This might be the densest week of things I want to talk about in the history of this column. But in a week where Comics Disassembled, my feature that highlights ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics, there can only be ten. So ten there shall be! Let’s begin with a minor modern tragedy, at least to this reader.
1. HiXMen, No More!
As much as I wanted to deny it, constantly pushing back against suggestions otherwise, it has proven to be true: Jonathan Hickman is leaving the X-Men. After creating a massive groundswell of interest with House of X and Powers of X – comics that somehow started over two years ago at this point – and building a completely new era for the line with the Krakoan focus of it, the writer is leaving the line as its de facto architect at the conclusion of the upcoming Inferno mini-series.
The reasoning is simple, but also a bit of a story. The shortest possible version (at least for me to say) is this: he had a three act plan to the story, but given how inspired the rest of the line’s creators were by the ideas of the first act, everyone agreed to stick around with that first act for a while longer. Hickman didn’t blame them for the decision, but given that he’s the guy Marvel uses for big swings, it no longer made sense for him to stick around if the status quo is the plan. So he’s onto something else that makes sense for his Three True Outcomes type approach, both for him and Marvel.
I have a lot of thoughts about this. In fact, my thoughts on this fit an upcoming piece I’ve been noodling with for a while. Beyond that, Jonathan is currently slated to appear on Off Panel in the near future. So I don’t want to get into it too deep here, if only because I hate repeating myself.
But I can summarize my feelings by saying this. I loved the beginning of this era, but since X of Swords, I’d say I’ve grown to more like it, with the appeal being more situational than ever. Something had been gnawing at me for a while about the line, and I think it’s because – outside of Planet Size X-Men, obviously, as well as S.W.O.R.D. – it felt like the line had lost the momentum it had coming out of HoX/PoX. Now, digging into the way things are isn’t a problem. But for a line that comes with the aspirations of a Hickman-led one, inertia is death. And that’s how it started to feel. Krakoa wasn’t fresh anymore, and a lot of the story promises weren’t being explored, seemingly. Instead, Krakoa became the status quo.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. A new status quo is a viable thing. I certainly don’t buy into any of the ideas that there was some sort of bait and switch here, an idea that’s hilarious given the history of so, so, so many superhero story beats beyond this one (bait and switches are very common but this is not that). But, in an idea that fits Marvel to a tee, I can’t help but wonder that age old question of what if? What would this last stretch look like if Hickman was able to move on to the second act? What would the rest of that story be? I don’t think we’ll ever find out, more than likely, and that’s a real bummer to me, even if I’m a) still buying and enjoying X-Men titles and b) excited for whatever my guy Johnny Hicks has coming up. It’ll all be good in the end. But it feels like great might be tough to reach.
Oh, and this coming on the heels of the news that Leah Williams and David Baldeon’s X-Factor run was exploded for editorial needs – I now retract every bad thing I said about that finale, because it’s now clear that wasn’t a product of its creators in a traditional sense – and that The Way of X, the title that feels the most reflective of the HoX/PoX ethos to me, has apparently ended at random, makes it feel like an extra special gut punch. Tough week for X-Men fans, I’ll tell ya!
2. DC and Webtoon, Teaming Up
Congrats to DC Entertainment, as the comics company has found a way to get a leg up in the world, making a deal with mobile comics super giant Webtoon to produce standalone comics with DC characters that are designed to build interest in them with the platform’s enormous amount of readers. This might help DC finally gain some new readers, as Webtoon’s plethora of comic fans could become the DC fans of tomorrow, if they’re lucky.
Now, I’m sort of kidding, but this deal does strike me as one that benefits DC more than Webtoon. The latter platform certainly doesn’t need help, as they have an enormous audience and certainly are not lacking in content. While I am sure they are looking to expand upon the demographics of their audience – more women read Webtoon than men, and I am sure they want more of everyone – and this is a good way to do it, DC has higher upside here than Webtoon.
And I think it’s a smart play! If even a small fraction of Webtoon’s audience starts buying print collections of DC releases – even just one a month – that’s a seismic change to print readership. While there’s no certainty that will happen, as there’s a substantial difference between reading comics for free on your phone and buying print books, I’d rather aim for growth than not. It’s a wise and necessary move, and one I appreciate the publisher for doing.
Two notes on this, though. First, big fan of the idea that DC’s not pulling an AWA by just putting existing comics on Webtoon. That’s a square peg, round hole idea, as the fit just isn’t there. Instead, they’re having originals produced that don’t require continuity awareness and also fit the platform’s infinite scroll format. That’s the way you succeed on there.
Second, I saw some praising Daniel Cherry III for this move. While I am sure he helped get it over the goal line, it wasn’t his to begin with. As former DC Editor Andy Khouri noted on Twitter, this was former DC employees’ Sandy Resnick and Bobbie Chase’s baby, with Liz Erickson and Katie Kubert helping make it happen as well. These deals take time. I’m sure this deal has been in the works longer than Cherry knew the difference between Keystone City and Central City, and it’s another example of the loss DC had last year when they laid off so many important employees. I’m glad Khouri noted that, as it’s a crucial part of the story behind this move.