Are Hickman’s new X-Men titles worth buying?

Note: I will do my best to avoid plot spoilers in this review.

My big question in reading and writing this entry: are these books worth purchasing. They’re hefty, with 34 pages of art, 4 title/quote pages, and 8 of those wonderful expository/info-graph pages that I believe Hickman designs graphically himself (based on the art that he did in The Nightly News and Pax Romana). They also come with a hefty price rolling in at $6 an issue. Which, to be fair, is probably a good value when you compare it to the normal price of a 20 page book. Still, $6 is $6. By the time you factor in tax, the entire 12-page epic will set you back around $75. So I’d like to make sure it’s something I will ultimately enjoy.

Artwise, House of X was incredible. Aside from a single action sequence, this book is entirely talking heads. Sure, a crap ton of world-building takes place, and most of the story revolves around politics and culture, so it’s to be expected. But given that, Peppe outdoes himself in making everything exciting to read. He uses the space to flesh out [minor spoiler] what Krakoa looks like, and to really play out the fantasy element of the environment that Hickman is aiming to create here. With a plot involving nothing but conversation, Peppe and Gracia spin gold from straw. Not a single page is boring to look at, and despite the content, the book moves.

Storywise, I was interested. As I mentioned before, this issue was largely world-building. And in all honesty, it feels more like an X-Men fanfic or a movie script than it does a cannon book title: all of the dead characters have returned (I’m sure Legion has something to do with that in the previous series) and all of them seem to be living in harmony. Xavier (as seen in the covers) is walking, and wears that funny Cerebro helmet around. These aren’t really plot elements, they’re just givens, that I’m sure we’re expected to accept. The idea of the premise, like almost every event since Age of Apocalypse, is something that previous writers have addressed. Nothing original happens anymore in the x-universe. In the particular case of House of X, we’ve seen this particular idea at least four times that I can think of immediately off the top of my head. Sure, there are some unique uses of smaller characters in pulling it off, but at the heart of it all, we’ve seen the idea before. I imagine though, that Hickman has some unique way of ending it. Or not.

I was excited to see some of my favorite less-popular characters being put to good use. [spoiler] I’ll mention one of them here, as it’s not much of a spoiler: but Doug Ramsey’s language ability is finally given credit for the amazing thing that it is. In the real world, the ability to speak and understand any language would be incredibly powerful, However, in a world of tights and powerblasts, it gets overlooked. Kudos to Hickman for recognizing the importants of language.

Still, the weak points of the book were that we don’t have an actual protagonist so far. Xavior is likely going to be that character, but at the moment he’s been a plot device and a setting piece. We’ve seen very few actual X-Men do anything other than look pretty; villains have taken the spotlight thus far. I have a feeling that Hickman may set up an environment and then focus on the morality of the people trying to tear it down. Personally, I’m not very interested in that book. I’m hoping to read about my favorite heroes.

I was far less impressed with Powers of X. We’re initially presented with Xavier as the protagonist, which is nice, but then the book jumps far into the future. And stays there. To an outside reader who is more interested in the story than the X-Men, I’m sure this move was fine. For me, as an x-fan, it sucked. We get to meet boring new characters that are just amalgamations of characters we already know, and we’re basically told how the situation presented in House of X resolves. Lame. A mythology was established that felt similar to East of West (interestingly, East of West felt more like an X-Men book to me than Powers of X did).

Artwise, this book was equally as impressive as Powers of X. Or possibly a little less so, as I feel like the script gave Silva more fun things to draw. There was more action than House of X #1, for example.

Overall, I was disappointed. I didn’t become emotionally invested in any of the characters, and I wasn’t interested in any plot mysteries or developments. Furthermore, because it spoiled the outcome of the premise established in House of X, I have now become less invested in that series as well. I am going to read up on what others reviewers thought of these books, but as it stands now I may possibly get House of X #2 and will not be getting further issues of Powers of X.

House/Powers of X

Because of reasons, I have been holding off on posting pics of my recent drawings. But rest assured, I have them. In my notebook at work, I use unruled paper and use it to doodle and draw. Which means that I’ve been pretty much drawing daily, and I’m excited to start posting them again.

Sara Pichelli’s variant cover

Also with my renewed interest in drawing, I have been reading Jem and X-Men comics again. Which leads me to the topic of this post: I am trying to decide if I want to continue purchasing this title. Right off the bat, I was turned away by the marking, that basically says this series/event is the biggest thing to hit the x-titles since New X-Men. Which is a pretty bold statement. Every other milestone that was listed in the advertisement (The original #1, Giant-Sized #1, Jim Lee’s X-Men #1, and Age of Apocalypse) was not known to be a significant event until after the book hit and the fandom responded. With Hickman’s book, Marvel is pre-emptively declaring it a hit. Which leads me to want to drop as much hate on the book from the get go. That being said, as a writer, I have thoroughly enjoyed Hickman books in the past. Nightly News was great and thoughtful, and I am greatly enjoying East of West. However, as has been seen with superstar writers jumping on x-books in the past, the writers tend to have the idea that they are bigger than the characters. For example, Ed Brubrake and Rick Remender both came on to write x-titles that were unpopular with fans, but were well regarded with reviewers outside of the fandom. This is because they ignored the histories of characters and/or characterization to further their own plots. To me, it felt like they had a plot in mind and plugged in x-characters as an afterthought. This is very different from writers like Mike Carey that specifically wanted to write about character x, character y, etc. Carey has one of the best beloved runs in the fandom from one of the best loved eras, yet I wonder how the sales during that era compared to Remender’s run of Uncanny Avengers. I also wonder how much the marketing push that Marvel gave titles like Uncanny Avengers affected their sales too. House of X is most definitely getting a strong marketing push, so it will do well sales-wise, regardless. Hopefully, it gives us a story that will make fans happy.

With regard to the art, before this book, I was unfamiliar with Peppe Larraz and R.B. Silva, but one look at preview art confirmed that both are fantastic. As far as the colors, which to me, are very important, Marte Gracia is one of the best. He responsible, in my opinion, for turning Stuart Immoment from just a solid artist to a superstar. His colors do wonders with minimalist artists by truely helping to definte and give depth to otherwise flat renderings. In House of X and Powers of X, his colors do no less of an amazing transformation, and they absolutely shine. Even if the book reads terribly, it will at least appear fantastic.

Next, I’ll give my reaction after reading the first issue of each book.

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