Welcome dear readers to Mutantversity, the only column you need for all things X-Men. After some time away we’re back, taking our mutant coverage in a brave new direction (because YOU demanded it!). Whether you’re a returning reader or you’re just joining us, things are going to be looking different. Here’s what we’ve got in store:
Recaps every month! The X-Men are a notoriously convoluted gang of superheroes. Their ongoing adventures can be pretty confusing. That’s why Mutantversity is going to be recapping the events of the X-titles every month. These recaps will be aimed at the flagship series (which for now mean “Uncanny X-Men”), but we’ll be keeping an eye out for any crossovers or excited developments in any series featuring Marvel’s merry mutants.
Special spotlights! There are a lot of X-books every month- too many for most individuals to keep up with. Every month we will be shining the spotlight on one X-book or creator! That could mean a one shot, a spectacular issue, an overlooked cameo in another series, or praise given to a contributor to X-comics. Look here for awesome stuff you might be missing!
The Mutantversity Monthly Medals of Merit! Every month we’re going to be handing out special awards (or demerits) to the X-characters who are most deserving. Check out which characters we choose to recognize, especially who’s the winner of our coveted MVX prize!
This Month in X-Men
Without further ado, here’s what’s been happening in the pages of “X-Men.” Let’s start off with a bang:
Many are the prophecies surrounding Cable, the son of Scott Summers and Jean Grey. (Well Jean is only sort of his mom due to- you know what? Forget it. Summers family genealogy is never simple.) Recently, the man called Cable was assassinated by a younger, time-traveling version of himself. Meanwhile, an alternate version of Cable from a different dimension rose to power and reshaped reality. Man, “X-Men” sure is complicated. But Mutantversity isn’t afraid of something as elementary as alternate timelines. Let’s break it down!
Back in 1995, Charles Xavier’s son Legion went back in time to try to kill Magneto. He messed up and killed his father instead, creating a time paradox that led to the Age of Apocalypse. This alternate universe was an awful dystopia ruled over by Apocalypse, one of the most powerful mutants to ever live. It was populated by alternate versions of the X-Men, notably Nate Grey, a version of Cable who was destined to bring down Apocalypse.
Nate’s destiny was so important that he is the only character ever to go by the codename X-Man, and he possessed nearly immeasurable psychic and energy control powers. X-Man, along with a few other Age of Apocalypse refugees made their way to the Marvel universe proper. It was here the X-Man decided to work more actively to create his vision of a utopia. He enslaved a bunch of fellow mutants to realize this vision. At first that meant Magneto, Blob, Omega Red, and Archangel, but when Archangel got sick of the whole mental domination thing, X-Man moved on to mind control Storm. NBD when you’re X-Man.
Meanwhile, a group of junior X-Men found themselves trapped in a version of the Age of Apocalypse. This dimension hopping lark was facilitated by Legion, the same dude who brought about the original Age of Apocalypse. He can do pretty much anything, but his reality warping powers are crazy-unreliable. Literally. Legion is not a stable guy. Kitty Pryde was ready to leave the X-kids for dead, but Bishop helped them return to reality, giving X-Man the opportunity to erm… merge with Legion. They became one superdude, even more powerful, and decided to drop the facade of benevolence and just start dropping X-Men left and right.
So the call went out for all X-Men in the world to gather and do battle with gestalt X-Man/Legion. A huge fight transpired, involving X-Men famous, forgotten, and definitely some who should not have answered the call. I’m pretty sure one of the Stepford Cuckoos was recently killed, but all three were part of the battle. Jean Grey, Psylocke, the Cuckoos, and other psychic X-Men all joined together to battle X-Man in his own mind. They even got him on the rocks. But rather then losing, he snapped his fingers and boom, No More Mutants.Continued below
In the regular Marvel 616 universe, bigots celebrated as it seemed they had finally ended mutants once and for all. All of the existing ones vanished, and a vaccination could prevent new ones for being born (until some writer decides to really mix their metaphors and involve the anti-vaccination movement). But X-Man didn’t kill all the mutants. He moved them to an alternate reality: the Age of X-Man.
The Age of X-Man is a seeming utopia where everyone is a mutant. This wasn’t achieved through some sort of eugenics war, but there was a major messy incident before things settled to the relative peace mutants now enjoy. It is here that the “X-Men” books will linger for a little while, thrusting characters into new roles as they inevitably question their new reality.
BUT MEANWHILE: Cyclops, the oftentimes leader of the X-Men seems to be the last mutant on Earth 616. Cyclops tried his hand and being a radical revolutionary, but his plans were cut short when he died of a disease called M-Pox. Emma Frost didn’t want people to think Cyclops had died like a punk, so she designed an entire war and used her psychic illusion powers to make it look like Cyclops went down fighting. But young Cable- remember him? The one who killed his older self? I guess he missed his daddy, because he orchestrated some INSANE time travel shenanigans to revive the mutant leader. And he might be the only hope the X-Men have at returning to Earth…
Special Spotlight: Sina Grace
There’s this uncomfortable dynamic where Marvel seems to like spotlighting their non straight white man characters just enough to get good publicity, but the books rarely sell very well, and are quickly canceled. After Bobby Drake came out, that seemed like it was going to be the case with the “Iceman” ongoing series, but miraculously the series has lasted sixteen issues so far, and that’s because of one man: the witty and charming Sina Grace. What started as a messy coming out story by Brian Michael Bendis became an absolute classic run for Bobby Drake under Grace’s pen. “Iceman” manages to do so many things and to do them so well.
Grace approached Bobby coming out of the closet with uncommon empathy and understanding. But he also knew how to write silly superheroic action, pushing Bobby’s powers in new directions (ice golems! Vapor form!) and giving him some serious villains to contend with. But Grace has also known when to slow down, deepening Bobby’s relationship with core members of the X-cast. One thing that sat poorly with me was Bobby’s relationship with Kitty. After coming out, Bendis never wrote a conversation between the two of them, despite being exes who work closely together. Not only did Grace change that, he explored the feelings between the two young X-Men in full, and gave them what became one of my favorite relationships in X-comics.
The work Grace has done with Iceman is commendable, and it has more than earned his spot in the pantheon of great X-writers. The “Iceman” series could definitely keep going, but I’d be just as excited to see Grace tackling other X-characters, especially in a team book. An Emma Frost solo series? Generation X? New Mutants? The return of the Hellions? Few writers are as thoughtful, and to write “X-Men” well requires deep compassion. Especially because so many of them are so obnoxious.
The Mutantversity Monthly Medals of Merit
The Cable’s Pouch of X-Treme Grittiness Award
Given to a mutant for demonstrating badassitude and commitment to the 90s aesthetic
Being X-Treme can be an attitude, but it can also be an aesthetic choice. This month, Glob Herman leaned towards the latter. When transported to the Age of Apocalypse, he got a suitably 90s makeover meaning he was harder, spikier, and always on fire. His reaction to this was pure delight. He’s an x-treme teen after all. What really clinched this award for him was his sadness at being returned to his normal gooey pink self. You can tell that Glob loves badassitude so much, he’s constantly thinking about it.Continued below
“Call Me Alex” Award
Given to a mutant filled with self-loathing about their identity
The X-Men character to go through a radical physical mutation was Beast. As such, he has often been open to mutation “cures” that allow him to revert from his blue furry form. Maybe that’s why Beast had a lot of compassion to give to young Victor Borkowski, who gave up the mutant vaccine to a hate group in the hopes that he could be human again. It’s a decision that’s probably going to come back to bite Anole in his regenerating ass, but I’m glad Beast was there to give him a hug and a talking to.
“Professor Xavier is a Jerk” Award
Given to a mutant who acted like a real jerk
Ironically our first “Professor Xavier is a Jerk” award goes to the person who first uttered the words. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but leadership has brought out a nasty side of Kitty. When confronted with an opportunity to trap X-Man in another reality, Kitty elected to do so- abandoning the junior X-Men in the process! Her mentor Logan would not approve. Logan split with Cyclops in order to protect young mutants from being drafted as child soldiers. Kitty is willing to doom kids to a hellscape for a half-baked plan that will maybe take the bad guy out of commission for a while. Professor K is a jerk!
Merriest Mutant Award
Given to a mutant who found a rare moment of happiness
I’ll try not to give Gabby Kinney this award every month, but her irrepressible optimism is the gold standard for this award. When things are bleak Gabby not only finds a way to smile, she can always find the silver lining. When confronted with a mutilated emotionless cyborg clone of herself, Gabby smiled, baked cookies, and got excited to try and make a new friend. Everyone can learn a valuable lesson from Honey Badger.
MVX: Most Valuable X-Man
Given to an X-Man who embodied the values of the team and showed all around X-cellence
I don’t know what Cyclops is up to, but it’s clear that he’s going to be the key to the future for the X-Men. And Scott wouldn’t be alive without the time traveling machinations of young Nathan Charles Christopher Dayspring Gesundheit Aksani’son Summers. Killing your older self seems pretty evil, but Cable seems like the only mutant who knows what the hell he’s doing. And over in the “X-Force” series he’s kicking serious ass and keeping the world safe. It’s a bit of a leap of faith to trust him at this point, but I think he’s showing true pragmatism, especially when compared to X-Man’s inter-dimensional temper tantrum. Cable is my first pick for MVX: Most Valuable X-Man.