Marvel essentially canceling their entire existing X-Men line to bring Jonathan Hickman back into the fold and revamp the franchise was no small deal. The man thinks big. The stories he comes up with normally have huge repercussions down the road if his last couple of story arcs with Infinity and Secret Wars didn’t attest enough to that fact. The X-Men franchise going through drastic and powerful changes was inevitable. After several years of aimless meandering, it needed an overhaul. Thanks to Marvel’s info dump at San Diego Comic-Con we now have a glimpse of what’s to come following Hickman’s much-anticipated House of X/Powers of X Summer mini-series event.
Information about the two books is sparing, at best. And thanks to a couple dozen very strange variant covers, I think we understand even less now that we see where it’s going to end up come October. Today we’re going to look at the creative teams, covers, and descriptions of each upcoming X-Men title and classify under; “Looks good.”, “OK…”, or an emphatic, “Huh?” to help us better predict what’s to come. First impressions are important, especially when asking consumers to drop at least $25 a month on X-Men comic books alone. We’ll also be taking into account what we know has occurred during the last year or so in the books, most notably Uncanny X-Men, because a lot of that is going to have to be addressed. First up…
Written by Tini Howard
Penciled by Marcus To
Mutant-kind has always been special…as has their relationship with the world—or WORLDS—around them. As this new era dawns, a new connection forms between mutants and the magic of the world… and that of Otherworld! Can the new Captain Britain forge a new way through the chaos with her companions Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee, Rictor…and Apocalypse?!?
It’s been a while since we’ve had a book called Excalibur. Little over 12 years, actually. Anyone coming back to the series has a lot of boxes to check if they want to live up to the book’s reputation. Excalibur is half superhero book, half fantasy-sci fi with enormous X-Men flavors weaved within it. The description seems to be going down this avenue which is a good sign that the creative team at least respects the book’s roots. Speaking of the team… I’m barely aware of writer Tini Howard. I’m sure I’ve heard the name once or twice, but surely never read anything written by her.
However, a quick web search revealed that she’s been involved in her fair share of projects from WWE to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but her experience with Marvel, let alone the X-Men, is sparing, to say the least. Cause for concern? Perhaps, seeing as I would have rather tapped X-Men vets James Asmus or Kelly Thompson for this particular job. On the bright side, book illustrator, Marcus To, is a dope artist. I’m certain Marvel will get rid of him soon, so enjoy his work while you can…
The cover shows us the cast, which is interesting. The description talks of the “new” Captain Britain and from the looks of it, I’d guess that’s the character which is front and center. It appears to be none other than Betsy Braddock. Being the ginormous Gambit-fan that I am, I’m always happy to see the Cajun as part of an ongoing series. Having his blushing bride (assuming they’re still married- I have my doubts), Rogue, along for the ride just makes it all the better. The rest of the cast is rounded out with the veteran X-Man Rictor, the most famous Gen-Xer, Jubilee, and the biggest puzzle of them all, Apocalypse. Every time we’ve seen Apocalypse on this side of the hero-villain line, it’s been part of some convoluted plot on his end. Lord knows what’s going to occur during HoX/ PoX to make any group of X-Men trust him.
1st Impression: Ok…
FALLEN ANGELS #1
Written by Bryan Edward Hill
Penciled by Syzmon Kudranski
Psylocke finds herself in this new world of Mutantkind unsure of her place in it… but when a face from her past returns only to be killed, she seeks help from others who feel similar to get vengeance. Cable and X-23 join Kwannon for a personal mission that could jeopardize all Mutantkind.
Anytime you put Psylocke in her proper costume, I’m a happy camper. So, the cover already has me feeling optimistic. This version of the character, however, is both new and old. When Betsy Braddock went through the Siege Perilous back in the ‘80s she swapped bodies with the Japanese assassin Kwannon. Sometime later, Kwannon (in Betsy’s original body) became one of the unlucky few to contract and die from the Legacy Virus. Years later the process was reversed and Kwannon was restored to life in her proper body.
Fast forward to today, we have Kwannon, (Kid) Cable, and X-23 on the cover of the book, Fallen Angels. The name of the book harkens back to beings removed from a state of grace, or perhaps, paradise. Everyone I mentioned is something of an assassin, at the very least, a trained killer, yet still considered to be “heroic.” Going along those lines, I expect the subjects within Fallen Angels to exist within a gray area of morality, which makes sense if you know anything about X-23 and this (or any) incarnation of Cable. The description of the book combined with the city-scape background of the cover tells me we’re going to be treated to a grittier, street level, X-Men book, the likes of which we haven’t seen since District-X.
With only three characters announced for the title, I expect the stories to be intimate and character-driven, which always turns out well with X-Men characters. If you’re not familiar with Bryan Edward Hill’s work, he’s been around the block a few times, most recently with his work on Killmonger and Batman. I don’t foresee being let down by anything he’s attached to. Syzmon Kudranski’s darker style of art should lend itself well to the type of storytelling Fallen Angels is bound to have.
1st Impression: Looks good.
Written by Gerry Duggan
Penciled by Matteo Lolli
Even in this glorious new dawn, Mutantkind faces hardships and oppression from their human counterparts. Led by Captain Kate Pryde and funded by Emma Frost and the Hellfire Trading Company, Marauders Storm, Pyro, Bishop, and Iceman sail the seas of the world to protect those hated and feared!
I understand that all this occurs following 12 issues worth of Summer event books, but the Marauders cover has me the most put off. I mean, by far. The book is set upon a group of X-Men in Storm, Pyro, Iceman, Bishop, and Emma Frost being led by Kitty Pryde. Not so weird (other than Emma taking orders from Kitty)… that is until you mention the fact that it takes place on what looks like a pirate ship and Kitty appears to be a teenager. Do I even want to know why she’s sporting a broken nose and a black eye? I’m guessing it’s important because she’s front and center. It’s pretty hard to miss those and that she’s wielding a pirate sword and dagger.
The writer of Marauders, Gerry Duggan has long been a hated-favorite of mine. Though I rarely agree with his choice of story focus, I’m a huge fan of his talent. He’s got a great sense of humor and knack for banter. He’s funny without being corny. These days, that’s a real gift. Artwork will be handled by Matteo Lolli who’s done brilliant work with Deadpool and Asgardians of the Galaxy. So again, I doubt he’ll be on Marvel’s payroll for much longer. With all that said, I have to be fair. Despite my fondness for Duggan’s past work and Lolli’s talent, this cover and the description of the book’s premise has me stupefied. Without more information of how we get here, I’m stuck wondering what kind of LSD was being passed around at Marvel’s last retreat.
1st Impression: Huh?
New Mutants #1
Written by Ed Brisson / Jonathan Hickman
Penciled by Rod Reis
The classic New Mutants—Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Mirage, Karma, Magik, and Cypher—get together with a few new friends—Chamber and Mondo—to seek out their missing member and share the good news…a mission that takes them into space alongside the Starjammers!
This one’s a bit of mixed bag for me. I love Ed Brisson’s work. I love it… but apparently, he’s only going to be aboard the New Mutant train for a single issue? Out of all the new writers that have come aboard Marvel in the past couple of years, he’s one of my favorites and I was looking forward to seeing what he could do with an X-Men ongoing series. It’s a bit of a tease, but the blow is softened by Hickman’s inclusion, starting on issue #2. We’ll see how that works out. The book’s illustrator Rod Reis appears to enjoy pastels and watercolors, which may serve the story well. Especially if it’s going to have a lot of otherworldly, abstract, and possibly pseudo-psychedelic concepts. If the team’s classic Demon Bear story is taken into consideration, it wouldn’t be the first time for the New Mutants.
Another concern of mine for this book is the cast. I love these characters but, uh… half of them are dead or otherwise unavailable as of like… last week. For instance, under Matthew Rosenberg’s pen, Chamber and Wolfsbane (and couple a dozen others) died in Uncanny X-Men. Magik was transformed into a horrific pure demonic version of Darkchylde, and the last time I checked, Mondo was also dead… just for the past 20-years or so. At least the one that was a clone of the original and placed within Generation-X as a spy by Black Tom way back in the ‘90s. Again, I’m sure a lot of this is going to be addressed this Summer in HoX/ PoX, but for now, it’s perplexing. I’ve always looked forward to seeing the X-Men go into space. Being aboard the Starjammer is bound to be nothing but a lot of fun, even still, there’s a lot of uncertainty here.
1st Impression: Ok…
Written by Benjamin Percy
Penciled by Joshua Cassara
X-Force is the CIA of the mutant world—one half intelligence branch, one half special ops. Beast, Jean Grey, and Sage on one side, Wolverine, Kid Omega and Domino on the other. In a perfect world, there would be no need for an X-Force. We’re not there… yet.
X-Force has been an X-Men franchise staple since its inception in 1991 within the pages of New Mutants. Originally the brainchild of Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, the title has seen a plethora of other writers including Peter Milligan, John Moore, Craig Kyle, Warren Ellis, Rick Remender, Sam Humphries, and Dennis Hopeless. As of this October, writing duties for the storied franchise will be passed to novelist, Benjamin Percy. Only having been in the business for a handful of years and with most of his work being in DC (Nightwing), I have to admit I’ve never heard of him.
That doesn’t mean he’s not worthy of this particular project. No, I’m not saying that at all. Also, he’s not completely foreign to Marvel. He’s done some work with the Winter Soldier. With that taken into account along with his Nightwing experience, I can look at the descriptions of novels he’s written and say this incarnation of X-Force is probably right up his ally. The solicit uses terms such as “intelligence,” “special ops,” and “CIA” which tells me it’s going to be heavily steeped in espionage.
Marvel tapping a novelist that is experienced in suspenseful storytelling is most likely one of the best decisions they’ve made thus far for the entire Dawn of X initiative. X-Force has one of the more attractive and traditional covers among the new wave of books, but it’s done by one Dustin Weaver. The book’s artist Joshua Cassara’s art is a bit muddier and in the past leans more to utilizing darker shading habits and thick lines. While I don’t expect it to be as dynamic and bright as the cover, it should serve the book’s tone well.
On the cover, we have Wolverine, Beast, Jean Grey, Sage, Domino, Colossus, Quentin Quire and… Black Tom Cassidy? This will be Jean, Beast, Sage and Quire’s first time on X-Force, so I’m interested in seeing how that works out in terms of moral compasses. Black Tom Cassidy is one of the X-Men’s most untrustworthy, and dastardly villains. Got no clue how that will work. But I can say the same for Apocalypse in Excalibur.
1st Impression: Looks good.
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Penciled by Leinil Francis Yu
The X-Men find themselves in a whole new world of possibility… and things have never been better! Jonathan Hickman (HOUSE OF X, POWERS OF X, SECRET WARS) and superstar artist Leinil Yu (NEW AVENGERS, CAPTAIN AMERICA) reveal the saga of Cyclops and his hand-picked squad of mutant powerhouses!
Much like the New Mutants cover, this one has some explaining to do. Especially concerning the inclusion of the recently departed, such as Havok. If you haven’t read Uncanny X-Men #22, then you’re probably not aware that he blew himself and several Transmode Virus-infected Sentinels to atoms to save the life of his brother, Cyclops. Other than death, there are a couple of other characters that are out of place. Rachel Summers was recently recaptured by the time-traveling villain Ahab and transformed back into a feral mutant-hunting Hound. Corsair and Vulcan are supposed to be occupied on the other side of the galaxy with Shi’Ar Empire matters and I can’t imagine why/how Wolverine is present. First off, why would he want to be present for a Summers family reunion and just how can he be involved here and in X-Force simultaneously? Same for Jean and Cable for that matter, but I suppose having telepathy and being able to bodyslide through time and space can be useful.
Meh. It’s probably best to leave such things to the professionals, which Jonathan Hickman, the writer of this book, most certainly is. The Summers-family has always been like royalty within the mutant community. Not unlike the one at the head of the Inhuman franchise. The description of the book makes me imagine a character-driven story where they are repairing and guiding the mutant nation through not just matters on earth, but thanks to the presence of Corsair and Vulcan, beyond that. I have the utmost respect for Hickman, and book artist, Leiniel Yu, so this one looks like it’s going to be a solid flagship title.
1st Impression: Looks good.
There are still several characters missing like X (Professor Xavier), Magneto, Angel, and the New X-Men (i.e. Armor, Rockslide, Pixie, Mercury, Hellion, etc.). Marvel has already announced plans for a 2nd wave of X-Men books so there’s more on the horizon. I can’t help but wonder if this is too much too quickly, but if it’s all quality (probably not), then it’ll hopefully work itself out. Which Dawn of X title most interest’s you? Let us know below!