X-Men by Jonathan Hickman Volume 2 (2020)
Reprints X-Men #7-11
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Francis Lenil Yu
Jonathan Hickman’s new status quo on the X-Men books has been such a refreshing surprising over the last year from Marvel. It seems more and more often, comic books get stuck in nostalgic cycles of retelling the same basic stories over and over. Hickman has totally reinvented the X-Men, ending the entire conflict between the team and their villains to tell a much more compelling story about a new race of people trying to carve out their own place on this planet. There really isn’t an X-Men team anymore with this title and many of the others featuring regularly rotating casts.
The first chapter in this collection explores the way mutants have recovered from Scarlet Witch’s devastation of their people in the House of M event. In that storyline, the Witch uses her reality-altering powers to diminish the mutants’ numbers to almost non-existence. The people still live; they just lost their X-gene and become humans. Through this story, we see how Melody Guthrie, the sister of Cannonball and Husk, goes through a ritual where she regains her mutant powers. This is done through combat with former villain Apocalypse, who has become a mutant shaman, delving into the occult and focusing on his people’s spiritual transformation. Powerless mutants die in battle, proclaiming they detach themselves from their human form and, through the rebirthing chamber, a new version emerges with their old abilities.
The next two chapters follow up on a plot thread Hickman set up in the pages of New Mutants where Wolfsbane brings a strange egg back to Earth with her following a trip to the Shi’ar Empire. Broo, the intelligent mutant Brood, arrives on Krakoa and recognizes the object, revealing that it is a King Egg, something manufactured to control his people. This leads to a spectacular invasion of Krakoa by the Brood, which has always been an obvious homage to the xenomorph from Alien. The issue also serves to bring Vulcan to the spotlight. He is the long-lost Summers brother, Gabriel, who once served as emperor of the Shi’ar. It’s a decent two-parter but just feels average when you compare it to the other stories Hickman has told. It’s not bad, and I expect anyone reading would be entertained; we just aren’t given the sort of challenging ideas presented in other entries.
This is followed by another pair of issues that cross over with the Empyre event, one of Marvel’s most disappointing storylines in recent years. Thankfully, Hickman frames his stories in a way that you don’t need to know all the details to understand what is happening. The Cotati, a humanoid plant-like race, have invaded Earth, and Krakoa is a natural spot for them to land because of its unique flora. Vulcan is in a drunken stupor on the moon with Petra & Sway, a couple of minor supporting mutant characters. It just so happens that the moon, specifically the Blue Area of the Moon, is where the Cotati live. Chaos ensues.
The final entry is a Magneto-centric story, but one that doesn’t start with him. Instead, some of the X-Men Academy characters stumble across the Summoner in the jungles of Krakoa. The Summoner was a strange being introduced in the first volume from another dimension and whose island is linked with Krakoa. He plays a game, and Rockslide becomes interested. It turns out as you play, the world around you shifts and changes. This correlates with the arrival of the Cotati. Magneto comes out of meditation to take them on, and the story is told in flashback by those who witnessed him, relating how stoically powerfully he was in eliminating the enemy.
I don’t think this is quite as strong of a collection as the first volume, which did a lot of world-building. Some of that happens here but definitely not enough. I think the opening issue is my favorite because it introduces us to something new. The rest of the book, while entertaining, doesn’t deliver on the wild promises of House/Powers of X and the first six issues. Instead, these feel like placeholder stories, waiting for the X of Swords storyline to start that would cross through all the mutant titles.