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Friday, May 17, 2019 

Jonathan Hickman's relaunching X-Men does nothing to improve the franchise

Writer Hickman comes back to Marvel to serve as main writer for the X-books, and their idea of how to start off his bound-to-be-overrated era is to embody a now classic business cliche: relaunch the books from more Number Ones, beginning with 2 miniseries:
This summer, everything will change for the X-Men when Jonathan Hickman makes his return to Marvel Comics. Hickman's Marvel work includes acclaimed runs on Fantastic Four and Avengers. That work built to its multiverse-shattering climax in Marvel's 2015 event series Secret Wars.

In July, Hickman returns with his sights set on Marvel’s mutants. Marvel has teased Hickman’s X-Men as the biggest milestone for the franchise since Grant Morrison's New X-Men in the early 2000s. It begins with House of X and Powers of X, two six-issue miniseries. Based on our interview with Hickman, these miniseries set up a bold new era that will redefine the X-Men for years to come.
Everything already changed. For the worse. Morrison's run was not a milestone either. And the books were already redefined. This is only repeat-broadcast town they've traveled to. Hickman continued in the interview to explain his reasons for relaunches:
Did you always want to introduce this next era for the X-Men with House of X and Powers of X? How did this idea start for you?

JH: Okay, so, for the most part, I don't believe incrementalism works in fictional universes, and that, I think, is why almost every big franchise change that occurs has a delineated starting point. I mean, it does work, which is why the industry often abuses it as a sales tactic.

And in the spirit of 'what works' and also 'what the market is used to', I didn't feel like just doing a new number one was enough. I also didn't think that if we were serious about what we were trying to do we should have a mixed message in the market about what an X-book is.

So I argued for cancelling the entire line: Why it would work, why it was a good idea, and most importantly, why it was what we needed to do narratively to return the X-Men to their rightful prominent position
in the Marvel Universe.

We needed to sell the idea that this is what we're going to be doing for the next few years. So if you want to read X-Men books during the run from late-July through September, House of X and Powers of X are the only new X-books available and everything that's going to follow is based on them. We wanted to be clear to the fans, to the stores, and just as importantly, to the creators who are going to be staffing these books in the future. We wanted the message to be very clear: This is a whole new era for the X-Men. This is what we're doing now.

And so, POX and HOX is how we're starting. It's a solid plan, I think.
Granted, there are/have been too many X-books as it is, particularly since the mid-90s, when X-Man and Mutant X were launched. So I do admit just 2 books is at least better than 20-plus. But relaunching everything at Numero Uno is still a laughable cliche, when here, all they had to do was just cancel the majority of spinoff titles, and keep at least one flagship around at numbering it already had, and maybe keep Wolverine's solo and another solo or two. That's all they needed to do, not relaunch everything, and not with a miniseries title that sounds reminiscent of Brian Bendis's House of M crossover that only misused Scarlet Witch for a silly direction based on reducing the number of mutants on the globe. Speaking of which, here's what Hickman says about his miniseries:
One, House of X, is a story about a pivotal month in the history of the X-men where everything changes for mutants on Earth. And the other, Powers of X, is a story about the history of mutants in the Marvel Universe. It works as a series of reveals and revelations where each issue of HOX that follows POX -- and vice versa -- makes you reinterpret the issue you had previously read.
That sounds awfully reminiscent of House of M. It also sounds like a lot of confusion will ensue. What's the use of that? And then, here's another big joke making me wonder why at this point, they're canning a whole line:
While we know you can’t share too much, can you share any details around this new direction of what’s happening in the X-Universe? Are there plans after House of X and Powers of X?

JH: At the conclusion of our 12 weeks of HOX and POX, we'll be launching an entire new universe of X-books. Some will be traditional fare, some carry through on ideas presented in HOX and POX. Some books are completely new concepts. I, personally, will be writing the ongoing flagship X-book.

Now, we're already in production on all of these 'Wave 1' books and our plan at this moment is to introduce the titles, creative teams, and publishing details around SDCC, which is a week before HOX #1 goes on sale.
Oh good grief. So what was all that talk before about canceling the whole line of X-books? At the end of these miniseries they've planned, they'll just be boomeranging back to the usual routine, with over a dozen books on the market, most bound to be 4 dollars, and even if they're self-contained - which I honestly doubt since crossovers like War of the Realms are still being churned out - they'll be awfully expensive for newcomers who might find the whole in a trade better than the sum of parts. If these were just a handful of miniseries, it might be acceptable, but with so many flooding the market, as he implies, it comes off sounding like more of the same excuses for fleecing the audience, goading them into buying too many new items all over again.

Still, if there's anything I do hope Hickman's willing to do, it's to abandon the retcon to Iceman-as-homosexual, which was disrespectful of creators Lee/Kirby's original development that wasn't built on such politicization. If they do drop that SJW angle, that'll at least be one good thing done with the franchise. In fact, if DC were to abandon their own forced, similar retcon to Obsidian from Infinity Inc, they'd be making improvements there too. Even so, what Marvel's doing so far is hardly the best way to build confidence.

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Just the same old cynical marketing ploy that we have all seen over and over. Cancel a title, then reboot, starting the numbering over with a new #1 issue to lure speculators who will buy it as an investment.

'POX' is an apt acronym. I washed my hands of the X-Men long ago due to things like this.

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