It was with a great measure of fanfare that Marvel announced an X-Men reboot coming from writer Jonathan Hickman. Hickman has some fantastic creator-owned series from Image, to say nothing of all the work he did with Marvel for the Fantastic Four, Avengers, Ultimate Universe, and the third Secret Wars. Quite frankly, whatever Hickman had planned for the X-Men, it was going to be big.
Well, it came out, and yes, it was big.
Arguably, there have been many reboots of the X-Men, but they all tend to be more or less the same: Charles Xavier organizes a new group of X-Men around the X-Mansion, talks about his dream of human-mutant coexistence, and the team battles various other mutants and human groups, and that would be that. Perhaps the most radical reboot up to this point was when Grant Morrison took that concept and set the X-Men up as counterculture icons that some humans really wanted to be a part of.
Hickman didn’t do anything like that.
Instead, we get something much bigger: Xavier decided his dream wasn’t going to work, so he instead set up a separate nation of mutants, inviting every mutant on the planet there, and setting up shop alongside his two longtime friends Moria MacTaggert and Magneto. It seems Moira was a mutant the whole time with the mutant power of reincarnation into her own life while retaining complete memories of what she did before.
Oh, and when I say they invited every mutant, I mean every mutant. That includes the likes of Apocalypse and Mr. Sinister.
So, setting up a mutant nation on the mutant island of Krakoa, there is for perhaps the first time since 1963, something new for Marvel’s Merry Mutants. They’re developing their own government, their own language, and their own mission. That means they’ll be doing things they’ve never done before, and the real enemy is those humans who will build the machines that, in every future, will eventually bring them all down. That factor gives this introductory story a feeling of both hope and fatalism. On the one hand, the mutants are trying something new. On the other, everything else Moira has seen them try always fails in the end with the rise of Nimrod-class Sentinels.
But that’s the outline. What did I think of all this? Well, it’s different. I’ll give it that. Did I like it? I am not entirely sure. It does feel as if, in the end, Xavier just gave up everything he ever believed in to become more like the mutants he always opposed (like Magneto and especially Apocalypse). There’s an air of superiority to the mutants in this book, and my basic knowledge of biology tells me that if mutants can still procreate with humans, then they aren’t really a separate species, an idea that has taken greater root in X-Men stories for the past decade or so than any other time I have ever followed the group.
As a result, I am not entirely sure what I think of all this. Hickman’s got something big going here, and if you’re gonna go big, go big. This is the sort of status quo that would be very hard to reverse (though I am sure someone could if they really wanted to), and this introduction does leave a few dangling plot threads that could create problems down the road for the new nation. I expect as much. So, while I think the new status quo is fascinating in concept, I am not entirely sold on it in execution. Given how many X-titles came out of this, I am not even sure where to go from here.
But if nothing else, this was one ambitious story, and maybe not one that requires knowledge of decades of X-Lore to enjoy.
8 out of 10 existential nightmares for punishment.