In X-Men ’92: House of XCII, we rejoin a classic iteration of the titular heroes as they navigate a strange new world. Mutants have established their own nation and discovered the secret of resurrection, but there are threats to their new utopia that they’ve only just begun to uncover. Everything old is new again, and vice-versa — and here is my spoiler-free take on this debut issue!
As Steve Foxe explained on this week’s episode of the AIPT Comics podcast, the X-Men presented in this story are sort of the idealized version of the ’90s incarnation of the team, blending iconic aspects of the Claremont/Lee/Williams run and the childhood-defining animated series from the era. As such, fans of this period of X-history will find quite a bit of this first issue to feel like slipping into an old favorite t-shirt. It’s classic, comfortable, and still rad as hell.
Salva Espin and Israel Silva do an exquisite job of bringing this particular vision of Marvel’s Merry Mutants back to the page. The designs are unmistakably those of the early ’90s incarnations of the heroes, but with little flourishes that make this feel very much this creative team’s own. It’s also fascinating to see how newer elements of the X-Men canon are rendered in a style that feels like they could have popped up on Fox Kids over a bowl of Rice Krispies Treats cereal. The fight sequences are dynamic and explosive, to the point where you can almost hear the cartoon sound effects blasting over the bright backgrounds and wild choreography.
Characters are constantly making bold proclamations and striking exciting poses. The action is snappy and colorful and full of unexpected turns. Even the general roster and supporting cast will feel instantly familiar to X-Men fans of a certain age. Cyclops is still a buzzkill, Wolverine is still a hothead, Storm is still melodramatic and awesome, Rogue and Gambit still can’t keep their eyes off each other. And then — everything changes. The narrative takes a turn that the X-books and cartoon series would have never dared, which leads directly into the series’ hook of exploring modern X-Men concepts through this deceptively “kid-friendly” lens.
The original animated series always made an attempt to tell mature stories within the real of broadcast standards and practices, but this book really feels like the cartoon series I loved so much as a wee comics fan really grew up with me. For that alone, this is worth seeking out for X-Fans.
Foxe does an excellent job of weaving Krakoa-era politics and stories into a 1992 framework, swapping out major figures of recent X-books for characters that make sense for this earlier time. You may be surprised by the changes that have occurred for some of your old school faves, but Foxe and co. must be commended for taking some huge swings. The revelations in this first issue may surprise you and break your heart at the same time.
All in all, X-Men 92: House of XCII both embraces and weaponizes nostalgia in fascinating ways. The final page will definitely drop some jaws of longtime fans, and I can’t wait to see how this take on the universe develops from here.
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