The concept of the infamous six-month gap was part of yet another line-wide revamping of X-titles and occurred in May 2000. To highlight the return of veteran X-Men writer Chris Claremont, after nearly ten years of absence from the mythos he helped to build, Marvel (with Bob Harras as editor in chief at the time) decided to do “Revolution“.
Nearly all X-titles of the time received new creative teams, costumes were redesigned, line-ups and directions of the books changed. The only titles unaffected were X-Men Hidden Years, which was set in the past, Bishop The Last X-Man, set in an alternate future, and Mutant X, which followed Havok’s adventures in yet another timeline.
Instead of slowly building up new plot elements and having the characters coming up with lame excuses for their new looks, the Revolution marked issues started right in the middle of the new directions of the titles. To do that, the six-month gap was introduced. With six months of book-time having passed since the last issues before the revamp, the new creative teams could start off right where they wanted and even use the hidden mysteries for stories yet to come.
The six-month gap is set between:
Uncanny X-Men #380 -> 381
X-Men (2nd series) #99 -> 100
Generation X #62 -> 63
X-Force #101 -> 102
X-Man # 62 -> 63
Cable (1st series) #78 -> 79
Gambit (3rd series) #15 -> 16
Wolverine (2nd series) #149 -> 150
Besides the general changes of each book, X-Force, Generation X and X-Man received a special treatment, as they became a sub-group of X-titles labeled Counter X. Although the grouping together might imply that these books would tie into each other, just like the name could be read as the teams/characters being in some form of disagreement with the core X-Men teams, neither was the case. All Counter X wanted to be was something different than mere offsprings of the X-Men, giving each title a fresh, new and unique feel.
The following chapters will give a short overview of the changes for each book and a review of how they were handled.
Wolverine: Truth to tell, Wolverine didn’t change at all. Logan is the sole character whose costume was not redesigned and the six-month gap isn’t mentioned in the least. Wouldn‘t the cover for #150 bear the Revolution logo, one would never even suspect that the book was part of the revamp as well. Wolverine was still following his basic premise: being the best there is at what he does (whatever that may be). Granted, #150 starts with Steve Skroce doing both the writing and art, but it’s only four issues before the next creative team takes over.
Gambit: This is the only book that kept its writer during the revamp and new artist Yanick Paquettte had already started pencilling the issue before Revolution. Fabian Nicieza continued his long running plots that were structured to climax in #25 of the series and managed to make rather convenient use of the six-month gap concept. In the issues before the gap, Gambit had time-traveled to the late 19th century but ended up stranded.
To get back to the present, Gambit had 19th century Sinister restore his kinetic powers to their full extent (time paradox - 20th century Sinister had removed part of Gambit’s brain to keep the power at a controllable level, when Remy was a teenager). As kinetic energy involves movement through space and time, Gambit could use his improved ability to shunt himself through time, though without proper means to pinpoint, he emerged months after he had departed, a few weeks before the end of the six-month gap. Other than starting up the a new storyarc and continuing old subplots, Gambit #16 also has a few flashback scenes to events in the weeks after Gambit’s return, with his increased ability temporarily allowing him and Rogue to touch.
In the upcoming months, the lack of cooperation between Nicieza and Claremont, who too used Gambit as member of the Uncanny X-Men team, would cause continuity problems and fans trying to figure them out severe headaches. Gambit‘s increased power levels weren’t mentioned in Uncanny X-Men at all, though as Gambit was already wearing the newly designed X-Men costume in his own book at the time, they should have. It was only with #24 that these powers burned themselves out.
Cable: In terms of handling the Revolution revamp, this title is the full opposite of Gambit. While the six-month gap was not mentioned at all, in fact the characters that Cable would encounter next already appeared in subplots before his Revolution issue, the creative team completely changed, only to take Cable in a totally unexpected, refreshing new direction.
The demise of Apocalypse during the Twelve storyline, shortly before the revamp, had left Cable a man without a mission. His life-long training as a soldier with the purpose of hunting down and killing the ancient Egyptian taken from him, Cable needed a new task in his life and he found it, or it found him.
Under writer Robert Weinberg (and artist Sean Ryan), the title transformed into some intriguing mix of fantasy and science fiction elements that Weinberg is well known for from writing his award receiving novels. Three MacBeth-style witches appeared out of thin air, testing Nathan for challenges yet to come, hinting that he had to fulfill an even greater destiny in the multiverse than anyone might have suspected. At the same time, Cable being closer affiliated to the X-Men now (see below), allowed for some interesting occasional guest stars.
The transition of Counter X issues were handled best. All three books were given to Warren Ellis, who decided on the characters’ new directions and co-wrote the initial four-issue story arcs that defined the titles. Even afterwards, he remained as plotmaster for the line.
All three books received a second four-issue story arc, entitled Shockwave, which was set before Revolution and was to reveal how the many changes came to be. In the following descriptions, Warren Ellis is not mentioned but, like explained, he co-wrote the initial issues and further outlined the plots of all three books.
Generation X: After a sequence about a new villain, Generation X #63 opened up with a panorama shot, showing parts of the Massachusetts Academy in ruins and no human students at the campus. Banshee, Chamber and Jubilee seemed pretty much themselves, though Emma was a lot more decadent and distant than she had been in recent issues and Husk spent most of her time online, researching news on mutant related topics. The biggest change seemed to be in the character of Monet, who no longer acting cold and snotty, showed signs of real emotions and lack of control, as she missed Synch.
What had happened? During the Shockwave storyarc, Generation X #67-70, writer Brian Wood and artist Steve Pugh brought back Emma’s sister, Adrienne Frost. For no other reason other than to get back at her sister, Adrienne blackmailed her way back into the Academy and slowly leaked information that it was secretly harboring mutants. The atmosphere changed and more and more anti-mutant acts were committed. Penance, Artie and Leech were sent to live at the St. Croix estate in Morocco, for safety reasons. A wise decision, as soon Adrienne’s plans climaxed in a riot, caused by concerned parents that wanted to pick up their human children and a set of bombs to detonate in midst all the confusion. Banshee did his best to find and disarm them but Synch, at the time in a romantic relationship with Monet, was killed when the final bomb exploded in front of him. Since Emma's telepathic powers did not work on Adrienne, she killed her with a gun and afterwards even inherited her older sister’s fortune, solving the problem of funding Generation X at the same time. However, as they thought they had failed as teachers, Banshee and Emma told the kids that it was for them to decide how to handle things from now on.
X-Man: Stephen Grant and Ariel Olivetti showed readers a totally different Nate Grey, mature and in control of his powers. X-Man only wore a black leather coat, revealing a mysterious tattoo on his chest and a pair of leather pants – no shoes, as a telekinetic can levitate and doesn’t have to walk. In X-Man #63, Nate surprised readers with the ominous words ”I’m a shaman”. Upcoming issues revealed that, by definition, a shaman is an outsider from his tribe, protecting it from any danger whether from beyond or within. Nate saw humanity as the tribe he would never quite be part of and he indeed protected it from itself and from beings originating from the countless worlds of the multiverse.
X-Man #67-70 too had a Shockave storyarc that explained the changes in Nate. During the six-month gap, Nate had hooked up again with Madelyne Pryor, only it wasn’t Maddie anymore but an evil Jean Grey from an alternate universe who had taken her place. She wormed her way into his head, manipulating him towards becoming more cruel, and finally took him with her to another Earth that she had almost fully conquered. She told the dumbstruck Nate of a spiral of parallel universes and, in many of them, the ultimate doomsday weapon - a Nate Grey – has been developed. Queen Jean had been searching for and discarding Nate Greys until she found the perfect specimen – him. Nate was saved by another version of himself, who had escaped from Jean earlier on. Ever since, he had refused to use his powers destructively, playing shaman to a small village of refugees, whom he was hiding from the Queen. To further distract her, the two Nates switched physical attributes, including a genetic brand – an X-shaped tattoo – that would prevent his powers from burning out and killing him. In final battle against the evil Queen Jean, Nate’s counterpart died. Inspired by him, Nate took on the role of Earth’s shaman.
X-Force: With X-Force, Warren Ellis took the chance to reintroduce one character he had created while writing Excalibur. Pete Wisdom was now in the lead of a small black op team, consisting of James Proudstar, Meltdown, Cannonball and Jesse Aaronson. Each of them was more skilled and experienced in the use of their powers and some of them even possessing new abilities. The mutants worked well together as a tight combat formation, using espionage strategies, resources and knowledge almost beyond belif. How did this transformation occur? When last seen, X-Force was a bunch of mutant teenagers, hanging out in an empty warehouse in San Francisco.
Once more, the answers can be found in the title’s Shockwave arc, X-Force #106-109. However, writer Ian Edgington and artist Whilce Portacio handled the concept differently. While the issues did contain flashback elements, an equal amount of panel time was used for already telling the next story about Domino’s return to the team, in the aftermath of Pete Wisdom’s death, who was already killed in #105, after appearing for four issues. Still, in the flashback sequences, readers saw a little bit more of him and they learned that the changes were inflicted by Cannonball who, feeling that X-Force wasn’t living up to their potential, asked Pete Wisdom to train them. The team had met Wisdom during a mission in Genosha (X-Force #94-95), so this idea came not totally out of the blue. However, Cannonball failed to discuss his decision with the rest of the team and, when Wisdom arrived, Moonstar and Domino departed, not agreeing with what he envisioned the team to be. As recently the High Evolutionary’s tampering had rebooted the mutant genome, Wisdom pushed the team in training, making them utilize their powers to their fullest potential instead of just limiting themselves to what they had been before. Under his training, Jesse learned how to create electro-magnetic pulse waves, Meltdown started to release her plasma in a similar form as Wisdom’s hot-knives and Proudstar discovered that he was able to fly.
Chris Claremont was the driving force when, in 1991, a second X-Men book was launched. The return of the original five provided enough mutants for two teams and each title was following the adventures of one of these strikeforces. Even after Claremont’s departure, the concept remained for quite some time, save for the occasional gueststarring. However, at one point, the line-ups started to blur and, when Alan Davis became writer of both books, it was just one group of X-Men appearing in a biweekly title.
During the Twelve incident, about a dozen of former X-Men helped out but, with the crisis dealt with, departed again. During the incident with the High Evolutionary, the last storyline before the six-month gap, the Beast and Iceman once more helped out the active roster, which at the time consisted of Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Marrow, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Colossus and Gambit. Claremont was already ghostwriting a few issues at the time, laying some hints for changes to happen during the next months.
As for the other X-Men, Psylocke and Archangel were reserve members at the time, Phoenix (Jean) was mourning the apparent death of her husband, Cyclops, who had merged with Apocalypse, Cecelia Reyes, who never wanted to be an actual superhero, had set up a medical practice near Salem Center. The time gap allowed Claremont to once more split the X-Men in two, each title following the exploits of one group, without spending lots of time on having members departing, returning or newly joining.
Uncanny X-Men: When Revolution issues kicked off, Uncanny X-Men featured Phoenix, Storm, Gambit, Cable and the Beast, penciled mainly by Adam Kubert. This group traveled around the world, to the likes of Italy and Russia. According to interviews, Gambit was the appointed leader of this squad, though there is no evidence in the books to support this.
X-Men: In the adjectiveless X-Men title, Leinil Francis Yu got to show his versions of Rogue, Shadowcat, Colossus, Thunderbird III, Psylocke and Wolverine. Though not official members, Nightcrawler and Archangel too appeared in almost every issue and, as this team was still operating from the mansion in New York, they had a larger supporting cast appearing as well. Cecilia Reyes, Charlotte Jones, Moonstar, Forge and Tessa all showed up in the book.
If you compare the casts, you’ll find two characters missing. While Iceman simply returned to his family to take care of his injured father and eventually would return to the book, Marrow was gone without explanation. Fandom speculated that she had learned of Gambit’s involvement in the Mutant Massacre or even that she was pregnant, after all she was dating a human man while the High Evolutionary had negated everyone’s powers. The later-released Spider-Man/Marrow one-shot also gave no sufficient answer. There, Marrow was, ugly again, a brainwashed servant of SHIELD, though she overcame her conditioning. The federal agency had found Marrow in the Morlock tunnels – it is still unknown whether she ran away from the X-Men because she lost control over her bone growth or if she reverted to this ugly state after her unexplained departure.
However, even the characters that were still part of the X-Men underwent many changes. Unfortunately, the core books did not receive a Shockwave treatment and, though Gambit (3rd series) #16, X-Men Unlimited #27 and the limited series X-Men: Black Sun are set near the end of the six-month gap, only little answers to the hidden mysteries can be found there. The following listing describes these changes character by character.
Looking back at it, the six-month gap was quite an intriguing concept, though in most cases executed poorly. Chris Claremont’s greatest strength turned out to be a weakness. He takes time to build and structure well thought plots but it seems that, especially with New X-Men, he wanted to do more than he could handle. Not only was the book overcrowded with official line-up, reserve members and supporting cast but, instead of revealing some of the mysteries of the gap, he started new ones in the first issues of Revolution. A Shockwave storyline might have been a good answer but Claremont wanted to slip in the explanations for the changes in a more subtle level over a longer period of time. In general, there would have been nothing wrong in that, if not for ... the movie.
Because of the unexpected huge success of the movie adaptation of the X-Men, the higher-ups at Marvel decided that the books needed to be more accessible for a possible new audience, inspired to try them out after watching the film. That is why the fifth issues of Claremont’s second run had a rushed, forced reunion of the two X-Men groupings, at the expense of the planned plots being progressed in the intended way. Afterwards, Chris lost two more issues of each series, as they were part of crossovers; the Marvel line-wide Maximum Security and an x-related event called Dream’s End. By then, Bob Harras had been replaced as editor-in-chief and the so called “Quemas” regime (editor in chief Joe Quesada and president Bill Jemas), who had a whole lot of different ideas for the x-line, resulting in yet another revamp only 13 issues after Revolution.
Instead of salvaging each and every book and going out of their way to change the concepts beyond recognition, the new regime opted to end many titles, only to replaced them with new series and approaches to the mutant world. This process, they called “streamlining.” Claremont was offered the choice to either work on one core book, having to arrange his plots with another writer on the second book, or to be handed his own group of X-Men set apart from the others. As you well know, he did the latter, resulting in X-Treme X-Men. The other two X-Men books received a fresh start, clearly shown by “New” to the title of the formerly adjective-less X-Men book. Old plots and danglers were swiftly ended or forgotten about; Jean was quickly restored to wield her telekinesis again and Psylocke paid the ultimate price, by ending up dead, ending the power-switch dangler in a rather unsatisfying, but final, way.
Of the Counter X titles, Generation X was canceled, as the book seemed to have outlived the idea of being about young mutants in training. The members of the disbanded team continue to appear in the core titles though, some of them as full cast members, others every now and then. The black-op approach with X-Force was never received up by the audience very well. That might have been because of the villains not being all that interesting or because of the line-up not being ideal – why would an espionage group dump Domino or Moonstar, who had Shield training and undercover experience, while the bulky Proudstar, the hotheaded Meltdown and newbie Jesse continued to stay around? With the revamp, X-Force had to make way for a totally different group that had nothing in common with their predecessors. X-Man, the book that had most benefited from Revolution, fell prey to Quesada’s policy of ending books that he thought confusing because of being about characters from different eras or timelines. You can’t have it all.
All in all, the “Six-Month Gap,” Revolution and Counter X were part of an ambitious re-launch effort to breathe new life and vigor into an old and tired franchise. Ultimately, however, events conspired against the concept (mandatory crossovers, the theatrical movie, editorial and management problems) causing it to be abandoned for a new relaunch. What might have been the beginning of another Claremont led direction gave way to another one, just a few months later, and left many readers, both old and new, confused and dissatisfied. With many aspects of the Six-Month Gap meant to be a mystery, much of which was never answered, questions will remain for quite some time about the whirlwind of events of this period of the X-franchise.