Let’s do a little exercise in history here and look at the publication of X-Men comics these last few years. We’re in the midst of Regenesis right now, but where did that come from? Well… Regensis -> Schism -> Second Coming -> Curse of the Mutants -> Necrosha -> Utopia -> Messiah War -> Messiah Complex -> Endangered Species -> House of M. That’s 10 crossover events in 5-6 years. For a single set of characters. Each with accompanying reboots, relaunches, crossover minis and Things That Will Change Forever.
Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with Kieron Gillen and Carlos Pacheco’s perfectly serviceable Uncanny X-Men #1. Well, Wolverine and the X-Men had an increased focus on the school setting and mutant culture, which, while not at all new, is at least grasping at trying to do something different with the X-titles. So, with the all new Uncanny X-Men #1, what’s changed? Though the roster is different and the language is more sophisticated, this is the exact same X-title you’ve been reading for years. Gillen has assembled an interesting cast, while Pacheco, Smith and D’Armata on art give the book a gorgeous, classic sheen, but Uncanny X-Men #1 follows Cyclops leading a team of mutants against Mister Sinister, who is terrorizing San Francisco in a bizarre and unpredictable way.
At the end of the book (and at the end of Wolverine and the X-Men #1) Marvel provides you a list. Not just a solicitation for the next issue, but a suggestion of how you can keep following your ‘team’ – for Team Cyclops, check out New Mutants #33, X-Men #20 and Generation Hope #13. Now, these will probably have nothing to do with the actual story being told here. Marvel is just building a brand, no different from Twilight‘s Team Edward and Team Jacob, and trying to use it to push sales up through the line.
And this isn’t a bad thing. It’s exhausting, sure, but it’s a marketing ploy – it has little to do with the actual book itself. And, as I said, Uncanny X-Men is extremely pretty and competently written, with a cast that will provide a lot of fodder for drama. If you’ve liked the last five years of X-Men books, you’ll like this one too, and Gillen (like Aaron over on, uh, Team Wolverine) leaves himself plenty of room to grow and plenty of places to take the team. There’s potential here, that’s undeniable.
But the core X-Men franchise feels pretty hollow now, propped up more by gimmicks than by characters. For all that Marvel fans like to talk about how Marvel sells characters while DC sells icons, Marvel has been fairly brutal these past few years in molding their characters into iconic, easily-packaged forms with books like House of M and One More Day. These weren’t done to serve the characters, the stories or continuity; they were done by the marketing department, and from time to time, reading Uncanny X-Men #1, I got that same feeling. I’m sure some good stories will come of it, just like it did for Spider-Man. But I’m tired of the gimmick.