The X-Men are in a better place right now at Marvel Comics than they have been in arguably a decade. The Krakoan era has revitalized an incredible line of X-Comics, and within the fiction mutantkind stands powerful, united (well, if you don’t squint), and ascendant. But for some, the X-Men will always be that halcyon ‘90s animated team — and for them, they can now get a little taste of Krakoa with their nostalgia.
X-Men ‘92: House of X — by Steve Foxe, Salva Espin, Israel Silva, and Joe Sabino — is, as the name implies, a pretty simple premise. What if you take the early ‘90s world of the X-Men — not just the comics, but more specifically the mutant personas of X-Men: The Animated Series — and thrust it into the story told by writer Jonathan Hickman, artists Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia, letterer Clayton Cowles, and designer Tom Muller in the 2019 soft reboot House of X and Powers of X?
Although the first issue of the series is very specifically about that one half of the the duology told through the ‘92 lens — currently eschewing the cosmic, future-bound, galaxy-brained ideas of House’s twin, Powers, for now at least — things here are a little more simple, and less interested in the headier ideas the early days of the Krakoan era that were being laid down. Inspired by the fourth issue of that book, which saw a team of X-Men fight — and die — to try and stop the Sentinel Master Mould developed by machine-human alliance ORCHIS from its latest attempts to exterminate mutantkind, there is no heavy mediation here on what it means to live forever, or what is lost when death is no longer an end for an entire society of people. Of course, because this is Krakoa, there’s still resurrection here, but there’s no examination of the religiosity of it, either.
That’s not a bad thing: X-Men ‘92 books have always worn their gleefully retro hearts on their sleeves, and ‘92 HoX is no exception. You’re here for Rogue to punch things and use the word “Sugah” like it’s punctuation. You’re here for Logan to be a moody git hovering around the periphery of Scott and Jean, who are there to be romantic towards each other and yell “SCOOOOOOTT!!!” and “JEAAAAAAAN!!!” exasperatedly. You’re here for big walloping fights, simple action banter, and just a hell of a bright, fun, time, and ‘92 HoX is absolutely that, and does not try to apologise for it. If anything, taking the loose framework of House of X — especially one of that book’s darkest, most profoundly fascinating issues — and turning it into a gleeful action romp packed with candy-coated colours is in itself as heady an idea as those Big Questions its predecessor pondered as it laid the groundwork for the mutant sovereign nation we now see in the main comics.
Yet it would be a disservice to say that ‘92 HoX is a weightless riff on a more thematically rich title whole cloth. While there is a ton of fun in the simple joy the first issue offers, it’s also at its strongest when it chooses to dive deep and offer its own take on its predecessor’s biggest twists. Take, for example, the identity of ‘92‘s “Moira X.” Moira MacTaggert did appear in The Animated Series, but in a very minor capacity — so there’s no real nostalgic parallel to fashion a secretive partner operating in the shadows with Professor X and Magneto by simply having it be her. Instead, ‘92 HoX establishes that this secretive rebirthing mutant is none other that scrappy “teen” Jubilee, who led her fellow X-Men to believe she was killed in a Sentinel attack before the process of resurrection-via-Cerebro was discovered:
This is ‘92 HoX at its best; it’s an incredibly funny idea — Jubilee was the face of the animated X-Men, the radical ‘90s kid and aspirational insert of the young audience, and turning her into this long-lived, somewhat sinister manipulator in the background is just the kind of twist to make you cackle at the potential of it all. But there’s also brief seeds sown in the climax that threaten to complicate things for this ‘90s Krakoa far quicker than Moira’s own downfall and vengeful ascendancy has been in the current comics. Leveraging Wolverine’s close relationship with Jubilee in the cartoon, we get hints that Logan — very clearly bitter about the seeming loss of the teen in the first place, the apparent catalyst for mutankind to come together and attempt its own society once more — and his tracking senses are getting him close to uncovering that Jubilee’s hiding in secret right under everyone’s noses. It works because it mines that relationship in a way most X-characters don’t really have with Moira in the current books, beyond Charles and Erik (and Mystique and Destiny, to boot), creating something much more personal to the wider X-Team in the process.
That’s maybe the synthesis that makes X-Men ‘92: House of X more than meets the eye beyond its initially simple premise. It leverages the simple strengths of its nostalgic roots — the bright action, the fun character dynamics — and doesn’t simply try to do-over the headier ideas of its contemporary inspiration. Making it its own thing in that way is leading to something very fun… and perhaps quite needed as the mainline X-books head into something of a darker, more tempestuous chapter in the Destiny of X.