One of the most exciting things that was happening at Marvel towards the end of 2018 was their relaunch of Uncanny X-Men. With their being a general lack of excitement around the X-Men the franchise was in desperate need of something to ignite the flame. The announcement of Uncanny X-Men returning started the road to recovery for the franchise. But now after two months and nine issues of Uncanny X-Men it is clear the X-Men franchise is still lost.
Right out of the gate Uncanny X-Men did not get off to the best note as Marvel decided to turn it into a weekly series, at least for its first story arc. This meant Marvel was making X-Men fans make a major decision if they are able to support purchasing four issues a week at $3.99, with the first issue being priced at $7.99 at launch. That was a big hit to any pull list for comic book fans.
Getting past the price point and weekly release schedule, the reason that Uncanny X-Men’s relaunch has failed is the story decisions. When it comes to the X-Men they are by far the hardest franchise to get into as a fan. There have been so much time travel, character deaths, revivals and swerves that even as a hardcore fan it has been tough to keep up. Even with events signaling a new era for the franchise they all came with the baggage of the X-Men’s history looming overhead.
While not the best story, Extermination was the first X-Men event that provided the franchise with an opportunity to get a fresh start. The team behind the X-Men was able to do away with the time-displaced X-Men that made things much more complicated to even explain where the franchise is. At the same time we finally got the return of Jean Grey, Cyclops and Wolverine to be part of the mix for the X-Men franchise moving forward. Everything was set-up to bring new and lapse X-Men fans to what should be one of the premiere comics in Marvel’s line-up in the form of Uncanny X-Men.
Unfortunately that never materialized with how Uncanny X-Men has started. Rather than focusing on rebuilding who the X-Men are the X-staff has decided to launch directly into a direction that immediately opens up the opportunity for a branding opportunity. The entire focus of this first story arc has been to sell readers on buying all of the comics that will be under the Age of X-Man banner starting at the end of the month.
In deciding to do this Uncanny X-Men’s launch has been nothing more than a promotion for another set of comics that will be launching. There has not been time dedicated to creating an identity for Uncanny X-Men as a series and the characters as people readers are engaged with reading about.
That is the true disappointing part of all of this. The X-Men franchise have some of the best characters in the entire comic book industry. Characters like Jean Grey, Storm, Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Bishop and Beast can all lead stories on their own. And that is just naming some of the bigger X-Men characters. There are so many secondary characters that can have stories based around them that could be explored. Both from the older generation to the new crop of students, the X-Men franchise is not dry on new stories or characters to explore.
Instead Marvel and the X-Men’s staff answer to creating interest in Uncanny X-Men has been to immediately morph it into the Age of X-Man banner that’s nothing more than another mini-series cash grab. There is no reason for the franchise to be launched in a “big, new” direction that branched off into six different mini-series’. What was needed was a spotlight of the core X-Men rebuilding the status of both the team and Xavier Institutes.
Even using real world events to address why it is important for the X-Men to establish a place where mutants could be educated and trained would in safety. There is a reason why on top of the mansion being a place to learn that Professor Xavier turned the Xavier Mansion into a home for all of the X-Men. He wanted to create a good environment for the mutants to be groomed into positive members of society. No matter what was happening outside the Xavier Mansion was a home for mutants and even non-mutants at times.
There is no reason that Jean Grey, who Marvel has tapped as the face of the franchise, to help bring the X-Men back into that direction. It wasn’t too long ago that we saw that successfully done with Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men series. In that comic we saw how Wolverine and Storm were able to take the work Professor Xavier did and continued it in a way that it felt like it was evolving. There was a life to the school as the students who were challenged to learn and grow beyond just being a superhero. At the same time we saw the X-Men go on adventures with Wolverine and Storm in the lead on top of the day-to-day school events.
Not all is lost for the Uncanny X-Men comic or franchise. The series itself has a second chance to get things right at the end of the month as Cyclops and Wolverine return to lead the X-Men. Uncanny X-Men also stopping the weekly issue publishing route is another positive to make it easier to buy the comic without having to break the bank. But this second chance needs to be treated as a last chance. Everything that happens from this point forward with Cyclops and Wolverine’s X-Men needs to show new and long-term fans why the franchise is special. Show why Uncanny X-Men’s future is something that everyone should invest in. It can be done, all the X-Men need is a focus on moving forward into the future rather than always looking backwards.