Storm Marauders HiX-Men
This queen welcomes you to 2020 with open arms.

We made it, everyone. It’s the end of 2019 and we’ve officially lived in a world where Jonathan Hickman oversees the X-Men universe for approximately 5 months. A lot has changed since the opening panels of House of X or Moira’s revelation that she is actually a mutant with resurrection abilities, and this week- a week where five X-books are being released simultaneously to account for the holiday shipping break- seems like the best moment to take a breath and reflect on each title and all of the crazy hooplah Marvel’s mutants are currently processing and dealing with.

At the core of the line is X-Men, written by Hickman with pencils from Leinil Francis Yu. Instead of a stable team like Xavier instituted in the past, this iteration of the X-Men only features one permanent member: Scott Summers. A rotating task force of sorts, this loose formation allows Cyclops to hand-pick a squad and respond in a targeted fashion to whatever threats the Quiet Council points him at. With Krakoa facing challenges like the biologically-driven Hordeculture or shadow organizations like Xeno, it makes sense for the mutants to have such a nimble flagship team.  

As a life-long Cyclops fan, I’m happy to see the X-Men’s signature daddy back in a positive light, but I also understand why some people may be frustrated that the classic leader- who’s received quite a lot of attention from Marvel over the last few years– is still firmly in the middle of mutant governance moving forward. Whether you’re happy or dismayed by his position in the spotlight, one thing is clear: Cyclops is willing to do anything to defend his people and that’s exactly the attitude all Krakoan citizens should emulate if they want their new nation to thrive. 

Cyclops New Mutants X-Men 8
Aren’t you married and already dating two other people, Scott?

In order for mutants to successfully leverage their way into the United Nations, Xavier made a number of miracle pharmaceuticals and placed Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw in charge of a reformed Hellfire Corporation to monitor their official and off-market distribution. The real star of the show though is Kitty Pryde (just make sure to call her Kate from now on, okay) who was brought in by Emma to help her run the global operations.

- Advertisement-

More than just a former Headmistresses turned business woman, Kate has morphed into a boisterous sea-captain who is responsible for rescuing ostracized mutants and bringing them to their new home. Not only is she incredibly empathetic and nurturing when she does come in contact with vulnerable individuals, but she’s also letting loose in an entertaining and relatable way that readers rarely see from her (or any female characters to be honest). Not only is Kate out there kicking butt and taking names in an incredibly smooth, confident manner, but she’s dancing all night, getting tattoos and kissing whomever she wants. All the partying and fighting may be catching up with her though as the Intelligence Community increasingly keeps tabs on her movements around the world. Ironically it’s Kate, seemingly the only mutant who can’t physically access Krakoa’s gates, that is the one bringing the most negative press to the young nation’s doorstep.

While Marauders’ story beats heavily impact Krakoan events- four of the core characters are members of the Quiet Council after all- it spends little physical time on the island nation. Outside of developing the Hellfire Bay, it’s actually Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara’s X-Force that explicitly focuses the most on Krakoan life and inhabitant’s shifting attitudes. A gruff, funny book that touches on everything from newly established mutant protocols to the development of new organic technology, the book is also extremely somber and wants readers to remember mutants are still feared despite their newfound joy. 

While Marauders’ story beats heavily impact Krakoan events- four of the core characters are members of the Quiet Council after all- it spends little physical time on the island nation. Outside of developing the Hellfire Bay, it’s actually Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara’s X-Force that explicitly focuses the most on Krakoan life and inhabitant’s shifting attitudes. A gruff, funny book that touches on everything from newly established mutant protocols to the development of new organic technology, the book is also extremely somber and wants readers to remember mutants are still feared despite their newfound joy. 

So far, all of X-Force should be read as a reaction to one single event: the assaination of Charles Xavier and about a dozen other innocent mutants on Krakoan soil. His death serves as a catalyst that gets everyone on the island thinking about their long-term safety, the viability of their new home and what the need to do to keep things functioning.  With the establishment of what Mystique nicknames a “mutant CIA,” Krakoa can now make sure that it is properly defended and kept abreast of threats from around the globe. It’s important to remember Xavier’s dream didn’t die alongside him as many people feared- they adapted. Now that the ideologue is back with his fellow mutants, he’s realized that, in order to succeed, he simply needs to retweak his original vision and play in the shadows a bit more moving forward. 

Out of all the Earth-bound series so far, Excalibur likely feels the most distant from the day-to-day societal organization taking place, but it is still an entertaining, thought-provoking book that deals with issues of bigotry and feelings of belonging. With Betsy Brandt taking over the Captain Britain mantle from her brother, Britain is formerly under the protection of a mutant for the first time, and the nationally charged Brits aren’t too happy about their new protector. There are a lot of praise worthy aspects in this book, like writer Tini Howard’s excellent control of Apocalypse (or as the kids call him, the Big A) or the tender relationship between Jubilee and her infant son Shogo, but I’m most excited to see how it deals with the idea of split citizenship. 

As an official servant to the Queen, Betsy is in a tense position. She’s sworn an oath to be the Queen’s representative on all matters regarding the mystical Otherworld, but she has also made it clear that she was excited and looking forward to starting a new life on Krakoa. As a mutant, she’s entitled to Krakoan citizenship and all the teleporting, resurrecting perks that come with it, but as a life-long British citizen she’s clearly honored to be called upon by her Queen. So far, we haven’t seen her deployed on a mission that puts British priorities and ethics over Krakoa, but we don’t know if that will always be the case. Based on the bigoted attitudes displayed on British faces in issue 4 this week, some kind of mutant-human conflict is brewing and only time will tell which island nation Betsy feels more obligated to stand behind.   

Not to sound disrespectful, but New Mutants is pretty much its own separate beast at the moment. Due to the relatively disjointed structure of this series- the first two issues followed characters like Magik and Sunspot in space while issues three and four focused on Glob and Armor back on Earth- it’s hard to concretely describe or define this book. That’s not to say the book is unsatisfactory, it’s quite the opposite. Every page, especially the ones written by Hickman and illustrated by Rod Reid, jumps at the reader with such a kinetic, vibrant energy . Even though this is likely the strangest book of the lineup, and it seems that things are going to get a lot weirder soon, it’s utterly delightful and clearly has major ramifications for the entire X-Universe despite how disconnected it currently seems. 

X-men Quiet Council 2019
I believe you asked for a dangerously capable group to lead your new nation?

Unfortunately, not everything is going gracefully for the X-Line. To put it gently, Fallen Angels is a bit of a mess. Beyond the interesting inclusion of ideas pertaining to technological-biological fusion and how that complicates natural evolution, the series is riddled with poor characterization and some of the most peculiar art I’ve seen from a Big 2 book in quite a while.  I enjoy some of Bryan Hill’s other work, but he fails at making this series as thought-provoking or as challenging as titles like American Carnage or Killmonger. His handling of Laura Kinney (X-23) is especially poor, ignoring year’s worth of character development to present her as nothing more than a hollow, angry fighter, but the shallow, cryptic way that he writes Kwannon is what makes the book so frustrating. I really don’t want to go too in-depth about her personal journey to stop Apoth, an AI like being that considers itself a god, because the newly announced Hellions seems like the perfect opportunity for Kwannon to escape this hellish plot line. 

As for what’s next for everyone besides the hero formerly known as Psylocke, it’s hard to truly say. Hickman may be guiding the X-Universe in a way where certain character combinations fans crave are finally happening, but he’s not one to usually make things obvious. Solicitations have already made it clear that the Sh’iar Empire and X-Men will cross paths soon, but we don’t know what the status quo for any involved players will be afterwards or just how dramatically altered the Marvel Cosmic line will be. Are we looking at a repeat Emperor Vulcan situation (I mean, it should be Empress Emma, but whatever)? Will we see the Phoenix Force and Galactus interact as two of the most powerful forces in the universe?

Most importantly, is Hickman strong enough to show everyone’s new favorite thrupple in action or will he buckle under the pressure radiating from the head Mouse upstairs?

Mutants Celebrate Krakoa
Celebrate New Years Eve like mutants celebrate Krakoa’s formation.

California labor laws may complicate how frequently this column is published moving forward, but I just want to say how much fun I’ve had helming this HiX-Men Moments of the Week series. So much has already happened, but really, we’re just at the beginning of this epic X-saga and I can’t wait to see everything that happens along the long ride.  See you all neXt year! 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.