Will Hickman's X-Men Be The Seminal Moment In X-History It Promises?

by Ryan.L on May 26, 2019

If there is one thing X-Men fans are used to it is marketing phrases that suggest universe shaking events. That what is coming in the series, major event or crossover is a game changer and nothing will ever be the same again. While many times at the beginning it feels like this is the case but so often the intent of the game changing moment is there but in the deliverance it just seems to fall flat and then shortly after forgotten. We are now about to head into the next game changer or as Marvel calls it the next seminal moment with Jonathan Hickman's two new series House of X and Powers of X. This is a huge statement that I find myself wondering if Marvel and Hickman will be able to live up to it? Especially since we have had so many that just didn't. The most recent being X-Men Disassembled and Age of X-Man. I have been reviewing Age of X-Man as it has been happening, and while at the start it showed a lot of promise, reaching the end of the series now it feels like nothing but filler. I fear that in a few years Age of X-Man will be completely forgotten.

 So the X-Men books are very much in need of a game changing event. The franchise used to be one of the biggest at Marvel. You were either a Marvel fan or you were an X-Men fan, and the two were rarely intertwined. This is not to say you couldn't be a fan of both, it's more of a statement of how huge the X-Men were compared to the rest of the franchises at Marvel prior to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The X-Men almost felt like they had their own universe and only sometimes interacting with the rest of the Marvel. The MCU and the war with FOX really hurt the X-Men and now we see Marvel trying to bring the merry mutants back to the forefront of popularity especially with their reacquiring the properties from FOX. 

So if you look at the history of the X-Men this would be like previous times in the past a perfect storm to have a game changing moment for the franchise. A game changer has always come after a dive in sales or popularity. Though the game changers that truly became seminal moments were because of the right time but also the right creative team. Moments that fell flat I put on the wrong creative team being chosen. For example Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire's Death of X and Inhumans vs X-Men. This creative team while having very popular other books and are talented writers, the X-Men was just not the franchise for them. So many of the characters were written out of character, fan favorite characters had years of character development seemingly undone and some of the choices made did not do the franchise justice. This wasn't more apparent than when hugely popular characters like Wolverine and Cyclops were killed off for no real reason other than to shock the reader. 

So what are the great seminal moments in X-Men history?

 The first would be the decision to change up the team with Giant Sized X-Men #1 in 1975. The original series is actually considered a failure and even though Roy Thomas and Neil Adam's run had a surge of popularity, Marvel wasn't aware until after it had already decided to cancel the book. They ultimately decided to turn the book into a reprint series of the prior stories. Then Marvel decided that they needed a book that revolved around an international team. It was suggested that the X-Men could be that team. Enter Giant Sized X-Men #1 by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum. This new team was met with mixed reviews. Some fans hated that they changed the team, while others praised Marvel as they saw themselves represented in the book. This decision would ultimately skyrocket the X-Men to popularity with Chris Claremont's introduction of the Phoenix saga. While the original series will always  be cherished for being the origin of the X-Men, Giant Sized X-Men #1 and the start of Chris Claremont's run, especially issues #100 and #101 are considered to be the origin of the X-Men we know and love today.

 The next seminal moment in X-Men history would not be until 1991 when Chris Claremont and Jim Lee brought us X-Men #1. The 1990's is considered to be one of the biggest booms in comic book history, and X-Men #1 sold nearly 8.1 million copies. To this day it still holds the record for the most issues sold of any comic. Claremont and Lee ushered in a new era of the X-Men. There were so many members by this time they decided to separate them into two teams, Blue and Gold. X-Men would run the Blue team and Uncanny X-Men would run the Gold team. This era would become so popular that it even spawned the animated series. Many fans even consider the 90's X-Men to be their favorite. The 90's is also where we saw a surge in crossover events and major events. This book also managed to set the tone for the look and style of all the X-Men books. Nowadays we are used to artists coming in with their own particualr look and style, but back in the 90's Marvel wanted all of it's x-books to have Jim Lee's look and style to it. A decision that seemed to benefit the x-books and their popularity began to rise yet again.

 Next we enter the Age of Apocalypse in 1995. While sales started to decline as they always do after a new #1 issue is released, Marvel planned their next big event for the X-Men. This event for an entire year saw every book cancelled and new books set in the Age of Apocalypse be released. Nothing like this in comics had ever been done before. We saw new versions of our favorite characters, and we explored this new world as they did. The event for awhile felt like this was the new status quo and we would never return to the X-Men universe as we knew it. While the event overall did not have lasting implications on the world, it was the impact it had on the comic book industry that made it stand out. Many new characters even made it into the regular 616 Marvel Universe after the Age of Apocalypse ended and even some into the movies. Blink for example had a part in the movie version of Days of Furture Past. This event is viewed as one of the best and most successful events in X-Men history.

 Sales had been declining and Marvel was even staring down the gun of bankruptcy. With the launch of the Marvel Knights line of more mature books like Daredevil being a huge success, it was time for a change and next on the docket was the X-Men. In 2001 starting with Grant Morrison's New X-Men #114 it managed to shatter the X-Men universe and nothing has been the same since. We saw the mutant population decimated, and the books start to have more of a focus on the school. Bright colored costumes were discarded for sleek black leather and it really felt like the X-Men's tone was changing to become more serious and mature. This all made sense as Morrison was well know for his work at DC and Vertigo comics and their more mature titles and Marvel had already proven success with more mature versions of their titles as well. Many fans were divided as some like myself loved the new direction, but some missed the more fantastical days of the X-Men. Morrison's run had such an impact that even today when new readers to the X-Men ask where is a good jumping on point, the only real logical suggestion is to start with 2001's New X-Men. Everything since has a direct correlation to that run or references it in some way.

 So you are probably thinking that there are many other seminal moments that I have left out. While I agree there are many more stories, events and crossovers that had a huge impact on the X-Men I think we need to distinguish the difference between great stories from seminal moments. While there have been many great stories, events and crossovers over the years, it doesn't affect the franchise as a whole or have as lasting of an impact as a seminal moment does. The crossover Inferno in 1988-1989 written by Louise Simonson, Chris Claremont, Steve Engelhart, Gerry Conway, David Michelinie, Anne Nocenti, Walter Simonson, Jon Bogdanove, Terry Austin and Julianna Jones was a huge event and my all-time favorite. While it is an outstanding emotional story I would not consider it to be a seminal moment. While the story did have huge implications on some of the characters, overall it had little change to the franchise as a whole. It's the same with 2005's House of M by Brian Michael Bendis. While it had long lasting affects on the X-Men franchise, it was the domino effect of Grant Morrison's 2001 series New X-Men that changed the game for the X-Men and made it possible for the House of M story to be told.

Also an argument could be made for Joss Whedon's 2004 series Astonishing X-Men as being another seminal moment. Unfortunately I would rate this as a great story but again not a seminal moment. Yes we saw the team move back to the spandex and bright colors, but this series was more of a continuation of Morrison's New X-Men, even featuring a similar line-up of characters. While this book did become the main book of the franchise, it's story still was the direct result of the implications of Grant Morrison's run.  

So it has been a long time since we have had a story that truly impacted the entire X-Men universe. Legacy, Death of X, Schism, Messiah Complex, Second Coming, Age of X all seemed to just be the result of something that came before. Usually a result of the impact of Morrison's New X-Men or Bendis's House of M. 2017's RessurXion was really the first real attempt to change things up. The launch of X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue was to give us new stories while also paying homage to what we have come to love about the X-Men over the years. While RessurXion started off well it soon was riddled with controversy and then ultimately became only known as the run that undid the hugely disliked decision by Marvel and Bendis to bring the original five X-Men from the past to the present. Even X-Men Red, the third main series which saw the return of Jean Grey saw little impact on the overall universe. The curse of having the intent to deliver a game changing moment had been there, but alas like so many others it just got lost and fell flat.

So now looking at House of X and Powers of X coming out this July, will it be the seminal moment that Marvel promises or yet another broken promise? We will only have to wait and see. There have been some very bold promises made, but Jonathan Hickman is a hugely talented writer and is able to boast at having some of the quint essential runs on not only the Fantastic Four but on the Avengers as well. So he could very well be the writer to do the same for the X-Men.