“Ideas never die.”
Those are the last words spoken by Cyclops before he is (seemingly) killed in the final issue of “Death of X,” a four-part miniseries in which the X-Men and Inhumans fight to set up the next event miniseries, “Inhumans vs. X-Men.”
Nothing gets older comics fans riled up quite like the X-Men, a book that for many peaked creatively in the 1980s under writer Chris Claremont and artists that ran the gamut from John Byrne to Jim Lee. It was under these fans’ watch that the X-Men line exploded in the 1990s to 10+ books a month, plus cartoons and, at the dawn of the new millennium, live-action movies. The highest-selling single comic of all time remains 1991’s “X-Men” #1.
Then, around the mid-2000s, the persecuted-minority angle that had been at the heart of the X-books for decades became a bit too real. All but 198 mutants were depowered during a 2005 crossover called “House of M.” Nonmutant heroes like Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow began to overshadow the X-Men due to the rise of Marvel Studios and Marvel’s purchase by Disney in 2009 (Fox maintains the film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four).
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“Guardians of the Galaxy” made $773.5 million at the box office in 2014 with largely unknown characters, teaching America to shout “I am Groot” with one voice as Marvel killed beloved X-Men like Professor X and Wolverine in the comics — and actually left them that way — while producing fewer and fewer X-books.
Cyclops became a dirty word, as the X-Men’s leader killed the team’s founder, Charles Xavier, in 2012’s “Avengers vs. X-Men” crossover, then spent the next few years as a wanted man running a small band of guerilla-style mutant rebels. When Marvel relaunched its books after last year’s “Secret Wars,” Cyclops was dead (as explained in “Death of X”) and given full blame as mutants once again found their numbers dwindling in a storyline that put them at odds with another race of superpowered beings called the Inhumans who had begun to creep into live-action properties like Marvel’s “Agents of SHIELD.”
Which brings us to “Inhumans vs. X-Men,” another good-guys-vs.-good-guys story in a year that’s seen way too many of them on both page and screen.
But perhaps there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. In September, Marvel revealed a campaign called “ResurrXion” that would relaunch the X-books come spring, immediately after “IVX.” In the weeks following it announced seven new titles — “X-Men Blue,” “X-Men Gold,” “Weapon X,” “Generation X,” “Cable,” “Iceman” and “Jean Grey” — more than a few of which are evocative of the X-line’s 1990s commercial peak.
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Marvel began naming creative teams for the books Monday. “X-Men Gold” will be written by Marc Guggenheim (“Arrow”) and drawn by Adrian Syaf and will feature Kitty Pryde, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Old Man Logan (an aged Wolverine from an alternate reality) and Rachel Grey. “X-Men Blue” will be written by Cullen Bunn (“Uncanny X-Men”) and drawn by Jorge Molina and feature the teenage versions of the original X-Men who have been stuck in the present since 2012. A third team book, “Generation X,” will feature young mutants led by Jubilee, written by Christina Strain and drawn by Amilcar Pinna. Sina Grace will write and Alessandro Vitti will draw the first-ever ongoing solo series for Iceman, who just last year came out as gay.
But the question remains, is Marvel making an earnest push to restore its mutants to prominence, or is the dream of the ’90s dead?
“I think there has been a drop-off in new readership,” Gregg Mester, co-owner of Level Up Entertainment in the Hamilton Mall, said of X-Men sales. “We definitely don’t sell as many as we used to.” He said he was interested in the “Cable” and “Generation X” relaunches because those were books he read when he was getting into comics 20-plus years ago. “I don’t know if it’s going to fix anything or help anything, but it really just depends on what the creative teams are going to be and what they’re going to do moving forward.”
On the other hand, for some fans, hope springs eternal.
“I do feel the current period is a bit of a slump, but I look for the positives in each series: the youthful exploration of ‘All-New,’ the grim old guard in ‘Uncanny’ and the firm grasp on survival in ‘Extraordinary,’” said Mario Candelaria, a longtime X-fan and writer of a Kickstarter book called “The San Diego Conquest.” “Knowing that the X-Men are facing another brand-wide reboot fills me with hope of what it can become.”
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“Inhumans vs. X-Men” #0 hit comic shops Wednesday.