The X-Men have had a rough go in recent years, both on the big screen and on the page. But while we’ll have to wait to see how the franchise is renewed under Marvel Studios’ management, their comic book rebirth is happening right now. After using his Avengers run to destroy and rebuild the entire Marvel Universe, Jonathan Hickman is taking over the Mutant Agenda with this month’s House of X and Powers of X (pronounced “Powers of Ten”), two six-issue miniseries drawn by Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva.
House of X #1 is out today, with Charles Xavier’s new plan for all mutantkind, and next week sees the release of Powers of X #1, which will start to dig into “the secret past, present and future of mutantkind.” Once both of those bi-weekly shipping books are finished, the entire line will be relaunched with six new ongoing series starting in October and November.
It’s the beginning of a new era for the X-Men, and you could be forgiven for needing a recap on where the team is these days. Who’s alive? Who’s dead? Who’s on the team, and who’s gone back to their villainous ways?
We’ve got you covered.
In Age of X-Man, The X-Men got to be happy — but at what cost?
Earlier this year, the X-Men were wiped from reality. A psychic war involving the son of Charles Xavier — the mutant known as Legion — and the mutant called X-Man — an alternate-reality version of Cable — resulted in the two fusing and subsequently wiping the X-Men off the face of the Earth. The world’s mutant population who weren’t X-Men found themselves eradicated thanks to a mutant vaccine, with very few left remaining. In true comic fashion, however, things aren’t as clear-cut as that.
Nate’s psychic blast brought every X-Men member into “a whole new plane of existence” that he was able to craft from the ground up. That universe served as the setting for the story of Age of X-Man. In this world, everyone is a mutant, the X-Men are celebrities on par with the Avengers, and they all live in a utopia free of persecution, disease, and hardship, after winning a final battle against humanity and transforming the entire world into mutants.
Or at least, that’s how it seems on the surface. In reality, love — whether familial, platonic, romantic, or otherwise — is a punishable offense, and anyone who pursues relationships or conceives a child could wind up in jail and/or with their memories wiped. The only one willing to make a public stand for love is the guru En Sabah Nur, perhaps best known as Apocalypse. Yes, that one.
Across the five storylines of Age of X-Man, our heroes all began to slowly remember their past lives and what X-Man stole from them. After a big fight, they finally convince him to allow everyone the option to return to the real world, in exchange for sparing his life. Pretty much everyone left for reality, with only Nate and a duplicate of Magneto staying behind, deciding to rebuild his utopia, but this time without all the repression!
When the X-Men return back to their world, though, they show up during one of mutantkind’s worst moments. So let’s catch up with the mutants who got left behind.
X-Men have come back from the dead in droves
Like so many superheroes, the X-Men are no stranger to death, but lately the team has had a lot of it. Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Professor X were all dead and gone, some of them for years. This past year, however, has seen their resurrection.
After being dead for 15 years, Jean finally returned to the mortal world in 2018’s Phoenix: Resurrection. The Phoenix decided to recreate Jean’s childhood home to convince Jean to merge with it, but Jean cut off the Phoenix for good. Now reunited with her friends, she decided to help change the world with her own team of X-Men.
Wolverine, who died in 2014’s Death of Wolverine, came back onto the scene in this year’s Return of Wolverine, after a woman named Persephone used her resurrection power on him to control his mind. Like everyone else who’s tried to mind-control Wolverine, this didn’t end well: He sent her evil space headquarters plummeting to Earth, proving that space is just another thing that can’t kill Wolverine.
The most recent resurrection, Cyclops, died in 2016’s Death of X #1 as one of the first victims of the mutant-killing, Inhuman-awakening Terrigen Mist. He was brought back early this year by a teenage version of his time-displaced son, in a very complicated plan involving time travel and super science.
And speaking of time travel, the five time-displaced young founding members of the X-Men, who’ve been hanging out with the modern X-Men since 2013? They’re all back in the past now, with their memories of the future locked off so they don’t mess with the time stream.
While Jean was one of the X-Men blasted into Nate’s new reality, Scott and Logan got left behind, believing that all of their friends and most of the world’s mutants were dead in a cataclysm. While their friends were in a slowly crumbling utopia, the two of them led a ragtag group of the remaining X-Men during one of the team’s bleakest moments.
The all-new, grit and grim X-Men
Cyclops and Wolverine’s new X-Men decided to go after anyone who was still a threat to the dwindling mutant population, as a final rage against the dying of the light. But their work turned out to really be part of a larger scheme of Emma Frost, who was trying to both escape from and thwart the plans of the U.S. government’s anti-mutant ONE division.
Emma used the tools the X-Men unwittingly provided her to make all of humanity forget about the very concept of mutants — humans could no longer even see mutant powers, even if they were used right in front of them. This, understandably, pissed off many members of the team, who saw it as just another way of forcing mutants to hide what they are.
In the last issue of Uncanny X-Men before the entire X-Men line was restarted for House of X and Powers of X, the X-Men banded together for a final desperate showdown against the forces of ONE and a legion of gold Sentinels, who had escaped Emma’s mind-meddling through their own hijacking of a Cerebro prototype. Just when it seemed this would be the end of all mutants, all the Age of X-Man X-Men got back and helped to turn the tide. When the dust settled, Cyclops chose to destroy Emma’s Cerebro helmet, freeing humanity from her mind control.
The dream of the X-Men was tested in the pages of Uncanny and reaffirmed in X-Man. Now, House of X will force it to evolve. Who better to lead the change than Charles Xavier?
How Professor X came back from the dead
In 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men, Charles Xavier was killed while trying to talk down a Phoenix-empowered Cyclops. But rather than being laid to rest, his body was stolen by the Red Skull so that the Skull could literally fuse the telepath’s brain to his own. With the extra mental power, Skull incited anti-mutant riots and even inverted the moral compasses of various heroes and villains in the 2014 event AXIS event. Even after his defeat, a piece of Xavier’s psyche remained in the Skull’s mind, eventually extracted by Beast and immediately burned up by Rogue and the Human Torch so that it could not be misused again.
However, events in Astonishing X-Men revealed that Xavier’s psyche remained in the Astral Plane under the control of his psychic nemesis the Shadow King. With the help of Rogue, Mystique, and Fantomex, Professor X was able to return to the mortal world by hijacking Fantomex’s body. Fantomex was cool with that.
One fight with the Shadow King later, Xavier left for parts unknown, but not before telling Psylocke that he now had a “new dream.”
What’s Xavier been up to since he got a new body?
The answer to that question lies in the pages of House of X, where Hickman will show what the Professor has done to chart a new path for mutantkind. Meanwhile, Powers of X will dig into mutantkind’s “secret past, present, and future.”
If that sounds cryptic, Hickman and Marvel have been playing things very close to the vest. But whatever either book ends up being, they’re sure to be big moments in the X-Men’s comic book history, paving the way for Dawn of X, the first wave of the new X-Men lineup.
Justin is a Kansas City, Missouri, freelance writer and is on Twitter often, @GigawattConduit. He also is an avid lover of M&M McFlurries from McDonald’s, and accepts that he has an addiction to them.