Yeah, I’m not done with this story. Guys… I have things to do. I need to take a government exam to be able to even enrol in some teaching units for my master’s. I haven’t finished Red Dead Redemption 2 yet. I need to finish Bodyguard and The Protector because I told a friend I would. I’m trying to finish The Name of the Wind, Ancillary Justice and The Night Circus. There’s things I can be doing, is what I’m saying. And yet, I keep coming back to this. Because it keeps calling me back.
“X-Men Disassembled” was meant to be the big X-Men relaunch of 2018. Kicking off a new series of the flagship title, Uncanny X-Men, when finally the X-Men team books would be consolidated into one title… and what we got was a weekly series that couldn’t even justify its own existence without spoiling its own ending — on the day of the first issue’s release, Marvel announced the Age of X-Man event; that name told everyone all they needed to know about it — an alternate world where the story would be told through numerous miniseries, with X-Man (Nate Grey) playing a key part. Well… okay then, so what’s the point of reading this story? There didn’t seem to be one.
The three writers — Ed Brisson, Kelly Thompson and Matthew Rosenberg — clearly knew where they were headed with this story, but the way they got there was one of the most badly executed stories I’ve ever seen. See, we knew where it was headed. Clearly. So they needed to give us other reasons to read, while also setting up the status quo for after “X-Men Disassembled” ends — the return of Cyclops and Wolverine. Well, let’s have a look at this series and see what they came up with, shall we? Let’s see what the different plot threads amounted to and how this story went out.
The Council of… People
Let’s start things out with this plot point that went absolutely nowhere. At the start of this story, Kitty Pryde and some random anti-mutant senator (who’s so generic that it’s even acknowledged in-universe) are kidnapped to serve as a council to X-Man, alongside Apocalypse. They were apparently meant to debate, with X-Man determining his actions based on their debate. Yeah, that doesn’t happen. Apocalypse says one thing about destroying the houses of worship and X-Man does just that. He then threateningly asks the senator what he wants… and nothing comes of it. It’s not even used as a framing device. This entire thing was pointless and in the end the senator has a change of heart concerning mutants which also leads to nothing because he’s unable to stop the spread of the mutant vaccine. Speaking of…
A… well, I wouldn’t call it a plot thread, but a thing that happens is that a cure for mutants is developed (again) and in the end Anole gives it to the government because he wants to give people a choice whether or not to become mutants. It is in no way present in the majority of issues, to the point that I literally forgot it was a thing until they brought it up in the final issue. It seems to exist solely to usher in a new age of mutant oppression for Cyclops and Wolverine to deal with — never mind how this flies in the face of X-Force #1, where mutant hate seems to be at a low — and nothing else. It sets up yet another scenario where mutants are being hunted and the world is dark and gritty, something we’d just gone through twice with the aftermath of House of M that lasted until Avengers vs. X-Men, as well as the abysmal Terrigen Mists storyline.
Of all the ideas to bring back, the idea of endangered mutants feels… lame. It’s just not needed. Cyclops would be miserable with the X-Men gone on its own, never mind this. It’s not even thought out; Anole just… gives the cure away! Apparently the very idea of the government weaponising it is just completely new to him… yes, really. In this world where mutants have already been cured against their will. Speaking of Anole, this brings us to the next point.
The Kids Can Do As They Like!
This subplot… I hate it so much. Unlike the cure subplot, this one was present throughout most of “X-Men Disassembled”. It revolves around some of the students — Armor, Rockslide, Glob and Pixie — complaining that they aren’t respected by the older X-Men, with the group wanting respect and to be treated as equals. But I think all three writers have a secret bone to pick with young people — or they’re just terrible at writing them — because this subplot lives and breathes on unnecessary conflict and the students’ sense of entitlement.
It starts off okay, with the X-kids discussing how they feel abandoned, like they’re someone’s old pet project — some nice leaning on the fourth wall on the part of the writers. However, in hindsight, this feels more like an insult to people who think that, because God forbid the young X-Men grow up and age the adult X-Men… because that matters, apparently. Anyway, what occurs next is a string of scenes where the X-kids act indignant over pretty much everything the adult X-Men do, from being told to stick to clean up (because… they just hate clean-up) to hating on Kitty Pryde for being kidnapped by X-Man. Almost none of their complaints feel valid — in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers were making them strawmen.
This terrible writing of the group even extends to just… bad plotting. When the X-kids end up in the Age of Apocalypse (except not really), the group is divided off-screen because Pixie and Rockslide want to kill X-Man while Armor and Glob do not. Except we later learn that Armor and Glob didn’t know why they wanted to kill him, so either they thought their friends just wanted to kill him because reasons or, rather, the writers were writing by the seat of their pants — especially since Armor agrees with them and tries to kill X-Man herself. The entire story reeks of low effort and is easily the worst part of “X-Men Disassembled”.
Legion! X-Man! Things! Happening!
Speaking of things happening for the sake of cheap drama, that’s actually a common occurrence in this story, no better exemplified than with how the story begins. “X-Men Disassembled” opens with Jamie Madrox causing chaos around the world, which is related to the weird time hijinks occurring, such as the presence of dinosaurs (outside the Savage Land, anyway). It turns out that this is because Legion had kidnapped Jamie Madrox, to use his dupes as hosts for his various personalities — thus giving a reason for a ton of Jamie dupes to have superpowers — as a way to… help the X-Men. Also, he sent a vague vision to Jean Grey.
He did all of this to prevent the rise of the Age of X-Man, which he… somehow knows about. While it was a nice touch that Legion feels responsible for X-Man due to Nate Grey originating from the Age of Apocalypse, which Legion essentially created, nothing else is worth anything. Legion acts irrationally — even for him — and then the X-Men decide he’s a danger to everyone around him and want to lock him up, which the X-kids are vehemently against and no adult is because we need a manufactured conflict.
Both Legion and X-Man act in ways that only serve to give the story big moments that, in hindsight, do not make any sense. It runs off rule of cool, but in a way that the writers actually wanted their plot to matter. Just ahving to characters that are crazy doesn’t justify to stupid things they do.
The Regrettable Return of Archangel
This one may sound like an afterthought, but that makes it weirdly fitting given its place in “X-Men Disassembled”. Archangel is the superpowered evil form/personality that Angel can assume in order to not be useless (shut up, you know I’m right). It’s your typical super evil form that Shonen has done to death and Marvel themselves had a pretty good ending to the entire thing in the form of Rick Remender’s “Dark Angel Saga” from Uncanny X-Force, which saw the Archangel persona completely destroyed and Angel left an amnesiac with metal wings. Archangel eventually returned in Cullen Bunn’s Uncanny X-Men, but whatever.
At the start of this story, Angel says he has control of Archangel. Okay, sure. He eventually becomes one of X-Man’s Horsemen of Salvation and Psylocke is forced to revert him to Archangel to undo X-Man’s work while also giving them a weapon against the other Horsemen. Ignoring that Archangel isn’t nearly powerful enough to deal with the other Horsemen — Magneto alone could take him out — it just feels like an incredibly forced way to bring back the whole Archangel thing. He immediately screams that Psylocke has ruined his life and is treated like he’s being a big baby when, well, that’s exactly what she did. And later on, she reverts Storm back to her original form after she becomes a Horseman of Salvation, so… good job, Betsy. It all feels like it’s just part of the writing team’s attempts to bring back the 90s, but in the worst way possible, for the sake of a status quo that reached a natural conclusion.
The last issue deserves special mention for how it botches the entire story and exposes what a poorly thought out arc “X-Men Disassembled” was in the end. All those plot points I mentioned? Well, in the end, the story boils down to a stupid fight between X-Man and the X-Men and exposition flies around and the creative team throw up their hands and say “screw it, we all have other things to do”. The resolution to every single plot thread feels lazy and rushed, while simultaneously feeling like it’s been padded beyond belief. The ending was telegraphed from miles away because Marvel decided to announce Age of X-Man before the first issue had even shipped, and even named the follow-up arc “The Last X-Men” for good measure — in case you couldn’t already figure it out. It’s not even engaging because you can see where it’s going from a mile away. There is, quite frankly, nothing good about this ending. What do I have to say to “X-Men Disassembled”? This:
In the end, “X-Men Disassembled” was disappointing. What was meant to launch a new era for the X-Men franchise instead feels like an afterthought. Extermination felt like a return to form, clearing the deck for what comes next — sadly, it was this. A poorly thought out story to set up an event that most of the writers aren’t involved with, resetting status quos that have been done to death and terrible portrayals of characters that felt almost like the writers were attacking fans, “X-Men Disassembled” was a failure. However, Matthew Rosenberg seems to be on his way to turning things around with his solo run on the title, so maybe “X-Men Disassembled” will be remembered as the rough start to an otherwise fantastic series… or that overpriced trade that every store has way too much of.