Welcome back to Mutantversity, a class offered at the stately Xavier Mansion. This isn’t a space for reviewing X-Men books- we have reviews for that! But it’s wrong to bury the lede- this month had some of the most exciting X-Men comics in years. The return of some classic characters has given the X-line more direction and focus than any of the previous 10 issues. A series of dramatic moments make this the most essential X-reading since Aaron and Gillen left their respective books. You wanna know why? I’ll tell you why.
First we’re going to recap the last month of the ongoing superhero soap opera that is “X-Men.” Then we’re going to spotlight a creator who brought a rare level of X-cellence to the books. Finally, we’re going to award our Monthly Mutantversity Medals of Merit. Hang on tight true believers, this is gonna be a helluva ride!
This Month In X-Men
The X-Men have been split between two alternate realities! So you know, a regular month for them. On the one hand, we’ve got the Age of X-Man. After his battle with the X-Men and their friends, the nigh-omnipotent Nate Grey created an alternate utopia dimension, and shoved most of the world’s mutants into it. Unlike a lot of other alternate timeline situations, the Age of X-Man doesn’t seem to exist as a parallel copy. The mutants in that world have vanished from the main 616 universe.
What is this Age of X-Man like? Well there are no humans for one. There’s also no… love? It seems that utopia gets to be defined by X-Man, and that includes all his creepy preferences. There’s a real North-Korea-Glorious-Leader vibe in this world. Everyone is trained in classrooms under pictures of great mutant leaders and are assigned a career according to society’s need. The X-Men still exist, but they mainly save people from fires and stuff, because there aren’t “villains” in this Utopia. Oh yeah, and there is a pseudo-scientific breeding process that involves making new mutants in test tubes, but X-Man doesn’t want you to think about that too hard. Who needs love when you’ve got science?
Oh, also Bishop is boning down with Jean Grey and gets arrested for it because again, LOVE IS ILLEGAL. Also also, Nightcrawler is the world’s most beloved movie star, and he’s boning down with Meggan, but they haven’t been caught, and I’m sure that’ll work out for both of them.
So what’s happening in the “real” world? Well Cyclops is alive. And he’s looking for the rest of the X-Men. There’s been lots of talk about how this time, things are really bad for mutants. In “Uncanny X-Men” #11, Matt Rosenberg decides to stop talking about it and show us instead. We get to see what this dire situation looks like on the ground. And friends, it is bad. Remember the Mutant Massacre? (If you don’t, it was a time when Mister Sinister ordered a bunch of bad guys into the sewers to execute the Morlocks, a group of mutants who live there). That’s just a matter of course now. A government agency called ONE, who have nothing to do with the real life agency ICE, are taking drastic measures to reign in mutants. Loa, a beloved (by me!) and obscure X-kid gets murdered in one of these purges. Visions of a hopeless future lead Blindfold to suicide.
Not knowing where the X-Men have vanished to, Cyclops attends a hate rally. When he decides to be a total boss and ask tough questions of the unfortunately familiar bigoted politician, he earns himself a beating by her followers. She just tacitly looks on. Finally, when Cyke starts fighting back, Captain America shows up to intervene. He was pretty sure Cyclops could take the beating, but once Scott started punching back, it was time to wrap the fight up. And Cap is like, “Why Cyclops, why are you at this hate rally?”
“A person on stage was endorsing the end of my race to a cheering crowd,” Cyclops says. “I wanted to see it with my own two eyes. I wanted to challenge it to its face. I thought standing up to fascism was something you’d understand.” OH! SNAP! Anyway, why are you at a hate rally, Captain America!? Cap’s explanation is super condescending, basically one long microaggression, and Scott knows exactly what to say:Continued below
Ooh, one more time for the folks at home Mr. Summers.
That’s the stuff.
Scott turns to the TV cameras and sends out a message to the X-Men. He tells them to meet him. They know where. He says that the world needs them. He says that he needs them. You can’t see if he’s crying because he’s got those big red glasses on, but he’s definitely crying. What me? I’m not crying. You’re crying.
At the ruins of the X-Mansion, Scott waits and he hopes. He knows some X-Men must be coming to meet him. And sure enough, he hears the sound of someone emerging from the woods. He turns to greet them but it’s… Donald Pierce and the Reavers. And who’s that coming up behind them? Stryker and the Purifiers. And behind them? The Sapien League. Only hate groups heard the call, and they came, eager to kill a mutant leader and activist. “What’s it like knowing that you failed? Knowing your friends all died, the world doesn’t care and that you’re going to die all alone?” Donald Pierce asks.
“He ain’t alone,” a voice says from off panel. And then:
What!? No way! HYPE! HYPE! HYPE!
Now, I’m not here to knock good ‘ol reliable Sal Larroca, who drew this scene. I am here to say that I think this is the best issue he’s drawn since 2009. The fight is amazing: inventive, dynamic, kinetic, and brutal. Larroca has been drawing “X-Men” on and off for twenty years. This is the most passion he’s put into anything he’s drawn in a long time. It rules.
And then, we’ve got the denoument:
The X-Men are coming back, baby! Yeah!
Reunited, Cyclops and Wolverine are out of shits to give. They storm into a holding facility, and find out just how horrifying this anti-mutant sentiment has gotten. Mutants are being infected with the T-O (techno organic) virus. They’re being shoved into sentinels to be used as batteries. They’re being kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured. And Cyclops and Wolverine are just done with it all. They DGAF.
The prison break is a huge violent mess. Strong Guy doesn’t make it. But now Cyclops and Wolverine have a team, one that includes Dani Moonstar, Karma, some Multiple Mans, Magik, Havok, and Wolfsbane. They don’t know where the rest of the world’s mutants have gone, or how to solve bigotry, but they are happy the kills as many neo-nazis as it’s gonna take. And you know what? I’m glad there’s one superhero team who knows the score.
Special Spotlight: Rachelle Rosenberg
In my recap, I had a lot of praise for Salvador Larroca, a stalwart drawer of mutant books. For this month’s special spotlight though, I’d like to praise another X-artist: colorist Rachelle Rosenberg. Anyone with any familiarity with Rosenberg knows that she’s a big fan of all things mutant, so doing art for the main X-series must be a dream come true for her. Rosenberg is one of the most talented colorists in superhero books, and you can feel her passion for the work on every page.
The colorist does a lot to set the tone for a comic, and Rosenberg crushes it. Cyclops’ return is moody and atmospheric. His world is a cold and empty blue. Sometimes it washes out to grey. But the X-Men leader himself? He’s blasting desperate, raging red across every page, and it contrasts with the bleak emptiness of every sewer, snowscape, and hate rally he finds himself in.Continued below
That fight I mentioned before? Larroca wisely uses a lot of silhouettes, stepping away from his heavily photoreferenced “Star Wars” work. This gives Rosenberg the chance to take the reins a bit, and she’s so good that Larroca’s weaknesses become her strengths. They are a killer team. Some people are so talented, they make everyone else around them look like crap. But some people are so talented, they smooth over the rough edges and make everyone look better. Rachelle Rosenberg is the best at what she does, and what she does is color the hell out of “X-Men” comics.
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
Here’s a dude from the 90s who just wrapped up a little solo series. Let’s check in with Gaveedra Seven. Superfluous boxing headgear? Check. Battling an army of his own clones? Check. All those clones are gritting their many, many, too many teeth? Big check. Two swords, each of which are somehow also two swords. Double check! (Or is that a quadruple check!?) Yep, Shatterstar checks all the boxes. Enjoy your medal you weird crazy inter-dimensional diamond.
“Call Me Alex” Award
Given to a mutant filled with self-loathing about their identity
This one is rough. Sometimes mutant powers really can feel like a curse. In “Uncanny” #11, that feeling caught up to Ruth Aldine. Born without eyes and the uncontrollable ability to see the future, Blindfold has always had it harder than mutants who can read minds or fly. In #11, Ruth won the lottery, gave some cryptic advice to Scott Summers, and then took her own life. The story was tragic, but handled with the kind of unsubtle sensitivity you’d expect to find in an “X-Men” comic. The issue even included the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) in the back of the book. On the one hand, I don’t want to undercut the serious attempt made by the book by giving it a flippant award, but after thinking about it, I have no problem using whatever platform I have to signal boost.
“Professor Xavier is a Jerk” Award
Given to a mutant who acted like a real jerk
Eventually, the real villain in Age of X-Man will no doubt be revealed to be X-Man, pulling the strings. Shocker. And as a test tube baby, he decided to make a world where all banging is illegal. On top of that, he’s so upset that Bishop was sleeping with his mom, that he had the guy locked in jail, tortured, and brainwashed. Or so it would seem. We haven’t actually seen X-Man give the order. All he’s done is gallivant around like some kind of mutant psychic hippie Jesus. But you know who sucks in this world? Psylocke! She may just be a crony, but so far she’s been the face of anti-love enforcement. It’s up to her to capture, imprison, and reprogram all deviants in this society which seems like, you know, a jerk move. For being the evil cops in this supposed utopia, Psylocke is our Jerk of the Month.
Merriest Mutant Award
Given to a mutant who found a rare moment of happiness
In the Age of X, love is forbidden. Meggan Puceanu is the world’s most famous actress, appearing opposite Kurt Wagner, the world’s most famous actor. For the many years they fought alongside each other on the Excalibur team, Kurt and Meggan shared an attraction, but she was in a committed relationship with Captain Britain. The two shared a smoldering sexual tension, but ultimately decided to just be friends. In this reality though? The law isn’t gonna stop these two from hooking up, and power to them.
Speaking of power, Meggan’s is that she’s an empath. She can feel the emotions of those around her. What she’s feeling is love for the sexiest blue elf creature in the world, and what he’s feeling is a love for her. A forbidden, passionate, sexy love. The thing is, not only is she feeling her feelings, she’s also feeling his! And look at them! Those two are very sexy. So not only does Meggan get to consummate a love she’s held over decades and dimensions, but she gets to feel that love back at her. And so on and so on. In the face of true love, Meggan gets to feel the whole thing like an infinite feedback loop. I’m not saying this isn’t gonna end up with cops, and murder, and tears- it will. But for right now, Meggan is the happiest a mutant can be, maybe the happiest any being has ever been, at least for a little while.Continued below
MVX: Most Valuable X-Man
Given to an X-Man who embodied the values of the team and showed all around X-cellence
There are people out there who think Cyclops is lame, a stick in the mud, a bore. These people are fools. Scott Summers is the leader of a badass superhero team that protects a world that hates and fears them. This month, he stood up to a bigoted politician, cursed out Captain America for being a bad ally, murdered three gangs of hate criminals, and staged a jailbreak. Cyclops has nerves of steel, can take a beating, and knows the proper time to laser a neo-nazi in the face. This is the kind of inspiration we should all be taking from superheroes. This is what “X-Men” is all about. Haters step aside, I am proud to give Cyclops the MVX award.