyne only really trusts Brian Braddocks as Captain Britains, based on her examination of all realities. But their chat is interrupted by intruders.
Back on Krakoa, Apocalypse is pissed about the whole Candra thing. He reaches out through the portal to Otherworld and asks Gambit to toss Candra's gem through it. Captain Britain encourages him. Gambit decides that while he doesn't like Apocalypse, he doesn't like Candra more, so he tosses the gem through and Apocalypse completes his gate.
The issue ends with a little foreshadowing, as the narration tells us that when Apocalypse says "We have learned the value of sacrifice, " it's a "bardic truth" because he will "lose more than he planned for" in the upcoming X of Swords crossover.
I continue to enjoy Excalibur more than any other X-book. It started out tossing out a ton of stuff at a fast pace, but now twelve issues in so many threads are coming together. X-Men #12, also out this week, attempts to do the same thing right before the big crossover kicks off, but X-Men #12 did it in the form of a kinda sterile, exposition-heavy data dump flashback, whereas Excalibur relayed all of this information as part of the ongoing story. Good stuff. And I gotta appreciate, purely from a troll respecting troll standpoint, the killing off of a bunch of Rob Liefeld characters this issue.
Excalibur does still have the issue that a bunch of characters who should know better are willingly working with Apocalypse to accomplish his goals, which he isn't even fully revealing to them. Gambit literally handed someone over for Apocalypse to sacrifice and kill. Betsy encouraged him to. Rictor was into it as well. Something is seriously wrong with the "heroes" of Excalibur and I can't wait for it to all come crashing down.
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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.