X-Men by Jonathan Hickman Volume 1 (2020)
Reprints X-Men v5 #1-6
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Francis Lenil Yu, R.B. Silva, and Matteo Buffagni
After Jonathan Hickman’s magnificent House of X/Powers of X reboot of the X-titles’ status quo, it was clear the classic Marvel characters were headed in a brand-new direction. The mutants had finally dropped their petty squabbles and coalesced into one community, relocating to the living mutant island of Krakoa. Now with their new-found sovereign nation status and the ability to grow medicinal plants that could change the survival rates of numerous diseases, they leveraged a place at the tables of power. We also learned in that mini-series how the mutants have overcome death, using Professor Xavier’s Cerebro computer and Krakoa’s regenerative properties to regrow dead mutants complete with all their memories. This is where the fifth volume of X-Men opens, a brand new world.
Hickman doesn’t tell a sweeping arc in these six issues; instead, they are table setting and world-building. Each issue is a stand-alone tale that explores a relationship or a new concept. When you get to the end, you are chomping at the bit to see what comes next because there is such rich potentiality in all these things. I was reminded of some of Grant Morrison’s work; when he takes a twist on a familiar character or throws in a wild new element and sees how the characters react to it. Many of these issues center around Scott Summers and his extended family, hinting a new paradigm of how mutants have redefined what family can mean.
The opening chapter has the X-Men cleaning up one of the last Orchis stations left on Earth. Orchis is a consortium of scientists attempting to build Omega Sentinels to eradicate mutantkind. As we saw in the House/Power of X mini-series they will succeed in the future, Professor X is fully aware of the path the timeline takes but believes there is still a chance it can be altered. He has not shared this with anyone beyond Magneto and Moria MacTaggert. The team discovers mutants being kept in stasis for experimentation but also Serafina, one of the Children of the Vault, humans who have evolved down a separate line than their closest cousins. In Marvel, mutants are an entirely different species from homo sapiens in the same way that neanderthals were. The Children of the Vault are homo sapiens.
This Serafina subplot goes away until issue five when we have a mindbending time loop issue about the X-Men pursuing her and the other Children to one of the Vaults in South America. The Vault is very much like The World from Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run. It’s a pocket dimension where a different path of evolution is pursued, monitored by highly advanced artificial intelligence. Serafina escapes into the Vault, and the X-Men go over the strange temporal properties there. They decide to send in three particular mutants, including Wolverine’s daughter, whose powers will help them endure the extreme amount of time that passes within. This is one of the prime examples of table setting Hickman is doing, allowing five months to pass without a sign of the three mutants who went inside. Having read Hickman’s Fantastic Four and Avengers work, I know this has a very particular payoff planned for just the right moment in the series.
Issue two is all about Scott Summers sharing some bonding time with his future children: Nathan and Rachel. They rush to address the news that a new island has appeared in the Pacific and is moving on a collision course with Krakoa. Scott, newly returned from the dead after he turned rogued and murdered Xavier, is on a sort of path of redemption. He never really embraced his role as the father of these characters who showed up from the future, but now he appears to want to be a kind of dad to them. We have a very different take on Cable in the form of the teenaged Nathan Summers, and if you were a fan of the grizzled military-type, you might not like this version. I think there’s more interesting, fruitful ground to be explored than with Leifeld’s early 90s creation.
I found issue four to be my favorite, with little to no action and people sitting around a table talking global politics and trade. It’s established that Krakoa is ruled by a collection of councils representing the internal politics of mutantkind. The Quiet Council (Xavier, Magneto, and Apocalypse) attend a variation of Davos, the economic summit, to lay down their position with leaders from across the globe. Cyclops and former Hydra leader Gorgon are brought as support in case of violent action. It turns out the United States representative brought armed back up, and that gives us the tiny bit of action for the story. More importantly, this issue helps clarify what exactly Xavier’s longterm goal is with Krakoa. He still emphasizes a potential peace with humans but in a much more paternal manner, guiding them to a better future rather than simple coexistence.
You are not going to get a complete beginning-middle-end arc in this collection, but what you do get is a magnificent tour of a new world where mutants have upset the balance. We get to see it from the perspective of those living on Krakoa and hear from outside parties who have both benevolent and nefarious designs on the future of mutants. Hickman employs a rotating cast of familiar X-faces and seems most interested in fleshing out the Summers clan and what they represent as a new kind of family. I was extremely pleased with this book and cannot wait to see where Hickman is taking the saga of the X-Men.