Comics Watch: Could 'House of X' Inspire an 'Avengers vs. X-Men' Movie?
Welcome to The Hollywood Reporter's weekly Comics Watch, a dive into how the latest books from Marvel, DC and beyond could provide fodder for the big screen. This week tackles House of X No. 5, so be warned, there are spoilers for the issue below.
Jonathan Hickman and artists Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva are redefining Marvel’s mutants with the simultaneous and interconnected miniseries House of X and Powers of X, leading to next month's relaunch of Marvel’s X-books with Dawn of X. Wednesday saw the release of House of X No. 5, the penultimate chapter in the six-issue series. Like August’s House of X No. 2, which forever redefined Moira MacTaggert and her role in the Marvel Universe, the latest issue is marked as a red issue, denoting major developments within its pages. Hickman and Larraz don’t disappoint. While we’ve yet to see the long-term outcome of these changes to the world of the X-Men, it’s difficult not to think about how Marvel Comics’ X-Men relaunch is happening just ahead of Marvel Studios’ own plans to relaunch the X-Men film franchise and reintroduce mutants into the MCU.
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One of the biggest questions that comes with introducing the X-Men into the well-established cinematic universe is what their goal is. Yes, we know that the world hates and fears mutants, and Xavier’s X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood find themselves on opposite sides of a war to either co-exist or lord over humanity. We’ve seen that play out across many of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men films. But that concept was easier in a world in which mutants were the only one with superpowers. It’s harder to believe mutants being quite so hated and feared in a world where superheroes are common place, the Avengers are celebrities, and ordinary citizens would literally die for a chance to have superpowers. Plus, now that the world has been introduced to aliens and the threat of Thanos, surely having a few more superpowered individuals to act as Earth’s defense system wouldn’t be such a bad thing. But what if mutants wanted more than co-existence and the “right” to protect humanity? What if Magneto and Xavier’s dreams didn’t find them on opposite paths, but united in a call for mutant sovereignty? This is the brave new world that Hickman is broaching, a world in which the mutants have founded a nation on the island of Krakoa and seek sovereignty, recognition by the U.N., trade deals and the right to have the own culture, religion and practices, which includes the resurrection of their dead.
This is where the film potential of the X-Men gets interesting. When X-Men first help set the stage for the explosion of superhero pics in 2000, the repeated line given by its filmmakers was that the property was being approached as a science-fiction film rather than a comic book movie. But when compared to the bold science fiction Hickman is playing with, those early X-Men films seem just as sci-fi as booking a plane ticket on a phone app did 20 years ago. Hickman isn’t just playing with the sci-fi aspect of mutation, but what mass mutation would really mean for society if followed to its logical conclusion rather than allowed to rest dormant and stagnant within status quo as, let’s face it, the comics have for so long. “Charles and I always wondered what would happen if mutants stopped being hunted — if we didn’t have to run anymore…didn’t have to hide,” Magneto says in the opening of the fifth issue. “What would happen when — like with man — the greatest necessary traits in mutantdom weren’t strength and aggressiveness, but intelligence, ingenuity and creativity? And now we know.”
The answer to Xavier and Magneto’s query is not only a nation, but immortality for mutants, a process that involves a group of X-Men known as The Five creating husks from genetic material and then Xavier using Cerebro, which had secretly mapped every mutant’s consciousness for decades, to implant the essence of deceased mutants within that husk — resulting in their rebirth at the physical peak. The X-Men, known for their constant cycles of death and resurrection, have finally made their ability to overcome death, a gag at this point for comic readers, a part of their culture. So imagine how that would work within the MCU. Imagine an island of some of the world’s most powerful beings who have power over death, and trade life prolonging medicine to humans, but not immortality. Humans die. Heroes die. Avengers die. But not them. That’s the kind of scenario that creates tension, moral questions and the seeds of war. That’s the kind of conflict that could presumably lead to Avengers vs. X-Men.
For decades, we’ve been instructed to look at the X-Men as persecuted superheroes with their own set of villains, their own war that existed slightly off to the side. But if the MCU, like Hickman, were to dispatch with the notions of good and evil and portray the X-Men as an uncanny nation, one that’s primary interest was in protecting its own people and fostering a society — well, that would be something all-new and all-different to get excited about.
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