X-Men is a weird title. It seems mostly contained and almost like one-offs, with each story being neatly wrapped up by the issue’s end for the most part. However, most people familiar with Hickman’s writing style know that some of these themes and landmarks will return once his run comes to a close and certain plots become more clear.
The X-Men aren’t inherently super sci-fi — other Marvel teams usually have the “space” thing covered and are better fits for the job. The X-Men have had cosmic stories before, but the appeal of the team usually tends to be how grounded the series is and how it humanizes these textbook un-human characters, dealing with issues not unheard of to regular people. Hickman’s run thus far has been super sci-fi, which is a huge departure for the title and his concept of mutanthood is completely new, which can be jarring at times. As someone who seems to love the cosmic angle of the X-Men, this issue feels super Hickman-y, bringing the Shi’ar into the mix this time.
Xandra is one of the cooler newer characters introduced in the past few years so it’s always nice to see her return. The issue hints at more involvement on her end in the future, particularly during her final conversation with Storm. Just how the Shi’ar will play a role in the story’s overall goal has yet to be determined, but it is fun to theorize about. Because of that, this issue mostly feels like a table-setting one, but what table it’s setting up exactly is unclear as of yet. Scott and Jean largely feel unnecessary in this story all together, though.
The art is a bit noisy but one of the most jarring things visually is that Jean and Scott are, for some unexplained reason, wearing their X-Factor costumes. …Why? Scott has a new outfit for this era and while Jean in the green dress is ultimately not a favorable choice for most readers, it’s odd that she’s suddenly not in it, especially when Hickman had previously said there was a reason she was wearing that costume in particular. One can discern that reason is likely tied to the original Dark Phoenix saga, in which Jean put the costume on because she “started as Marvel Girl and that’s how [she’ll] finish” but that entire element has been largely untouched upon since the new era began. Regardless, the random outfit swap is weird, especially since other titles have gone on about creating a new, mutant fashion (without actually showing any mutant fashion trends, but that’s an entirely separate issue) it’s weird and unnecessary to return to the old. It’s especially weird for something like X-Factor, whose entire original purpose was grounded in how humans perceive mutants and human/mutant interactions, which the new era has explicitly stated it’s moving away from.
Sam, Roberto, and Izzy’s interactions practically feel pulled out of Hickman’s Avengers run, which is great news for anyone who liked that run. The dynamic between Sam and Roberto is always a joy and they actually are the highlight of this issue with how easily they play off one another. Izzy’s inclusion in this story, in particular, feels natural and organic considering her cosmic ties.
The final pages show the X-Men roster, featuring a crop of largely underused X-Men. With a line this big, this is exactly how the X-Men team should be set up. It’s easy to lament over not being able to see characters like Nightcrawler, Emma Frost, or Storm on the X-Men, but there’s something extremely exciting about other characters like Banshee, Armor, and Marrow getting a spotlight. The user participation on how to vote is also exactly how this “elected X-Men” thing should be going, giving fans a neat chance to be involved in the creation of the main X-team. Though it is disappointing that the vote is only for the last spot, it’s also somewhat understandable since comics take a long time to make — here’s hoping the team isn’t ultimately the same faces we always get or ones being actively utilized in other titles.
All in all, X-Men #17 is more of the same extremely contained story-telling that will almost certainly come back later. The “favor” Xandra owes Storm will certainly be touched upon later and is the most exciting aspect of this story.
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