Though new comics did just come out for yesterday, May 25, I thought that instead of just picking up midway through storylines, I’d jump back a couple months and play a quick game of catch-up from the start of the new direction of Blue/Gold era X-Men. That means our starting point will be March 29’s releases in which we will be looking at X-Men Prime #1 which gives this whole era its launch, as well as the wrapping up of All New X-Men #19, in which the time-displaced original X-Men come back together to get in place for their new book X-Men: Blue.
Anyway, since we’re doing an “everything old is new again” redo for the X-Men line, Prime is a good enough nostalgia title for nerds like me to appreciate. But before we jump into it, let’s talk about just why X-Men so desperately needed this rebranding for its line. After all, once upon a time, X-Men was Marvel’s flagship property, top of sales, with some stuff that simply could do no wrong. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Numerous redos, new directions, retreads, and shocking twists and turns moved X-Men way past the status quo, far beyond uncharted waters, and pretty much to Hell. Actually, in the storyline, that can be taken literally.
Once upon a time, there was a school created by Charles Xavier and staffed by his trained superheroes, the X-Men, teaching a new generation of mutant students to learn to live peacefully in a world that fears and hates them. And then his old friend Magneto ripped it up and killed his favorite student Jean, so he left to go rebuild Genosha with his old friend Magneto who wasn’t the one who ripped his school up while the school itself was reopened by his favorite student’s widow Cyclops and his hot new blonde telepathic lover.
That was all well and good for a while until the Scarlet Witch went crazy and killed a bunch of Avengers then made an alternate reality where mutants ruled the world but got mad at a bunch of people and then said ‘No More Mutants’ and basically killed the whole line. The school became a refugee camp for the 200 or so mutants left and all the former ones got killed off by two jerkhole creators that couldn’t put a book out without slaughtering someone in it. There were a bunch of piloted Sentinels walking around.
That went until a new baby mutant was born and all the various good and bad guy groups went racing after it and had a big old fight until finally Cable took the baby and jaunted off into the future, followed by raging crazy Bishop, but not before he shot Professor X in the head. The school was destroyed, so the X-Men picked up and moved to the West Coast, establishing a new headquarters in San Francisco and having their student body live throughout the city.
That went for a very short time until Marvel decided that it was tired of having Tony Stark run SHIELD so used a Skrull Invasion to put Norman Osbourne in charge, making all the heroes go underground and all the villains heroes. He targeted the X-Men in San Francisco, so Cyclops had Magneto drudge up the ruins of Asteroid M from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and created Utopia, a sovereign mutant island off the coast of San Francisco, protected beneath the waves by new X-Man, Namor. Remember when Namor was an X-Man?
During that period, Cable came back from the future with the mutant child, named Hope Summers, and the whole island was attacked by Bastion. Nightcrawler died. I think Cable did too. And Hellion got his hands blown off. And Karma lost a leg. So with Hope back, five new mutant signatures appeared, called the Five Lights, and Hope went to each of them, stabilizing their mutant abilities.
So that lasted until Wolverine came home one day and decided that he didn’t like that Cyclops was using the teenage mutants, no longer students, as soldiers in his mutant army. Cyclops argued that he was protecting the mutant race and that they no longer had the luxury of pretending to be a school. So Wolverine packed up half the X-Men and students and went back to the ruins of the old X-Mansion and rebuilt it as the Jean Grey School as a thumbed nose towards both Scott and Xavier. The rest stayed on Utopia and prepared for the next whatever was going to kill them.
That came when the Phoenix returned and Cyclops decided to put Hope in front of it to take it all in. The Avengers came down hard and split up the Phoenix into five parts, instilling Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Namor and Magik with the Phoenix Force. Eventually, it all came to Cyclops and then to Hope which it should have been the entire time had the Avengers not messed it all up (SHHHH THEY’RE THE GOOD GUYS) but not before Cyclops killed Professor X. Kind of like the gunshot before, but this time it actually killed him. Seeing a repetitive pattern here?
So now, with Cyclops as a mad villain, Wolverine returned to his school to run the X-Men, but Cyclops also started a school for mutants in the old Weapon X facility in Canada along with Magneto and Emma Frost. Beast decided that this whole thing was getting stupid, so he decided to go back and time, grab the original five X-Men when they were teenagers and bring them back to the present. That was a good idea.
The X-Men see what has happened and decide, much like the reading audience, that the X-Men world has gotten plum terrible so they decide to stick around in the present to make things better. And then young Cyclops goes into space and young Iceman comes out as gay, and Wolverine dies, but Storm takes over the school, I think.
It is around this point that I threw up my hands and said “To hell with this!” because the X-Men had gone so far off the rails that I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at anymore. Nothing they were doing seemed interesting to me. It was just a matter of gathering everyone up in one spot until the next crossover splattered them around all over the place and they started again. I’d had enough.
And so I bailed. Years went by and I grew complacent with the thought that I had enjoyed the X-Men long enough, but they were too terrible for me to bother with. And apparently, I wasn’t the only one, as comic book sales would indicate. You see, as the legend goes, Marvel had decided that since Fox owned the movie rights to the X-Men, thus preventing their inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that it would be a simple matter of switching up the roles of properties to replace non-marketable one. So what was decided was to tank the X-Men and swap them out with the Inhumans as a substitute for the mutant race.
This is a thing that Marvel loves to do. They build up a popular franchise, based on creators, characters, and stories. Then, once those are all solidly established as core elements for a successful whole, they yank out a part or two and put it somewhere else and substitute inferior replacements in its wake. So you have a hot book going with popular characters and a solid creative team, and it builds a sizable fanbase. Number crunchers see this and decide to pull the creative team over to a title that they want to build up, split up the characters into different titles to maximize their popularity, and then continue the old book running on name value and expect THREE TIMES THE EXPENDITURE! It doesn’t work. It has never worked.
The problem is that it doesn’t work. It has never worked. Putting a creative team on a different title does not mean the audience of the old title will follow along. Seeing one of the characters you liked in a team in a completely different team, probably being written in a different characterization, does not give you something to want to continue buying. And having your own title milked of its goodness and left with the crust of a whatever can be filled in does not sustain a line. When you take elements out of the whole you’ve established, it becomes a different whole. And if you do it so frequently that no one can tell what the hell you’re doing or have any reason to follow along, that’s a problem.
So anyway, basically the Inhumans fart out a big cloud of Terrigen Mist that goes around the world, jumpstarting the super powers of new Inhumans. That’s super cool. But unfortunately, if it hits a mutant, it kills them. And they’re all sterile now so there can be no more new mutants. But forget about that sterile part, because that’s really hard to fix. So basically the X-Men take the mansion and relocate it to Limbo. You know, the basic equivalent of Hell. It was “To Hell with the X-Men!” from Marvel, in the literal sense. And you know what? I can’t really tell you what happened to Cyclops’s school because it doesn’t really matter. All I know is that Marvel finally hit the reset button and in doing so, killed off Cyclops, made Emma Frost a villain again, brought the original time displaced X-Men back together, and snuffed out the Terrigan Fart.
And there we are. Oh yeah, during that time, Jubilee became a vampire and found a baby and everyone thought that was a good idea. Starting soonish, I’ll be looking at the X-Men line going forward, as well as going back and looking at the various Phases of the X-Men line, seeing what they were doing, who was involved, and what ultimately happened to it all.