House Of X / Powers Of X / Dawn Of X – Marvel Roundtable Discussion

Whats your history with Marvel’s X-Men books?

Mike Maillaro: I started reading X-Men around 1992. I had read a handful of X-Men and X-Factor issues, but what really grabbed my attention was Rob Liefeld’s X-Force. Since then, I have pretty much always been a huge fan of anything mutant-related. Unfortunately, the comics have been in some major slumps the last few years. It felt like no one at Marvel was looking to do anything with these characters that I loved so much. Even Rosenberg’s recent run on Uncanny felt like a placeholder…

James Fulton: I had a handful of issues, but really got into the X-Men during John Romita Jr.’s first run – around the time Storm went punk and Rogue lost her powers. I quit during Scott Lobdell’s run, either as soon as Age of Apocalypse started, or just before that. I came back in the post-Onslaught days, and have been around ever since, but agree that things have been pretty moribund of late. I don’t think I’ve really been feeling the X-Men since Kieron Gillen left.

John Babos: DC’s Hawk and Dove is my gateway to Marvel’s X-Men. The 1988 series has Hawk on the cover with an ammo belt across his chest and guns a’blazing that pulled me in. The art was great. Rob Liefeld on pencils and Karl Kesel on inks. That mini rocked. Then I followed Rob Liefeld Rob Marvel and I think my first boom there was 1990’s new Mutants #87 with Cable on the cover. I realized his art looked similar to his DC work, but different. I then realized what a stronger inker Kesel turned out to be for Rob at DC (there were feet in H&D). Then I hopped in Uncanny X-Men with Uncanny X-Men #275 and that gorgeous Jim Lee cover. Then I picked up X-Factor around the same time with the Peter David rethink. From there I experienced all the relaunches of X-Force, adjectiveless X-Men, etc. This was the period I started following regularly reading various series through direct market as opposed to picking shined random issues from the corner store spinner rack. My very first random X-Men issue was a few years earlier with 1986’s Uncanny X-Men #201 because those Sentinels on the cover fighting small mutants was compelling.

Mike Maillaro: Somehow I had ended up with three random issues of X-Men in a row, 253-255. I was only like 10 when they came out, so this was a few years before I was actually reading comics. They were pretty random issues…I saw the Muir Island X-Men long before I ever saw an actual team of X-Men. I guess this is why Forge has been one of my favorite characters for as long as I can remember…

Matt Graham: I can’t pin a year on it, but in 89 or 90 I was reading Outback era X-Men through an older brother of a friend. The Unadjectived X-Men and X-Force were books I started buying on my own, with a blur of events like X-Tinction Agenda and X-Cutioner’s Song being read on the school bus and on summer road trips. I didn’t care too much for X-Factor, but we used to swap books all the time at school. I remember Fatal Attractions was a huge deal when it happened, as a classmate came running across the schoolyard waving this hologram cover and yelling about Wolverine losing his adamantium. That’s the first event I can put a date on experiencing live, in fifth grade.

I went back to Outback X-Men a little older and wiser when I hit middle school, but my main books were always Uncanny, not Uncanny, and X-Force, then Generation X once that launched. And I even added X-Factor later on when Sabertooth and Mystique joined up with Forge.

Thanks to Wizard’s articles, back issue guides, and their lovely X-Men 30th Anniversary magazine, I became an expert, even if I never read it firsthand. I made it a mission to read things like Phoenix Saga and Mutant Massacre however I could.

AoA surprised me, Onslaught shocked me, and then I fell off in the middle of Zero Tolerance. Couldn’t keep up during a move, and I didn’t think it was that exciting.

I didn’t return to X-Men until Morrison. I tried, but everything I flipped through didn’t click.

All this to say that I agree with y’all the book has been flat in recent years. Maybe over a decade. Messiah Complex and Second Coming were great, but little since. There were runs (Rick Remender’s X-Force) that carried the franchise, and creators (Remender, Kieron Gillen, Kelly Thompson) that had things to say and showcase, but overall the franchise seemed to limp along on pure spite. One offs like Tom Taylor’s Wolverine (and it’s spin off into X-23) were worth reading, but struggled against the crushing monotony of Blue and Gold.

What the hell was Rosenberg’s input into the New Mutants and X-Men about?

I fell off every X-Title but Wolverine and X-23 after I finished Astonishing X-Men’s Man Called X Arc. As everyone here knows, when I’d ask if I should catch up, I was told, “Don’t bother.”

What’s your history with Hickman?

Mike Maillaro: While I have given both his Fantastic Four and Avengers several tries to grab me, I actually don’t normally like Hickman’s work all that much. I read comics for the characters, and too often Hickman’s characters all sound the same to me. I think he is great at world building and telling big stories, but I just don’t normally feel a lot of attachment to the characters populating his story, so that is a huge disconnect for me.

James Fulton: I’ve been a fan of Hickman’s since The Nightly News, his first Image comic. I think I’ve read just about everything he’s done since then. I much prefer his independent work (East of West is fantastic), but have appreciated his work at Marvel. He approaches things in a very architectural way, and I like the scale of his stories. I feel like no one else builds not just worlds, but storylines, like he does. I see your criticism around characters, and think it’s fair, with a few exceptions. I think I liked his Reed Richards better than anyone’s since John Byrne. He also wrote the best Black Panther since Priest, and had a good handle on Namor during his Avengers run.

Mike Maillaro: I actually have not read any of his creator owned stuff. I have heard a lot of good things. May try some more of it now that I am enjoying his X-Men so much.

James Fulton: The Nightly News and Pax Romana feature his artwork, which is a lot like his writing – very design oriented, but intriguing. Red Mass For Mars is a good quick read, with some good ideas. The Manhattan Projects is surprisingly funny and bizarre. East of West is his masterpiece.

I’d hold off on The Dying & The Dead and Blue Monday Murders, because they both seem to be on hiatus. I’m sure I’m forgetting something…

Mike Maillaro: Thanks! I am not sure I am all that willing to give FF and Avengers another shot, but I can definitely give some of these books a look.

John Babos: I didn’t follow Hickman, but I did pick up his secret history of SHIELD mini-series that took forever to complete. I enjoy secret history type series. Dustin Weaver’s art was great in that limited series.

James Fulton: I wanted to clarify one thing. I was in a bookstore yesterday looking at Hickman’s output, and I realized that I confused Red Mass for Mars with The Red Wing. Both are good, but the latter one is way better.

Matt Graham: I read Hickman’s Fantastic Four run. Past that I only read a few of his creator owned books, like East Meets West.

I agree with Mike that Hickman excels at ideas and not characterization, but that’s why his F4 was so compelling to me. And he seemed to have a genuine interest in the cast, which worked hand in hand with his out there concepts and epic scopes.

I’m not sure he could work that formula on anything at Marvel except X-Men and maybe the Eternals. On the other hand, X-Men has wild ideas and worlds, but it’s always worked for me because at it’s core it is a soap opera with interesting characters. The powers come after the drama. With an issue of each book out already, I remain concerned about his own focuses vs my interests as a reader.

What were your expectations going into House of X/Powers of X?

James Fulton: My expectations going in were pretty high. Like I said, I like Hickman a lot, and have a lot of faith in his ability to approach a set of characters from a new perspective. I loved his Avengers run, but felt that Secret Wars was a bit of a letdown. I don’t blame him for that – I could feel the editors sticking their fingers into things throughout that event.

Mike Maillaro: I hate to come off as cynical, but to a certain extent, my mindset going in was “Hey, it can’t be much worse than we have gotten in the last few years!” I was expecting some big world building, but feeling disconnected to the characters.

James Fulton: All fair comments. I’m excited about some of the new X-books launching after these two series end, so that has me predisposed to liking where this is heading. I noticed that we haven’t seen any of these new future characters attached to any of these books yet…

Mike Maillaro: Yeah, I am assuming/hoping that as the rest of these series roll out, we will understand how the spin off books all come about.

John Babos: I had hoped that the hype of big change was real. I was jaded understanding that what happened in last Uncanny X-Men series wouldn’t matter and be quickly undone. The first issues Of HoX and PoX were intriguing and seem to deliver in the hype so far.

Mike Maillaro: Yeah, it was kind of odd when issue 11 of Uncanny came out a few weeks ago, and they teased a huge shift in the status quo (Emma had made it so the entire world had forgotten mutants existed). I was sort of reminded of when everyone thought the X-Men were dead, so I thought this could be an interesting place for the comics to go from there…but then issue 12, it was quickly reversed.

And I was pretty annoyed that they were ending books I was enjoying like Mr and Mrs X, X-23, and X-Force as part of the relaunch.

Matt Graham: My expectations were high. I didn’t mind if he picked up pieces from older runs to reinvent, or got a clean slate. I just wanted him to make the book compelling again, since every other event or announcement from Modern Marvel Publishing tends to elicit an eyeroll or “Really, again?”.

How did your expectations match up with House of X/Powers of X?

James Fulton: I loved HoX, but have only read it once and want to go through it again. PoX felt weaker to me, but that’s because I’m really tired of stories that involve time jumps, especially where the X-Men are concerned. It seems like every writer for the last five or six years has done this at some point or another, and it’s gotten old. That said, I’m excited to see where it all leads.

I wasn’t as happy with RB Silva’s art as I was with Pepe Larraz’s, which might have impacted my enjoyment a bit.

Mike Maillaro: Far exceeded in every way. I even think he’s doing great with the characters. There is a scene with Cyclops and the Fantastic Four in House of X that really helped set the stage to me. It was kind of chilling when I realized that in a lot of ways, this is what Xavier has done all along.

I also love the way he’s writing Mystique. She felt absolutely perfect.

James Fulton: Agreed. I couldn’t remember if Sabretooth was good or bad now.

Mike Maillaro: If I remember correctly, he was actually evil again at the end of Weapon X and then dead, before they brought him back to kill him again.

James Fulton: Oh, my bad for not being able to keep that all straight (and I even read Weapon X).

Mike Maillaro: Yeah, I doubt Marvel editorial is paying that much attention, so don’t feel bad if you can’t keep up either 😉

John Babos: I enjoyed both, but enjoyed PoX more due to its secret history piece and its alternate future scape. Loved the sci-fi feel of the future scenes.

Mike Maillaro: For me, I liked House of X a little more. We are dropped right into a big story and there are immediately conflicts with the characters and the rest of the Marvel universe. It kind of felt like a thesis statement for what Hickman would be doing in the coming months, and I was immediately on board.

Powers of X’s time jumps worked great in showing us how everything all fits together moving forward, but I am a lot more interested in what’s going on “now”, in the year 10 period than what happens 1000 years from now. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy Powers of X, just that House of X was more what I was looking for.

Matt Graham: These books have managed to keep me compelled every page so far. I am having conversations with lapsed readers and new readers. I’m dissecting panels, and expressions of characters, and wording in text files and balloons. I love it.

I am glad he got a clean slate. When I saw “my” Sabertooth and Mystique with Toad, I had a rush in my chest. Pure nostalgia, but he wrote them so well. Like many of his stories, Hickman excels at giving you comfort to cling to with unsettling ideas all around.

I won’t compare House and Powers, because so far they seem like the same book. Maybe if we hadn’t seen the Mystique thread pick up again. I will say that I’m not a fan of time jumps and writers always making a new Days of Future Past scenario, since we’ve seen it so many times the past fifteen years, but there are interesting ideas with the scale of these four timelines.

I’m less interested in the future and more into what’s going on with Krakoa and X, but Hickman wouldn’t talk about Shi’ar annexation and a Machine/Human alliance if he didn’t have a reason.

Any theories you wanna share with the class?

James Fulton: I’m trying to avoid too many theories. I saw one online that suggested that in HoX, we are seeing The Maker impersonate Charles Xavier, which does make sense. Beyond that, I’m happy to wait and see where he takes us.

Mike Maillaro: I can’t help but think the Maker theory comes from the fact they wear similar helmets….

I was leaning towards the idea that “Xavier” was really Magneto in disguise, especially when he was using telekinesis in Powers of X, but you do see the two of them in the same scene later so that is probably not likely.

James Fulton: And the way he was sashaying through Krakoa. Are Scott and Jean Krakoa-grown clones?

John Babos: No. That’s Krakoa stuff is the glue that ties everything together. I can’t wrap my head around this McGuffin so I await further surprises.

Mike Maillaro: The one theory I am going with right now is that this Xavier is still in Fantomax’s body, and this is all taking place in The World. But that could kind of be a cheap copout, so not sure that is quite what is happening.

Matt Graham: I’m sticking with this being Xavier as X. I also believe one layer of this story will be unveiled as The World. Not the whole story, but a layer of it.

It’s possible Sinister is using The World to run these Chimera trials and forecasting an event. Maybe he did it, and as we read in the files, it all went wrong and the futures we read all real. It seems strange to me that the X-Men would go to Sinister for help. And then be shocked he betrayed them. After betraying humans. And I think one other betrayal?

Alternately, are Magneto and the X-Men all clones, with the real mutants encased in Krakoa’s pods? Maybe there’s a reason they didn’t want super sensing serial killer Sabertooth back at the ranch. Maybe Mystique and Toad will discover something is amiss, and ever the antihero, go about undoing it.

Like I said earlier, Hickman picks things for specific reasons.

The Mark Brooks cover is loaded with teases and clues. Multiple versions of X-Men. The future characters. Yet, I notice the villains like Sinister and Apocalypse are still in their classic poses. And why are they standing spread out, among the X-Men? Clue to who really holds X and Krakoa’s keys?

A tiny detail that’s bother me is Jean’s old outfit. Yeah, it’s on the cover of the new books, but we can’t trust anything right now.

In House #1, Jean brings students to Krakoa. One asks if they’ll meet Xavier, and she points to X. X is standing around with Logan at his feet. Logan is playing with kids, smiling. Jean receives a telepathic message from X welcoming her “home”. Jean smiles in that panel when he says “Home”.

It’s known in older X-Men books that Xavier had an inappropriate preference for Jean. This was mentioned even in an Uncanny comic which was one of those quiet Thanksgiving issues where the X-Men just talk and rake leaves and play football.
Now go back to X in Astonishing X-Men. He told the X-Men (that he secretly hand picked to free him and donate his new body) that he was no longer Xavier. He had millennia in the Astral Plane’s sense of time to reinvent himself and hone his mind. This is why he’s X.

Could X be using the subtle mind control (See Cyclops vs the F4) he uses too maintain Krakoa to have a little fun with Jean? Make his prized student pet wear her short miniskirt for him? Some twisted part of the Professor and X, maybe X doesn’t even know why it’s funny.

It sticks with me.

And a final detail that’s not a theory, but no one I ask will commit an answer to: The final scene on Powers, with the alien and Nimrod overlooking the two mutants in the preservation – that’s a Shia’r annexed Earth, yeah?

Mike Maillaro: Matt, that is how I read it, yep. And I loved the mention of Xandra from Mr and Mrs x.

James Fulton: One last thing from me on a reread – does X/Xavier have telekinetic powers now? It looks like it when he grabs the USB stick from Mystique in PoX. Just worth noting…

Mike Maillaro: The TK thing is why I thought Xavier might be Magneto

Matt Graham: Did Fantomex have TK?

Stands to reason you take the body, you get the extras.

Mike Maillaro: Not that I’ve ever seen, but I have only read a handful of comics with him in it.

James Fulton: I don’t think so. He did have the ability to create illusions though, which is interesting.

Which of the follow up books are you most looking forward to?

James Fulton: I am definitely on board for X-Men and New Mutants. I am going to give Fallen Angels and X-Force one arc. I assume I’ll be down with Fallen Angels, because I like Bryan Hill’s writing; I’m on the fence with Ben Percy, just because I’ve only read his Green Arrow.

Marauders sounds like a great concept, but I’m not a big fan of Gerry Duggan.

I need to know more about Excalibur. I’m going to give the first issue a good flip through.

I’d also like to know that there’s some kind of guarantee or commitment from Marvel for these books. I’m tired of titles only lasting ten issues before being relaunched or the line is retooled. It doesn’t give me a lot of confidence. I know Hickman says he’s on for a couple of years, but can he influence the entire line to that degree?

John Babos: X-Men because it’s clearly the Summers-Grey family book quite literally (plus Wolverine). I also enjoy legacy and dynastic stories. That one fits as the flagship book for Dawn of X and I will check that out. None of the other books intrigue me. Some confuse me; Marauders seems more like an X-Force book than the new X-Force book does. Also, Excalibur doesn’t feel right without Captain Britain.

Mike Maillaro: I will likely check them all out, but ranking them from my favorite announcement to least:

Marauders by Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli – The solicit for this one reminds me of X-Calibre from Age of Apocalypse. “THE X-MEN SAIL AT DAWN! Even in this glorious new dawn, Mutantkind faces hardships and oppression from their human counterparts. Led by Captain Kate Pryde and funded by Emma Frost and the Hellfire Trading Company, Marauders Storm, Pyro, Bishop and Iceman sail the seas of the world to protect those hated and feared!” I never knew I needed an X-Men high seas book, but Marvel, you certainly have my attention here!

X-Men by Hickman and Leinil Yu – The core X-Men book seems to be Team Summers. Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rachel Grey, Cable, Corsair, Vulcan, Havok and…Wolverine. Pretty wild concept to throw all these characters together, especially Vulcan.

X-Force by Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara – Beast, Jean Grey, Sage, Wolverine, Kid Omega, and Domino serve as the mutant universe’s CIA. Hell, I am just happy to see Sage back in action. That alone would put this book on my radar.

New Mutants by Hickman, Ed Brission, and Rod Reid – I am a huge fan of New Mutants and Generation X. This book seems to combine them both. I am curious if this means they are getting rid of some of the random New Mutant deaths we got recently, since Wolfsbane and Sunspot were both announced for this book. I actually am surprised this book didn’t rank higher for me. It seems like a no-brainer for me, but the cover art and solicit didn’t grab me.

Excalibur by Tiny Howard and Marcus To – A mutant book focused on a mutant/magic connection starring Betsy Braddock as Captain Britain, Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee, Rictor, and Apocalypse? I don’t really know this creative team…kind of would have preferred to see Kelly Thompson here after her terrific work on Rogue & Gambit and Mr and Mrs X. And this isn’t a group of mutants you would expect to see deal with mystical issues, and they don’t even really have a connection to past versions of Excalibur. I am not knocking the series, I am just left with a lot of questions.

Fallen Angels by Bryan Edward Hill and Syzmon Kudranski – Kwannon (Asian Psylocke), X-23, and Kid Cable team up for a mission of vengeance. Like the creative team, but not really sold on Kid Cable or a second Psylocke. I do like X-23, but kind of prefer her in her own book with Gabby.

Matt Graham: Most to Least:

Marauders – Gerry Duggan is a good writer, but not a writer that excites me. That could change with this title. I get a roster that does not contain one character I dislike (even new Pyro), playing at Pirates or Whale Wars. Storm seems like an MVP on a high seas adventure book. Kitty already has pirate cred from Bamf stories and deep space. Emma Frost is funding this. Okay. I wanted fresh and compelling, it’d be unfair to say I wasn’t intrigued.

X-Force – I don’t know the writer or artist’s work, but I like what I see so far. Domino, Sage, Wolverine, Jean and Kid frickin’ Omega playing Tom Clancy’s X-Men? Sorry, you had me at Domino already.

New Mutants – Two of my favourite books are Gen X and New Mutants. Of course they smash them together. Still, as a fan I have to complain. Douglock, go away, cool characters are playing. And Mondo? I love that Chamber is here, but Mondo is the other Gen X rep? The original New Mutants were heavy on female students, and since Rahne, Dani, Xi’an, and Illyana survived their fates mere months ago, I supposed Husk or Monet never stood a chance. On one hand, shoulda been Synch, on the other… we never really got to see Mondo in Gen X, since he was a clone who betrayed them, and later a real guy who betrayed them. If we just get the chill Mondo as advertised in the ashcan, I can learn to love.

Excalibur – Jim introduced me to Tini Howard a few years ago. In person, and to buy her creator owned comic. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read since, so this was already a curiosity pick. Then, like New Mutants, Hickman’s new world smashes together two favorite things by revealing Betsy Braddock is Captain Britain. Huh. This is also where I get Gambit, Rogue, Jubilee, Rictor, and Apocalypse. That’s a big nostalgia rush and a bigger What The…?!

This doesn’t harken back to Excalibur I know and loved, but neither did the Juggernaut and Talia Wagner roster, so I can’t hold that against it.

Fallen Angels – This is where they kicked X-23 while Logan and Jean come back from vacay and get two titles. Always going to buy it based off of this, but the more I thought about Kid Cable and Kwannon, the more I really liked the concept. These are all copies of people with baggage preconceived judgments about them based on things they had no control over. There’s interesting potential there. Still, that means this book also lacks in starpower for the roster, so I need to read it. Low on the list, but may be my first read the way I go.

X-Men – No, not a stunt. Buying the main book is a given, but look: Cyclops, Jean, Cable, Havok, Rachel, Corsair, and Wolverine. And Vulcan, who I’ve never cared about, from intro to death. This is the book I understand the least based on the cover art, roster, and pitch. SDCC showcased a spreadsheet indicating the roster may not be this, and there are more X-Men from the entire history of mutants rotating through.

Until then, I gotta read this before I see why it’s interesting. Thankfully, if House of X is anything to go by, it’ll have me by the fourth page.

Final thoughts?

Mike Maillaro: Two weeks in,this X-Men relaunch is getting a lot of solid positive buzz, and it’s well deserved. I think it’s going to be a bit of a slow roll out, and I am not sure how patient comic fans can be these days, but I am definitely on board to see how it comes together. Hickman has a big vision for the X-Men, and it’s great to see Marvel put some muscle behind their mutant line. It’s been far too long.

James Fulton: I want to read both first issues again today, so I might have more to say later.

Mike Maillaro: Fair enough. I actually have them saved on my tablet planning to reread them when all 12 come out.

Matt Graham: I have no doubt these two books are going places that will anger and delight X-Men fans.

It’s what happens in October where we see if Marvel can maintain momentum.

John Babos: I just hope that whatever this reboot turns out to be that it makes sense in the end and there is an in-continuity reason for the changes / reboots. So far it shows promise.

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