Are the X-Men cleaning house by abandoning their redundant characters?
Time travel and adventures in alternate universes and dimensions are nothing new for the X-Men. Matter of fact, roughly a quarter of their teams at times are made up of characters from else worlds. Longshot, Bishop, Cable, Magik and several others all originate from dimensions, timelines, and realities separate from that of the main world (otherwise known as the 616). Nothing new. However, this practice seemed to go into overdrive as we saw literally dozens of characters from other realities pour into the X-Men books. Within a year’s time, almost every major X-Man had a doppelganger or two, or a future offspring to share panel time with. With the death of Blood Storm, the Original 5 X-Men returning to their era and the loss of Rachel Grey; is Marvel using current story arcs to clean up their X-Continuity?
In what I can only assume was an attempt to limit Fox’s access to characters and new storylines, Marvel began doing two things.
First, blended large amounts of the greater Marvel Universe into the X-Men story arcs, the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Inhumans etc.
Second, leaned into time travel and alternate realities to tell stories and create new characters. These practices would make it very difficult for Fox to adapt any stories and characters they already didn’t have access to.
Essentially, it would force them to eventually retread ground or take chances with original stories. Fox still had decades of stories to mine, so this was, of course, Disney playing the long-game. Although it appears to have worked sooner rather than later. Whether due to fear or lack of imagination, Fox has focused on two movies, with two different casts around the Phoenix Saga within 10-years. Marvel’s gambit has appeared to have shown fruit. I suppose, there’s something to trusting the process.
Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t come without its drawbacks. Fox did manage to stumble just as much as it succeeded, but the X-Men comic books were left in near disarray as a result. Key characters like Wolverine and Cyclops were completely removed from the board, and at the height of confusion there were up to three duplicates of many popular X-Men running around. Three Icemen, three or four Jean Grey, five or more variations of Wolverine, two Angels, three Beasts, three versions of Cable, two Storms, perhaps three Cyclops’, and a smattering of offspring characters from the future!
The 5-part mini series Extermination ended with the teenaged Original 5 X-Men going back. It was something that probably should have happened about three or four years ago. Seeing as they truly went back having their status quo restored both physically and mentally, one would wonder, what was the point of them coming? That’s not all that happened in the story. Both Cable and Blood Storm, a vampire doppelganger of Storm, saw their ends, with Cable, being killed and replaced by a younger version of himself.
Rachel Grey was one of the longest standing and most celebrated of the alternate universe characters within the X-Men franchise. So, at best, you can call her one-panel exit unceremonious. In many ways, Rachel could be considered one of the handful of Jean Grey stand-ins. Sadly, her reason for being removed could easily be in the same vein as the others. It’s become too darn confusing.
These changes are arriving in time for the return of the Uncanny X-Men book which is currently involved in a weekly event called Dissasembled. With Nate Grey (a Cable doppelganger from the Age of Apocalypse) putting the entire mutant race through its paces, the story seems poised to scramble up the X-Men franchise in ways we haven’t seen in decades. This is quite possibly all working together to make Marvel’s mutants more easily accessible to new readers, or readers looking to return in 2019.
This is a big deal for me, personally. Having my favorite comic series populated with so many versions of the same character, all using the same names is more confusing than both Peter Parker and Miles Morales using the title of Spider-Man. It’s been a long time coming, and while it may result in a few readers losing a version of a character they’d come to like, these moves will ultimately streamline the experience for everyone.