MMXI: Marvel’s Year of the X-Men begins this May

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When Marvel’s May solicitations appeared earlier this month a group of books were very conspicuous by their absence. Four X-Men titles (Uncanny X-Men, X-Men: Legacy, New Mutants, and Uncanny X-Force) had no listings and it was clear that something was up. Last week Marvel released a set of teaser images for these titles and they’re giving more details all this week on Marvel.com. Every day at 3PM Marvel will host a series of “liveblogs” focusing on what they’re calling MMXI: Year of the X-Men featuring X-editor Nick Lowe and the creators behind each of these titles kicking off yesterday with New Mutants.

New Mutants

The original New Mutants series was one of the first X-Men spinoffs and ran for one-hundred issues before becoming the original X-Force series. The title returned in 2009 with writer Zeb Wells at the helm and was particularly brilliant for twenty-one issues despite being pulled into a number of crossovers in that short time. Wells’ departure saw Mike Carey take over writing duties as the book was pulled into the current Age of X storyline, but it was unclear what direction the title was headed in beyond issue #24. In May, we’ll see another creative team take over helmed by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning featuring art by Leandro Fernandez.

Abnett and Lanning have been doing tremendous work for the last few years with Marvel’s cosmic characters culminating in last year’s The Thanos Imperative and the current Annihilators miniseries. I’m really excited about what they can do with an X-Men title and the teaser image for the series features two of my favorite characters in Nate Grey and Blink, both of whom were popularized in the alternate reality of the Age of Apocalypse (although the version of Blink that’s pictured is the Marvel Universe version of the character that returned in the recent Necrosha resurrection story). They’ll be the focus of the first arc beginning with issue #25 as the team will focus on tying up loose ends.

The most exciting news to come out of today’s announcement for me had little to do with the New Mutants as readers will see Havok, Polaris and Rachel Grey before MMXI is done. The three have been adventuring in the Marvel cosmos since the Ed Brubaker‘s The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire story in Uncanny X-Men back in 2006. Abnett and Lanning used the characters during their War of Kings series, but their return to the pages of an X-Men title is something to look forward to. More details on the announcements can be found at Marvel.com.

Uncanny X-Force

This teaser continues the intrigue featuring even more characters from the Age of Apocalypse squaring off against the current incarnation of X-Force. The words “We will get them no matter what” running at the top of the New Mutants teaser above had me thinking that team might be focusing on bringing any mutants out in the world to the X-Men’s island home of Utopia. Seeing X-Force outnumbered by a team of Age of Apocalypse X-Men and the words “We will not let anyone else fall” has me wondering if this might be part of an invasion from a parallel universe. It should be noted that Blink and Nate Grey pictured above are a part of the current Marvel Universe (even though Grey is originally from the AoA timeline), but it’s definitely odd to see all of these Age of Apocalypse characters in the Uncanny X-Force teaser especially as we’re in the thick of Age of X.

Current Uncanny X-Force writer, Rick Remender, is scheduled for today’s conference call, so any creative team changes will likely be on the art side. I’ll be thrilled if somehow these books are tied together and bring another alternate reality story to the Marvel Universe after the Age of X wraps up. This book is pretty much the highlight of the X-Men line right now and while this story could be great, there’s also the potential that it could derail the whole series if it’s mishandled. Hopefully we’ll know a little more this afternoon.

UPDATE (Tuesday 4:30PM): So it’s not an invasion, X-Force will be the first Marvel Universe characters to travel to the Age of Apocalypse universe and their journey will tie directly into their hunt for Apocalypse in the first four issues of the series. It’s reassuring to hear that this is part of Remender’s plans for the book. Adding to my personal interest here, the Dark Beast (one of four refugees to escape the AoA timeline) will be a major player in how this story unfolds. The twisted version of Hank McCoy is a great character, but his complicated backstory seems to have kept him from being used extensively over the years. During today’s question and answer session it was also established that the interaction between members of X-Force and alternate versions of their deceased friends, Nightcrawler and Jean Grey, will be a big part of the story. Artwork will be provided by Mark Brooks, Jerome Opeña, Billy Tan and Greg Tocchini with covers by Esad Ribic.

X-Men: Legacy

Mike Carey has been rock solid on this title for years as it has transformed from a team book to a series focused first on Professor X and more recently on Rogue. His Age of X storyline currently running through this title is shaping up to be something special and seeing the collection of characters in the teaser it looks like the greatness will continue. It’s awesome to see the two characters Carey has spent the most time on together with Gambit and Magneto who have been fantastic parts of the series lately. The inclusion of Frenzy and Legion is interesting particularly in light of their prominence in Age of X. It’s unclear from the image, but they could be more alternate reality versions of the characters that are part of for MMXI. At this point I’m thinking that they aren’t

Uncanny X-Men

It was announced some time ago that Matt Fraction would be leaving the flagship X-Men title once his Fear Itself event begins. Current series co-writer Kieron Gillen will be taking over going forward and MMXI will begin his first arc as the sole writer of the series. While that was an expected change, Colossus becoming the new Juggernaut is certainly not. There’s no connection to the Age of Apocalypse or Age of X here, it’s just a surprising image that certainly piques my interest.

Friday’s liveblog placeholder lists “MMXI: Year of the X-Men” as the topic of discussion. It’s hard to say what this will cover exactly, but there’s a good chance other books will be part of this endeavor. No announcement has been made for May’s issue of Generation Hope and let’s face it, it’s very likely there will be an anthology miniseries in the vein of Nation X, To Serve and Protect, etc. to go along with this.

The “liveblog” format isn’t an easy read as comments seemed to be reposted over and over again, but it’s was a fun way to share the announcement with fans and gave some an opportunity to participate. We’ll have more opinion and speculation posted here as the week goes on.

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