Welcome back to another installment of Mutantversity! Mutantversity is your home for all things X-Men. In Mutantversity, I, your loyal X-Men tutor, will look at all the things happening in the mutant universe. A few months ago, Marvel relaunched everything with brand new teams and brand new titles. My goal is to streamline most of this for you and take a deeper look at the history and the future of the franchise with a focus on the new comics.
In this edition of Mutantversity, I will be catching you up on the entire X-Men universe title by title and letting you know which series are most worth your time right now. Lots of big events have happened over the summer and right now is a good time to stop, pause and take a breath to see where everything is. From here on out, you can expect an edition of Mutantversity every second Monday of the month.
Things move fast in the X-Men universe so for the sake of staying sane this catch up will take us to the first week of October 2017. This also doesn’t take the “Secret Empire” tie-ins into account because I will not put myself through that. For this catch-up, I will also only be focusing on the series spinning out of “Inhumans vs. X-Men.” In the following months, we’ll be looking at everything, including “Deadpool” and “Old Man Logan.”
Let’s start with what has become a personal favorite of mine – “Jean Grey.” Way back when the first issue came out, I was skeptical. I was not thrilled with the idea of the Phoenix Force becoming a thing again and I was especially saddened at the idea of losing any chance of getting to know this version of Jean. “Jean Grey” is a series about legacy, fate and fighting against that. The time displaced teenage Jean has been hearing someone in her head for the last few months and has recently been plagued by visions of the Phoenix Force and the destruction that comes with that. She’s decided that she’s had enough of this and takes matters into her own hands and starts to figure out what’s actually going on here.
Her journey takes her to former Phoenix Force hosts (remember “Avengers vs. X-Men?”) and to some of the biggest figures in the Marvel Universe including Psylocke, Thor, and Doctor Strange. On her journey, she learns the toll the Phoenix Force has taken on each of its former hosts and that she’s destined for the same fate because of who she is. It has its sights set on her and she’s going to have to face it head on but this time she won’t be alone. In the Doctor Strange centric “Jean Grey” #6, we find out that the voice she’s been hearing is none other than Jean Grey (the real one for this timeline) herself.
It was revealed a few weeks ago but we are going to see the real Jean Grey return to the Marvel Universe and the seeds of that return are clearly being planted right here in the pages of “Jean Grey.” Doctor Strange is able to bring teen Jean and adult Jean face to face through magic. Teen Jean has to face this mental test that adult Jean has put in her mind and in the end, adult Jean is now a sort of ghost that only teen Jean can see and talk to.
As of “Jean Grey” #7, adult Jean had basically tricked teen Jean to go see Emma Frost and a fight between this ghostly version of adult Jean and Emma Frost is about to go down. I know how this reads. It sounds completely insane but the things that teen Jean has had to face have made for a great story. Teen Jean is not adult Jean. They are really different people yet it seems that she’s destined for the same fate that her adult counterpart fell to. What’s been great about this story is that all that is being fought against. Teen Jean, with (hopefully) the help of adult Jean is not going to let the Phoenix Force come to Earth again without a fight.Continued below
She’s determined to not be this symbol and sad story that everyone remembers her adult version for. She’s determined to carve out her own path and her own fate and that’s made this series one of the best in this massive X-Men line up. I’m usually not here for resurrection stories because comics never entirely gets it right but I’m really excited to see what comes next.
As far the wider X-Men universe goes, “Jean Grey” is an absolute must read.
You know, when James Robinson was announced as the writer of “Cable,” I was fairly excited. That excitement has been short lived as the first arc of “Cable” has been fairly paint by numbers and doesn’t attempt to do a whole lot of new things with the character. In fact, it rests on the action hero aspect of the character which is what everyone does. It’s 2017, let’s incorporate that big aspect of the character in a story that has weight. The first arc of “Cable” finds the character jumping through time to try and stop Conquest from putting together this super power time sword of some kind and…that’s pretty much it.
There isn’t much else to unpack about this first full arc as each issue is just the same thing over and over. Cable gets to new time, kicks some ass, doesn’t find Conquest, goes somewhere else. It’s all action and a very simple story but it doesn’t allow Cable to evolve into a standard action hero. One of the things that really works about “Cable” is that he is very intelligent in how he goes about defeating Conquest. The fights are well choreographed and the eventual closing of the conflict fits with who Cable is.
Unfortunately “Cable” just isn’t all that interesting and unless you’re a mega fan, you can skip this series for the meantime. Ed Brisson will be taking over on writing starting with Jon Malin on art with “Cable” #150 (don’t even get me started on the numbering). It’s possible the series will pick up steam and we’ll jump into that with next month’s column.
Iceman is certainly having a year and it’s probably the most personal of all the stories being told in the X-Men lineup right now. Last year, it was revealed in “All New X-Men” that Iceman is a gay man. His younger self (time travel nonsense) found this out about himself much sooner than adult Bobby and it’s that story that’s being told now. Bobby Drake, who lived his life as a straight man, has realized this very personal self truth out about himself and for the first five issues of “Iceman,” that’s what we see him deal with.
Bobby Drake has the unenviable task of coming out to his parents. His relationship with them is already rough. They don’t see him enough and they’ve never really come to terms with his being a mutant, let alone of the most powerful mutants in the entire world. Bobby comes out to them in the midst of a Purifiers attack. They want revenge against him for his stopping them in the first issue. As he deals with them, he deals with his parents and his relationship and eventually comes out to them in a very abrupt way, which is nothing like how he planned it. His parents aren’t happy, particularly his mother but by the end of issue five, Bobby’s dad tells him that he loves him no matter what. “Iceman” is an experience that hasn’t really been explored properly in Marvel or DC and I can’t remember the last time it was when a gay man was actually writing the story.
“Iceman” is fairly disconnected from the rest of the X-Men universe. Aside from Kitty Pryde appearing, it really is its own thing. It’s a great story and one that I can’t recommend enough to you, but it’s not essential for the bigger picture.
“All New Wolverine” is my favorite series going in the X-Men universe and is probably my favorite series at the “Big Two.” “All New Wolverine” focuses on Laura Kinney, better known as X-23 as she takes over the mantle of Wolverine. In the first arc, Wolverine found out that the experiments that created her continued and she now has “sisters” out there in the world. By the end of this first arc, there are casualties and some of her “sisters” are killed but Gabby, the youngest one, remains with Laura. Together, they work to do things together that Logan just couldn’t. In some of their minor adventures they take out human traffickers and help out Squirrel Girl and in their bigger adventures, they save the world.Continued below
In the next arc, an alien crash lands in the city and unleashes a disease that can only be cured by the healing gene that Laura, Gabby and others like Deadpool and Daken share. In their attempt to save everyone, Laura almost dies, as she tries to do too much and it comes back to something that runs throughout the series. This story leads to a short crossover with the Guardians of the Galaxy that almost claims the life of Gabby but in the end, it all works out.
One of the biggest themes in this series is how much Laura doesn’t want to be Logan. She doesn’t want to kill her way out of everything and she doesn’t want Gabby to inherit that. In the arc “Enemy of the State II” that’s addressed directly has Laura gets the chance to directly fight the woman that turned her into X-23 and it’s a really emotional arc that in the end, lets Laura truly escape her past. The next arc (that we’ll get to next month) features Daken.
“All New Wolverine” is honestly the standard all the X-Men books should strive to. With Logan coming back, I think this series is going to be very important but my biggest hope is that Laura gets to keep the mantle. She’s redefined it for a new audience.
Now we jump into the team books, which have been a mixed bag. First up, “X-Men: Gold.”
“X-Men: Gold” is supposed to be the nostalgia book and while it absolutely gives you that, it’s actually a little more interesting than its “youthful” counterpart “X-Men: Blue.” Kitty Pryde has taken over the X-Men and the school is now dead center in Central Park. For the first half, before the “Secret Empire” tie-ins, the school deals with an attack from very powerful anti mutant groups. Lydia Nance is the leader of the Heritage Institute and she pays Mesmero to control and create a new Evil Brotherhood. The X-Men defeat her but they are almost immediately thrown into a massive fight against super powered up Sentinels that were made this way thanks to Gambit’s interference.
This fight against the Sentinels ends up falling on Rachel Summers’ (now going by Prestige) as only her psychic powers can put an end to this. After this fight, the X-Men have to get back to dealing with the threat of a law that would basically kick them out of America. Kitty Pryde, along with Colossus, goes to Washington D.C. to try a little diplomacy. This then leads to the next arc that deals with Colossus and Magik’s uncle making his presence known which then leads to a big fight between powered up Russian mafia dudes and the X-Men.
“X-Men: Gold” is an interesting book because it does a very good job balancing out the soap opera-esque drama that existed in Claremont’s work with generic superhero action. You have the reunion of Kitty and Colossus and the brewing romance between Rachel and Nightcrawler that’s kind of grounded the series. It isn’t new ground but it goes back to what the franchise does better than other big superhero franchises.
If you want to read just the core of the X-Men universe, then this is one you should probably put time in to. It’s kind of the center of bigger universe because of who’s involved and how fast it comes out. Personally, I’m a fan but I do like to cuddle up to what’s familiar.
Unlike “X-Men: Gold,” “X-Men: Blue” is supposed to be the fresh feeling book that is supposed to be new and bold. Unfortunately, it really isn’t and it’s harder to excuse it the way you can with “X-Men: Gold.” “X-Men: Blue” focuses on the time displaced original five. Jean Grey, Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, and Angel have left the school and gone off on their own. They’ve ended up aligning themselves with Magneto, who swears to have changed and wants to do what’s best for what’s left for the mutants. Unknown to these kids is that he’s trying to get rid of them by building a time machine.
As for this group of kids, most of their drama has revolved around Jimmy Hudson. Jimmy Hudson is the son of Wolverine from the Ultimate Universe that now doesn’t exist. Miss Sinister has plans for him and these kids but what that is is still unknown. One of the bigger arcs in this series involved the return of Madelyne Pryor, the Goblin Queen, as she attacks this group thanks in part to Beast and his recent experiments with magic. She manipulates him to try and bring all her alternate versions together to take over the world but ultimately fails. Some of the biggest personal drama that has started to unfold is the new psychic connection between Jean Grey and Cyclops. Their minds are connected now and this has been made more complicated due to Jean’s feelings for Jimmy. That’s right. “X-Men: Blue” is doing the baby version of the Jean/Cyclops/Wolverine love triangle and no it is not good.Continued below
“X-Men: Blue” feels temporary but in all honesty, that’s how “All New X-Men” felt. At any point, these characters can be done away with and that’s probably what will ultimately happen. While it’s touted as a flagship series, it doesn’t feel like it matters all that much just yet.
“Generation X” is the young X-Men book in every sense. Jubilee, still a mom and still a vampire, has become a mentor at the school. She takes a group of kids under her wing and tries to help them become the heroes they want to be, or at least that’s her goal. See, “Generation X” is kind of the misfit book and it’s headlined by a group of really eclectic kids. Quentin Quire, Bling, Nature Girl, Eye Boy, Morph and Hindsight are not really the most popular kids and in Quentin’s case, he’s the biggest troublemaker.
“Generation X” doesn’t have the same formula that the rest of the X books have. This starts with everyone moving in and causing a huge scene that gets them the label of misfits. When one mutant gets attacked, they go looking for for who did it. They end up fighting Monet but what is the core thing running through this series is how much is sucks to be a teenager and how much it sucks to also be hated by everyone in the world because you’re a mutant. Issue five of the series is focused on Eye Boy and how hard he’s had it at the school. Issue six returns the kids back to classes and gets deep into the natural drama that unfolds when you’re super powered and also teenagers and also in a comic book. Lastly, issue seven finds this group undercover and wrapped up in one of Quentin’s crazy schemes.
“Generation X” is very much the outlier of the X-Men books. It doesn’t have a huge impact on anything that happens outside of it but the writing is actually really good. The art has been kind of rough but the story really feels like something close to “Runaways.” It isn’t a vital book but if you’re into YA, this is for you.
“Astonishing X-Men” is a really strange book because it’s almost like a random little miniseries thrown together to please longtime fans while also referencing something on TV. This series is still very new, with only four issues out to date so not a ton has happened just yet. One day, The Shadow King, attacks Psylocke and she sends out a psychic distress call to some of her old allies. Old Man Logan, Gambit (w/ Fantomex), Rogue, Bishop and Angel all respond and help Psylocke get out of this attack that has forced her to lose control of her powers and attack London. When the dust settles, Beast arrives (actually Mystique in disguise) and Psylocke tells them what has to happen. The Shadow King is trying to take over every major psychic in the world and if he does, he will kill everyone on Earth. Psylocke sends everyone but Bishop and Angel into the Astral Plane and it is there that a game begins. You see, The Shadow King is playing a game with the spirit of the long dead Charles Xavier. If the Shadow King wins, he gets their bodies as vessels but if Xavier wins, he gets to kill them “with mercy.”
Charles Xavier is able to get a foothold in the game with Old Man Logan, who doesn’t trust Xavier because of the timeline he is from. That doesn’t last long as The Shadow King is able to claim Old Man Logan at the end of issue three and is now in the real world. As of issue four, possessed Logan is running wild in London while the rest of the group is still in the Astral Plane.
I think “Astonishing X-Men” is this really weird, fun thing all by itself and that’s why I enjoy it. I think this is where the official resurrection of Charles Xavier will come from because you know it’s coming sooner or later. I mean, this is the X-Men after all.
“Weapon X” is very much about its name. It’s about the often brought back Weapon X project is the focus of this series and it stars all the characters you’d expect to be attached to this – Old Man Logan, Sabretooth and Lady Deathstrike. The three of them are later joined by Domino and Warpath and as the series goes on, Amadeus Cho. “Weapon X” starts as your run of the mill team book but it centers squarely around the re-invigoration of this project and that’s what brings these characters to it. As the series goes on, it becomes part of a crossover with the Amadeus Cho “Hulk” series in “Weapons of Mutant Destruction.” Basically the new Weapon X program has taken the Hulk and Wolverine and put it together to create Weapon H. The crossover is about the creation and eventual chase to end his path of destruction. It’s actually not very good.
“Weapon X” is for the fan who still longs for the big action of the 90’s. I like Greg Pak a whole lot but this book is just really not my thing. It doesn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things but because of the actual Weapon X program, it might be worth paying a little attention to.
Whew…that’s that readers. I’ve caught you up on everything and every month, we’ll do this again but on a smaller scale since there will be less to go over. See in you a month!