Welcome back to Mutantversity, a class offered at the Stately Xavier Mansion. This isn’t a place to find big reviews of X-books, but it’s a great way to keep up with one of the most complicated superhero books around. We’ll learn, we’ll laugh, maybe we’ll make some new friends, maybe we’ll witness some casual dismemberment. We will definitely have a few choice things to say about how comics choose to represent Kitty Pryde’s Judaism. As your designated X-Pert, I will do my best to help you work through everything Marvel’s Merry Mutants have to offer!
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. Stick with me true believers, and maybe we’ll survive this experience!
This Month In X-Men
In the Age of Apocalypse, Hank McCoy became a brilliant but twisted scientist, unshackled from his ethics and scruples. That Dark Beast is in the basement of Harry’s Hideaway, a prisoner of Scott Summers and the X-Men, but he’s having himself a delightful time.
After delivering a few choice words to Captain America, Cyclops has entered into a shaky alliance. There’s not a lot of trust, but the two superhero leaders are happy to use each other to keep mutant prisoners in line. It’s an uncomfortable statement on complicity. Scott doesn’t want to be an accomplice to the government abuses of mutants, but he doesn’t really have a jail to lock people up in. It’s a real no win scenario for him.
For example, the Mutant Liberation Front is ready to kill a bunch of humans at a racist rally. Scott is happy to punch Nazis, and kill lynch mobs, but he draws the line at the mass murder of protesters I guess. One complication- the MLF is being led by his sort of granddaughter, Hope. Also, their initials are far too close to MILF for comfort. They should rebrand.
A quick primer on Hope. She was the mutant messiah, and has the ability to use the powers of any mutants in her immediate vicinity. Way back in “Avengers vs X-Men,” she harnessed the power of the Phoenix Force to undo the spell Scarlet Witch cast preventing new mutants from being born. Hope was raised anachronistically, jumping through timelines with her adopted dad Cable. You probably know that Cable is Cyclops’ son, even though he’s due to some time travel shenanigans, older than his dad. You know how that goes.
Hope mostly wrecks the X-Men, only getting incapacitated when Logan kebabs her like a marshmallow on a stick. Before going down, she fires off one more shot and hit her granddad in the face.
Holy hell, Cyclops is… an actual cyclops.
The operation was performed by Dark Beast, who really doesn’t seem like a prisoner. He even had time to cure the New Mutants of the Techno Organic virus they’d been infected by, something that was supposed to be impossible. He also did some twisted experiments on Multiple Man. Why do I get the feeling that Dark Beast is the only one who’s got a plan here?
Scott has a crisis of faith, but that leads him to do something awesome. He makes the X-Men a democracy. He still calls the critical shots in the field, but his team is not a dictatorship. That is a baller move, and I can’t believe no superhero team has decided to go collective quite like this before. Their first vote? They add Hope and Banshee to the team.
Aw hell, a refresher on Banshee. Sean Cassidy was one of the first additions to the X-Men team way back in “Giant Sized X-Men” #1. He was comfortably older than the rest of the team, and just chilled smoking a pipe while all of them were having college kid drama. He shacked up with Moira MacTaggert and generally was above all the petty drama. Then he was killed in a freak plane crash. He was brought back by the Apocalypse Twins (they’re bad guys) but unlike most resurrected X-Men, he returned as a freaky emaciated zombie. And now he’s the X-Men’s pet zombie I guess.Continued below
With barely any time to recover, the X-Men jump back into action to stop Magneto and the Brotherhood. “But hang on,” I hear you asking me. “I’ve been diligently keeping up with the absurd number of X-comics, and everyone knows that Magneto is in the Age of X-Man.” Well it turns out it’s not really Magneto, it’s his clone Joseph.
OK so Joseph first appeared when a mutant named Astra… you know what? It ain’t worth it. Joseph’s backstory is confusing, uninteresting, and ignored by modern writers. What you need to know is that Joseph is a punkass copy of Magneto, he knows he’s trash and that basically defines his whole personality. This is evident when the Brotherhood finds out he’s fake Magneto (Magnefaux). Juggernaut immediately switches sides and helps bring him down. He’d rather be an X-Man than be in the lame Joseph brotherhood.
The X-Men are gonna take Joseph in, but don’t have a chance because his head is liberated from his body. The culprit? None other than Kwannon, aka Revanche.
OK, so when Psylocke first lost her original body… you know what? Rain check on the Revanche talk. Because there’s still one big X-Moment to discuss, and that’s the funeral of Rhane Sinclair. That’s right, Wolfsbane was killed, and her funeral was given an entire issue. Rhane was one of the original New Mutants, and always a tough character to get a hold of. She was raised in an intolerant and religious household, and was constantly drawn between demure innocence, and bloody Asgardian werewolf adventures. She got a respectful funeral, including an obituary from Magik that acknowledged her inevitable return.
Wolverine took things less well. He teamed up with Revanche and found some human bigots to fight. A bunch of government creeps were killed in the process. Cyclops didn’t like that, and the two came to blows. We almost had another schism on our hands, but not before Juggernaut of all people asked where Emma Frost got off to. And Cyclops was like, “Who dat?” WHAT!?
OK, so when we last saw Emma… no, I know we’ve got to move on. Plenty of time to talk about Emma next month. And I am sure there will be lots to say. And geez, we haven’t even checked in with the Age of X-Man yet.
The truth is, not a lot happened in the Age of X-Man this month. We’ve gotten to the middle of a drawn out crossover event, where everything is given room to breathe, but because we know this is all temporary, and it’s hard to figure out what the lasting stakes are going to be. Bishop is still surviving in jail, and untangling an intriguing mystery. Nightcrawler is having movie studio drama, and a bit of an existential crisis. The X-Kids are closest to getting to the bottom of the over-arching “the universe is fake” mystery.
Oh, and um, Apocalypse goysplained a menorah to Kitty Pryde. Seriously, if I never see another panel of Kitty Pryde pondering a menorah, it’ll be too soon. Is it too much to have her with some nice shabbos candles? Maybe show her hammering a mezuzah onto a doorway? I am so sick of Kitty’s Jewishness being expressed through her relationship to the overly commercial Jewish holiday most famous for its proximity to Christmas. Baruch HaShem, give her a fucking afikoman to hide.
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.Continued below
“Uncanny X-Men” #15– family drama, superpowers, this is how you do X-Men!
“Uncanny X-Men” #16 – some deep cut characters show up, and the stakes continue to feel high
“Uncanny X-Men” #17 – somber and ponderous, but a hell of a last page twist
“Age of X-Man: Prisoner X” #2– this book continues to be the standout in “Age of X-Man”
“Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men” #2– good team, but they aren’t doing anything interesting
“Age of X-Man: Apocalypse and the X-Tracts” #2– after a tremendous debut, issue 2 slows down
“Age of X-Man: NextGen” #3 – the plot treads water after last issues big reveals
“Age of X-Man: Amazing Nightcrawler” #3 – best issue yet, but the tie-in doesn’t feel essential
“Age of X-Man: X-Tremists” #3 – or maybe this is the best Age of X-Man tie-in. Simply outstanding.
“Age of X-Man: Prisoner X” #3 – the scope widens, but this excellent series remains brilliantly focused
“X-Force” #6– if you want 90s-style shenanigans without 90s poor quality, this is the book for you
“X-23” #11– I love Laura & Gabby dearly. This book is lovingly crafted. This book makes me feel sad.
“Mr. and Mrs. X” #10 – I am not a Rogue + Gambit person, but this issue warmed my heart
“Major X” #1– very successful at what it is trying to do, but why do it in the first place?
“Major X” #2– it’s not good… but it sure is something!
“Major X” #3 – as the novelty wears off, it becomes clear that this is a case of diminishing returns
“War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men” #1 – Cool to see these B-list mutants working as a team
Special Spotlight: Leah Williams
I’m continuously shocked that Leah Williams doesn’t have a deeper bibliography of published comic issues, because every single issue she’s written leaves an outsized impact. Two of her one-shot “X-Men” issues became instant classics: “X-Men Black: Emma Frost” and “What If? Magik.” Now she’s writing “Age of X-Man: The X-Tremists.” My personal favorite “Age of X-Man” tie-in has been “Prisoner X,” but I’d be lying if I said that I was anything less than obsessed with “X-Tremists.” It consumes me. I can’t stop thinking about it between issues. I track down interviews, tweets, Reddit AMAs, whatever I can, to hear Leah Williams talk about the series. It’s clear she has a lot of ambition of what she hopes to cover in it, but what blows my mind is how universally successful she and her art team have been.
The core of the series is an unlikely romance between Blob and Psylocke. Different people probably have different assumptions of what that looks like, but so far it has been played with subtlety and class. Weird amounts of subtlety and class. The two of them talk classic British love poetry, but it doesn’t feel contrite. It really sounds like two people talking about poetry- its content, its context, the differences between when it was written and the world they find themselves in. I cannot tell you the last time poetry came up in a cape comic and I didn’t roll my eyes. I was also deeply moved by a long monologue delivered by Psylocke, openly talking about her eating disorder and the dysmorphia she felt long before swapping bodies. Instead of flinching away from one of the most uncomfortable moments in X-history, Williams explores it for a deeply affecting consideration of self-hatred. I’m honestly kind of shook with how real it felt.
That’s Williams’ attitude towards all of comics writing. She was told her miniseries was going to be about the “secret police” of this distopian world, so she decided to lean into the Gestapo vibes and really criticize it to its core. Instead of a series of preachy essays, there’s great character work, plus we got leather daddy Iceman in suspenders, which might be my new favorite version of Iceman. On top of all of this talent, she’s a damn good scripter. Most “Age of X-Man” tie-ins have centered cliffhangers around moments of violence, pulling away from a big mutant scrum. “X-Tremsits” #3 has a big splash page of violence on the third to last page, then a dramatic turn on the second to last page. The final moments were saved for a smaller character beat, but damn if it didn’t grab me more than a twist or a fight. Williams was cool enough to decide her superhero-turned-Gestapo miniseries would be structured like a romance, confident enough to subvert her very premise, and skilled enough to follow through on her best ideas. I can’t wait until she’s given a big series and she really starts flipping metaphoric tables. Read every issue that Leah Williams writes, she’s our Special Spotlight of the month!Continued below
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
There was a new miniseries this month by the father of Cable’s Pouch himself, Rob Liefeld. I almost disqualified it from the running. Anything Liefeld does is sure going to be full of gritted teeth and self-satisfied badasses, posturing and kicking faces. I looked to other X-books. But then along came Dreadpool. That’s right, Deadpool, but more dreadful. He doesn’t tell jokes so much as he references Blue Oyster Cult while doing murders. He’s got exxxtra pouches, and a useless shoulderpad. I wanted to deny him, but I can’t. Dreadpool wins Cable’s Pouch.
“Call Me Alex” Award
Given to a mutant filled with self-loathing about their identity
Jamie Madrox has a really interesting power, and I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to explore its limits. But this is a step too far. After being kidnapped and possessed by X-Man and Legion, Jamie reluctantly left his wife and kid and farm to help out the X-Men. Where’d that land him? In a dungeon being tortured by Dark Beast and infected with the T-O virus, just to see what’ll happen. Mutants are persecuted just for being who they are, but its a special hell that is being inflicted on Multiple Man.
“Professor Xavier is a Jerk” Award
Given to a mutant who acted like a real jerk
I don’t fault Hope for becoming a counter-culture revolutionary after the death of her beloved dad (though leading a team with such luminaries as Dragoness, Forearm, and um, zombie Banshee is sort of a loser move). Assassinating a racist politician is some anti-hero territory, but that’s not what makes her a jerk. No, Hope is a jerk for how she treats her fellow X-Men. From microwaving Logan down to a ribcage to shooting out her own grandpa’s eye, Hope could not play nicely with others this month. Seriously, popping a cap in your gramps is a jerk move.
Merriest Mutant Award
Given to a mutant who found a rare moment of happiness
Dark Beast (unfortunately)
That’s depressing right? The X-Men are barely managing to wring out some small victories, but there’s one mutant who is exactly where he wants to be. That’s the Hank McCoy of Earth-295, Dark Beast. Last month he was captured and locked in the basement of a bar. This month he performed a successful surgery on his jailer (ultimate power move), cured an incurable virus, committed some casual war crimes, and 900 other secret things we don’t yet know about. The mutants are backed into a corner, scrapping to stay alive. Dark Beast is living his best version of life, doing twisted experiments and plotting maniacally.
Fastball Special Award
Given to a duo who exhibited great friendship, collaboration, and teamwork
Magik and Mirage
When the X-Men went into battle this month, it was scattered. Cyclops was crippled when he and Wolverine couldn’t work as a team. But one classic duo stuck together no matter what. Ilyana Rasputin and Dani Moonstar fought side by side, as X-Men should. The two of them have been teammates since they were teenagers, seen each other die, resurrect, and become goddesses. They know how dangerous this superhero game is, they barely survived the Techno Organic Virus, and they are not letting each other out of each others sight. (I only wish they extended that protection to Wolfsbane…)
Let’s Talk About X Baby Award
Given to the sweetest, sexiest, bestest romantic couple
Rogue and Gambit
It’s funny that the womanizing lech and the uncontrollable psychic vampire have become the face of healthy romance in the mutant world, but here we are. The ultimate X-couple. They’ve gotten multiple series written about their love. They’ve got so much chemistry, they make us forget that we’ve never thought of “Cajun” as sexy and exotic before. We can ignore that Rogue talks like your batty Southern aunt (“long-tailed cat in a room fulla rockin’ chairs!”). They are good for each other. These two got married and instantly became the premiere married couple of the Marvel universe- and there aren’t too many! Fighting off the Shi’ar in the far corners of space and starting a revolution in Mojoworld are classic X-Men adventures, and Rogue and Gambit are so powerful together, they don’t even need the support of the rest of the team. On paper, nothing about them should work, but that’s how you know their love is truly, profoundly real. It defies all logic.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 was a small moment when Cyclops stepped down as de facto X-Men leader where most of the team blanched; everyone except for Dani Moonstar. The mutant called Mirage is no stranger to making the hard calls as team leader. With Scott stepping down, she was arguably the most qualified person in that room. But that’s not what she did. She created something new. It was her suggestion to make the X-Men a democracy. It may turn out to be a disaster- I can think of a few questionable decisions made by democracies recently. But Dani’s decision was creative and incredibly brave. She saw the opportunity to take power and responsibility and she didn’t run away or blindly accept it. She spoke her truth and possibly took the X-Men into a new era. For standing up for what she believes in and having the backs of her fellow mutants, Dani is this month’s MVX.