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! “Uncanny X-Men” continues to be great, and things are slowly heating up over the “Age of X-Man.” We’re jumping all over the place in terms of continuity but as your dedicated X-pert, I’ll try to help you keep your head above water.
First we’re going to recap the last month of the ongoing superhero soap opera that is “X-Men.” Next, I’ll tell you which X-Men books I looked at this month, and whether I thought they were worth reading. Then, we’re going to spotlight a creator who brought a rare level of X-cellence to the line. 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
Most of the world’s mutants have been whisked away to an alternate Footloose dimension! Cyclops, Wolverine, and the B-Team are struggling for their lives. Here’s what’s up in this month of X-Men.
The X-Men are literally hiding out in Harry’s Hideaway, the team’s favorite bar since the 80s. Things are still looking bleak. They got no money, no mansion, no jet, no uniforms, and no hope. It’s 90 miles to Genosha, they got a full tank of gas, a half a pack of cigarettes, it’s nighttime, and Cyclops at least, is wearing sunglasses.
Then they turn one of those things around! Wolverine snooped around the ruins of Stately Xavier Manor and returned with some uniforms. Some old uniforms. The awesome Jim Lee designed ones. Any comic that takes the time to justify a sartorial choice in the story gets an A+ from me. And Cyclops man, he is continuing to crush it. Desperation really brings out the ruby in his eyes, and the leadership in his heart. He wrote up a hit list of everything the X-Men are still going to have to take care of, even with the majority of the team missing. It is one hell of a list. It reads:
- Dark Beast
- Mister Sinister
- Cassandra Nova
- The Shadow King
- Omega Red
- Nanny & Orphan Maker
- The Marauders
- The Externals
- Children of the Vault
- The Acolytes
- Mutant Force
- The Neyaphem
- The Nasty Boys
- Clan Akkaba
- Gene Nation
- The Mutant Liberation Front
- The New Brotherhood
- The Upstarts
- Factor Three
- The Neo
- The Savage Land
- The Morlocks
- The New Mutants
- FIND THE X-MEN
That’s a freaking huge list and nowhere does it say “growing bands of deadly bigots” and “protect a world that fears and hates us” though I guess that last one is implied. That’s 31 problems. But maybe it’s not as bad as it looks? Vulcan, as far as I remember, is dead. So scratch that off the list. Cassandra Nova was recently lobotomized by Jean Grey and the X-Men Red team, so potentially two problems off the board. Magneto, Apocalypse, and Omega Red are definitively in the Age of X-Man parallel universe. Still, one hell of a list.
(For the record, I needed to look up Mutant Force, Factor Three, and the Neo, and I needed to seriously brush up on Mortis, the Children of the Vault, Gene Nation, and the Neyaphem. Never be afraid to do extra homework aspiring X-perts!)
Scott’s team first targets Dark Beast. He’s gotten some upgrades, and is a creepy robot spider. There’s an awesome fight, and Magik severs enough of his robot limbs that they take him hostage and force him to work on a secret project. I’m sure he definitely won’t betray them, right?
Next they go after the Marauders. Scrambler gets the drop on them, and gets away. No dice, Marauders are still at large.Continued below
So they go talk to the Morlocks. The outcast mutants don’t trust Cyclops at all, but Scott isn’t looking for love, he’s looking for results. So he takes the X-Men to Chernaya, the fake former Soviet satellite state that X-Force has been blowing up in their little series. After the X-Men have a showdown with a freaking Metal Gear (!) (Metal Gear!!?), they throw a quick little coup and just like that Chernaya is a sovereign Morlock state. I can’t wait to see Chamber and Callisto speak before the UN.
Meanwhile, in the Age of X-Man, mutants are starting to see past the lies. Despite the brainwashing, they are having flashes of memory to their lives before this world. It’s kinda like that thing in the last episode of Lost, but without the Michael Giacchino music. (New plan: read “X-Men” while listening to Giacchino.) These flashes of memory are tantalizing, but they seem unsustainable. How long until you think that boils over? If X-Man can’t prevent people from remembering their life before the brainwashing, he’s going to have a real problem on his hands.
There are a lot a lot of miniseries, but in brief: Bishop is in jail. It sucks for him there, but he’s starting to remember life before the Age of X-Man. The X-Tremists are a secret police, but they are amazing friends with each other and are kind of a great team? It makes you want an ongoing about Blob, Psylocke, Jubilee, Iceman, and Northstar. Yes, really. The X-Tracts are a radical team of villains in every sense of the word. They love love man. Evan Sabbah Nur is the son of En Sabbah Nur, which is a fascinating new dynamic for those two. Actually, everything about Apocalypse is interesting in this world. Usually, he believes aggressively in survival of the fittest, and thus wants to wipe out humans to give mutants the chance to prove themselves through conflict. What happens when he lives in a peaceful world where everyone is a mutant? He changes his tune. Now he’s all about toppling the false gods of the X-Men and giving radical freedom to every mutant. It makes a weird amount of sense. Plus, he’s on a collision course with Omega Red, and this version looks way more interesting than Vanilla Omega Red.
Nightcrawler is world’s most beloved mutant, but he’s secretly sleeping with Meggan, which is illegal. Naughty elf. The X-kids are all over the place, but Glob Herman is um, made of wax, and therefore um, he can’t like, be brainwashed? That makes zero sense to me, but it positions him to be the new Layla Miller, who awakened everyone at the end of a nearly identical alternate universe story ‘House of M.’ (Not to be confused with the also similarly premised ‘Age of X.’) The X-Men do this thing a lot.
Which begs the question: when mutants make alternate reality utopias, why do they always also make villains for themselves? You’d think as long as they’re rewriting the minds of everyone on the planet, they’d remember not to create an insurrection. The psychology of that phenomena is fascinating.
This Month’s X-Books
There are a lot of X-books to keep track of. That’s one of the reasons we do a recap, so you can keep up with the broad strokes of the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe. Maybe you want to follow along, but aren’t sure which X-books are worth picking up. Mutantversity has you covered. Here are the X-books in consideration for the month, and a lightning round opinion on their quality.
“Uncanny X-Men” #13 – this book rules, and continues to rule
“Uncanny X-Men” #14 – no surprise, this issue shines. Full of deeps cuts (Wolverine pun intended)
“Uncanny X-Men: Winter’s End” #1 – Sina Grace continues to absolutely crush it, unmissable finale
“Age of X-Man: Prisoner X” #1 – spooky and mysterious, probably the best ‘Age of X-Man’ tie-in
“Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men” #2 – perfectly adequate
“Age of X-Man: Nextgen” #2 – totally all over the place, but nice to see more of these characters
“Age of X-Man: Apocalypse and the X-Tracts” #1 – a really exciting start to another exciting mini
“Age of X-Man: Amazing Nightcrawler” #2 – overwrought, talky, and soapy
“Age of X-Man: X-Tremists” #2 – as this series continues, the character work just gets stronger
“X-23” #10 – too dour, even for a Laura Kinney story
“X-Force” #4 – Stupid? Yes. Did I throw up the horns like at was at a hair metal show? Fine, I will admit it
“X-Force” #5 – Time travel! Explosions! Robots! …it was fine.
“Mr. and Mrs. X” #9 – this series continues to be a wacky good time
“Wolverine: The Long Night” #3 – doesn’t cover any new ground, but not a bad read for Logan lovers
Special Spotlight: Vita Ayala
There’s been an element of mystery to a lot of the ‘Age of X-Man’ tie-ins. We’re learning the history of this created world, where all the characters ended up, where the cracks are starting to form on the edges of the reality, and where this universe is going to end up. So color me shocked that the best tie-in in the whole bunch is the impenetrable one about Bishop in prison. This is largely thanks to writer Vita Ayala. They’re making the whole mystery box thing work with a command of tone that’s so finely honed, you can hear it whistling as you flip through the pages.
Ayala is one of those creators who’s been around for a while, and then suddenly landed a bunch of exciting series all at once. They wrote “Wonder Woman” and “Supergirl” for DC, contributed to “Twisted Romance” and “The Secret Loves of Geeks” and “Bitch Planet: Triple Feature,” and wrote a “Magic the Gathering: Chandra” miniseries. The last one I read and loved without knowing it was by the same author as all these others. That’s a hell of a resume, but all of sudden they’re also writing “Livewire” for Valiant, the celebrated “Shuri” series for Marvel, and contributing to “X-Men.”
Which brings us back around to the Age of X-Man. “Prisoner X” is moody, weird, and propulsive. It demands to be read, aggressively. You gotta know what’s gonna happen next. It’s easy to be strange and mysterious, but it’s hard to make that seem like it matters. It’s the kind of thing that drives millions of people to keep watching Lost even though they worried they wouldn’t like the ending. It’s the promise of good storytelling now, and in the moment. Vita Ayala makes you want to read an event tie-in, and by the end of it, “Prisoner X” might be the series that makes the whole crossover event seem worthwhile.
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
The leader of the Morlocks is never not cool, but Callisto has been consistently bringing it in this department. She’s been turning baditude into raditude. The grungy look, the aggressive posturing, she’s doing her thing very well. Let’s just say that if you yell at Wolverine’s skull for chipping your knife, you’re all but guaranteed to win this award.
“Call Me Alex” Award
Given to a mutant filled with self-loathing about their identity
Alex Summers wins his namesake award! Havok has shown a measure of self-awareness, but his reaction to the current mutant crisis is sadly predictable. While Cyclops is getting ready to fight the good fight no matter what, Alex is hemming and hawing and second guessing everyone. Alex’s reaction to the hopelessness in the current mutant crisis? He almost seems relieved. A world with no mutants and no hope of mutants in the future is like staring into the abyss, and Havok is so ashamed of being a mutant, it’s like looking into a nihilistic mirror.
“Professor Xavier is a Jerk” Award
Given to a mutant who acted like a real jerk
Wow, besides having an amazing beard, there is not a lot of reason to like the Hank McCoy of the Age of X-Man. He’s a brutal, nasty leader of a prison gang and it seems more likely than not that he was jailed for um, let me check my notes… cannibalism? Are you serious? That’s a little more villainous than jerk behavior. Well, I guess he’s got the jerk thing covered too. A nasty, nasty guy.
Merriest Mutant Award
Given to a mutant who found a rare moment of happiness
For an alleged utopia, not a lot of residents of the Age of X-Man seem all that happy. But Fred Dukes is doing kind of great? He’s in a world without families, without parentage, without love, without sex, and without body shame. The biggest movie star in the world is a furry blue elf. People regularly have odd numbers of limbs, or no eyes, or are sharks, or made of pink goo. Without the constant barrage of fat-shaming, it turns out Blob is a really chill dude. He’s got a sweet ‘stache, he’s besties with Psylocke (and maybe something more!?), and he’s just trying to be a good cop. He’s gentle where he could be rough, a pal to his co-workers, and a mentor to the younger members of the squad. Blob is usually miserable, this month, he’s our merriest mutant. I hope this version of him sticks around!
Fastball Special Award
Given to a duo who exhibited great friendship, collaboration, and teamwork
Glob Herman & Armor
It’s hard to be the only one who knows stuff, as Bishop and Layla Miller can attest. In the “Age of X-Man,” Glob Herman is the only one who entirely remembers the old world, and he tries to share that with his classmate Hisako. But it’s gotta be even harder to trust a friend who seems to be going crazy, to support them, and to listen instead of trying to “help” them. Glob and Armor have always been good teammates, but this month they stepped things up into a real friendship. They support each other in the face of madness and danger, and soon enough it’s gonna be the two of them versus the world. That’s why the inaugural Fastball Special Award for friendship and collaboration goes to these two crazy kids.
Let’s Talk About X Baby Award
Given to the sweetest, sexiest, bestest romantic couple
Psylocke and Blob
I know, I didn’t see this one coming either, but everything about Blob and Psylocke is amazing. They live in a world where love is forbidden. Betsy is psychic, and can see that Fred is into her. She kindly offers to erase his memory of their romance, which is after all, their freaking job. He calls in sick for three days. She visits him at home. His house is filled with beautiful things: art, books, tea. And he tells her he’s got no expectations, but he needs to remember his feelings, even if they hurt. He’d rather live with the pain than feel nothing at all. And Betsy’s reaction? She crawls across the table to her friend, her co-worker, her comrade, her partner… her lover? I got chills. The writing and art was so genuinely sexy, I was forced to add another medal celebrating romance. Blobsy 4eva.
MVX: Most Valuable X-Man
Given to an X-Man who embodied the values of the team and showed all around X-cellence
What a true transformation Bobby Drake’s solo series has been. A groovy journey of gay self discovery and ice wizards has come to an end, and Iceman has never been a cooler character. After years of teases and insinuations, he’s come really far into seizing his true, unbelievable powers. He’s built up relationships that had soured, gotten good (well, OK) at dealing with his crummy parents, found a new community for himself- everything’s coming up Bobby. Most importantly, he’s shown deep compassion for those who wish him ill, including Emma Frost, her brother Christian (well, there might be a spark of something there), and even a future wizard jerk version of himself. I was always whatever towards Bobby Drake. Now I can’t wait to see Iceman take his rightful place at the forefront of the X-Men.