The Road to ‘The Fall’

In 2019, a year before the delicate strings holding the status quo afloat were exposed and stressed to their breaking points; X-Men fans were handed the gift of a lifetime. A retcon for the ages that resets the X-Men’s lore from all the way back to the 1970s and gives readers in the present a glorious vision of the state of Mutantkind. A future grounded in sovereignty, a time of peace and prosperity after a publication history filled with decades of hate, oppression, and genocide levied against mutants only for it to be a prelude to The Fall of X. Marvel really set us up to have the limitless possibilities of symbolic sovereignty on behalf of the real-life oppressed, only to take the rug out from beneath the fandom?! I am feeling some type of way about that. 

Virtuoso comic writer Jonathan Hickman opened the hype train floodgates in 2018, baiting readers with a social media campaign that read simply, #HickmanIs. [This, of course, refers to DC Comics’ mainstay, big bad, and resident thigh-high boot-wearing ‘thicc despot’ Darkseid.] Although the use of the phrase is from DC Comics, little did we know Hickman was about to change the Marvel Comics landscape. After amazing runs on several IPs, Hickman left Marvel to focus on some original characters and stories. Only to return to and deliver House of X and Powers of X (read as “ten”).

Fall Of X cover
Promotional art for HoX and PoX that became an iconic connected cover for issue #1.

Run Them IPs

Important to note: while all these announcements for the upcoming X-titles were leaking, Disney hit FOX with the corporate mollywhop of the century and bought everything but their news and sports channels. Somehow, what looked like an attempt to build a media conglomerate also led to Disney’s reacquisition of the X-Men from FOX, setting the fandom on fire with anticipation. Armed with the right to legally use mutants in the movies after decades of lackluster blockbusters (I’ve always wanted to write that phrase), it wouldn’t be long before Marvel would turn its’ sights back to telling dope X-stories in comic form so they could retell a version of that story in a future movie. Either way, we were not disappointed.

Stairway to Heaven

When HOX/POX dropped, it gave a lot of readers, especially those with marginalized or persecuted identities, a symbolic representation of liberation. To see all of mutantkind in its glory, independent of following the rules of their oppressors, just existing, it was the stuff of dreams. Hickman delivered a platform for liberatory nationalist ideology in a way that applied to the world we were living in. On top of that, it didn’t leave anyone out. Characters from all walks and tiers of power were placed on a level field and given the opportunity to live their best lives.

The Politics of Fictional Sovereignty

There were so many ways HOX/POX made people feel seen. Subtle cultural nods that looked like they could be speaking to anyone but hit particularly hard for readers on certain intersections of identity. The way a mutant’s chosen name is vaulted as their ‘true’ name for example. Which hits different to folks who have chosen a name different than one assigned at birth. So for Trans identified people, folks who had their names mangled by immigration services, people who have taken a name for their spiritual practice, and so many others. To have a comic book address the use of ‘dead names’ and document the ways a society can move away from that?!?

Fall Of X Mutants All
Identity politics abound in House of X #5. Black Power fists and all that.

After living like outlaws on the run for so long, it made so much sense that a mutant government (called the Quiet Council) would abolish prisons and absolve villains of their past misgivings. Save for the pit, but even that can be ended in a moment and is more humane than most real-life prisons.

If money makes the world go round, then of course the Hellfire Trading Company would run the funding of a utopian nation. Is it clean? No. But neither is capitalism. For a group of advanced beings with abilities that can alter the world for better or worse on a whim, what do they choose to offer the world for money? Medicine. The mutants of the world banded together to form a nation after being hated and hunted and STILL chose to make something for the benefit of humankind! At first, they didn’t even charge money, they just wanted recognition as a sovereign nation! To be seen, heard, acknowledged, respected. And whole ass nation-states still didn’t want to give props to Krakoa. Mind you, this tiny island nation could wipe the world clean in the blink of an eye – but still turned the other cheek. Of course, Wakanda was the first to observe Krakoa’s sovereignty, they know what it feels like to have the moral high ground and be able to whoop everybody’s ass at the same time. The idea of the Fall of X undermines all of this really cool world building and exploration.

Make You Feel that Way

These are just a few ways that made this Dawn of X feel like a new age for mutants. Which, by extension, made it feel like a new age for people being seen, heard, acknowledged, respected – in real life. Media historically, has influenced culture; which has, historically, influenced politics. So despite the terrible things happening around us, it felt like a hopeful and rebellious escape to visit Krakoa in the pages of its X-titles. To read stories by writers from various national diasporas and gender identities. To be blown away by art from artists with aesthetics inspired and informed by their intersections and experiences.

Krakoa, One People
Apocalypse’s ideology evolves in House of X #5 as he sees all mutants as ‘fit to survive.’

So imagine the horror of seeing “The Fall of X” on a social media post from Marvel detailing the many ways Krakoa is being schemed on by enemies within and without. To know that this beautiful and fully realized manifestation would end so soon really broke my heart. As an X-Men fan, as a longtime Marvel reader, as a Blerd who sees himself so clearly in some of the Krakoan era choices Hickman put forth. And even more in the choices queer writers, Black writers, and women writers [and artists] contributed to furthering the vision.

Fall of X map
This promotional map broke my heart and had me asking, “But why though?”

Between You and Me

On a personal note, I tweeted NYC Blerd extraordinaire Vita Ayala to thank them for their work on New Mutants. It ran from 2019 through most of the Covid-19 quarantine. In it, war captain Magik walks the new generation of young mutants through what it means to be a mutant and what it cost for Krakoa to exist. As an educator myself, I took note of how Ayala used the data page in issue #19 (pg.24) of the comic to design a lesson plan for the New Mutants team. I literally took parts of that lesson plan and facilitated a lesson virtually with my students. They loved it, and I showed them where it came from – and used the tweets between Vita Ayala and me to flex that I knew a comic book writer. But how else do those worlds of youth development and comic writing intersect without the opportunity to explore them? Where else did that opportunity exist? It didn’t. The Krakoan era was something special, and the Fall of X takes the wind out of the sails of so many brilliant moments.

Ayala's New Mutants
In a letter from Dani Moonstar, writer Vita Ayala engages in a level of emotional intelligence that left me floored.

Fall of X, Why Though?

Far be it from me, in the age of disinformation, to create a false conspiracy. That said, it isn’t lost on me that Hickman is no longer a part of the creative team for the X-titles, the aptly named X-Office, as of 2021’s Inferno. It doesn’t fall by the wayside that between Comicsgate and Ike Perlmutter’s Trump ties, there is a clear divide in the culture. Across the same lines that have divided the US and many other countries that have seen a sharp increase in reactionary right-wing movements, it rings strange that after the impact Black Panther had with Ta-Nehisi Coates in the comics and the phenomenon of the films that John Ridley’s run in the comics exiles T’Challa. That T’Challa literally gets his ass beat by folks who couldn’t touch the silk scarf on his shoulder a year ago. It just doesn’t feel right.

Ridley's Black Panther
John Ridley retcons T’Challa’s self-respect in Black Panther #13 (2021), and it feels terrible and out of place.

In light of these developments, it can’t help but feel somehow intentional or malicious that events are unfolding this way. In lieu of some elaborate conspiracy theory, let me just say it hurts to see that Krakoa has to fall. Seeing the more “radical” vision of a liberated society. Seeing the ways in which the dignity of a people is so closely tied to whether or not we can even imagine their dignity. It gives ‘the fall’ the feeling of a civil rights movement in decline. We’ve seen the promised land and the mountaintop of leadership and equity in the era of the Krakoan dawn. It will go down in history but also set the stage for the next generation of bold storytellers willing to tell it like it is in a medium often overlooked. I loved HOX/POX and look forward to seeing how the ripples from the Krakoan era might turn into waves of future truthtelling in the comics. For now, I need to know why this needs to happen at all.

Cover image via Marvel

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  • Poet, MC, Nerd, All-Around Problem. Lover of words, verse, and geek media from The Bronx, NYC.

  • Show Comments

  • Yorum

    Best best best..

  • Andreas

    I joked years ago that the great rich world Hickman gave us would end in disaster, probably called “Fall of X” or “Death of X.” 😩 it’s heartbreaking really.

    Big Two comics are addicted to homeostasis and the status quo. The bigger the IP the stronger that return to normalcy is. I mean how many times has Peter Parker gone back to living the exact same life after having what would otherwise be a huge life change. He’s always a single or dating 20s or 30 something trying to hold down a job while being a superhero. But he ran a billion dollar company. He was married with a baby on the way. He was a publicly known superhero.

    It makes comics very frustrating.

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