Welcome to the X-Men, Jonathan Hickman… Hope We Survive the Experience [X-ual Healing 3-20-19]
So after weeks of intense speculation, and months of regular speculation before that, Marvel finally made their official Jonathan Hickman X-Men announcement at C2E2 Saturday. Hickman will write two bi-weekly, six-issue X-Men books starting in July, which will be published on an alternating schedule so that there is one new Hickman X-Men comic per week. Called House of X and Powers of X (with the latter X representing a "ten"), these series are billed as a major milestone in X-Men history, akin to Giant-Size X-Men #1, X-Men Vol. 2 #1, Age of Apocalypse, and New X-Men #1, with the implication being that they will kick off a new era for the X-Men.
It's still sinking in, but I'm not sure how to feel about it. In the months leading up to this, I was sure the last thing I wanted was a Hickman X-Men comic. Hickman's Avengers/Infinity/Secret Wars saga was a long and, in my opinion, excruciatingly boring series of comics that encompassed the entire Marvel publishing line eventually, making it inescapable. The X-books being caught up in a convoluted, slow-paced, 3-year storyline just doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me.
But, at least with this initial announcement, there's a shorter time limit on this thing. 12 weeks, and done. Marvel has assured readers that Uncanny X-Men and the rest of the X-line will continue alongside it, so at least during that three-month period, it won't cause the entire line to reboot. After it's over, however, it's hard to imagine that we won't see a complete revamp of the line, because how can this be a major milestone in X-Men history if it doesn't change the makeup of the X-books going forward?
Marvel released a promo image by Mark Brooks which is full of clues as to what we can expect from HiX-Men.
There's certainly no shortage of things to pick out of that and speculate on. There appear to be two Nightcrawlers, one of them red. Three Wolverines. Two Storms, one a child, one the Mohawk version? Uh… Kid Havok? Bill the Lobster, from Fallen Angels, one of the best mini-series ever. Professor X and Moira MacTaggert. Lilandra. Beast… or Dark Beast? Mullet Bishop. Vulcan. Gateway. Warlock? Nimrod. Adult Cable (and no Kid Cable). Dazzler in her 70s gear. Is that Thunderbird? Oh, yeah, and what appears to be the merger of Colossus and Magik! And is that… Dino Rachel in the back there?
(Update: I've been told that's Toad, but Dino-Rachel would have been better. Also pointed out to me that the gun Cable is holding is Forge's power neutralizer from when he tried to take Rogue's powers but took Storm's instead. That Kid Havok is more specifically X-Baby Havok. Also suggested to me that Colossus/Magik is not one but three, characters, also including Dani Moonstar, and that on the left, the red Nightcrawler could also be an amalgamation including Nightcrawler and Gambit. Rogue is nowhere to be found. And almost all of the references to past stories and versions of characters are… old. As in, not much representing the past 15 years of X-books here. You can probably come up with your own observations as well, so do post 'em in the comments.)
So yeah, a lot to unpack. And there's nothing to say that everything in this picture must be taken literally, though some of it might be. It's hard to imagine putting a Colossus/Magik mash-up in the image if you're not going to deliver a Colossus/Magik mash-up. If we're to take this literally, and to assume that the image above represents what the new status quo of the X-Men will be, then it's definitely something vastly different than what the X-Men are now, with some characters reverting to past incarnations and others into something new. We can (hopefully) assume that the references to the past are metaphorical and we won't literally get those characters back (though, after Secret Wars, we couldn't necessarily put it past Hickman). However you want to look at it, it seems it will definitely be a different status quo. And maybe that's a good thing. Maybe not.
In the end, Larraz and Silva are both great artists, Hickman is a competent writer (and in a format that should constrain his more annoying tendencies, since he has to get it done in just 12 issues). Best of all, Hickman expressed support for Cyclops at C2E2, so… though I was apprehensive at first (okay, outright hating on it), I'm going to go with a position of "very cautiously optimistic." Just, please, don't let Hickman get carried away with his obsession with making up runes and symbols or whatever that stuff is. Keep that kink in the bedroom, Hickman.
Of course, we all know what would get me totally on board – give Chris Claremont an ongoing spinoff from this new status quo, and I'll start writing reviews instead of recaps just so I can give every X-Men comic 5 out of 5 stars while ignoring anything I don't like about them. That's my offer, Marvel, always on the table. Limitless positive coverage and no more snark if you'll just give Chris Claremont one single god damn ongoing series out of the twenty plus monthly X-books you publish. Surely that's worth the price alone!
Wait, we were talking about Hickman, right? Somehow, it always comes back to Clearmont. I blame you, readers. It's certainly not my fault. Now, let's get on with 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, but with a corporate merger on the way, the X-Men can finally get back to doing what they do best: being objectively the best franchise in all of comics.
Uncanny X-Men #14
(W) Matthew Rosenberg (A/CA) Salvador Larroca
Cyclops and Wolverine have drawn together a new team of X-Men from the ashes of "X-Men Disassembled," and now they turn their eyes to setting their agenda. Cyclops has a list…a list of things the X-Men have to take care of…if it's the last thing they ever do.
In Shops: Mar 20, 2019
Val Cooper visits the X-Men at Harry's Hideaway where Cyclops convinces her that she should work with the X-Men so that they'll owe her a favor. Meanwhile, Multiple Man captures former Mutant Liberation Front member Reaper, allowing the X-Men to interrogate him. It turns out Reaper has declined to join up with his former comrades, who are currently impersonating the X-Men while engaging in terrorist acts, but Hope Summers did give Reaper a burner phone and promise to call him before their next attack, so the X-Men will be ready. Dark Beast, who is already a prisoner of the X-Men after last issue (or full-fledged X-Men member as he considers it), gives up the location of his former colleagues in the Marauders.
So the X-Men head to a warehouse in the Bronx where they find Scrambler, who quickly gains the upper hand by scrambling Wolfsbane's powers, which cause her techno-organic infection to go wild. As Magik and Mirage calm her down, Wolverine jumps out a hole in the wall to chase Scrambler. After the X-Men follow, they find no trace of Scrambler and Wolverine with a knife stuck in his eye. Turns out it was Callisto who did that, claiming that the Marauders are hers to seek revenge on because they've been murdering Morlocks again. Callisto takes the X-Men to the tunnels to see the carnage, but something smells off to Wolverine. They meet Chamber there, who demands that Cyclops save the Morlocks.
Cyclops calls Val Cooper who tips him off that the government of Chernaya would owe them a favor if they took care of some rebels who've been hiding out in the wilderness, so the X-Men do just that, then declare that the land is the new home of the Morlocks. Please with this resolution, Chamber leaves Jubilee's baby, Shogo, with Callisto and joins the X-Men. As they celebrate back at Harry's Hideaway, Captain America rings the doorbell, demanding to talk with Scott Summers. Uh oh! Which teenager does he want to imprison on the moon for crimes she might commit under the influence of a bird-themed cosmic death god this time?! Find out next issue…
So the X-Men are already starting to feel like a team after just a few issues, and it will be interesting to see this interaction between Cyclops and Captain America considering their history. Hopefully Cyke kicks his ass. Uncanny is a great book so far so it's a shame it's gonna have its status quo upended in just a few months for HiX-Men.
Age of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler #2
(W) Seanan McGuire (A) Juan Frigeri (CA) Shane Davis, Michelle Delecki, D'Armata, Frank
THE AGE OF X-MAN CONTINUES!
• It's terror at the tabloids when everyone's favorite blue X-Man has a secret!
• One that won't stay behind the scenes much longer if he keeps this up…
• Can Kurt's squeaky-clean public image survive an explosive affair?
In Shops: Mar 20, 2019
It's the morning after Nightcrawler and Meggan broke the rules of the Age of X-Man and slept together, and Nightcrawler is feeling guilty. He thinks he and Meggan should report themselves to the authorities, but she thinks that will ruin everything. Needing time to think, Nightcrawler teleports to a tree outside to get dressed when he sees a young child about to be struck by a car. Nightcrawler saves the kid and realizes that what he represents as a global entertainment superstar is too important to ruin over a little hanky panky, so he teleports back to Meggan and says they should just forget about the whole thing. But Meggan has other ideas — she feels that their movies would be even better if they engaged in a real-life secret romantic relationship. Nightcrawler isn't so sure but goes along with it for now.
Nightcrawler and Meggan show up late to a meeting between their Studio X and Lady Mastermind's Mastermind studios. Mastermind has brought along her lead actors, Hellion and Surge. She wants the two studios to team up, dangling the fact that Phoebe Cuckoo works for her, and she can prevent the other Cuckoos from seeing their sister. Nightcrawler declines, which angers Mastermind, who believes the X-Men owning a movie studio is unfair competition. Unfortunately, Phoebe can't just come work for Studio X because the world is already grossed out by the familial relationship between two sisters, let alone three.
Later, during a rehearsal that shows institutional sexism still exists in the Age of X-Man when the script calls for Meggan to forget she can fly and require saving by Nightcrawler, the ceiling collapses, which Nightcrawler surmises was an act of sabotage by Mastermind. Kylun wants to call the X-Men, but Nightcrawler doesn't. Is that because he really doesn't want to involve them for the sake of the studio, or in order to keep his relationship with Meggan hidden? Speaking of which, Meggan invites Nightcrawler to a secret speakeasy where mutants gather wearing masks to engage in romantic relationships. Nightcrawler can't handle the guilt though, and he runs out. When he gets back home, he finds Mystique waiting for him, with an offer to "explain everything." But not until next issue.
There's some hits and some misses in the Age of X-Man, but Amazing Nightcrawler is definitely a hit. Building on the past relationship between Meggan and Nightcrawler as a foundation that allows for some pretty rapid plot and character development. Both Nightcrawler and Meggan's characterization is spot-on even in this alternate universe, with Meggan wearing her emotions on her sleeve and Nightcrawler torturing himself over his. This team should get an ongoing after the event is over.
Gotta give this one the Wolverine's Weiner X-Pick of the week, folks!
Congratulations to the creative team.
Age of X-Man: NextGen #2
(W) Ed Brisson (A) Marcus To (CA) Chris Bachalo
THE AGE OF X-MAN CONTINUES!
• The students of the Summers Institute are starting to question their memories.
• But when the curtain is pulled back, can Glob Herman save his friends…and reality?
In Shops: Mar 20, 2019
We ended the last issue with Glob Herman on fire, about to show Armor the truth about the Age of X-Man. Did his badass Age of Apocalypse powers return? Well, not quite. Turns out he just wanted to melt his wax flesh to cover Armor in it. Ew! Armor is not pleased by this, and when he tries to explain that the reality they're in isn't real and, worse, that the government is brainwashing people or making them disasppear, she get angry and storms out. Meanwhile, a recently mindwiped Anole finds a vial of Unveil fumes (see the Age of X-Man: Apocalypse and the X-Tracts series) with a note from Bling and inhales it.
At breakfast time at the school cafeteria, Armor shows up with a brand new crew cut. As she sits down for lunch, she sees a news report on the television about the fire from last night, in which she witnessed Bling being mindwiped by Department X's Blob. However, the news report says there was nobody there. Armor goes to talk to Bling, who is eating breakfast like nothing happened. Bling has no memory of the incident and claims to have been studying at the library with friends. The other students back up her story. While she's doing that, Anole engages in some X-pository dialog with Rockslide, asking about the life-seed, which is what Hope Summers used to make everyone a mutant in the Age of X-Man. He thinks it's strange that there's no record of the life-seed after that event.
Outside the school, Glob Herman is hanging out with his chickens when Armor arrives, ready to believe him now. It turns out that the reason Glob covered her in wax is because he believes the wax is what keeps the Age of X-Man from erasing his memories each night, allowing him to remember all the things the rest of the mutants forget. It looks like it worked, since Armor is the only one of her friends to remember the true events of the fire. Armor is thankful, but also pissed that she had to shave her head to get the wax out. Glob tells Armor that Anole has been mindwiped twice so far, and one more time and he'll disappear. Rockslide, meanwhile, heads to the library to try to figure out why there's no record of the life-seed after "The Resolution." When he can't find anything, he asks the librarian, who makes note to turn him in to the authorities later for asking these questions. At classes that day, Anole, Glob, and Armor are all absent.
Later that night, Anole sneaks out and heads to a meeting of the cult that follows Apocalypse and his preaching about free love. Some new characters are there: Scripture, Japheth, Tromette, and Hammil. They each take one more vial of Unveil for safekeeping. This is the only thing that can restore their memories after mindwiping. They then discuss their plans to blow up the Hope Summers library at the school, destroying the symbol of government propaganda. Back at the dorms, Armor and Glob find Anole's room empty along with a used up vial of Unveil.
The young(ish) generation of X-Men (they were mostly created like 20 years ago at this point) continue to be one of the most interesting aspects of the X-Men. It will be interesting to see how these characters are affected by this experience (assuming they survive it). It began in X-Men Disassembled as the kids started to grow disillusioned with the way the adult X-Men treat them, and here in Age of X-Man they're literally living in an oppressive dystopia created and run by the adults. They can't possibly go back to being regular students and background characters after this, right? Right?!
Wolverine: Infinity Watch #2
(W) Gerry Duggan (A) Andy MacDonald (CA) Giuseppe Camuncoli
Wolverine is the best there is at what he does. But how is he at protecting the universe from cosmic disaster? Would you guess better or worse than Loki, the admitted god of lies? We're about to find out.
In Shops: Mar 20, 2019
In the future, King Thor and Phoenix Wolverine chill out and wait for present-day Loki and Thor to save the Infinity Stones, which will be reflected in Flowa's Journal if things all work out. In the present, Loki and Wolverine are rushing to locate criminal Hector Bautista, who possesses the Time Stone and has been using it for nefarious purposes. However, he's also being hunted by Chitauri warrior Warbringer. Following news helicopters in their space boat, Loki and Wolverine locate Hector in the middle of a high-speed chase and pluck him off his motorcycle and into the boat. Wolverine has a baseball bat studded with time diamonds that prevent Hector from using the Time Stone. Warbringer crashes the part and chucks Wolverine into a cow field as Hector escapes in the confusion.
Loki catches up with Hector and Warbringer catches up with both of them, demanding the time stone. Wolverine arrives with a stampede of cows that run Warbringer over. Wolverine brags about his unbreakable metal bones, but Warbringer asks if those protect the floating discs in his spine (Warbringer apparently knows a lot about human anatomy) and breaks Wolverine's back. He punches through Hector's stomach, steals the Time Stone, and flies off in his spaceship. It was all a trick by Loki though, and Hector and the Time Stone are safe. But not for long, as the Fraternity of Raptors appears out of a portal and snatches Hector, threatening to destroy the Earth if they're followed. Wolverine and Loki decide to follow anyway… but not until next issue.
It's not that this series is bad — it's actually entertaining for what it is — but it seems pointless, considering Wolverine is already "back" and moving on to other things in Uncanny X-Men. Marvel dragged out his return long enough with all the various mini-series. Enough is enough.
Chris Claremont talked about his upcoming Marvel Comics Presents story on a live stream out of C2E2, trashed editors, and explained why making comics was better back in the day.
Rachel Summers returns in June for X-Force #9, while Salvador Larroca returns to Uncanny X-Men that month as well.
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