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[Comics] House of X - the big X-Men relaunch

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
So, this week the X-Men comics see the start of a big relaunch. They've had a LOT of them over the past few years, none of them lasting more than 18 months at best. (The last one started in November 2018, less than 9 months ago !) It doesn't help that they all just about reached the level of "workmanlike competence", since this is a franchise with a history of usually-talented writers producing work noticeably below their usual level, especially on the core title(s).

But this one is much more like the kick in the pants the franchise really needed. For one thing, Marvel Comics cancelled the whole X-line just beforehand. And they're exercising rare restraint : for three months, only the weekly prologue will run, with the proper new ongoing series only starting in October. (Admittedly, they already had a major culling with the last relaunch 9 months ago, and most of the side-titles managed to reach a relatively natural conclusion over the last couple of months ; they had been planning this for a while. Also, technically the Dead Man Logan maxiseries still has a few more issues to run, but it's already off in its own parallel universe, so it doesn't really count.)

More importantly, they've hired Jonathan Hickman as the architect and core writer of the relaunch ; he's writing all of the prologue, and will be handling the core X-Men book after that. Marvel readers should be most familiar with the mega-saga he started "small" with a SHIELD/Hydra war in Secret Warriors, continued in an acclaimed and best-selling run in Fantastic Four, and developped in a major Avengers run (which, among other things, gave us the Black Order as Thanos's new henchpeople) before concluding it in a bang in Secret Wars.

What Hickman excels in is focusing on The Big Picture. This is a man who clearly loves designing flowcharts and handling huge casts in intricate plots that eventually all come together. He can do some brilliant character work and make long-established character sound like they should, but soap-opera-ish melodrama isn't what he's about. That may feel like a drawback for a franchise like the X-Men, but let's be honest : what the X-books have been missing most since at least 2012's Avengers vs X-Men is a sense of purpose and direction that would last for more than a year. Giving free rein to Hickman just feels like the right solution. (Also, other writers can handle the soap-opera in the many side-X-books already announced for this Fall.)


For people not knee-deep in comics solicitations and promotion, here's how it's going to work :
- Starting this week, a fortnightly HOUSE OF X 6-issue miniseries, apparently mostly focused on establishing the new status quo.
- Starting next week, a fortnightly POWERS OF X (read "Powers of Ten", eh) 6-issue miniseries, which looks like a "hidden history" revisiting of past events to set up the new stuff.
- Starting in October, the actual new X-MEN ongoing series, with half a dozen other new series starting up over the Fall. (We don't know much about those beyond the creative teams, and character lineups, so I won't talk about them yet.)

SPOILERS for HOUSE OF X #1 in the next post.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
SPOILERS for HOUSE OF X #1, then. It's all about establishing the new status quo for mutants with this relaunch.

This is a true fresh start for new readers. You don't need to have read the previous few months of X-stories (and indeed it sounds like many of the "shocking" deaths there have been reversed offscreen). And more importantly, it's distinct from Hickman's previous mega-saga ; there are a couple of nods to it (such as one of the planet-killer space stations Stark built in Avengers, or Mars still being partly terraformed), but nothing that isn't immediately clear from context.

The big high concept is that Professor X [*] spent some time offscreen to bio-engineer some game-changing macguffins from Krakoa (a mutant island that the X-Men first fought in the 70s, but eventually became a student and part of the Wetchester grounds a few years ago in Aaron's Wolverine & the X-Men). From there, he's just announced to the world that he's establishing a mutant nation based on Krakoa island, now in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with portals and embassies ("habitats") all over the world. He's also offering as olive branches to the human nations a few panaceas (provided they recognize his nation). This goes over about as well as you'd expect, especially combined with the announced amnesty for all mutants criminals if they join Krakoa.

Another thing that worries the human nations : in a stark reversal from the recent few "on the brink of extinction" storylines, we're back to mutants being the next stage of evolution, with an unexpected explosive growth that will make them supplant humanity "soon". It seems like the Genoshan genocide (back in the early Morrison run) barely bought humanity about 20 years. In reaction, a new shadowy organization (built from bits of SHIELD, AIM, HYDRA and various other acronyms) has self-activated, and is preparing what looks like a new Sentinel program (with a sun-orbiting base).


Here are the mutants with speaking parts shown as part of the nations :
- Professor X
- Marvel Girl (Jean Grey)
- Cyclops
- The Stepford Cuckoos [**]
- Magneto
- Cypher (with a Warlock arm) & Sage working IT
- a Black Ops team of Mystique, Toad & Sabretooth [***]

And some of the ones shown without dialogue :
- Colossus
- Storm
- Kitty Pryde (with Lockheed)
- Armor
- Nightcrawler
- Banshee
- Wolverine (Logan)
- Xorn & Zorn
(This is from memory, I'm probably forgetting some.)

There's also a list of "known Omega Mutants" that Prof X seems especially keen on gathering. Besides Marvel Girl & Magneto, there are a bunch of the usual suspects (Iceman, Hope...), some expected "currently unknown location" ones (Legion, Exodus...), Franklin Richards as a rare "human faction" entry, and the weird inclusion of Proteus as "already on Krakoa".


[*] This is Xavier after his recent resurrection, presumably still inhabiting the body of Fantomex ; that version of him is purposefully slightly creepy. It doesn't help that he's only seen ever wearing a Cerebro helmet (with the script notes making a point about it), making him look very much like the Maker (an evil Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universe whom Hickman played with quite a bit in the past). Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the twist was that this is indeed the Maker ; there's a lot about what "Professor X" is doing that fits the Maker's M.O. ; or maybe it's just Hickman revisiting some high concepts from his Ultimates run.


[**] The two explicitly named Stepford Cuckoos are Esme & Sophie, both of whom are supposed to have been dead since the end of the Morrison run. (There was even a botched resurrection attempt a few months ago in X-23.) So there are definitely some shenanigans going on here. The script mentions that the one dressing in black is Mindee, but weirdly it's contradicted by the final art in the one panel showing all of them together (5 in the script, 4 in the art). I wonder what this glitch is about.


[***] This is where the "amnesty" business gets murky. This group is clearly operating on the mutant nation's behalf (stealing information about what context implies is the new Sentinel project). When their escape gets impeded by the Fantastic Four (and Sabretooth gets captured), Cyclops shows up and indicates that the amnesty also applies to their current crimes (e.g. Sabretooth injuring and probably killing some guards). The FF are obviously not amused, but Cyclops has the wisdom to pull back for now.


----------

Anyway, this was definitely a dense first issue, and I'm quite intrigued. It's very Hickman indeed, with several pages of tables and graphs interspeded, and not much time for individual characters, but he's still got their individual voices mostly down. (His Cyclops may be a bit on the zealot side, but his friendly interactions with the FF ring true.) But really, I'm just glad that we've finally got somebody in the driver's seat again, especially as this direction seems quite promising.

What are your thoughts ?
 

awesomeocalypse

Registered User
Validated User
It sounds cool, but tbh I get X-Men to get relaunched--or at least substantially altered and repackaaged--again regardless when the MCU gets around to doing their own version of them
 

Michael K

Social Justice Dragon
Validated User
I found it great, there are so many parts of the world created here that feel fresh and I sincerely hope that it retains a basically optimitic attitude.
 

Propagandor

Square-Cube Law Compliant
Validated User
It sounds cool, but tbh I get X-Men to get relaunched--or at least substantially altered and repackaaged--again regardless when the MCU gets around to doing their own version of them
The comics have largely given up on trying to line up with the movies beyond costumes (and even then only sometimes)
 

Bellerophon

Unvincible
Validated User
It’s very, very good, but there must be some kind of shenanigans. Isn’t mutants segregating themselves the opposite of Xavier’s dream?
 

Mr. Kent

The Oh Em Gee
Validated User
I love the massive worldbuilding Hickman always does, and this is no different. All the shoutouts to past continuity are amazing. Especially to the Morrisson and Aaron runs.
 

Blackwingedheaven

Crystal Human
Validated User
It’s very, very good, but there must be some kind of shenanigans. Isn’t mutants segregating themselves the opposite of Xavier’s dream?
Pretty much, yeah. "Humans and mutants coexisting in an integrated society" is very much Xavier's dream classically. I'm definitely calling shenanigans.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Pretty much, yeah. "Humans and mutants coexisting in an integrated society" is very much Xavier's dream classically. I'm definitely calling shenanigans.
Well, aside from the Maker wild theory, let's remember that Professor X has felt distinctly off ever since he was resurrected last year. One of the possibilities hinted in that story was that this is actually the Shadow King.

Also, anyone wants to lay odds on Karima Shapandar (the Omega Sentinel) being a mole for the mutant nation ?
 
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