Just like the blockbuster series House of X/Powers of X, Marvel’s latest event really has two first installments. The 12 issues of X Lives of Wolverine and X Deaths of Wolverine — the springboard that promises to launch the next set of X-Men titles — are really two intertwining six-issue series. So we’re reviewing them both at the same time!
Unlike HoXPoX, however, XLXD is not a complete break with the previous status quo. X Lives of Wolverine #1 could have easily passed as just another issue of X-Force or Wolverine. It’s an odd way to kick things off. But X Deaths of Wolverine #1 indicates that its creative team knows how to introduce something familiar and something new at the same time.
Who is making X Lives of Wolverine/X Deaths of Wolverine?
Both X Lives and X Deaths are scripted by Benjamin Percy, best known to comics readers for the most recent volumes of X-Force and Wolverine. Also an essayist and novelist (most recently of The Unfamiliar Garden), Percy has brought a prose sensibility to the Dawn of X and Reign of X lines of comics. Joining him are artist Joshua Cassara, the regular artist for X-Force, on Lives — and artist Federico Vincentini, fresh off of drawing the last volume of Amazing Spider-Man, on Deaths. Tom Muller, credited for “Design” on all X-Men titles, is aboard, as well as letterer Cory Petit and colorists Frank Martin and Dijjo Lima.
What is X Lives of Wolverine/X Deaths of Wolverine about?
Like HoXPoX, XLXD is a story about the distant past and the far-flung future, told through the experiences of a mutant who has lived many lives. This time, however, our focal point is Wolverine rather than Moira MacTaggert, so the story is not one of science and experiments, but of bone-slicing violence. In X Lives of Wolverine #1, Wolverine’s consciousness is projected into the past to protect Charles Xavier from a time-traveling Omega Red. In X Deaths of Wolverine #1, Moira X flees Mystique while a new, mysterious, seemingly cybernetic Wolverine arrives on the island.
Also as with HoXPoX, the full scope of XLXD’s plot likely won’t be apparent until the two series have run several issues, but at this point, we can at least say that both will follow these two high-octane hunts across space and time.
Why is X Lives of Wolverine/X Deaths of Wolverine happening now?
This is the first X-Men event to be told after Jonathan Hickman’s departure from the line with Inferno #4, and the first in the new Destiny of X line. Inferno revealed that Moira X had founded Krakoa not as a final desperate attempt to save all mutants, but rather as a distraction to buy her enough time to re-create the mutant “cure.” Ironically, Inferno also revealed that just as Moira X is haunted by her many pasts, in which the destruction of all mutants seemed inevitable, the Omega Sentinel (one of the final bosses of the computer intelligences that want to wipe out mutantkind) hails from a future in which mutantkind’s triumph appears to be just as fated.
XLXD is born out of these two contexts. Narratively, the story follows Moira X’s next steps and explores a past and future we now know to be uncertain. Metatextually, it is an assertion that the success of today’s X-Men comics can continue after the departure of the man who began this story.
Is there any required reading?
House of X/Powers of X continues to be the most important reading for this era of X-Men comics. Inferno too appears to be vital, not only for XLXD, but for the Destiny of X comics moving forward.
Additionally, X Lives of Wolverine in particular appears to build significantly on long-running plot threads in X-Force and Wolverine. If you haven’t been reading those titles, you should be able to jump on here without too much trouble, but they’ll grant additional context to the scenes involving Omega Red and the state of Russia.
Is X Lives of Wolverine/X Deaths of Wolverine good?
I was disappointed when I first read X Lives of Wolverine #1. It felt like another issue of X-Force. While I enjoy that comic, I couldn’t help but compare my response to the wonder and surprise I felt reading House of X #1 a few years ago. Perhaps that’s unfair, but it’s also invited, by structure, naming convention, and marketing.
So I tempered my expectations. At the very least, Lives sets up what promises to be a fun series of battles in different settings across time. I like Cassara’s and Vincentini’s approaches to action, and I have enjoyed the voice and tone Percy has developed for Wolverine up to this point. I resigned myself to merely having a good but familiar time.
The opening pages of X Deaths of Wolverine #1 revitalized my excitement for these series almost immediately. The issue establishes that the series is not interested in merely providing more of the story we found in Inferno. Instead, Moira must confront her own mortality in a new, much more visceral way. Surprises continue throughout the comic. A very unexpected character from outside the X-Men line comes to Moira’s aid. When the character on the cover arrives, it is through a very strange and thus far unexplained mechanism.
In HoXPoX, balance was required between the past and present, between the individual story of Moira’s lives and their implications for the broader cast. Here, the necessary balance is between continuity and rupture, between the familiar and the unknown. For XLXD to succeed as a whole, it needs to feel both of a piece with the Dawn of X and Reign of X titles, and yet also like something fresh, something new. With X Deaths of Wolverine #1, I think these stories have begun to achieve this balance.
Cassara and Vincentini are vital to that achievement; The lovingly rendered grime and shadows of Cassara’s work as an artist will be comfortingly familiar to Reign of X readers, and Vincentini’s sharp kineticism will be a welcome surprise. Cassara’s blood-soaked Wolverine continues to be a compelling portrait, but Vincentini’s Moira is desperate in an way unseen in the defining depictions of her from artists Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva in HoXPoX, or even the more distraught Moira of Stefano Caselli’s Inferno.
I no longer feel that I can guess the direction, scope, or even supporting cast for these stories, nor how they will come together. It isn’t just more of the same. It’s something new, and that, above all else, is what a comic like X Lives/X Deaths needs.
One panel that popped
Black Tom Cassidy is one of my favorite breakout characters of this era, and it is in large part due to the fact that this man cannot catch a single break.