X-Men: A Case for Diverse Voices
Recently Marvel announced that, as part of Jonathan Hickman’s upcoming run on the X-Men books, the X-Line would be contracted to just two books – House of X and Powers of X, each with a 6-issue run. According to an interview with ComicBook.com, the decision was pitched by Hickman essentially to create a jumping on point for the line for new readers.
The argument makes sense – two books are cheaper than 10 and require less effort to keep track of a story across those books. However, the fundamental idea of the Mutant Metaphor – of Mutants being representative of multiple discriminated minority populations – requires representation not only in the form of the characters on the page but also in the form of the people writing stories with those characters.
Reinforcing The Mutant Metaphor
In the past 4-5 years, since I started reading comics again, the X-Line has seen tremendous growth in terms not only of the diversity of the characters appearing on the page but also in terms of the people writing for them. Gay writers like Sina Grace, women like Seanan McGuire, women of color like Vita Ayala, and more have all been able to contribute stories to this universe. They’ve brought a perspective that makes the X-Line richer because of what they bring to the table, and consequently which strengthens the Mutant Metaphor.
The problem is that with Hickman’s two books – House of X and Power of X – it’s all dudes. It’s all (near as I can tell) straight dudes. Also, with the exception of the cover artist, it’s all white dudes. There have been good X-Men books in the past where everyone who worked on the were white men (Claremont & Byrne, Claremont & Romita), but going from a very diverse, very eclectic collective of writers and artists to a very small team of white men feels like a strong step backwards.
It makes me worry that the work we’ll get coming out of this story is one which will miss what makes the Mutant Metaphor resonate with audiences who saw themselves a team of people fighting to protect a world that hates and fears them.
Outside the Wall
This isn’t helped by the fact that we don’t know what books will be coming out of this run. Part of what is hooking me with the Age of X-Man event isn’t just the ongoing stories inside and outside this universe, but also how things will play out once Nate Gray’s Reality Marble is shattered, and the people trapped inside will end up seeing the state of the world outside of the marble. Not to mention – I want to see how that reality marble is broken.
However, more than that, I’d love to see some of these writers get a chance to write X-Books outside of this literal pocket universe. Seanan McGuire’s Amazing Nightcrawler book has been great, as has been Next Gen, Prisoner X, and X-Tremists. I’d love to read another X-Book from McGuire – either based around Nightcrawler or around other alumni of Excalibur. Same with the Prisoner X and X-Tremists teams.
And this is without getting into how some of the books and characters who weren’t pulled into Age of X-Man are going to pan out. There’s Kelly Thompson’s Mr. & Mrs. X book (which is wonderful – there aren’t enough husband-and-wife superhero team-up books, and Rogue & Gambit are great together) – that’s confirmed to be ending leading into Hickman’s event, and there’s no word on if it will start back up again on the other side.
I haven’t heard anything about whether Gail Simone’s Domino book is going to continue through this event. It’s not as heavily connected to the other X-Books as, say, X-Force is. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t cancel to avoid complications.
Listening to podcasts like Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men got me back into reading mainstream superhero comics, and in particular into buying Marvel. While chopping the X-line down to two books will certainly cut down how much I’m spending on comics each month, that’s not actually something that helps the X-Line.
It could be that I’m borrowing trouble, that Hickman’s books will be fantastic, that he’ll stick the landing on his depictions of the Mutant Metaphor, and he’ll launch an X-Line renaissance. However, I don’t think making it harder to find the story you want to see in the X-Line is the thing that will draw readers to the X-Men. Quite the opposite.