As Marvel’s Avengers versus X-Men event looms on the horizon and Avengers: The Children’s Crusade wrapped up this week, this edition of Standard Deviations takes a look back at the set of variant cover images from 2005’s House of M. The Scarlet Witch’s “no more mutants” spell has been a defining moment for the Marvel Universe and set both of these recent series in motion. While the significance of House of M‘s story is clear, the series was also one of the first high profile examples of the return of variant coves since their hey day in the 1990s speculator market.
I am an unabashed fan and reader of Marvel Comics’ X-Men, but I am also a collector. As a consequence, I’ll go out of my way to track down variant covers of issues from most titles in the X-franchise. A quick disclaimer before we go on, I know the interior pages are identical, I know the book will not command the price I’ll pay for it going forward, and I know I can get a high resolution digital version of the cover image on my computer that will be far more accessible long term. I seek this stuff out because I want it in my collection. It’s OK if you want to consider it a disorder, disease or other malady; synonyms are really just variant covers for words.
I had already planned to write about the X-Men today with the movie premiering last weekend and lots of other X related stuff always on my mind, but Marvel’s announcement that they’re canceling Uncanny X-Men at issue #544 in October took things in an “all new, all different” direction.
I haven’t said much about it here, but a big summer X-Men event called Schism is starting next month under Marvel’s MMXI – Year of the Mutants banner. The premise is that Cyclops and Wolverine will finally reach an irreconcilable point of disagreement and the X-Men will be divided as never before. The creative team of writer Jason Aaron and artists Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Anuña, Alan Davis and Adam Kubert sounds phenomenal, but as a mini series announced in the midst of three other major events affecting the X-Men line (Fear Itself, X-Men: First to Last and Age of X) I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I certainly didn’t expect it to lead to the “cancellation” of the flagship Uncanny X-Men.
It’s a snow day for most here in Philadelphia, but comics still made it into readers’ hands and The X-Men’s Age of X started this week with Age of X: Alpha #1. The one-shot is an anthology book by series writer Mike Carey covering the history of five characters in this new timeline where the X-Men never existed and mutants are being hunted to extinction. The backstories are framed in the present with the mutants asking one another how they came to be at their refuge, Fortress X, as they wait for an imminent battle with their oppressors. Art for the framing scenes is by Micro Pierfrederici whose painted pages are full of lush colors and firelight throughout. As we transition through the campfire stories, we see that everyone seems to have lost everything they had in the world before coming together.
X-Men #6 (Volume 3) arrived in late December concluding the Curse of the Mutants (X-Men versus Vampires) storyline, and this is a good point to discuss the new series by Victor Gischler and Paco Medina. I fell far behind in reading this series as it published and I had to catch up on nearly every issue today. Apparently, I didn’t even make it all the way through issue #2 when it first shipped! I’ve been a huge X-Men fan most of my life and have been reading for decades. Falling behind like that says a lot about this book and my feelings regarding it.