The X-Titles have gone through another cycle of relaunches in the wake of the Mutant Messiah crossover, most of which are disappointing.
Uncanny X-Men sees the X-Men team disbanded (again) in the wake of the apparent death of Professor Xavier. Colossus, Wolverine and Nightcrawler are touring Europe as Peter (Colossus) tries to get over the loss of his love Kitty Pryde (though we don’t know exactly what happened to Kitty, since giant-sized Astonishing X-Men #1 hasn’t been released yet). Meanwhile, Angel’s lost in a trippy, 1960s-flashback San Francisco, and Cyclops and Emma have to try and find him. It’s a decidedly low-key relaunch, but I don’t mind this sort of X-downtime occasionally, and I’m willing to roll with it.
X-Factor sees Jamie Maddrox (Multiple Man) reeling from the events of Mutant Messiah; the heart and soul of his team, the truth-seeing mutant Layla, is lost in an alternative timeline, Wolfsbane has left to join a new secretive X-team (more on that in a minute) and Siren’s pregnant with Jamie’s child (but he doesn’t know yet). It’s highly dysfunctional, but it’s also true to life, and as has been the case for the last two years, X-Factor’s the book that has the most soul, and the characters who care most about.
There are four new X-titles. X-Men: Legacy continues the numbering scheme of X-Men but introduces its own muddled premise: Professor Xavier, who appeared to have died after having his brains blown out at the end of Mutant Messiah turns out to only have been mostly dead. The former herald of Magento, Exodus, has his Acolytes recover Xavier’s body, then re-grows his brain. He then invites the de=powered-Magento to his secret lair in an effort o jump-start Xavier’s psyche and return him to the land of the living. The last two books have been an exploration of the resulting head trip.
I’m not making this up. It’s a stupid premise; it would have been far, far better to leave Xavier dead, and then explored the former headmaster’s legacy by forming a team that was committed to achieving his dream. I’m sorely tempted to cancel it now, except the collector in me doesn’t want to leave a hole in an X-Men collection that goes back to Issue #1.
The relaunched X-Force gives the covert X-strike force from Mutant Messiah its own title. The team’s comprised of all of the X-Men’s best trackers, hunters, and killers — Wolverine, Warpath, Wolfsbane, X-23 — and was formed by Cyclops (the current defacto leader of the X-Tribe) to track down the enemies of mutantkind … and kill them.
It’s a brutal, dreary title, and one that’s essentially realizes Xavier’s worst nightmares: mutants trained to kill, rather than protect. In an better days, this would have been a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants; now they’re the heroes.
The team itself doesn’t make much sense; if comics, role-playing games and HeroClix have taught me anything, it’s that a homogeneous team of like-minded and like-powered supers is doomed to failure. You need a team with a good mix of abilities, so that your enemies can’t easily shutdown by anyone threat. Sending out a bunch of Wolverine clones to fight your enemies just isn’t a good idea.
The most interesting thing about the title is Wolverine’s reluctant leadership of it; he’s gone from being the murderous barbarian outsider to being the leader of a team who’s founding principles he doesn’t necessarily agree with. That aspect of the story has potential, but I don’t know that it’s enough to overcome the book’s muddy colors and high body count. I’ll give it to Issue #3 to come up with a reason for me to stick around.
The X-Men were disbanded because Xavier and his dream are dead. So said Cyclops, except, it seems, Xavier isn’t dead, and Cyclops really isn’t disbanding the X-Men. Instead, he’s forming a new team, using rookies, to go after a new threat: the resurrected Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The new team are the Young X-Men, and they’re comprised of a few survivors from the previous teenaged X-team (New X-Men) plus a few new mutants we’ve never heard of before (which is surprising given that there are only supposed to be 199 left).
I get why Marvel wants to have a young X-team — it’s an appealing demographic — but the premise of the book doesn’t work for me. I could see it a year from now, after we’ve had a chance to live in a world without X-Men for a while, but relaunching it. Then again Xavier’s not really dead, so why bother?
The identity of the new Brotherhood is revealed at the end of issue #1, and I’ve got to say … huh? what? I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t read the book yet, but suffice to say that the new Brotherhood is comprised of some old friends, and I really don’t like where this is heading. I’ll give it one more issue, but then it’s on the chopping block.
At the end of Mutant Messiah, Cable escapes to the future with the mutant baby that inspired the entire crossover. He’s pursued by Bishop, who’s hellbent on killing said baby to prevent his nightmare timeline from becoming a reality.
It’s not a bad setup, but Cable and Bishop have had their own titles before, and neither did a particularly good job at capturing fan interest. I can’t say that this one, which so far as been long on setup, short of action, is going to be any better. I like Cable as a character, and I think the idea of him acting as a protector for a mutant child is a nice juxtaposition of roles (given his own history as a baby sent to the future for his own protection) but so far this book is slow going.
With the exception of X-Factor and perhaps Uncanny X-Men, the X-Title titles feel like their going swiftly no where. They’re recycling concepts (Young Ex-Men, Cable) creating new one that no one wants (X-Men: Legacy) and spawning monsters that the true X-Men should be fighting X-Force). I’d like to think that things will pick up, but unfortunately I think we’re stuck with these lackluster books for the foreseeable future.