So you think you know the X-Men? New reboot upends status quo

By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

 Marvel Comics made a big announcement about the X-Men at San Diego’s Comic-Con last month, which was – ironically – buried under Marvel Cinematic Universe news. But now that it’s underway, the X-Men re-launch deserves a spotlight all its own.

Marvel had already announced before SDCC that it would shake up the X-Men titles in July, canceling all titles and handing the franchise to superstar writer Jonathan Hickman to retool. He would then write two six-issue miniseries – House of X and Powers of X – which would alternate every week for 12 weeks, in order to set the stage for a new line of X-books in October.

 And lo, as promised, a new line of X -books was announced at SDCC for “Dawn of X,” the umbrella title for the re-launch.

Not that this caused much X-citement, because reboots have become so common in comics that no one really X-pects much when one is announced. Heck, the X-Men line of books just went through a reboot not too long ago, which one would be hard pressed to identify now.

Not this time. These last few weeks, as House of X and Powers of X have hit the stands, Hickman has X-ploded the status quo. This isn’t your father’s X-Men, or even your older brother’s X-Men. This is an X-Men nobody has ever seen before.

In just the first two issues of House of X, Hickman has established that mutants will outnumber humans within 20 years, which adds a little urgency to the many mutant extermination programs (Sentinels, etc.) run by various human groups and nations. Further, Professor Xavier has given up on his dream of human and mutant co-habitation, and created a refuge for his kind on the mutant (and sentient) island of Krakoa, introduced way back in 1975. Further further, Krakoa produces three unique, life-changing drugs, which the “Krakoans” – who have their own language now – will give to any nation that recognizes Krakoa and establishes diplomatic ties. Further further further, Krakoa can grow teleportation portals anywhere its seeds are planted, and now the mutants can teleport instantaneously anywhere there’s a portal, from Jerusalem to New York to the Moon to Mars. 

Art by Pepe Larraz. Copyright Marvel Comics.

House of X #1 reboots the X-Men with a new mission in the present, a new possible future and multiple possible pasts. It stars (from left) Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Prof. X and Magneto.

After a few more furthers we get to another huge knowledge bomb: Moira MacTaggert, a former flame of Xavier also introduced in the ‘70s, has revealed herself to be a mutant – one who reincarnates in the womb each time she dies, with all of her memories intact. She is now on her tenth life, which probably explains the title House of X, if you read it as “House of 10.” 

This is a shocker, because Moira – who spawned the supervillain Proteus with Xavier – has always been depicted as a human. A human sympathetic to mutants, yes, but a human just the same.

But now she’s revealed as a mutant with multiple lives, and as we learn in House of X #2, she wasn’t always pro-mutant. Hickman gives us a timeline and salient information about each of her previous nine lives – except for the sixth, about which he tells us nothing. Anyway, in her third life, Moira regarded mutation as a curse, and developed a cure. Had the cure been made public it would have wiped out all mutants, but Moira was stopped in her tracks – and burned alive – by some familiar mutants of dubious morals. Warned against trying those shenanigans again, and seeing firsthand the visceral hate directed at mutants in other lives, Moira went the other way, allying with, in different timelines, Xavier, Magneto or Apocalypse. 

She was warned back in Life No. 3 that she may only have 10 or 11 lives before she’s kaput for good, so she’s decided that this life she’s going for broke – and talked Xavier into it as well. Life No. 10 appears to be the one we’ve all been reading since the X-Men’s debut in 1963, one in which Moira died some time ago – except Hickman’s timelines assure us that her death was faked. 

That’s pretty fascinating. And it tells us that there’s a ton more to know yet to come – literally nine other colossal stories that re-write X-Men history as we know it, again and again. Best of all, if there are any elements of X-history that Hickman forgets or ignores or trashes in his current tales … well, rest easy, longtime X-fans. That thing you loved did happen, but in another of Moira’s lives.

Is that genius, or what? 

And that’s not the only consideration. For one thing, in the first few pages of House of X, it looks like Xavier and Krakoa are growing X-Men in pods. That isn’t explained outright, but it does raise the question of whether anyone you recognize is who you think it is. 

And what of Xavier? This won’t surprise anyone familiar with X-Men history, but he was dead until recently. Prof. X was resurrected in Astonishing X-Men last year, slightly after Jean Grey’s latest return from the grave, but shortly before Cyclops and Wolverine did the same. In “Return of X,” his psyche was rescued from the astral plane (where it had been held prisoner by the Shadow King) and now inhabits the body of Fantomex (who gave up his body voluntarily, but interestingly, is a man whose mutation includes having more than one brain). 

Copyright Marvel Comics.

Earth’s mutants – at least those that live on Krakoa – have their own language now. Here are some Krakoan letters and what they symbolize.

It was at that point that Xavier – if indeed it is him – declared that he would henceforth be known simply as “X,” and had a new dream. Evidently, that’s what’s being manifested in House of X

But is it truly Xavier? This new plan seems much more suited to the segregationist Magneto – who is, suspiciously, now an ally – and X’s actions overall seem like those of a bad guy. Maybe it’s not Xavier, miraculously returned from the dead. Maybe it’s the Shadow King. Maybe it’s one of Fantomex’s other brains. Maybe it’s one of the X-Men’s other psychic foes, like Cassandra Nova or Emma Frost. Maybe it’s alt-Earth villain The Maker, who wears a helmet suspiciously similar to that favored now by X.

Meanwhile, over in Powers of X – again, pronounced “Powers of 10” – the title is a mathematical expression referring to years. In this book Hickman is telling the future of the X-Men in four periods, separated by powers of 10. Today is X (Roman numeral 10) to the zero power, called Year One, titled “The Dream.” The next scenario is X to the first power, or Year 10, titled “The World,” where mutants are the dominant species. X to the second power, Year 100, is “The War” between mutants and the “Man-Machine Alliance.” X to the third power is Year 1000, titled “Ascension,” with no more information given.

Art by Leinil Francis Yu. Copyright Marvel Comics.

X-Men #1, re-locates the main team to the Moon, and will feature dozens of mutants. On the cover you have, clockwise from back left, Corsair, young Cable, Vulcan, Marvel Girl, Havok, Wolverine and Rachel Summers, with Cyclops – who is related to all of them except Wolverine – in the middle.

Since all of those futures are just potential (actions today could change them), that opens up even more stories for Hickman to tell. Well, Hickman and the Marvel staff that’s been announced for the six titles coming after HoX and PoX end. Here they are:

  • X-Men, the flagship title, stars big names like Cyclops, Jean Grey and Wolverine, plus a supporting cast of dozens, if not hundreds. It’s written by Hickman, who says he’s going to bring back tons of long-forgotten mutants instead of creating new ones, and that will flesh out the huge cast. I believe him. Penciled by Leinil Francis Yu.
  • Excalibur is a sort of X-Men UK, with Betsy Braddock (formerly Psylocke) becoming the new Captain Britain (her brother was the previous one), accompanied by Gambit, Jubilee, Rogue, Rictor and … archvillain Apocalypse. That’s going to take some explaining. Written by Tini Howard, penciled by Marcus To.
  • Fallen Angels stars the original Psylocke (a Japanese assassin named Kwannon who got body-switched with Betsy Braddock for decades), Young Cable (son of Cyclops and the clone of Jean Grey, back from the future, who recently killed his older self) and X-23 (Wolverine’s female clone). That’s about all we know, but with characters this complicated, each issue will probably be filled halfway with exposition. Written by Bryan Edward Hill, penciled by Szymon Kudranski.
  • Marauders features Captain Kitty Pryde leading a pseudo-pirate crew – including Emma Frost, Iceman and Storm – as they sail around the world righting wrongs and protecting mutants. Yo-ho! 
  • The New Mutants … in spaaaaaaace! Classic New Mutants Cypher, Karma, Mirage, Magik, Sunspot and Wolfsbane join the Starjammers to find a missing colleague. Written by Hickman and Ed Brisson, penciled by Rod Reis.
  • X-Force means the mutant black-ops team, and this iteration features Beast, Jean Grey and Sage, who collect intelligence, and Domino, Kid Omega and Wolverine, who handle the, uh, you know, bad stuff. Written by Benjamin Percy, penciled by Joshua Cassara.


This is a huge gamble for Marvel, essentially re-writing the premise of X-Men just as the Cinematic Universe gets the rights to the characters. If and when they arrive on screen, will they even resemble their comics counterparts?

But so far it seems to be paying off. The first issues of HoX and Pox were the best-selling titles in July, and while most miniseries have a severe drop-off after the first issue, I can’t see anyone reading these books and not wanting to know what happens next.

 Which means they are very, very good comics. You might even say X-cellent.

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Clearly all these books exist in an alternate reality.

Wolverine only in one book???

He seems to be in both X-Men and X-Force.

Richard Mantle said:

Clearly all these books exist in an alternate reality.

Wolverine only in one book???

Jean Grey (can we just start calling her Marvel Girl again?) and Teen Cable are in two books, as well, Judging from the descriptions. And evidently, Psylocke is now two characters, Captain Britain (Betsy Braddock) in Excalibur, and Kwannon (dunno if she'll still be called Psylock, which is a stupid name) in Fallen Angels.

I put something in the cutline to X-Men #1 that I thought was suggestive, but of what I don't know. I was hoping it would spark some speculation. And that is, all the characters on that cover are related in some way to Cyclops, except Wolverine.That makes a third X-family I hadn't thought of in that fashion, after Magneto and his three children and Wolverine and his never-ending series of clones and surprise-reveal children.

They are:

  • Corsair (father)
  • Teen Cable (son, with Madelyne Pryor, a clone of Jean Grey)
  • Vulcan (brother, who was dead last I remember)
  • Marvel Girl (wife or ex-wife. Are they still technically married?)
  • Havok (brother)
  • Rachel Summers (daughter, with Jean Grey, from possible future timeline)

Will X-Men be a sort of Summers Family Adventures book? That cover doesn't even include another family member, Hope Summers, who is an adopted grand-daughter.

I guess Logan can be the cranky "uncle" who isn't related but everyone tolerates him at Thanksgiving anyway.

Wait, I just remembered a fourth X-family: Xavier has two children and a step-brother. His children are Proteus and Legion, so dude, get a vasectomy.

But Richard's comment about Wolverine does spark some speculation stirring in my fetid brain juices.Yes, it does indeed look like the X-books will no longer be "Wolverine and some other people." And why would that be?

Well, for one thing, Hickman said he's not going to create any new mutants -- he is, instead, going to bring in tons of them from limbo. (And no doubt some will be resurrected from the dead.) That's presented as a story choice, although it looks to me like the current trend of "I'm going to save my best ideas for a creator-owned book and not give them to the Big Two." But let's call it a story choice and think what that means.

For one thing, it means A LOT OF MUTANTS. I think all of us could sit down with a cup of coffee, a pad and pencil and get writer's cramp from just remembering all the mutants that have come and gone over the years -- and most of them "gone" in the sense "they just disappeared between reboots and/or writer changes."

And what's the point of a lot of mutants if they don't have any place to hang out? I think that means the casts of all these books will expand and/or remain in flux, with Lifeguard or Beak or the black-chick Angel or Husk appearing for a storyline or two and then fading into the background. Honestly, who these characters are and where they've been all this time is a lot of story material right there.

The main book even promises a huge cast, so I bet a lot of them appear there. And Fallen Angels seems particularly short-staffed.

Which might mean there's simply no room for Wolverine to dominate every title. He has to take a step back so that these other characters can get the spotlight, for however long their story lasts. And who knows? If the writers can come up with a compelling raison d'etre for one forgotten character or another, that character might become a star so Wolverine doesn't have to carry the whole load.

Of course, this is all mindless speculation. Just fun to think about.

One last thought, and it's a repeat: Where are Nightcrawler and Colossus?

Is Proteus Xavier's son?  I don't think he was presented as such in the original storyline, at least.

He also has a twin sister, Cassandra Nova.  Now that is a storyline waiting to happen, 

As for Wolverine, well, there is one character that I never missed nor asked for.

“Can we just start calling her Marvel Girl again?”

That’s “Marvel Woman,” you unenlightened swine.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“Can we just start calling her Marvel Girl again?”

That’s “Marvel Woman,” you unenlightened swine.

That's "Mr. Unenlightened Swine" to you, sir!

Surely that's 'Captain Unenlightened swine'..?

(Getting coat...)

Captain Comics said:

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“Can we just start calling her Marvel Girl again?”

That’s “Marvel Woman,” you unenlightened swine.

That's "Mr. Unenlightened Swine" to you, sir!

I sense a crossover with Wonder Warthog ...

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