We're in the middle of an X-Men renaissance thanks to Jonathan Hickman's acclaimed relaunch of Marvel's mutants back in 2019, centering the story on Krakoa and the coming together of all Mutantkind to finally form their own sovereign nation. This new era of X-Men absolutely falls in the "fan-favorite" category, along with perhaps the most popular era in the history of the characters. Due in large part to the iconic animated series, the X-Men of the late '80s and early '90s are still unparalleled for many. It's easy to see why Marvel took an opportunity to merge these two astonishing X-Men eras into one new series.
X-Men '92: House of XCII is essentially a What If...? book dedicated entirely to the X-Men of past and present. What if Hickman's House of X story took place in the 1990s, allowing the classic X-Men team from the animated series to be the stars? That's the question at the heart of the new book from writer Steve Foxe and artist Salva Espin. Reading through the first issue may leave readers with a question of their own: Why? Why does this series exist when it's nothing more than a retelling of a story from the past three years that we all know inside and out?
The short answer is because it's cool and it's probably going to sell like hotcakes. Those classic yellow and blue suits next to that beautiful hover-chair are an instant way to print money. Why do you think Disney is rebooting the TV series? Nostalgia is a proven winner, especially when it comes to these specific X-Men characters, combining them with House of X was just the easy way to justify the book's existence in the current X-Men line.
That's the short and easy answer. But it's not the only answer. It's easy to look at the likes of Disney and Marvel, both of whom have had zero issue exploiting the works of their past creators for cash and fan cred... and quickly write the series off. That said, Marvel the company didn't write, illustrate, color, or letter this book. Some really great artists did. And while House of XCII has no real reason to exist, Foxe, Espin, and the rest of this creative team do their best to make it something readers can all enjoy and be proud of.
When you look beyond the premise of House of XCII, which doesn't really allow the story to go anywhere, there's a lot to dig in these pages. Foxe does an excellent job of giving life to the classic iterations of these characters, which is a harder task than you might think. Giving Wolverine a few classic "bub" lines has been a staple of lazy X-Men writing for years. Everyone loves to make up fake cajun phrases for Gambit. The bits that made these '90s characters so beloved have become incredibly stale over time, but they're necessary to making these characters feel like the '90s versions of themselves. So Foxe has to walk a tightrope between writing '90s X-Men in an authentic way and not making them feel like ripoff caricatures. This is where he really excels throughout the first issue.
These characters are genuinely fun to read and spend time with. Wolverine can be a little much, but he always is. Even though he doesn't get a lot of time in the spotlight, Beast is a runaway standout. Dropping a Hemingway quote about the dangers of war in the middle of a battle is the Beast-est thing a Beast could do and it's so fun to unironically love and enjoy that character again.
Espin and colorist Israel Silva had an equally difficult challenge ahead of them. The art has to feel both modern and retro for House of XCII to work. It also has to feel like a TV show turned into a comic book, instead of the other way around. The colors have to pop, but not quite in the same way they did in the animated series or else it feels cheap. Again, it's a high wire act playing out through these pages, but the artists are plenty capable of making it work. No, it's not exactly what you picture when you think "X-Men '92." But it finds a way to mesh those concepts with something new and original, and I think that's much more impressive.
We don't need House of XCII, certainly not in 2022. There are so many other great, new stories that could be told in the world of the X-Men, either in the present or the past. But creativity is a more powerful force than profiteering. These artists care about making something thoughtful and fresh in the middle of a commercial venture that didn't need to be good in order to succeed. The result is a fun and breezy X-Men adventure that's much easier to enjoy than it should be.
Published by Marvel Comics
On April 13, 2022
Written by Steve Foxe
Art by Salva Espin
Colors by Israel Silva
Letters by Joe Sabino
Cover by David Baldeón and Israel Silva