Over the course of the past three months, Jonathan Hickman has completely redefined the role mutants play in the Marvel Universe. Across six issues of House of X and six issues of Powers of X, Hickman established the mutant-inhabited island nation of Krakoa. Xavier has given up the dream of coexistence in pursuit of simply being able to exist unbothered. All of these considerations and more are in play as Moira X hatches a plan 10 lifetimes in the making. Now that the stage is set, the "Dawn of X" is here and it's time for Hickman to play in the new world he has created.
House of X and Powers of X were notably not X-Men titles. They were bigger than the X-Men, focusing on sociopolitical changes affecting the status of mutants as a community on planet Earth. With that story told, X-Men #1 affords Hickman the opportunity to go smaller and focus on the X-Men themselves, the mutants heroes who fight to ensure security and prosperity in their new nation. So it makes a certain poetic sense that the first issue of X-Men should zero in on the first member of the X-Men: Cyclops.
X-Men #1 feels like a hard break from House of X and Powers of X in terms of scale and structure. Most of the issue plays out as a day in the life of one, Scott Summers. We see him at work on a mission against Orchis, the terrorist organization determined to stop mutants no matter the cost. We see him in his community, discussing the state of Krakoa with fellow mutants. We see him at home, living with his extended family in the Summer House on the blue area of the moon. Through the eyes of Cyclops, we see how much Krakoa means to mutants, exactly how much progress it represents.
The scope of that progress comes in the conversations he has throughout the issue. A discussion with Storm frames this as a bolder vision than the incrementalism mutants have tolerated until now. In conversation with his father, Corsair, we see the natural fears of a father played against the optimism and determination of a son determined to make the world better. All of this is cut with scenes from inside of Orchis, the reactionary terrorist organization that sees itself as the equal and opposite reaction for the X-Men’s newfound boldness. All of this makes the X-Men relevant in a way they haven’t been across the recent era of aggressive nostalgia.
In House of X and Powers of X, Hickman established that mutants now see themselves as gods on Earth. If you’re looking for someone to draw characters who are one part deity and one part super-soldier, then Leinil Francis Yu is the artist to do it. No one draws effortless strength into forms the way Yu does. His storytelling is muddy in places, but it doesn’t lack for power. The visuals struggle more during the scenes on Krakoa, as colorist Sunny Gho tries and fails to replicate the perpetual sunrise color theme that Marte Gracia previously established for the island.
Hickman writes a fantastic Cyclops. He’s confidently laconic, infused with the sense of purpose possessed only by a man doing exactly what he was born and raised to do. Hickman’s Storm is less natural; he has established that mutants are no longer equally concerned with the well-being of humans, but the way Storm revels in inflicting violence on them seems uncharacteristic of Ororo. The issue does establish that she’s running on fumes and it could be chalked up to frustrations getting the better of her, but it stood out as an off-key moment. Cyclops calling Magneto “sir” feels wrong after so many years of Magneto following Cyclops’s lead, but if you haven’t kept up with the past several years of X-Men comics then it probably won’t seem all that off at all.
X-Men #1 feels like Jonathan Hickman getting comfortable in the new house he’s built. The pace is pulled back a good deal from what Hickman established with House of X and Powers of X, but his take on these characters and their society remains fresh, exciting, and timely. As long as Marvel keeps teaming Hickman with talented artists like Yu, X-Men seems primed to be one of the most exciting and talked about superhero stories published today.
Published by Marvel Comics
On October 16, 2019
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Leinil Francis Yu
Colors by Sunny Gho
Letters by Ed VC's Clayton Cowles
Design by Tom Muller