To say that the X-Men have had a rough decade would be putting it nicely. There was a time that the X-Men was one of the best running and consistent franchises that Marvel had for selling comics. They were even bigger than the Avengers, hard as that is to remember now. Due to many factors the X-Men have lost their credibility in being a guaranteed success. But like everything else in comics it is not too late to correct course with a clear direction.
When you take a look at what the biggest problem the X-Men franchise has had it has been the lack of a clear direction. More often than not the X-Men’s modern day portrayal has been about survival and the world being against them rather than being a message of unity and the future. Whether it’s turning the X-Men to be Cyclops vs Wolverine, X-Men vs Avengers or X-Men vs Inhumans everything about the modern direction of the franchise has been about fighting. In the middle of all that fighting their has been a lack of a positive outlook for where the mutants are positioned in the Marvel Universe’s future.
The recent relaunch under the X-Men: Blue, Gold and Red comics is a good example of that. With these three core X-Men titles under the same titled format a reader would expect them to follow a central direction even when each team is off on their own mission. That has not been the case as the Blue, Gold and Red teams have operated independently from each other, with each teams vision for mutants continuing the splintered direction of the franchise. Highlighting this problem very well was the twist ending in recently released X-Men: Gold #30 that just further made you wonder where the franchise is going at this point.
Now with the recent announcement that X-Men: Blue and Gold will be canceled in September and the Extermination event possibly sending the original time displaced X-Men away from the Marvel Universe this may be the best time for a semi-reboot for the franchise. This semi-reboot does not necessarily need to change everything as X-Men: Red under Jean Grey’s leadership has set a direction the entire franchise can unite under. That direction, centered around mutants being accepted by world leaders, is a goal to have the X-Men can strive for. Under that direction we should see four team books making up the core of the franchise. They should be as follows:
Uncanny X-Men (formerly X-Men: Red)
Team: Jean Grey, Storm, Nightcrawler, X-23, Gambit, Trinary and Gentle
Direction: While X-Men: Red is a new series Marvel needs to do away with all of the X-Men series from the previous failed relaunch. That said, we should not see the team Tom Taylor has created under Jean Grey’s leadership done away with. Instead, within the new reboot line they should have Taylor’s team work under the well known title of Uncanny X-Men. In bringing back the Uncanny X-Men title everyone will know, like the main Avengers title, what is the main X-Men team to follow. Like X-Men: Red this should be the series that most closely follows the big picture idea behind Jean’s direction for the team. That means getting involved in both galactic threats like the Shi’ar and mutant villains like the Brotherhood, Cassandra Nova and Apocalypse.
With that in mind the one change from X-Men: Red that Uncanny X-Men should do is get away from being isolated in Atlantis and work out of its own wing of the Xavier Mansion, like the team has been known to be. This way Uncanny X-Men can further drive home how they are the beacon for hope like the Avengers.
Team: Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Psylocke, Sunfire, Monet, Forge and Rogue
Direction: One of the things that Jean Grey has brought to the table for others to consider is for the X-Men to work with the world leaders to come up with a solution to unite humans, mutants and Inhumans. To that point X-Men: Excalibur can be the team created to work with the world leaders who have decided to be open to work with the X-Men to make mutants accepted in their countries. Much like Uncanny Avengers worked as a unity squad, the Excalibur team can show that the X-Men can work under specific rules that world leaders they are working with. This would likely have them clash with the Sentinels, Marauders, Purifiers and other groups that look to destroy mutants and their growing acceptance in the world.
Team: Wolverine, Magik, Warpath, Bishop, Domino and Emma Frost
Direction: While I did put Wolverine with the Excalibur team it has never stopped him from being on multiple teams. And possibly the most fitting team that Wolverine has been a part of is the Uncanny X-Force, who acted as the X-Men’s black opts team. That is exactly what a returning Uncanny X-Force team should do with one change. That would be that, like Excalibur, Jean would have Wolverine’s team work alongside SHIELD to defeat mutant and other threats that the public should not know about. The connection with SHIELD will strengthen the idea that the X-Men are a united team working with the rest of the Marvel Universe, albeit with the Uncanny X-Force working in the shadows against threats like the Hellfire Club.
Xavier Institute Main Staff: Beast, Storm, Jubilee and Colossus
Xavier Institute Main Students: Gabby Kinney, Kid Omega, Surge, Shark-Girl and Glob Herman
Direction: The final title that can be the core to the new direction for the X-Men is a New X-Men title. The New X-Men should fill the major hole that has not been filled within the franchise, and that is a focus on the staff and students of the X-Men. Because the X-Men have not just been about a team of mutants fighting for survival. Professor Xavier created the team to create a future where mutants can be positive members of day-to-day life of society.
Having a series that focuses on core X-Men like Beast, Storm and Jubilee who carry on that vision will be a good way to show that the team is also building towards the future. There is already a group of young mutants that fans know like Gabby Kinney, Kid Omega and Glob to make up this next generation of X-Men. Adding in some new or even lesser known mutants will help flesh out this direction. And whoever the creative team is they should look at My Hero Academia and Avengers Academy for inspiration on what the New X-Men can be.
Overall these new titles should be about not just establishing the present but building the future for mutants with the X-Men as the leaders of that direction. By establishing this strong core Marvel can further branch off, like they always do, with some solid solo X-Men ongoing and mini-series just in time for the (hopeful) Disney/Fox merger.