This article contains spoilers for recent Marvel X-Men stories.
A long time ago, back at the beginning of the interminable, endless month of March that the pandemic has trapped us in, Marvel’s X-Men books were barrelling towards their first big post-Dawn of X crossover, X of Swords. And then the world stopped, and plans changed for the X-Men while everything was paused.
Now that we’re back, plans have changed, and books are coming fast and furious. So what’s going on with Marvel’s Merry Mutants? Which book did Storm get sick in? What book should you read for a good Laksa recipe? New Mutants, but we can answer all your other questions on what’s going on with the X-Men below.
While we won’t rehash the entire thing, House of X/Powers of X reset the entire X-Men line. Mutants can’t die anymore (or rather, if they do, they’re resurrected from clone bodies and emergency backup minds by The Five and Professor X). The X-Men, and all mutants alive, are now living on Krakoa, a living, mutant island in the Pacific that, at some point in the distant past, broke in half, sending one part of it to a dangerous, monster-infested realm with Apocalypse’s first Horsemen standing guard making sure it didn’t return.
Humans are back to hating and fearing mutants on a wide scale, but this time it’s mostly because the mutants are vehemently anti-capitalism, flooding markets with cheap, life-extending and health-improving drugs and vowing to take down the human world with economic weapons of their own making. This has the humans initiating some pretty intense Sentinel programs, particularly around the sun, where Nimrod – the adaptive Sentinel whose existence dooms mutantkind in one Powers of X future – was very nearly created.
And amidst all of that, Moira MacTaggert, the secret mutant mastermind with the power of Groundhog Lifeing (when she dies, her consciousness is immediately transported back to her prenatal self to be born again with all her old memories. She’s on life ten now, btw), is frantically trying to manipulate events so that mutants continue to exist in the long run as the next phase in human evolution, averting a future where man-machine hybrids (like Omega Sentinels and the Children of the Vault) develop while humans and mutants are busy fighting among themselves. She’s also not allowing Charles and Magneto to revive any mutants with precognitive powers, expecting them to see her plan and ruin Krakoan civilization.
X-Men, by mastermind Jonathan Hickman with art mostly from Leinil Yu, is where big ideas are being seeded for later use.
This is where the story of Krakoa and its estranged, otherdimensional partner Arakko was further developed (following its introduction in Powers of X and setting up X of Swords, the first mutant crossover of the Dawn of X era). X-Men introduced Hordeculture (think the Golden Girls if they were also ecoterrorist botanists); reintroduced the Children of the Vault; showed how depowered mutants get in line to get their powers back; and saw Magneto and Apocalypse threaten humankind with the most terrible weapon of all: finance capitalism.
Just prior to the break, X-Men had a spiritual crossover with New Mutants, initially a split book by Hickman and Rod Reis on the space issues, and Ed Brisson, Flaviano, and Marco Failla on the Earth issues. Brisson, Flaviano and Failla’s story follows a group of Earthbound mutant kids (including Glob Herman and Boom Boom) as they track down stragglers to Krakoa, like Beak and Angel.
Hickman and Reis took the original New Mutants plus Chamber and Mondo into space to go pick up Cannonball (who was living on Chandi’lar with his wife, Smasher). On the way there, they stole a King Egg from the Starjammers and brought it back to Earth. It turns out, we discover in X-Men, the King Egg is a bioweapon created by the Kree to control the Brood for an eventual war with the Shi’ar. Broo, the supersmart mutant Broodling from Wolverine and the X-Men, eats the egg and becomes the Brood King.
Excalibur is the shining star of the line so far. Tini Howard and Marcus To are growing the mythos of mutant magic with a very odd team that includes Betsy Braddock (now back in her original body and the new Captain Britain); Rogue and Gambit; Jubilee and her mysteriously dragonified son Shogo; new earth mage Rictor; and Apocalypse, who is clearly up to some stuff. Apocalypse picks a fight with Otherworld and places a newly resurrected but still batshit Jamie Braddock on the throne of the magical realm.
Excalibur was one of the first books to return from hiatus, and it came back with maybe the best single issue of the entire relaunch in issue #10. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Marauders launched as the story about the Hellfire Trading Company, the corporate arm of Krakoa that distributes the miracle drugs around the world while also smuggling mutants in trouble home to Krakoa. But Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli’s book quickly turned into the mystery of Kitty Pryde – why she’s not able to use the Krakoan gates that allow instantaneous travel around the galaxy, and whether she can be resurrected by The Five. That story has just about come to a head, but it is worth noting that it still contains a great deal of Hellfire Trading Company intrigue between Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw, and a lot of drunken pirate antics. The resurrected original Pyro does get a tattoo of the Marauders skull on his face at one point. It’s fun.
X-Force, by Ben Percy and Joshua Cassara, immediately killed Professor X. He was resurrected, of course, but it served as both a notice that everyone is fair game, and alongside Marauders, keeps some slight mystery to character death alive post-The Five’s perpetual resurrection machine. It’s also the story of the Krakoan CIA, so it sets up the global threats facing the mutant nation, and then sends Wolverine to get cut in half fighting them. Also, Forge creates a bio-mech loader suit and smashes the two halves of Logan back together at one point. If that’s something you find yourself chuckling at, this book is going to exceed expectations.
Fallen Angels focused mostly on resetting the current Psylocke’s status quo. Kwannon was brought back to life and placed in her old body shortly before the reboot (very quickly: Spiral switched Psylocke and Kwannon’s bodies, then before they could be reverted, Kwannon got the Legacy Virus and died, then when Betsy used a villain’s powers to recreate her old body and reinhabit it, Kwannon…uh…got better…). Here, she teamed with X-23 and Cable, with ops backup from Mister Sinister, to track down Apoth, a technological being selling cybernetic drugs to humans.
It’s mostly setup for Psylocke, X-23 (now Wolverine again, I think), and Sinister while adding another technological foe to the mix. It leads almost directly into Zeb Wells and Steven Segovia’s Hellions, a book about Sinister’s team of mutants who are all gleefully, unrepentantly screwed up and are currently on a mission cleaning up some old clones Sinister left lying around.
Cable, Wolverine, and More…
Cable, Wolverine and the Giant Size issues, are still mostly seeding future storylines. Cable, from Duggan and Phil Noto, has only had a couple of issues so far, but it’s brought the Galadorians (the Spaceknights minus ROM, who belongs to IDW now, I think) into mutant orbit and given Nathan a sword for the crossover.
Wolverine, by Percy, Adam Kubert and Victor Bogdanove, has Logan tracking down illicit Krakoan flower dealers, and also Omega Red works for Dracula now. And the Giant Size issues are mysteries piled on mysteries piled on incredible art. Hickman has scripted all three, and so far, Storm caught a technovirus from the Children of the Vault in the Jean Grey/Emma Frost issue (drawn by Russell Dauterman); we find out what’s up with Cypher’s techno-organic arm in the Nightcrawler issue (from Alan Davis); Magneto buys Emma an island from Namor with art from Ramon Perez; and we get actual backstory and incredible Rod Reis art in the Fantomex issue.
The recently wrapped Empyre: X-Men’s opening scene is simultaneously one of the most important to the metanarrative of mutant struggle that’s been developing since the Professor’s “No More” scene in House of X #4 AND the best setup/punchline in any Dawn of X comic. It also starts to deliver on some of the rumored-but-never-announced X-Men ideas that were floated early after the reboot – Angel and M are two of the leads, playing out a little of the boardroom drama we hoped for after an X-Corporation book was rumored.
X-Factor, from Leah Williams and David Baldeon, more or less just launched. It’s about the team investigating and verifying mutant deaths, to put those lives into the queue for resurrection. This feels like the book set up to deliver on the weirdest promises of the relaunch, and the creative team are inventive, fun storytellers, so keep an eye on this. Williams has a very sharp ear for patter and knows her characters well – while it’s not an X-book, Amazing Mary Jane is a stunning accomplishment of delightful character work. Early X-Factor is more of the same, with more mutant high concept.
And all this is leading to X of Swords, the new X-writers room’s attempt to outdo X-Cutioner’s Song: a 22-part Tini Howard-led crossover where everyone swordfights over half of Krakoa. And still dangling in the ether, unannounced but long discussed, are Vita Ayala and Bernard Chang’s Children of the Atom, following a group of mutant teenagers who idolize the X-Men, and a Moira X book that’s expected to fill in some of the gaps in Moira’s many, many timelines.