I am one of my office’s designated nerds. Whenever there is some superhero movie out and people are looking for a review, they come to me. When a new television show like The Mandalorian comes out, I am the go-to guy.
But occasionally, being that guy means that I learn that something is a bigger deal than I thought it was. So when a former comic book loving work friend quietly asked me “So, what is happening with the X-Men?” I realized that the current state of X-Men comics were getting out into mainstream culture. And I could not be more pleased!
So what is happening with the X-Men? Marvel Comics has allowed Jonathan Hickman to take over the X-Men Universe and go bonkers. If you have never read any Hickman work, then you may not understand what this potentially means.
Hickman is regarded as one of the most forward thinking, world encompassing creators in comics. His last assignment for Marvel? Just return their myriad of multiverses back into one universe with the Secret War event he finished in 2015. His work before that was an amazing, thoughtful long run on the Fantastic Four.
That is the kind of epic level thing Hickman gets tasked with and for good reason. He has the ability to deliver the goods when given the opportunity. And the X-men are just such an opportunity.
So what has the state of the X-Men universe been? No disrespect to the creators who have been involved over the last several years but there were rumors that Marvel was purposefully releasing poor X-Men books to sabotage the Fox-owned X-Men movies. (The truth is that Marvel didn’t need to do that at all. Fox, like Sony, has demonstrated a remarkable ability to make awful movies on their own.)
That is just to say, no one was comparing the current X-Men era to its great, much less its pretty good eras. So when Hickman was announced, fans clamored and quietly hoped.
And the approach Marvel took was interesting as they shrank all the X-Men related titles back to just two books that Hickman wrote: House of X and Powers of X.
Across House of X (HoX) and Powers of X (PoX), Hickman weaved a story that both went forward and backwards in time, made some major revelations of a major X-Universe character being revealed as a mutant, and more. It was spectacular in both its very broad approach and its understanding of the core X-men characters. At the end, the X-Universe was set off in a new direction.
So what is that new direction? Basically, the mutants of the Marvel universe have a nation unto themselves in the land of Krakoa, which can be reached primarily by portals that are grown from seeds Krakoa creates. Through those portals, the mutant kind can control who comes and goes.
Also, there is now essentially a database of all the mutants and their thoughts that Charles Xaiver painstakingly maintains with a giant enormous helmet. (However big you imagined it, you can at least double it again.)
Then there is a process when combining various mutants powers where new bodies can be grown, created and then rebooted with new memories. It has created a very utopian like feeling and the thing that is holding it together: economics.
See, the mutants have created drugs and cures that help humankind and if you don’t acknowledge them as a nation, and as a people, they cut you off from those cures. And it is glorious.
Seriously, when I started to read these two series, I was struck by how much thought Hickman must have put into the ideas. I don’t know if there is a single fully new idea involved in the comics but the combination of some of them, with a clear understanding of some of the potential errors that could be made, are part of what set it apart. (And that is intentional, as the series involves a do-over mechanic until they get it right.)
The plot uses all the pieces on the board. A character like New Mutant Cypher becomes hugely important in speaking to Krakoa the Living Island but also in creating a mutant language that Xavier downloads into you when you first arrive.
Also, a trope of hero and villain working together is pushed to its extreme. All of the mutants are welcome in this world, and it is ruled by a group that has both heroes and villains at the table. It forces both a return to the roots of mutantkind in the X-books but also allows creation of wholly new enemies, which, to be honest, the X-books could use.
From this book, Marvel launched 6 mutant titles that are on-going. Most of them will be at issue 3 by next week and, though Hickman isn’t writing them all, he is serving as a Head of X capacity. But that isn’t to say each book doesn’t have the potential to do some very strange things.
I’d encourage you to check out the series or wait for what is sure to be a glorious collected edition, which arrives next week on Amazon. It isn’t for the first time comic reader, but if you have someone who loves the X-men and a great mysterious story, this would be a great Christmas buy!