It has been an interesting few years for X-Men fans. Once the flagship Marvel franchise, the X-Men have diminished in prestige, exposure, and importance to the publisher since the Avengers and the characters featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have become the new cash cow.
The sidelining of Marvel’s mutants has taken many forms. The X-Men have been left out of several of Marvel Games’ mobile releases and have failed to appear on Marvel’s animated television program. There was also a long period where few if any toys, collectibles, or other merchandise featuring the X-Men were produced. In fact, there were some cases where reproductions of classic Marvel artwork saw the X-Men replaced by characters the Defenders, the Inhumans, or other characters that Disney still maintains the film and television rights to.
Perhaps more troubling was that the All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch in 2015 shrank the X-Men comic book line to just five ongoing titles, three X-Men team books, and two Wolverine solo series. That’s the lowest number of X-Men titles being published in decades.
On top that, Marvel has been pushing the Inhumans, a group featured on Marvels Agents of SHIELD, into many of the narrative spaces previously occupied by the X-Men. That meta subtext was even made the explicit text of the All-New, All-Different Marvel’s status quo, which established that the Terrigen Mist that unlocks the superpowers of the Inhumans is deadly to mutants, forcing them to move the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning into literal Limbo.
ComicBook.com has looked into some of these trends and it has never been about Marvel purposely trying to torpedo the X-Men. In short, it was nothing personal, just business. However, business seems to have changed recently as the X-Men have begun to pop up in more and more places. The ResurrXion relaunch begins a bright new era for the X-Men, but the resurgence isn’t relegated to the pages of comic books.
With the upcoming film and television projects and a sudden influx of new X-Men collectibles, 2017 and beyond seems to be a good time to be an X-Men fan.
Fans can only speculate about what caused the change, but the most common theory is that Marvel proper had to reconsider their alliances after Disney CEO Bob Iger allowed Kevin Feige to make Marvel Studios a more independent entity.
It was shortly thereafter that Marvel Television announced that it was teaming with Fox Television and FX Studios on two new television programs featuring X-Men characters, Legion and Hellfire. Legion debuted in February on FX. Hellfire never made it to production but was replaced by a new X-Men television project from Matt Nix. The pilot for that still untitled X-Men series has already begun casting and will shortly head into production.
X-Men fans were also surprised to that Marvel Legends would be releasing a new wave X-Men figures, and that Funko would be released a set of X-Men Pop! Vinyl figures (Funko had previously released a set of six Pop! Vinyl figures, but they were simply branded as “Marvel” rather than “X-Men”) as well as Dorbz figures, mystery minis, and keychains. These were followed by a second wave of X-Men Marvel Legends figures recently hit, and Funko featured several X-Men characters as exclusives during convention season. They also released a smaller line of Wolverine collectibles to coincide with the release of Logan, and the X-Men were featured as the theme of December’s Marvel-themed Collector Corps subscription box. New t-shirts wallets, posters, and other merchandise have also appeared at vendors nationwide and online.
The X-Men’s comeback was solidified by the announcement of ResurrXion, a line-wide relaunch of the X-Men and Inhumans comic book lines. ResurrXion will follow the Inhumans vs. X-Men event, an event that many X-Men fans feared would finish off the X-Men as going concern.
It turns out the opposite is true. The status quo of ResurrXion sees mutants reemerging on Earth while the Inhumans leave the planet in search of a solution to their lack of Terrigen. The X-Men line will also grow during ResurrXion. The two ongoing Wolverine titles, All-New Wolverine and Old Man Logan, will continue, and be joined by solo series Cable, Jean Grey, and Iceman. Two new flagship X-Men team books, X-Men: Blue and X-Men: Gold, will launch in March, and two more team books, Weapon X and Generation X, fill out a revitalized X-Men line that is nearly double the size of the pre-IvX line.
What’s more, the recently released May Marvel solicitations show that the X-Men are no longer being contained to their own little corner of the Marvel Universe. The X-Men are also embedded on other major Marvel superhero teams. Sunspot leads the USAvengers, which also includes his best friend from his New Mutants days, Cannonball. Young Cyclops is a member of the Champions, while Rogue leads the Avengers Unity Squad. The team’s roster has also included Cable, though ti is unclear if he’ll remain on the team once his solo series begins. Meanwhile, Storm is part of the new ongoing series Black Panther & The Crew.
Where they aren’t a permanent fixture, there are many guest appearances across May’s solicitations. Weapon Xi writer Greg Pak is wasting no time in introducing his mutant cast to The Totally Awesome Hulk. Quentin Quire is guest-starring in The Mighty Thor, which has prominently feature the Shi’ar Empire in recent issues. America #1 featured Prodigy, a former student at the Xavier school, and May’s America #3 will see America Chavez teaming with Storm. Fans can also expect to meet X-Men from other Earths in May, as Spider-Gwen introduces the Earth-65 Wolverine and the next arc of Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows brings in the X-Men of Earth-18119.
Of course, in today’s market, it is films that often drives success. That is, after all, what led Marvel to prioritize the Avengers over the X-Men in the first place. The good news there is that 20th Century Fox seems to have the franchise firing on all cylinders. X-Men: Days of Future Past hit a new high for the franchise. X-Men: Apocalypse may not have achieved that same level of quality, but it did introduce a new, young cast of key X-Men characters.
Deadpool proved to be a huge hit and is now set to be its own trilogy of films. Logan is garnering near-unanimous critical acclaim. The New Mutants will soon begin filming. Gambit is still in the works. And X-Force movie is being planned, and producer Simon Kinberg says they’re considering more spinoff teams like Alpha Flight and Exiles for the film treatment.
The X-Men are about to be bigger in the Marvel Comics universe than they have been in years. They’re coming to live-action television for the first time. The X-Men movies franchise is expanding into brand new territory, and X-Men fans can finally participate in the comic book collectibles boom.
Not everything is perfect. The X-Men are still being left out of Marvel’s video game plans, as far as anyone knows, and while the new merchandise is nice it still doesn’t match anything close to marketing push for the Marvel Studios properties, but things have definitely improved from what they were.
It’s been a tough few years, but cheer up X-Men fans. Marvel’s mutants are back.