Chapter 6: 2001 – a new evolution of X-titles
The summer of 2001 was again a time of change. Between the scant months of July and August, two existing series would be transformed and two new would be created. It was also the beginning of the X-Men’s “no-costumes” period.
With Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #394 in July of 2001, a new creative team started. While there was not an attempt at a definitive separation from the previous issue, it was clear that some time had passed between #393 & 394. Mutants were much more prevalent, Jean Grey, who had previously lost her telekinesis, now had it back… and the school itself went through some changes.
The change was much greater in X-Men (2nd series)… which among other things received a new name. With #114 in July 2001, the title of X-Men became New X-Men with the arrival of writer Grant Morrison, who immediately changed the landscape. Suddenly, the mutant population of the world was around 32 million, with half killed with the annihilation of Genosha… and at the hands of Xavier’s new twin sister, Cassandra Nova. Morrison’s run was controversial with some fans, many not caring for the concept of Secondary Mutations, Cyclops’ affair with Emma Frost or the revelation that the “X” in Weapon X was a Roman numeral and not a letter. However, by the time Morrison left with #154, few readers could argue that he hadn’t left his mark. The name change from an adjectiveless “X-Men” to “New X-Men” only continued two issues after Morrison left, becoming simply X-Men again with #157 in July 2004.
In the same month as the retooling of Uncanny X-Men & Morrison’s New X-Men, a new X-Men title was launched, the third to carry “X-Men” in the title. This new series, written by Chris Claremont, was called X-Treme X-Men and took up storylines that Claremont had begun in his brief run in Uncanny X-Men, which had ended with #389. X-Treme X-Men lasted for 46 issues, ending in June 2004. Along the way, X-Treme X-Men would have an annual, a four issue miniseries called X-Treme X-Men Savage Land and a two issue miniseries called X-Treme X-Men X-Posé. After the title’s cancellation in 2004, the characters and unfinished storylines would be picked up with Claremont’s return to Uncanny X-Men with #444 in July 2004.
This title retroactively became X-Treme X-Men (1st series) after another series of the same name launched in 2012, running for 13 issues.
August 2001 was the last of the big changes for a while, with the debut of a new title called Exiles. A completely new title in concept, the Exiles were a hodgepodge of characters from various alternate realities, like Blink from Age of Apocalypse and Nocturne from the Professor W’s X-Men story in X-Men Millennial Visions. This popular series, one part “What If?” and one part “Sliders,” was one in which writers had nearly limitless choices, as almost all of the characters in the whole of the series were from alternate universes in which anything could happen and to whom anything could happen. This was in stark contrast to the characters from the mainstream timeline, for whom editorial would be hesitant to have extreme events occur, possibly harming the integrity or future marketability of the character.
For the first several years of publication, the main characters were not in control of their own destiny, constantly finding themselves being sent on missions by the mysterious Timebroker. However, even after the Timebroker’s secret agenda was exposed, the group continued their duty in trying to save the multiverse. Only now, they were in charge and picked their own missions.
The title of Exiles lasted for 100 issues, after which it was immediately re-launched as a new series unimaginatively titled New Exiles. However, the seeming lack of direction of the title proved unpopular, leading to low sales and a cancelation in April 2009 after which it was replaced by Exiles (2nd series) a few months later.
Another subject of the 2001 line-wide revamp was the old title of X-Force, which changed drastically, remaining the same in name only. With #116, Peter Milligan took control of the book as writer, creating a whole new cast of mutants. With the original strike force known as X-Force believed dead by the world (in reality, they were in hiding), this new group took their name for instant recognition. More intent on being a media savvy, money-making franchise than a team of super-heroes, this new X-Force were self-absorbed celebrities, fighting for fame and fortune. The new series was not very popular with hard-core X-Force fans, but indeed developed a loyal following with new readers for being so different. In an attempt to make a clean break, the old series X-Force series was cancelled in August 2002 with #129, to be replaced with X-Statix the next month in September. X-Statix, to which the team had renamed itself, only lasted for 26 issues, cancelled in October 2004. Though most of the characters died in the series finale, an imaginative story published in the five-part miniseries X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl in 2006 allowed the deceased characters to be revisited for a brief adventure.
Another set of relaunches began in August and September 2002, each of which were cancellations of previous series, leading to new ones. The first title was the short-lived Agent X series, which was in many ways an off-shoot of the now-defunct Deadpool title. The second title was for the character of Cable. Like X-Statix, this relaunch was part of an earlier conceptual relaunch. With Cable (2nd series) #97, in November 2001, the title took a new direction. No longer the enormous gun-toting warrior from the future, Cable was now an international soldier for freedom, fighting against oppressive organizations around the world in forgotten countries. To reflect this new change further, Cable ended with #107 in September 2002, becoming “Soldier X” in that same month. Unfortunately, the series ended after only 12 issues in August 2003.
The third series was Wolverine (3rd series), launched in July 2003, following the cancellation of Wolverine (2nd series) with #189 in June.
In late 2002, Marvel tried its hand at an unorthodox series called Weapon X. In October, six Weapon X specials were published, featuring Agent Zero, Kane, Marrow Sauron and Wild Child, in which the titular character was recruited by the enigmatic Weapon X program, that had just been re-introduced in the pages of Wolverine and Deadpool. In December, these recruits formed the new team shown in the new title, Weapon X (2nd series). The first Weapon X series had been published during the Age of Apocalypse storyline in 1995. While the series gave a spotlight on many underused characters, sales were low enough to cause cancellation after just 28 issues, ending in November 2004. However, fan response was enough to warrant a five-issue miniseries, Weapon X: Days of Future Now, in late 2005 to clean up loose ends.
Chapter 7: 2004 – a new round of changes
While she had been a fan-favorite villain for years, Mystique had never held the center spotlight of a story. This changed in June 2003, when she landed her own series, the titularly-named Mystique, where she became a reluctant secret operative for Professor X. However, the series lasted only two years, ending with #24 in April 2005.
Another short-lived series which began in 2003 was a flashback series for Emma Frost. Starting in August 2003, the Emma Frost series depicted Emma’s teen years and the events surrounding her departure from her rich family. Clearly the series was to last for some time, eventually catching up to her first appearance as the White Queen of the Hellfire Club in X-Men (1st series) #129, however the series ended after only 18 issues in February 2005.
After the cancelation of Generation X in May 2001, Grant Morrison incorporated the “school for mutants” theme a few months later in New X-Men (1st series). However, as that title focused more on the main characters of the X-Men, Marvel launched a series dedicated mainly to the students. Thus began the second New Mutants series in July 2003, which starred some of the original team, now serving as the teaching staff to a new generation. As popular as this new series was with its readers, Marvel decided to re-launch the series in the summer of 2004, along with several other X-titles. The series was cancelled with #13 in June 2004, becoming the second New X-Men series. While the title on the cover said “New X-Men: Academy X,” the indicia still showed it as New X-Men. With #20, the “Academy X” was dropped completely.
Shortly after this, the title went through another change after the event known as M-Day, which resulted in the loss of mutant powers by the vast majority of mutants. The few students that were left hardly constituted a school and were reformed by Cyclops and Emma Frost into a new team which would represent the next generation of X-Men – and thus were officially recognized as the “New X-Men.” During the title’s run, which ended with #42 in March 2008, the New X-Men faced several threats and themes from the previous New Mutants series and from Uncanny X-Men stories from years ago – such as the Reverend Stryker, the future Sentinel known as Nimrod and the return of Illyana Rasputin, aka Magik.
The “cancelation” of the title was actually more of another relaunch, which spawned another series in May with the title of Young X-Men. However, this too was short-lived and would be canceled the next year with #12. This series in turn was made way for yet another New Mutants series, this one the third to bear that name.
Ever since the cancellation of Deadpool (3rd series) in September 2002, the “merc with a mouth” had been without a series. With the cancellation of Soldier X in August 2003, Cable was likewise homeless. In May 2004, Cable/Deadpool #1 hit the stands, giving them both a place to venue for adventure. The series is notable for several reasons. First, it was a return to the black-humor theme of the previous Deadpool title, including his occasional breaking of the Fourth Wall. Additionally, while the title of the series alluded to a partnership, the two eponymous characters actually disliked each other and were repeatedly cast into each others path against their will, at times one actually working against the other. Also interestingly, Cable’s name continued to be on the title, even after the character was supposed to have died. Eventually, the title was canceled with #50 in April 2008 on the heels of an X-line wide crossover called the Messiah Complex. After this, both Cable and Deadpool returned to their own separate titles and very separate storylines.
With the cancellation of the X-Treme X-Men #46 in June 2004, the number of “core” X-Men titles would have been reduced to two. Instead of doing so, Marvel decided to launch a new, third book: Astonishing X-Men (third series). This series is listed as third, as the first was a 4-issue miniseries, which was part of the Age of Apocalypse crossover, and the second was a 3-issue miniseries in 1999. With #1 in July, famed “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator and long-time comic book fan Joss Whedon took his first stab at the world of X-Men and immediately the series became a fan-favorite. In fact, the very first storyline, featuring a mutant “cure” was used as a major plot point in the script for the third X-Men film.
Though critically acclaimed, the series quickly earned a reputation for being late and its delay of its surprise conclusion caused difficulties for writers of the other X-titles, which were having to depict events taking place after the conclusion without spoiling the ending. Whedon’s run ended with #24 (followed by a one-shot special), after which the title continued under other creators.
Another new series to debut in July 2004 was the third Excalibur series. In this series, Professor X journeyed to the island nation of Genosha, having recently decided to turn over the Xavier Institute to his former students. Along with a few Genoshan survivors, as well as the surprisingly still living Magneto (who had seemingly died recently), Xavier attempted to rebuild the island. While bearing no direct connection to the original series, writer Chris Claremont likened the new series as a continuation of the myth of Camelot, of which Xavier was the new Arthur. However, low sales caused the series to be cancelled with #14 in July of 2005.
One more title was started July 2004. Under Morrison’s New X-Men run, the mutant population of the world had exploded. In the United States, a large number had settled in the “Alphabet City” part of New York, which was dubbed Mutant Town by New Yorkers. Police officials called it “District X,” which became the name of the new title. Loaned out to the local police by the X-Men, Bishop became the title’s main character, harkening back to the character's earliest origins as an agent of law enforce. However, the title only lasted for #14 issues, cancelled in August 2005.
July was not the only month to launch a new series. In September 2004, Rogue received her first ongoing series. She had already previously had two four-issue miniseries, one in early 1994 and another in late 2001. As a result, this new one is known as Rogue (3rd series). Only two months later, in November 2004, her lover, Gambit, received his 4th series. However, both Rogue and Gambit only lasted for 12 issues and were cancelled in August 2005.
Also in 2004, Nightcrawler was given his own series, though short-lived. This series marked his third, the first being a 4-issue adventure miniseries from 1985 and the second a 4-issue “Icons” series from 2002. The first six issues ran from November 2004 to April 2005, which led to a 4-month hiatus. The second six-issue story arc ran from August 2005 to January 2006, when the title ended for good. While the series was short-lived, it did offer insight into new aspects of Nightcrawler’s origin, giving the oft-ignored character more depth.