I've been wanting to do this for a while, but I've been putting it off until the direction of the X-books could bee seen a bit more clearly. With IGN running an interview with X-editors Nick Lowe and John Barber that I can steal fr…I mean refer to, I thought now would be a good time.
About this time last year, we knew that the four team X-books (X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, New X-Men and X-Factor) would be involved in an old-style crossover called Messiah CompleX that would shake-up the world of the X-Men and that it would result in every X-book having a clear mandate which was different to every other X-book. Have they succeeded? I'd answer yes, but it took them a little longer to get there than I thought it would.
Messiah CompleX worked well. The four writers worked well together to produce a seamless, fast-paced, weekly storyline with stunning twists that gave the X-Men new hope and direction after M-Day - which was especially needed after the way most books had just ignored it. It also counterbalanced the birth of the new hope with the death of the old hope that had been driving them since issue #1 of Uncanny - the hope that mutants can exist peacefully with humans. They can't.
So, Uncanny X-Men became about the new hope. X-Force started the story of the dark secret behind why the new hope will succeed where the old failed. X-Men became X-Men: Legacy and explained why the old hope failed. New X-Men became Young X-Men, and continued to be about the last generation of X-Men who have a new hope that they are not actually the last generation of X-Men after all. X-Factor continued to rebel against the leadership of the other X-Men, now by being depressed instead of hopeful. Cable took two mutants who were stuck on the periphery of the X-verse with nothing to do and pulled them right into the centre by pitting them against each other with the new hope as first prize.
Except, it didn't happen quite like that. When Messiah CompleX ended, there was still a few issues to go before Uncanny #500 which was going to be the launching point of the new directions. So the books treaded water under the Divided We Stand label, giving us such unfortunate stories as the X-men going on holiday in Uncanny, Arcade popping up in X-Factor, and Pierce pitting the new X-Men against the new mutants in Young X-Men, and Bishop repeatedly trying to kill the baby in Cable. Whilst some of these stories might have been ok on their own, they added up to a disillusioning vision that we weren't going to be getting what they had told us we would. Nothing of any importance was happening in the 'flagship' Uncanny. Young X-Men was nowhere as good as the beloved New X-Men. Cable was an excellent concept, but executed very badly. And X-Factor felt like the only thing that Messiah CompleX had achieved was to derail its storylines.
That just left X-Force and X-Men: Legacy, both of which were praised. It is possible that X-Force was only being praised cause everything else was so bad, but X-Men: Legacy definitely deserved its praise for its examination of the history of the X-Men. The only problem with Legacy was that new readers wouldn't understand it.
Fortunately, there was a second chance to get it right under the Manifest Destiny label, which was launched by Uncanny X-Men #500. Manifest Destiny is not finished yet, but this time, it looks like its working. All the pieces are finally falling into place and each of the books are now following a different concept - the concepts I mentioned in the third paragraph. So, where exactly are they, and where are they going?
This is the flagship. This is where we first saw the move to Los Angeles, where we will see the X-men taking hold of their new hope and destiny. If the X-Men need to get involved with other superheroes like the Avengers, you'll see it here. If the X-Men have a huge crisis, you'll see it here. We have often been told that Uncanny has no lineup, no set team, like it used to do. I don't think that's entirely correct. I'd say that before, it was like a cricket team. You have your list of eleven players. If one of them gets injured, bad luck, you're short a batsman or bowler and can't do much about it. But now, its more like a soccer team. You have a core team of players who always play the whole match, and a number of substitutes who are swapped in and out as the need arises. The core team is Cyclops, Emma, Beast, Angel, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine and Pixie. So far we've seen Cannonball subbed in to blindside Magneto, and Karma subbed in to fight the Hellfire club. I'm not sure where to put Storm as she's still supposed to be Queen of Wakandia which is a long way from LA, but that's what the Storm: Worlds Apart miniseries will tell us.
This is the X-Men team book. It has an actual set team, which overlaps a lot with Uncanny, but you won't be seeing substitutes or big direction stuff here. It’s about a set team of X-Men fighting villains, beating them, then fighting the next lot of villains. Its not trying to be anything else. I'd say its probably for people who haven't read or don't want to read much X-Men. That is, if it manages to come out on time, which it doesn't seem to be doing.
This is about the young X-Men. Well, some of them. They happen to be ones I don't care about, but I'm sure some people like these characters and will buy this book. It had a rocky start - if they needed to wait for Uncanny #500, why didn't they just delay the launch of this book? Regardless, it is now in LA like the other X-Men. This books identity seems to be somewhat diluted by the new direction. Before, there were four books about adult X-teams, and one about a teenage X-team. It had identity cause it stood out from the crowd. But now, all the others are so different from each other that there is no crowd to stand out from. It just feels like this will be 'Astonishing X-Men lite'.
This book is the part of Uncanny X-Men that you don't see in Uncanny X-Men. It’s a clandestine team-within-a-team. The X-men don't know the X-Force exists, and for good reason. The X-Men don't kill, but the X-Force does. Here you see the dark side of Cyclops, Angel and Wolverine, who together with X-23, Warpath, Wolfsbane, and Elixir, decide who must be killed to keep the X-men safe. It asks a lot of questions people don't want to answer. I'm prepared to pretend it doesn't exist and not buy it, rather than complain about it and ask them to stop publishing it. X-Force? I don't know about any X-Force. What does that say about me?
X-Factor hasn't changed a whole lot. It was a noir detective book about a group of X-Men, a close-knit business rather than a team of superheroes, who tend to disagree with Cyclops and the other X-men and do their own thing, and it still is. Sure, they've moved from New York to Detroit, but all that changes is that they are now even farther from the rest of the X-Men and even less likely to get involved with them. It was on a bit of a rocky road after Messiah CompleX, but it seems to have pulled itself together and started using the damage that was done to it as an asset rather than a liability.
X-Men: Legacy, Wolverine: Origins and Wolverine
This is not a team book, even though it has a number of X-men in it. This is a book about individual characters who are not currently with the X-Men in LA, but are off in various parts of the world assessing their relationship with the X-Men. It could have been called the X-ternals, but that would imply there was some sort of unity between the disparate characters. Its mostly been about Professor X, with some Gambit and Sebastian Shaw thrown in, but at the moment it’s the Prof, Wolverine and Daken. After that, Rogue will soon become a big player. X-Men: Legacy has just started a crossover with Wolverine: Origins, which many find amusing as they are reputed to be the best and worst X-books respectively. What the crossover has done is pull Origins out if its own corner and put it firmly into the X-verse. We are told it will be staying here, and stuff in it will impact other books more and more. What does that mean for Wolverine itself? At the moment its off in the future, crossing over with Fantastic Four, and having nothing to do with the X-verse. All Barber will say is that it will return to the present day next year. So Wolverine is a wildcard at the moment.
Cable is off in the future protecting a baby while Bishop tries to harm him by changing the present. I do not understand this book. I've read books like The Seeds of Time, by Wyndham, and watched series like Star Trek, so I thought I understood time travel. But I cannot fathom how Bishop thinks changing the future will harm Cable. He doesn't even know where Cable is. Does he have Layla Miller's powers now or something? There is hope though - according to Barber, Marvel will continue the good book / bad book crossover trend by having an X-Force/Cable crossover in the near future.
I have spoken at length on X-Infernus, so all I will say here is that Lowe calls it a 'Deadly Genesis style mini'. Lowe say the X-men won't play a role in War of Kings - which I assume means that no X-Men except Havok, Polaris, Marvel Girl and Vulcan will be involved, but there is another big plan for them in summer 2009. Does this mean the X-men will finally get directly involved in an event? Then 2010 will see another Messiah CompleX style crossover - I'm glad they're doing another one, and equally glad that its only happening in 2010, giving the X-books time to settle into their new roles.
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