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. 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 the 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 #12 EMP XOSP
(W) Jonathan Hickman (A/CA) Leinil Francis Yu
THE SUMMONING BEGINS. A lead-in to the biggest X-story of the summer.
In Shops: Sep 16, 2020
X-Men #12 Recap
Summoner and Rockslide continue to play Krakoan Checkers. Rockslide see's Summoner's weakness: he can only be hurt in his eyes. Summoner sees that Rockslide's vulnerability is that he's actually made of energy and his rock armor is just a shell. Apocalypse shows up and sends away the other mutants. He wants Summoner to tell him what happened in Arakko. Arakko agrees, which is a good thing, because the title page tells us this issue is called "A Mutant's History of Arakko and the fallen World of Amenth."
The Twilight Sword ripped the mutant island of Okkara in half, creating Krakoa and Arakko. Arakko was pushed into The Chasm, sending it and the enemies of mutants to another dimension. Up for debate is whether Apocalypse himself stayed behind on Earth as a self-sacrifice to make sure the chasm closed and protect the rest of the world, or because he was chicken, or even worse, that Apocalypse was "a prisoner to the whims of others."
Anyway, on the other side of the portal where Arakko went was a world called Amenth, where a bunch of the enemies of mutants who once lived here were dead, killed by someone called The White Sword and his One Hundred Champions. The Arakkans built ten towers and controlled all the land between them. They held off the armies of Amenth and lived for generations between the towers.
Summoner was born three hundred years ago there, in a society ruled by Genesis, the Mother of Horsemen and Wife of Apocalypse. One day she raised an army and went on a conquest for a hundred years where she found The Ivory Spire, stronghold of The White Sword, AKA Purity, apparently an External, who used his power to raise 100 champions and slaughter demons until all 100 champions would be dead, at which point he'd raise them again.
He became so alien that he no longer recognized himself as Arakkan and defeated Genesis, killing most of her army. When she got back, a traitor named Isca, whose power was that she can't lose, had joined with the Amenthians. She invited Genesis to meet with Annihilation, the god of Amenth. They fought one-on-one and Annihilation won.
The Amenth hordes attacked Arakko for 100 years but the Arakkans held out as long as they could, waiting for Apocalypse to raise a new mutant army and come to save them. Summoner was sent to find Apocalypse and here we are now. Our reward for reading through this history text is a prose page explaining the difference between kinds of Summoners.
Apocalypse sends Summoner back to Amenth through a special gate through Otherworld to Arakko with Banshee and Unus the Untouchable to help out. His job is to herald Apocalypse's coming to save them or to come back quickly and report if Arakko has been destroyed so that he can hurry up and go get his revenge.
So this, I guess, is the prologue to X of Swords and sets up what we're about to be reading for the next several months with a massive exposition dump. Until, of course, Hickman throws in his big M. Knight Shyamalan twist and we find out everything we knew was wrong. But not before shelling out a hundred bucks for all the comics in this crossover, naturally (or whatever the heck it costs). After all, what we saw in this issue was a retelling by a potentially dishonest and certainly biased narrator, not necessarily what actually happened. Fine issue, I suppose, for a glorified illustrated Wikipedia article. I mean, I thought I paid for a comic, but whatever.
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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.