Comic Book Review – X-Men by Jonathan Hickman Volume 2

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. 

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Movie Review – The New Mutants

The New Mutants (2020)
Written by Josh Boone & Knate Lee
Directed by Josh Boone

And so the 20th Century Fox X-Men franchise comes to a strange, pitiful end. Dark Phoenix came out last year and appeared to be the intended conclusion, made and edited with the end of the series in mind. However, multiple delays and then COVID-19 caused The New Mutants to make a three year trip to the big screen. The signs that the X-Men film series was over were apparent years ago with X-Men: Apocalypse, a movie that seemed conflicted about what is trying to be or how it would fit in the post-MCU landscape. I would argue that, despite a few highlights along the way, the X-Men film series was always disappointing and felt like it belonged to another era gone by.

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Comic Book Review – X-Men by Jonathan Hickman Volume One

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. 

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Comic Book Review – X-Statix: The Complete Collection Volume 1

X-Statix: The Complete Collection Volume 1
Reprints X-Force #116 – 129, Brotherhood #9, X-Statix #1-5
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke, and Paul Pope

This is the most of Peter Milligan’s work that I have ever read. Before this is was a handful of Justice League Dark issues and a mini-series he did for DC’s Flashpoint crossover. I can’t say I was ever a fan of what I read, it is all so strange & off. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, more that your brain sort of has to adjust to the wavelengths Milligan is broadcasting on. It’s evident he has his own style and is writing first for himself. I prefer writers who practice that approach, write a story you would want to read, and the audience will come to you. This is one of those forgotten runs in Marvel’s X-Men niche, running alongside Grant Morrison’s brilliant reboot of the main title. Milligan’s take on X-Force got a lot of attention when it kicked off, but I don’t remember it lasting too long, the series kept going but the buzz faded.

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Event Fatigue: Second Coming

Second Coming
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.