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Hugh Likes Comics: House of X

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House of X #1
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Drawn by Pepe Larraz
Colored by Marte Garcia
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Design by Tom Muller
Published by Marvel Comics

The Skinny: Hickman’s first X-Men book is a bold first step. But where exactly is he taking us?

For decades, X-Men comics have been firmly situated in the ‘mutant metaphor,’ the idea that mutants, unjustly hated and feared for their superpowers, corresponded to real-life marginalized and oppressed people. Notable examples include Magneto being a holocaust survivor, and the island of Genosha, an apartheid state which enslaved mutants to provide lives of luxury to their human citizens. Usually, this metaphor brings the reader in and establishes sympathy for the characters. With his first X-Men issue, Jonathan Hickman is doing something completely different.
House of X takes a much more outsider perspective. It barely spends any time at all with familiar heroes, and when it does, there’s something decidedly off about them. They are truly outsiders to the readers in a way that they haven’t been since their inception. The story instead follows a group of Ambassadors taking a tour of a new ‘mutant embassy’ established in Jerusalem. Mutants have unified under Xavier’s banner and established a new nation on the Island of Krakoa, a sentient being that was the villain way back in Giant-Sized X-Men #1. Led by Magento, and assisted by a pair of characters that were previously dead, the humans get a tour of the plant-covered building. The rest of the oversized issue are vignettes and infographics that provide background details but also further establish the otherness of this new Mutant Nation.
Xavier’s motives and endgame are still very much up for interpretation, but the whole thing is decidedly sinister.
Laraz’s art is top-notch, and the graphics, designed by Tom Muller, really add to book and establish the stakes. This is, without a doubt, a well-written, drawn, and executed book. But I worry. For over fifty-five years, the mutants were the good guys, and a direct metaphor for oppressed people. If Hickman is flipping that script, what does that say for the politics of this story, and for the Marvel bullpen in general? Marvel has always made a firm stance on where it stood on oppression, right from the beginning. With the state of the world as it is today, this is exactly the wrong time for them to soften it.
I’m not sure where this book is heading, but I can’t deny that I’m hooked. You can get your own copy from your local comics shop, or digitally through Comixology.

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Hugh Likes Comics: X-Men: Grand Design

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X-Men: Grand Design #1 & 2

Written and Drawn by Ed Piskor

Published by Marvel Comics

The Skinny: Ed Piskor X-plains the X-Men.

“X-Men: Grand Design” is a comic with a very ambitious goal: Straighten out the tangled history of Marvel’s X-Men, and do it in such a way that it tells a coherent, interesting story. But if anyone is up to the task, it is indie comics creator and the man behind Hip Hop Family Tree, Ed Piskor.

Piskor’s distinctive style feels somewhat strange applied to Jack Kirby’s designs, but the book goes all in, even being printed on a thicker, more rough paper for that truly indie feel. And this book does indeed cover plenty of space, opening in the dawn of the Golden Age and following Charles Xavier through the foundation of the X-Men and their Silver Age adventures. It does a great job of feeling both cosmically important, and personally intimate. There’s so much crazy backstory, retcons, and downright bizarre editorial decision-making in X-Men history that this book exists at all is an accomplishment. That Piskor pulls it off so effectively is a coup.

The first issue really only gets as far as the founding of the team, but it sets a solid continuity in a few simple strokes, and it makes The Phoenix a central figure going back to origin, which is  a good retcon. Issue two covers the team’s Silver Age adventures up until Giant Size X-Men #1, and does a bit more work retconning the original run into a cohesive whole that is appealing to a modern sensibility.

X-Men: Grand Design is available online from Comixology, and in print at Your Local Comics Shop! If you want a crash course, or just would like to see a different take on characters you’ve loved for years, its well worth a look!

Podcast: CCRC8-X-Men TAS S1E1

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Watch along as Hugh, JRD, and Opopinax relive their childhoods watching the pilot for the 90’s X-Men: The Animated Series, “Night of the Sentinels Part 1.”

Click HERE to listen.

Click HERE to watch along!

This podcast originally aired at Skinner.FM on June 6, 2016.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please share it!  You can also support it via Patreon!

Hugh Likes Comics: X-Men: Battle of the Atom

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Today’s comic is X-Men, Battle of the Atom, written by Brian Michael Bendis, and drawn by various artists. 2013 is the 50th anniversary of Uncanny X-men, and Marvel is celebrating with a crossover featuring those two most pressing issues to mutant-kind, Time Travel and The Phoenix. In classic X-men style, the story plays out in a bunch of different titles over the course of a couple months, and as of writing, they are about halfway done.

I’m on record as hating crossovers, and this one takes a few of the miss-steps that irk me. Characters are acting against their type, there’s a lot of scenes where people just shout their opinions without doing anything, and characters appear for no other purpose than to be seen and fill out the page. It’s a lot like the American Government Shutdown, actually.

But for all that, I’m surprised to find myself really enjoying the story, and eagerly awaiting the next part. The story is stuffed full of nostalgia and angst, and unites the past, present, and future X-Men. To condense a long story into a single paragraph, after the last catastrophic crossover event, Cyclops has gone rogue, and under the influence of everyone’s favorite cosmic fire bird, killed Professor Xavier. In an attempt to prevent this from happening, his former team-mate Hank McCoy built a time machine and brings the original five teenagers from 1963 to the present and showed them how everything turned out. I don’t know why he didn’t just use the time machine to prevent the murder, but what do I know from storytelling. It turns out that Causality will not be denied, however, and when Teenage Cyclops is nearly killed, everyone realizes that doing this stupid thing might have been a mistake. But just as everyone is about to send the five kids home to prevent something horrible from happening, a DIFFERENT set of time travelers appear: X-men from the future who have come to make sure the Original Five-man band all go back home. Much shouting, angst, and fighting for no reason ensues, and in the confusion, Teenage Jean Grey and Cyclops escape. Seeing how their future worked out for them, they are inclined to stay in the present, even if it means more trouble down the road.

It’s difficult to say what makes this story work exactly. It has a lot of moving parts, not all of which seem to be on the same track, but the story is crazy enough at this point that literally anything can happen. The stakes are as high as they can be in a comic-book universe, and these characters have been struggling against each other, to say nothing of the Marvel Universe villains, for so long, that I’m really cheering for them to catch a break. The visions of the future, including a version of Jean Grey in Xorn armor (Xorn was a character from the late-90’s/early 2000’s X-men who dressed in armor covered in chains and wore a skull-mask. He ended up being a bad guy, go figure) and an Iron Man armor painted up in Sentinel colors with an X across it’s chest plate, are both cool and tantalizing. I haven’t been keeping a close eye on the X-books, but the comics gave me enough back-story when I needed it, and I wasn’t lost.  Also, Jubilee is both a teenage mother and a vampire, but I don’t think it’s a vampire baby.  I’m probably going to go into back issues and find out how that happened, because someone has done the impossible and made Jubilee a character I want to see more of.

This is a crossover that really seems like it’s trying to move forward while still hitting the high notes of the team’s fifty year history. It might not appeal to casual readers, but if you’re a fan, you should check it out.