The X-Men movie franchise reached its end earlier this year with Dark Phoenix, but a new era for X-Men comics is about to begin. Jonathan Hickman, the renowned writer who reinvigorated the Fantastic Four and the Avengers before bringing the entire Marvel Universe to the brink of collapse in 2015’s Secret Wars event series (while introducing characters who would go on to populate Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame), has a “multiyear plan” to restore the X-Men to their place of prominence at Marvel.
“You don’t want to do archaeology or nostalgia tropes,” Hickman tells EW ahead of his three programs at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. “My job is to do new stuff with it, and launch us into a newer age of X-Men.”
It all starts this month, with two six-issue miniseries: House of X (illustrated by Pepe Larraz) and Powers of X (illustrated by R.B. Silva). According to Hickman, the former is set in the present, “inside the most pivotal period of time in the Marvel Universe,” while Powers of X looks at “mutants throughout the history of the Marvel Universe.” Big things are coming, but Hickman’s lifelong X-fandom has prepared him for the task.
“This is something I’ve been writing and rewriting in my head since I was a kid,” he says. “I’ve been in the kitchen for a long time with it. I get the ingredients, I get what makes a good meal.”
Longtime Hickman readers know that he loves to tell a single story across multiple comics at once, as he did with Avengers and Secret Avengers in the lead-up to Secret Wars. House of X and Powers of X will function similarly, with one issue a week from either series until they wrap up in the fall. That’s when the next stage of the plan begins, because the House of X/Powers of X conclusion will result in a massive relaunch of Marvel’s entire line of X-comics.
Fans can expect more information about what that will look like to be unveiled at Comic-Con. But in true Hickman style, it will involve massive plot machinations. As Hickman tells it, the massive, multiyear mega-stories he’s become famous for are all about playing to Marvel’s strengths.
“I have some general philosophies on what kind of work you should do at Marvel, that I try and adhere to. I think the stories should be big,” Hickman says. “Any time you can mine your continuity and the existing continuity of the company in a way that evokes a response from audience and not confusion, that’s powerful, and you’re crazy not to utilize it when you’re writing these books. The cardinal rule beyond that is at the end of the day, after you’ve torn up the playroom and scattered all the toys, you put everything all back on the shelf. Don’t be an a—hole and leave a mess.”
He adds, “You want to tell stories that matter, but the way you write things that matter in Marvel is that you’re not destructive, you’re additive. Yes, I may do things where I destroy the entire Marvel Universe, but I always put it back together, and in putting it together you add to it in a way that puts the characters in an interesting place and you haven’t ruined anybody else’s job.”
Though Hickman has only been writing comics for about a decade now, some of his concepts have already appeared on the big screen. The Black Order, originally introduced in his 2013 Infinity miniseries, changed their names to the Children of Thanos for the Infinity War film but arrived on the screen mostly intact. Internet rumors abound that Black Panther 2 might introduce Namor the Sub-Mariner as an antagonist; if true, such a development will owe a lot to the ways Hickman built up the relationship with those two characters over the course of his Secret Avengers comic.
Now that the Disney-Fox deal has officially cleared, it’s only a matter of time until Marvel Studios introduces the X-Men to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Might Hickman have as much of an impact on those as he’s had on recent Avengers movies? It’s not something he thinks about.
“I think one of the big mistakes that some people make at Marvel Comics is that we are reactive to what they’re doing in the Marvel films,” Hickman says. “We should not be taking our creative cues from the direction they’re taking things in the movies. That kind of defeats the point. They have a billion dollars to play with, and we don’t. You can’t compete in that matter, and you shouldn’t. My argument has been [that] I should always be way out in front of that stuff. All of that stuff is being drawn from source material. It goes back to, are you being destructive or are you being additive? If you’re being additive and you’re on the big books, it’s inevitable that some of that stuff is going to get used. When Marvel films gets around to the X-Men and we’ve done interesting stuff and they want to use it, that’s awesome. If they don’t, then they don’t. One makes your job expendable, the other one makes you priceless. I like having value to my work.”
House of X #1 hits stores July 24, with Powers of X #1 following on July 31. Check out the covers for those comics below.