As excited as I am for Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the characters with the most potential to shake the franchise to its very core likely won’t be introduced until Phase 5. I am, of course, talking about the X-Men — a group of mutants who are not only ostracized in the fiction of the comics, but have become a black sheep at the box office as well with a series of consecutive duds in recent years, culminating in the awful Dark Phoenix.
While the X-Men movies might have helped lay the groundwork upon which Marvel Studios would build its legacy, the quality of the series has fluctuated drastically in recent years. The ramifications of Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox are far-reaching, but you won’t find many people complaining about the film rights to the X-Men changing hands. The X-Men desperately need a reboot… and Marvel just published the perfect blueprint.
If, like me, you only dabble in comics occasionally, there’s a very good chance that you missed one of the biggest and most impactful event series Marvel has ever published. Back in July, the first issue of Jonathan Hickman’s House of X series hit store shelves, kicking off a 12-issue, millennium-spanning adventure that ripped the story of the X-Men up by its roots and changed everything. There will be spoilers for House of X and Powers of X below.
I highly recommend reading both House of X and Powers of X if you have even a passing interest in either the X-Men or just good comic book storytelling, but here is the gist: Professor Xavier wants to establish a sovereign nation where mutants can finally live their lives in peace, away from the humans and their governments that have worked so hard to curb the rights of mutants and keep “Homo superior” from becoming Earth’s dominant species.
As with all of Hickman’s event series, House of X and Powers of X are incredibly dense (though not quite as dense as his brilliant Avengers run that led up to Secret Wars). While having a deep knowledge of the history of Marvel’s X-Men comics is useful going into this series, it’s not necessary, and although I’m sure there were countless nods and winks to past storylines that I missed, I was fully engrossed with the plot and satisfied with the ending.
Without going into too much detail (because many words can and undoubtedly will be written about the series), by the end of Powers of X #6 — the final issue of the series — Krakoa has been established as an island nation upon which mutants can not only survive, but thrive. Rather than running from humans or attempting to negotiate with them, the mutants are setting up their own government and making their own laws. It’s a far cry from anything we’ve seen on the big screen, which have all been rehashes of classic X-Men comic arcs.
That’s why Marvel Studios needs to take this opportunity to follow Hickman’s lead and tell a brand new story.
I never need to see The Dark Phoenix Saga, or how Wolverine got his claws, or how Professor X built Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters again. These arcs might not be quite as tired as the origin stories of Spider-Man or Batman, but it is time to move on, and they wouldn’t make much sense in the movie universe Marvel that has established (without some serious retconning, anyway). But there are elements of Hickman’s story that not only refresh the possibilities for the mutant population in the comics, but could be used to naturally bring the characters into the MCU.
While the X-Men do frequently make reference to and interact with the Avengers in the comics, their priorities are not the same. Therefore, putting them on an island where they can form their own relationships, make their own agendas, and build a world of their own would give the creative team room to establish their story without immediately throwing them into the fire with Thor and Hulk and Groot and all the characters we already know so well.
One of the reasons that Black Panther worked as well as it did was because it was really a standalone story that just so happened to take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the Dawn of X comics (which are the first new series to feature the X-Men after the fallout of House of X and Powers of X), Marvel is resetting all of the mutant teams and giving all of the most compelling characters interesting new things to do. Even though Kitty Pride and Wolverine and Cyclops and Nightcrawler have all been around for decades, they’ve each been given a new lease on life, and it’s exhilarating to see them all branch out, often in surprising directions.
With Guardians of the Galaxy & Vol. 2, Marvel Studios has already proven that even the most obscure superheroes can headline box office smash hits, so why not take some risks with the X-Men, for whom many viewers already have a great deal of affection? I’d like to see Kitty Pride as the captain of a pirate ship (see: Marauders #1). I want to know more about Scott Summers’ oddball family (see: X-Men #1). Over the course of nine movies (ten if you count Logan), we have seen virtually every major tragedy in the history of the X-Men. Let’s explore something new.