How the X-Men are being repositioned as Marvel's top superhero team

X-Men #1
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The Avengers have been called 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes' for nearly 60 years, but the Marvel super-team has a new challenger for that title: the X-Men.

With July 7's X-Men #1, the mutant super-team is being repositioned - no longer are they a team of mutants, for mutants. They are now a team of mutants, for everyone - humankind, mutantkind…  every kind of person on Earth.

X-Men #1

(Image credit: Pepe Larraz/Marte Gracia/Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics))

To bridge that gap, the X-Men are viewed through the perspective of a folksy everyman in the form of The Daily Bugle's Ben Urich in the opening and closing moments of the first issue. Urich investigates the X-Men's new headquarters in New York, asking the questions the common person would ask - while also marveling (no pun intended) at the Krakoan technology of the new X-Men base, nicknamed the Treehouse.

(Image credit: Pepe Larraz/Marte Gracia/Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics))

As an aside, a treehouse as a base - in the middle of New York City? It may seem odd, even with Krakoan tech, but it serves a purpose all its own. While the Avengers were once New York's resident super-team (more on that later) living in a Mansion or massive skyscraper tower, the X-Men Treehouse has now supplanted that (pun intended) to become an approachable, people-friendly headquarters for the newest super-team in New York City.

Back to Urich, Cyclops' reception of the reporter - and Urich's reception of the X-Men to his city - belies a sort of understanding and acceptance similar to Urich's approach to heroes such as Daredevil and Spider-Man. It's a relationship built on some sort of mutual agreement of morals and perspective, while still open enough to ask questions - even the tough questions of mutants' uncanny ability to come back from the dead.

Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz's X-Men #1 is the most unabashed classic superhero narrative that X-Men has had since the Astonishing X-Men days of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday in the early '00s. Long gone is the era of mutants simply reacting to being hated and feared, with the X-Men now repositioned as the great hope for Earth - mutant or not.

(Image credit: Pepe Larraz/Marte Gracia/Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics))

Duggan and the X-editors are also working very subtly to distinguish the X-Men as 'elected' as representatives of mutantkind for the broader world. 

Urich's Bugle article hits on this idea in its opening - "not every mutant is a member of the X-Men" - and in an earlier text piece, Emma Frost makes it a point to say she's a "former" member of the X-Men. No, she's not been excommunicated from Krakoa - she's just not a part of this elected team.

Even the apparent villains of the inaugural arc of the new X-Men title, a cabal of alien criminals led by a sentient fungus named Cordyceps Jones, send X-Men #1's giant alien adversary the Mind Reaper to Earth not to target mutants specifically - but instead to wipe out Earth's entire civilization, now that the mutants have terraformed Mars into Planet Arakko. With the X-Men defeating this first assault before the Avengers or Fantastic Four can even arrive on the scene, Earth's mightiest mutant heroes are already stepping into the role of the planet's greatest protectors.

(Image credit: Pepe Larraz/Marte Gracia/Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics))

It's all part of a seemingly bigger picture as well; a plan to move the X-Men from being sequestered in their own corner of continuity to being a bigger part of the Marvel Universe at large.

Using their connection with Urich, the Treehouse, and their revised mission statement, the X-Men are replanting themselves away from the walled garden of the X-Titles and into the wider landscape of the Marvel U - directly alongside contemporaries such as the Avengers and the FF, who have long been Earth's go-to superhero protectors.

Well before Marvel parcelled off some of its movie/TV rights to various studios leading to an even greater perceived separation between Marvel's mutant-centric characters and its other franchises, the X-Men were largely kept separate from the main thoroughfare of the Marvel Universe. Even in the heyday of the Chris Claremont era (and the ensuring '90s) when the X-titles routinely crossed over with the Marvel Universe at large, the mutants were framed as outsiders from Marvel's classic core heroes of Spider-Man and the Avengers.

But no longer are the X-Men on faraway Krakoa, or even the suburbs of New York City at the Xavier Mansion - they are literally in the center of Marvel Comics' hometown. What's more, the X-Men's big move is happening at the same time that the Avengers - you know, Marvel's flagship super-team - have removed themselves from New York and instead set up shop away from humanity in the Arctic Circle.

(Image credit: Pepe Larraz/Marte Gracia/Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics))

For residents of New York City (and perhaps Marvel fans), who needs the Avengers when you have seven elected X-Men? 

And that's before even bringing up their giant new X-Mech...

Keep track of the brewing developments with our constantly updated list of new X-Men comics on the horizon.

Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)