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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: X-Men #1

At their most basic, superhero comics involve extraordinary characters saving the day against extraordinary threats. Whether it’s battling invading aliens, fighting giant robots, or thwarting evil scientists, a simple superhero comic makes the most of this dynamic. To become something better, though, it has to do much more than the basics.

X-Men comics have never relied heavily on the basics. While they’ve fought their share of aliens, killer robots, and mad scientists, that has only ever been a small part of their story. From the early days of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to the heyday of Chris Claremont, the X-Men are at their best when they’re more than just superheroes. They’re a family.

They may not be a family in the traditional sense. Then again, part of the X-Men’s defining trait is that they’re not traditional. They’re mutants. They’re outsiders. They’re different, but uncannily so. That’s the spirit that Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu capture in “X-Men #1.”

They still fight bad guys. They still save the day, living and fighting in a world that can’t resist the urge to slaughter them with killer robots. They also live, love, and cherish one another, as any other family. Theirs just happens to be more uncanny than most.

Building on the foundation that both “House of X” and “Powers of X” so masterfully built, X-Men #1” establishes how the X-Men operate in a world where they have a homeland in Krakoa and unprecedented unity among their kind. There are still battles to be fought, some of which began during the events of “House of X.” Fittingly enough, Cyclops is at the front line of those battles.

For a character who has been denigrated, killed off, brought back to life, and endlessly criticized for how he’s handled his personal life, it’s nothing short of refreshing. Say what you will about Cyclops and the questionable choices he’s made, he’s still the X-Men’s consummate leader. He always has been and always will be. It’s one of the most defining aspects of his character.

Hickman affirms that at every turn in X-Men #1.” Cyclops is the one who leads the charge against Orchis, the big human-led conspiracy to counter mutant evolution, who proved themselves quite capable in “House of X.” They may have lost a big chunk of their operation, but they’re still a threat and Cyclops leads the charge against them.

On paper, it’s simple. The way it plays out offers plenty of complexities. The exchanges between Cyclops, Storm, and Magneto highlight the strength of their personalities. They aren’t just costumed heroes saving the day. They have personal stakes in this battle and it only gets more personal at the story unfolds.

The battle they fight is only a small part of a more intimate story. Just saving the day and further crippling Orchis isn’t enough. The most endearing moments of X-Men #1” are the ones that show Cyclops living his life outside his heroic persona. They show that, when he’s not in battle, he has a home to go back to.

That home doesn’t just include his friends and fellow teammates. They include his father, his brothers, and his kids, including ones from dystopian timelines. Given the many complexities and complications surrounding the Summers family, it’s refreshing to see this family come together again. If anything, it’s downright refreshing.

It shows that the X-Men aren’t just about going from battle to battle, saving the day and stopping the next great extinction event. They have lives they wish to build. They have close personal connections they wish to foster. Beyond making them better superheroes, it helps show that they’re still very human at their core.

However, this personal touch doesn’t just apply to the X-Men, Cyclops’ family, or superheroes in general. Even their enemies have a personal stake in this new post-Krakoan world. Just as he did in House of X,” Hickman makes it clear that Orchis aren’t just another generic threat to mutants that rely heavily on killer robots. It’s personal for them too.

Many of the individuals involved in Orchis are still unknowns, but their motivations become much clearer in X-Men #1.” It’s also clear that they still have the resources and the will to become a much bigger threat. They may not be a family on the same level as Cyclops and his fellow X-Men, but they’re every bit as driven to protect it. That makes them more dangerous than any killer robot.

Overall, X-Men #1” has both the basics and the more advanced features that make for a quality superhero comic. Hickman sticks closely to the classic X-Men formula that has been subject to so many tweaks, overhauls, and upheavals in recent years. Yu’s dazzling artwork brings vibrant, colorful aesthetics to that formula. It’s as complete an X-Men comic as you’ll get without a Patrick Stewart voice-over.

It’s a bold new era for the X-Men. Hickman deconstructed and rebuilt the X-Men through “House of X” and “Powers of X.” However, the core components remain the same and as strong as ever. There’s heroics, killer robots, and sweet family moments. It’s a big part of what makes the X-Men so uncanny.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Powers of X #6

When assessing the greatness of a particular story arc in comics, there are many factors to consider. There’s the quality of the writing, the strength of the characterization, the cohesiveness of the plot, the vibrancy of the artwork, and how it all fits together in terms of the greater narrative. Many comics succeed in some of these areas and are worth reading. Very few manage to succeed in most.

I usually try to avoid spoiling too much of a great story, but I will spoil one thing. “Powers of X #6,” and the overall story arc it capped off, is among those select few. In the history of X-Men comics, Marvel Comics, and superhero comics in general, this is one of those stories that will likely stand out as an example of what’s possible when all the right story elements are in place.

Writer Jonathan Hickman has always been someone with big ideas who builds even bigger stories around them. He starts with a concept. Then, he positions the characters around it in such a way that requires them to evolve in ways that they’ve never dared. From there, the story only gets bigger in terms of scope, scale, and impact.

He did it with the Avengers. He did it with the Fantastic Four. Now, he’s done it again with the X-Men. As a lifelong X-Men fan, who has seen some pretty awful runs and some exceedingly dark times, I cannot overstate how refreshing this story is. I honestly cannot think of a time when an X-Men story arc felt so meaningful and relevant.

I’ve highlighted and praised various issues of House of X and Powers of X before, but “Powers of X #6” faces a unique challenge that many story arcs fail to overcome. It can’t just end the story on a particular note. It has to fill in some lingering plot holes while leaving just enough unfilled for future stories to build on. It’s a difficult balance to strike and one past X-Men story arcs have come up short.

That balance never falters in “Powers of X #6.” It fills in a few key plot holes, most notably the events of Moira MacTaggart’s mysterious sixth life. At the core of this story, and everything that stems from it, is the impact of Moira MacTaggart. It’s not hyperbole to state that she is now the most important character in the X-Men mythos.

Her role doesn’t just involve revealing what worked and didn’t work in terms of mutants trying to survive in a world that hates and fears them. In “Powers of X #6,” she witnesses the ultimate endgame for the human/mutant conflict. She sees the inevitable result of this conflict, regardless of which side she takes.

It doesn’t matter if someone sides with Magneto.

It doesn’t matter if someone sides with Professor Charles Xavier.

It doesn’t even matter if someone swears allegiance to Apocalypse and fights by his side.

The events in “Powers of X #6” establish that none of these conflicting groups, who have been clashing in X-Men comics since the Kennedy Administration, will be vindicated in the long run. Ultimately, they will be defeated, but not by the forces they think.

It’s a point that Hickman makes clearly by building on key moments established in past issues of Powers of X and House of X. Within these moments, harsh truths are dropped and fateful choices are made. They help give the achievements that played out in “House of X #6” even more weight. They also establish the stakes the X-men, and the entire mutant race in general, face moving forward.

These are powerful moments that impact the past, present, and future of the X-Men. Through Moira, the greatest threats facing mutants takes a very different form. It’s not a menacing new Sentinel. It’s not some mutant tyrant, either. It’s not even some bigoted human who thinks interment camps are still a good idea. I won’t spoil the particulars, but c makes clear that the X-Men have an uphill battle.

That’s saying a lot, considering the mutant race is more united than it has ever been. They have a home in Krakoa. Teammates who have been dead or missing for many years are back. They have valuable resources that the world wants. They’ve even won over their greatest enemies, like Apocalypse.

However, even with Moira’s foresight, that still might not be enough.

It might be the greatest achievement of “Powers of X #6.” It is an ending to a bold new beginning for the X-Men, but it also redefines the challenges they face. Through Hickman’s skilled world-building and artist R. B. Silva’s brilliant renderings, it genuinely feels like a true paradigm shift for X-Men comics.

They’re still mutants. They’re still the same superheroes they’ve always been. Their goals haven’t fundamentally changed that much. What has changed are the stakes, the forces opposing them, and their approach to dealing with them. It feels both hopeful and dire at the same time.

Whereas “House of X #6” establishes the promise of a brighter future for mutants, “Powers of X #6” reveals the ultimate barrier to that future. It’s not something they can shoot, blast, stab, or punch. If they want to succeed, then they have to fundamentally change how they go about Charles Xavier’s dream. Moreover, the dream itself needs to evolve.

Years from now, X-Men fans will likely look back on “Powers of X #6” as a defining moment for a narrative that has been unfolding for over 50 years. Those moments are few, far between, and precious. This one in particular may go down as one of the most uncanny.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: House Of X #6

There’s an unwritten rule in superhero comics. Heroes can enjoy a happy ending every now and then. However, it can only go so far. For every happy ending, there must also be a setup for the next conflict. It also can’t be too happy. The struggle can never stop or slow down. More epic battles must follow. Where else will Marvel and their Disney overlords get ideas for new billion-dollar movies?

Sometimes, the happy endings are as short-lived as they are shallow. This is especially true of X-Men comics. Their struggle is more complicated than fighting hordes of Hydra soldiers or battling invading Chitari armies. Sure, they regularly battle killer robots, but the primary source of their problems come from hatred and fear. There’s only so much they can triumph over that. A typical internet comments section is proof of that.

As a result, any victory the X-Men enjoy seems fleeting. Any semblance of a happy ending or true progress comes off as shallow or temporary. That has been my experience, as a lifelong X-Men fan. Then, “House of X #6” comes along and in the span of a single book, those unwritten are bent, broken, and redefined.

Throughout the X-Men’s colorful history, there have been many defining moments. Unfortunately, most of them often involve tragedy, destruction, and decimation. The moments that involve a triumphant, happy ending that feels like real progress in their struggles are few and far between. That only makes “House of X #6” more precious in the grand scheme of things.

This epic, world-building narrative began with a simple proclamation from Charles Xavier. While humanity slept, the world changed. In “House of X #6,” the sheer breadth of that change becomes clear. Xavier doesn’t just announce to the world that things are different. He explains why and how they got to this critical point.

It’s the kind of speech that leaves you anxious, astonished, concerned, and elated, all at the same time. He doesn’t talk around the truth or rely on alternative facts. He lays out clearly what mutants have been through. Even if you haven’t been following the X-Men comics for the past several decades, you get a clear understanding of how they got to this point.

They’ve been bullied, attacked, ignored, and driven to the brink of extinction more than once. They’ve clashed with other superheroes while being held to a different standard. In a world where so many other people have superpowers and aren’t subject to constant killer robot attacks, mutants are seen as a menace.

Now, they’re not just outcasts fighting for their lives and working towards impossible dreams. They’re a full-fledged society. They now have a home in Krakoa, which is now a full-fledged nation. They have their own culture and identity that they’re willing to fight for. These all feel like changes that are exceedingly overdue. Writer Jonathan Hickman finally put it into words while artist Pepe Larraz gave it vibrant visuals.

It’s a beautiful, cathartic moment that X-Men fans of all kinds can appreciate. On top of this momentous announcement, Hickman adds a few more details to the world-building. Now that mutants have their own nation, they have to go about governing it. It’s the kind of detail that tends to get overlooked in most superhero narratives, but it’s those same details that give depth to this emerging status quo.

The government of Krakoa is not overly complicated, but it’s still comprehensive in its vision. Hickman does not skimp on the details. We even get to see how Krakoa handles difficult issues, such as major laws and what to do with those who break them. It’s not quite like watching a mutant version of C-SPAN, but it gets the point across.

This isn’t just mutants consolidating their power. They’re trying to function as a real nation with real connections in the international community. They’re not going to be some isolated enclave. They actually have something to offer the world with the miracle drugs Krakoa produces. However, they’re not treating them as bargaining chips or gifts. They’re real assets with which to create standing in the world.

It’s uncharted territory for mutants. It also opens the door to a new host of complications, but for once, they don’t involve drawing battle lines between humans and mutants. Xavier still seeks peace, but not through impossible dreams anymore.

This is a huge shift for Charles Xavier’s character. It’s a huge shift for the X-Men, as well. They’re not just a team of mutant superheroes anymore. They’re something greater and “House of X #6” is their way of announcing that to the world.

I won’t spoil the many other ways Hickman and Larraz explore this exciting new world. There are plenty of moments that set the stage for a very different kind of struggle with the X-Men. There are also a few hints that they’ll be dealing with a few threats down the line, some more familiar than others. That’s unavoidable, both for superheroes and blossoming nations.

However, I will spoil one critical detail. “House of X #6” gives the X-Men, mutants, and long-time fans a reason to celebrate. It wasn’t that long ago that the X-Men were in a dire state. Marvel was going out of their way marginalized them in favor of propping up the Inhumans. Major characters were being killed off, left and right. Now, in wake of this issue, those dark days feel like distant memories.

The events of “House of X #6” feel like the end of a long, tumultuous period of tribulations and the beginning of a new era. It’s not all doom and gloom, for once. There’s reason to be happy. There’s reason to grab a beer and celebrate. If the X-Men comics were to end with this issue, it would be a damn good ending.

A new world has been built. A new era has arrived for the X-Men. It’s as satisfying as it is overdue. To X-Men fans of all kinds, get some friends, grab a cold beer, and have a party. Hickman has given us a reason to celebrate.

 

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: House of X #4

In life, there are usually a handful of moments when you can say that you’ve had your finest hour. Whether it’s winning a championship, finding the love of your life, or winning a buffalo wing eating contest, those moments are special. They reveal just how good and capable you can be. For the X-Men, “House of X #4” is that moment.

Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Pepe Larraz have been redefining, revamping, and at times revolutionizing who the X-Men are and what they stand for. As a lifelong X-Men fan who will find any excuse to write about them, I could fill a pool with the tears of joy I’ve shed while reading this series. With “House of X #4,” however, those tears are mixed with a host of other feelings besides joy.

Since it began, House of X has put the X-Men and the entire mutant population in a bold new situation. They’re no longer hiding in fancy mansions, isolated islands, space stations, or hellish dimensions. Hickman has gone heavy on the world-building, turning the living island of Krakoa into a vast, expansive sanctuary for mutants. The results have been both functional and awe-inspiring.

However, building a new world for the mutants of the Marvel universe is just part of the story. Protecting their future and preventing their extinction at the hands of Nimrod and the Sentinels are a much larger part. That part of the story is what culminates in “House of X #4.”

It’s not overly elaborate. Hickman doesn’t try to reinvent the nuts and bolts of how the X-Men go about saving the day and their species. He simply raises the stakes while Larraz makes it a visual spectacle. It effectively builds on what was set up through the events of Powers of X and the many lives of Moira MacTaggart.

For once, the X-Men aren’t on the defensive. They’re not the ones caught off-guard by an army of Sentinels or some new mutant-killing menace. They know what’s coming. They know that Mother Mold will give rise to Nimrod and Nimrod will be the end of mutants, humans, and everything in between. Now, they’re in a position to stop it.

They don’t send the B-team for this mission, either. They throw the X-Men’s heaviest hitters with Cyclops, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Mystique, Arcangel, and Nightcrawler. They even add in some lesser-known, but still-effective names like Husk and Monet. Their mission is simple, but the logistics are not. It’s an opportunity for the X-Men to be at their best and they take full advantage of it.

The struggle is intense. The battle is dramatic. Larraz’s artwork is simply stunning every step of the way. There’s never a sense that this is a mission from which the X-Men will escape intact, unscarred, and completely triumphant. This isn’t a Saturday morning cartoon or a movie where the good guys have to win outright. This is a battle for the present and future of the X-Men. Battles like that will come at a cost.

There’s definitely a sense that this mission is a suicide mission. There’s no teasing this mission will require heavy sacrifices. That sort of thing has been par for the course with X-Men comics for years, now. After they killed Wolverine for a while, the death of any character become much more trivial.

Making anything count in any comic these days is a challenge. Fans who have been reading the books for more than a few years know that nobody stays dead, nothing remains stable, and Deadpool never shuts up. The key is giving the conflicts weight and substance. In that, Hickman definitely succeeds in “House of X #4.”

The previous issues help establish why the X-Men need to take down Mother Mold. They also establish what happens if they don’t. The past, present, and future are all at stake at the same time and for once, it’s not because someone is abusing a time machine. For any superhero comic, especially an X-Men comic, that’s nothing short of revolutionary.

It all comes down to this single mission. Cyclops takes lead. Wolverine does something incredibly badass. Nightcrawler is astonishingly charming. Jean Grey has a flare for the dramatics. Even Monet gets a chance to cut loose. It’s a dire sequence of events, but one that has depth and meaning.

If someone ever wants to show who the X-Men are and why they’ve resonated so much since the Kennedy Administration, they would be wise to cite “House of X #4.” It doesn’t just depict heroes saving the day. It shows what the X-Men are willing to fight for and sacrifice for the sake of their future.

It’s not just about defeating the villains and winning the day. There are many personal moments in this battle that show the strengths and bonds of each character. Some shine more than others, but they never stray far from what makes them great. The stakes are high, but the characters stay consistent.

At their core, the X-Men are mutants and mutants are human. They’re not these larger-than-life icons in the mold of Superman, Captain America, or Spider-Man. They’re real people who didn’t get their powers by choice or circumstance. They were born that way. They can’t escape who and what they are. They don’t want to, either. They want a future for their kind and those who hate them.

They fight for that future in “House of X #4.” They know what will happen if they lose. There’s no ambiguity in what they do or why they do it. This is just X-Men being the kinds of heroes they need to be when everything is at stake. The story isn’t over, so their finest hour may still be ahead of them. However, the astonishing events of “House of X #4” are going to be very hard to top.

 

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Powers of X #1

Lifelong comic book fans like myself wake up every Wednesday morning with a mix of excitement, anticipation, and dread. It’s a weekly event in which the worlds we love grow just a little bit bigger. However, not all New Comic Book Days are treated the same. Some are more memorable than others and I have a feeling that “Powers of X #1” will make this particular Wednesday feel special for X-Men fans.

The X-Men comics are in a major state of transition and upheaval. In the past, that has usually meant they’re facing yet another extinction event. Whether it’s Sentinels killing 16 million mutants or the Scarlet Witch going crazy, big change usually means the X-Men have to stave off another genocide.

Writer Jonathan Hickman is not taking that approach. As someone who has been reading X-Men comics for a good chunk of his life, I find it both overdue and refreshing. In “House of X #1,” he set out to build a bold new world for mutants. In “Powers of X #1,” he puts this world into a much greater context that will likely have X-Men fans talking for years to come.

This new vision for the X-Men isn’t just causing major upheavals in the present. It’s having an impact on the past and future, as well. Historically, this usually means that there’s yet another terrible dystopian future about to unfold and the X-Men already have way too many of those.

With Hickman, however, it’s not nearly as clear-cut and that’s exactly what makes “Powers of X #1” so engaging.

This isn’t just another case of some fateful decision in the past having dire consequences in the future. There’s no moment with Skynet or time traveling assassins. With “Powers of X #1,” the story unfolds across four distinct time periods. One takes place in the X-Men’s past. The other continues part of the story in the present that begins in “House of X #1.” The last two take place at multiple points in the future.

While much of the story unfolds in the future, there’s a never a sense that they’re too disconnected from the past or present. There are a host of new characters with familiar powers and appearances. Artist R. B. Silva is not subtle in who inspired the designs of these characters and that’s critical because a lot transpires in a short span of time.

We don’t get to know these characters very well, given their limited face time, but they do plenty to establish distinct personalities and motivations. We get a sense for what they’re after and what’s at stake. It’s not entirely dystopian in tone, but it is dire and not just for mutants.

Once again, Hickman goes heave on the world-building. In between Silva’s colorful depictions are little insights into how this future took shape. It’s not a simple as one fateful choice or one fateful death. It’s more a culmination of conflicts.

Mutants are on the brink, but it’s not because of a plague or a genocidal war. In this future, humans aren’t the enemy, but what they’ve become certainly is. They’re not just a bunch of fearful, mutant-hating zealots trying to product themselves with killer robots. They’ve actually become something more menacing.

The details aren’t all in place, but the hints are there. While mutants built on the foundation that Charles Xavier established, humanity went down a different path and it’s not one conducive to peace, love, puppies, and whiskey. Familiar faces like the Nimrod Sentinel make that abundantly clear, but it’s the new faces that add the most intrigue.

Nimrod and the other humans around it aren’t just human anymore. They’ve become part machine, as well. However, these aren’t Terminator knock-offs. They still have personalities. They even talk and converse like humans. They’re a whole new order of humans that Hickman identifies as the Man-Machine Supremacy. Given the events of “House of X #1,” it fits perfectly.

It also makes a twisted bit of sense in a not-so-dystopian way. In a world where mutants are suddenly organized, complete with a homeland and collective vision, humanity seems doomed to obsolesce. They’re only choice is to evolve in a new way so they have a chance at competing.

The story covers many concepts and raises many questions, but “Powers of X #1” works because there are just enough hints at the answers. It perfectly complements what “House of X #1” established with respect to setting, tone, and vision. Hickman creates a perspective that neither humans nor mutants want to go extinct. They both seek a bold vision for their future, but there’s only room for one in the future.

Every vision begins with a dream. Bold visions inspire bolder actions. This is the heart of what makes the X-Men who they are. It’s also the driving force behind the many conflicts they face. A book like “Powers of X #1” doesn’t attempt to subvert that conflict. It simply dares to evolve it in a new direction.

What this means for the X-Men comics moving forward remains to be seen, but it’s very likely that “Powers of X #1” will be one of those comics that gets cited for years to come as a major turning point. It affirms that while all New Comic Book Days are special in their own right, some will always be more special than others.

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