Written by Zeb Wells, Mike Carey, Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, Matt Fraction
Art by Ibriam Roberson, Esad Ribic, Greg Land, Terry Dodson
If you are wanting to jump into some of the most dense, hard to navigate continuity in comics today then look no further than Marvel’s X-Men titles (New Mutants, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men Legacy, X-Force, X-Factor). The X-Men characters have always seem to occupied their own little corner of the Marvel Universe, only occasionally linking up with characters like the Avengers and Spider-Man. So, when an event goes down amongst the mutant community its always very self-contained but rarely simple. The most recent event, Second Coming was all about the rebirth of the mutant race. Five years ago, Magneto’s daughter, Scarlet Witch used her reality bending powers to erase the majority of mutant powers from the face of the earth, leaving only 200 mutants left. Over the next few years, some of these mutants died and the creeping fear that their species would be wiped spread over the community. That is until one new mutant was born.
The X-Men rushed to Alaska, where the new mutant registered on their computers. Other competing groups of mutants, and anti-mutant hate groups were their competition. In the end they learned the mutant was an infant whose powers manifested at birth, defying all the medical knowledge that had gathered about mutant genes. Present day was deemed too dangerous for the baby girl, named Hope, so Cable, Cyclops’ warrior son from the future, took the baby with him on a roulette journey through time, staying one step ahead of their enemies. Once Hope was fifteen, she decided that she wanted to return to her time period to rejoin her people and learn what it was to be a mutant. Her arrival alerted Bastion, another time traveler and cyborg who was programmed specifically to wipe the mutant race from the Earth.
Since Cable had left, Cyclops had established a haven for mutant on the island Utopia, off the coast of San Francisco. Here they fended off attacks from forces that wished them dead, and Cyclops formed X-Force, a black ops team led by Wolverine that drew first blood on their enemies. This would be seen as a complete 180 from the dream Professor Xavier hoped for, so Cyclops kept it secret from the majority of mutants, even his long time lover Emma Frost. When Cable and Hope dropped on the East Coast, expecting the X-Men to still be there X-Force was dispatched, along with staples Storm, Colossus, and Nightcrawler. A battle on the freeway ended with Nightcrawler being killed and Cyclops’ bloody secret being revealed. Storm was disgusted, and Beast could no longer consider Cyclops a friend or ally. Hope and Cable eventually got to Utopia, where Bastion erected an impenetrable globe around the island and San Francisco. Portals opened inside, releasing Sentinels, mutant-killing robots on the population.
X-Force went on one final mission to the future, where these Sentinels were being dispatched and destroyed the Mastermold which made them. In the present, Hope unlocked her power and completely disintegrated Bastion and his forces. Cable, who went with X-Force, realizes that they are unable to return to the present unless he allows a technovirus that has plagued him his entire life to be unleashed. By allowing his body to become non-organic he hold the portal open and X-Force jumps through. Once on the other side Cable’s body crumbles and Hope is left to mourn the death of her adoptive father. A bonfire memorial is held that night on Utopia to the mutants that fell, and it is here Emma Frost witnesses the source of Hope’s power: The Phoenix Force. Suddenly around the globe hundreds of mutant genes are activated in humans and the mutant race is saved. Emma realizes in this moment that Hope is the reincarnation of Jean Grey, Cyclops’ late wife and that its only a matter of time until Emma loses him to her.
This series would be near impossible for someone without a dense familiarity to enjoy. I’ve read over four hundred issues of Uncanny X-Men in my life and it was still tricky for me to follow. It’s also built on seeds planted by Brian Michael Bendis five years ago in The House of M event, wherein Scarlet Witch erases a ton of mutants. It would also be a tricky event to follow if you hadn’t read the most recent two year long Cable ongoing series which followed the development of Hope. AND if you hadn’t read a few arcs of the recent two year X-Force ongoing you’d not understand why everyone freaks out when they find out what Wolverine has been up to with Cyclops. In many ways, this is the definition of a completely new reader inaccessible story. I think there’s definitely a place for rewarding loyal readers by pulling in a dump truck load of plot points, but the X-Men rarely open their doors for new readers to easily jump on. The next event has already started, the SAME WEEK Second Coming ended! While the latest event, Fall of the Mutants, is a little more accessible, it still makes me wonder what happens when the current fans die. They aren’t doing a good job of nurturing new fans.