For years, Marvel’s X-Men characters have languished in its comics universe while others (with far more successful cinematic franchises) were elevated to new levels of prominence. The X-Men never went away, really, it’s just that they haven’t been headliners. Jonathan Hickman has a plan to change all of that, and it begins by bringing all of Marvel’s X-Men books to a sudden end.
In a recent interview with Comicbook, Hickman discussed his grand vision for the X-Men’s future in the “X-Universe” of books—set to launch in the wake of his two new upcoming six-issue miniseries House of X and Powers of X, which will explore the impacts of an as-of-yet unknown occurrence involving mutants from different perspectives. While House of X is set in the present and will follow a number of the Earth’s mutants as they get swept up into the event, Powers of X will look into the X-Men’s pasts within the larger universe to further contextualize the revelations in the companion comic.
While Hickman was unsurprisingly opaque about either of the series’ plot points, his explanation of how he presented Marvel with a pitch justifying the cancellation of all the publisher’s current X-titles is interesting in and of itself:
And in the spirit of ‘what works’ and also ‘what the market is used to’, I didn’t feel like just doing a new number one was enough. I also didn’t think that if we were serious about what we were trying to do we should have a mixed message in the market about what an X-book is.
So I argued for cancelling the entire line: Why it would work, why it was a good idea, and most importantly, why it was what we needed to do narratively to return the X-Men to their rightful prominent position in the Marvel Universe.
We needed to sell the idea that this is what we’re going to be doing for the next few years. So if you want to read X-Men books during the run from late-July through September, House of X and Powers of X are the only new X-books available and everything that’s going to follow is based on them. We wanted to be clear to the fans, to the stores, and just as importantly, to the creators who are going to be staffing these books in the future. We wanted the message to be very clear: This is a whole new era for the X-Men. This is what we’re doing now.
Again, it’s not as if the X-Men haven’t been busy as of late, but rather that the events happening within their general orbit have, for whatever reason, been somewhat (ironically) ghettoized and kept largely low-profile, while others, like say War of the Realms, have had impacts on the larger universe.
In addition to not being placed front and center within Marvel’s publishing lineup, one of the biggest problems the X-books have faced is a general lack of direction that has had the unfortunate effect of making the series, at times, feel like a chore to get through and whose payoffs aren’t necessarily going to be satisfying. According to Hickman, the new era of X-Men is rolling out in two waves with the first fully mapped out and the second currently in its planning stages. Hickman’s assertion that Marvel has a clearly defined vision and plan for the X-Universe’s rollout is a refreshing change of pace, if only because it suggests that the company’s taking the X-Men brand seriously and is invested in the series’ success.
Hickman further elaborated that while House of X and Powers of X will set the stage for a series of stories that feel true to the classic X-Men, the new X-Universe is also concerned with revisiting the classic mutant metaphor in order to better figure out how it factors into the X-Men’s current narrative mythos:
I suppose that, narratively, the problem nowadays is interpretation. Are we talking about a stand-in for marginalized groups, or the metaphor simply being a substitution of the word ‘different’ for ‘special’, or is the real modern complication atomization? Where everything is segmented to such a degree that there are no stories which mean something to everyone. Where the psychological expectation is something catered, or personalized.
I suspect that last bit also has a lot to do with why we’ve been in a nostalgic feedback loop for quite a while. Where everyone is telling X-Men stories about other X-Men stories.
Hickman’s ambition and excitement for his new X-Men run is admirable, but early hype is particularly easy to get wrapped up in.
What’s ultimately going to determine how successful the X-Universe ends up being is Marvel’s commitment to actually making the relaunch work, which means promoting it, scouting the right talent, and actually making sure that the stories are something people want to read. Only time will tell if Hickman, Marvel, and the future X-Men crew will be able to pull it off.
House of X and Powers of X hit stores this July.
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