Not that long ago, I reviewed the trade for the first six issues of Jonathan Hickman’s regular X-Men run. At the time, I noted that the individual issues didn’t seem to be adding up to much. Was there a story there being built? Who were going to be the enemies of this new nation besides the obvious humans? What, basically, was the point of the series?
Well, I have read one more issue since then, and I am still not all that sure.
Issue: X-Men #7, February 2020
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
The Plot: As Apocalypse oversees a very mutant-specific ceremony, Cyclops and Nightcrawler discuss the spiritual side to the new nation.
Commentary: One of the benefits of having the subscriptions to Marvel Unlimited and DC Infinite is, well, I can easily go back to series where I left off with a trade and read the next issue if it was out sufficiently long enough. I don’t have to wait for a trade, find one by chance, and then buy it. I can just read it for the annual subscription fee. I can get behind that, especially for something like Hickman’s X-Men where, as near as I can make out, the point of the series is to showcase the new mutants only society that the new nation is building. If the X-Men, and mutants in general, represent the next step in biological evolution, then they can evolve everything else about human society too.
That makes a certain amount of sense, and I am interested in seeing where this is going, even if some of these mutants are being more hostile to the human society they all just presumably quit than others. I can understand why, say, more villainous mutants might see nothing of value to human society, but why was longtime X-Man Polaris saying as much in the House of X mini-series? Why is Xavier suddenly all in for an island nation when his thing in the past was peaceful co-existence? Sure, he said he still believes in that, but his actions say something else.
Meanwhile, Magneto seems mellow, and Apocalypse in this issue is even saying something to the effect that if a young former-mutant would prefer to live as a human, there will be no judgement on that. Um, isn’t Apocalypse’s whole thing that he set himself up as a judge of some kind over the whole Darwinian “survival of the fittest” and whatnot?
Regardless, the issue isn’t a loss. It’s just…mystifying. Where is Hickman going with this? The essential story here is a mutant ceremony where a de-powered mutant (known zealot Exodus teaches children to despise Wanda Maximoff), this time a Guthrie sibling, faces Apocalypse in combat, and if they do not surrender, they die and get resurrected.
OK, that sounds like something Apocalypse would do.
Meanwhile, Cyclops talks over his discomfort with all this, first with Wolverine, and then more importantly, with Nightcrawler. Kurt Wagner’s religion has always been a central thing with the character, so seeing him discuss the idea of religion when, really, mutants can’t die anymore, seems like a good idea, and his conclusion–that mutants might need their own religion–is an interesting idea that merits exploration.
I just wonder, given Hickman’s bouncing around from topic to topic and storyline to storyline for seven issues right now if anything will come from that at any point. My past experience with Hickman on the lead up to Secret Wars suggests as much, but I don’t really see that tapestry forming yet unless his whole purpose this time around is to set up a new status quo for other successive creators. That would certainly be a different thing for a mainstream publisher.
But judging from issues like this, the new status quo is intriguing and different, but that’s about all it is just yet. There’s no story here. It’s all just worldbuilding, an important part of storytelling, but not always the easiest to pull off well. So far, so good, but that could change if this goes on long enough.