It was announced this week, through Twitter and an interview at comicbook.com that this summer, Marvel would cancel all X-Men titles and relaunch starting with two series. Those series would each be written by Jonathan Hickman and published bi-weekly, alternating weeks so that the story would be published weekly over twelve weeks. Afterwards a new group of X-Men titles would start with new first issues. Hickman would write the flagship book. Naturally, there’s a batch of comic fans that are a little upset at this.
Where It Started
Jonathan Hickman was approached by Marvel President Dan Buckley to come back into the fold. At the Marvel retreat about a year ago, Hickman pitched the plan to cancel all X-Men titles and relaunch everything. Prior to this, he had worked it out with “senior editorial.” The project has been in the works for the past year.
Just a few months ago, Marvel shook up it’s X-Men books with Age of X-Man. In the “regular” Marvel Universe, it looked like the X-Men died en masse. There have been some rocky patches notably with some aspects of Matthew Rosenberg’s Uncanny X-Men. Many have been skeptical of the “death of the X-Men” since these things have a habit of being undone. There have also been bright spots, such as Mr. and Mrs. X, written by Kelly Thompson.
Readers were asked to care about this Age of X-Man event, and all of the time, it seems like it didn’t matter. Apparently, titles will not be announced until San Diego Comicon, one week before Hickman’s first issue hits shops. Fans of any X-Men title have to say goodbye without any promise that they will return in any form. Given that in this time, the Age of X-Men event was hyped, it rings a little of asking fans to invest in another big event. Also consider that this is on the heels of the War of the Realms. You can imagine that there is some event fatigue.
The Bright Side
Jonathan Hickman apparently understands the symbolism of the X-Men. Unfortunately it is one that some more traditional fans don’t much care for. The one thing that jumped out to me in his interview was a quote:
Oh, I think the X-Men is about finding the family that you never knew you had. One that accepts you for who you are, who loves you at your best and worst, and who shares your dreams for what the world can be. You know, everybody wants to love somebody, everyone wants to be loved, and it’s pretty great when you find both.
This sounds an awful lot like a comparison of the X-Men to the LGBTQ Community. The concept of getting to choose your family is one that gets repeated at least once every season on RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s a very valid analogy, as long as the writers intend it. The X-Men lend themselves to a subtext that compares mutants to another minority, such as African-Americans or Jews. The writer controls the analogy.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
The press of the announcement is also christening it a relaunch. In Marvel’s defense, the press I have seen have not have Hickman or anyone at Marvel calling it a relaunch. However, while it IS a relaunch, it is NOT a reboot. It does smack a little of event fatigue, though. Secret Wars was less than five years ago, and this is apparently a time of a downswing for new comic book sales.
While it is also a “brand new direction,” we have to consider how many times we’ve seen a “new direction” promoted by Marvel. It’s almost too many to start counting. From All-New, All Different and Legacy in recent years, to the launch of X-Men #1 with its 5 covers in 1991, the promise now rings a little shallow. With the X-Men, it all feels like a bold new direction gets started, and when the short-term sales boost goes away, we wind up back with an X-Men that looks remarkably the same, with a team consisting mainly of the team from Giant-Size X-Men #1 with a few more recent additions.
By bringing in Jonathan Hickman and going with his grand design for titles that he will not be writing, Marvel is once again giving a disproportionate amount of control to a writer. It could be argued that at least it is a creative person in control, as opposed to an editor or a businessman. However, comics is a collaborative process, and comics, and especially the X-Men have been its best when the creative team works together in the creative process.
This bold new direction may just turn out to be a good move, creatively. We won’t know until the issues come out, but the news out of San Diego Comicon will give us some clue, so stay tuned.