The X-Men have always had one foot in the realm of science fiction. Mutations may have been a simple way to graft superpowers onto characters without having to figure out specific origins for each one, but they quickly became rooted in evolution and genetics. Many of the mutants’ most enduring enemies have had some sort of artificial intelligence or cosmic aspect to them.
Admittedly, other eras of the X-Men have leaned harder into other genres. There were the big superhero adventures of 1991’s X-Men, the supernatural exploits of Excalibur, the more grounded stories of District X, and the teenage soap opera of New Mutants. However, sci-fi has been an underlining element of the franchise almost since the beginning. This connection has been more pronounced than ever in the Krakoa Era. With the era seemingly heading towards a natural conclusion in the upcoming Fall of X, maybe it’s time for the X-Men to take a step back and let other genres drive the X-Men’s future.
Marvel Has Transformed the X-Men Into a Science-Fiction Title
The Krakoa Era has been very reliant on artificial intelligence. The amazing mutant technologies in Marauders and the wild inventions in X-Corp highlight the progress mutants have been making, while X-Force is a reminder of the dangers associated with the power of technology. S.W.O.R.D. and X-Men have focused on alien allies and threats, placing Krakoa (and Arakko) firmly in the cosmic Marvel landscape. Even the supernatural stories of the modern era such as X of Swords, Legion of X, or Excalibur are impacted by sci-fi elements. The space station known as the Peak was a major secret weapon for the X-Men while in Otherworld, Nightcrawler’s mystical conflicts have been driven by robotic foes like Nimrod, and Captain Britain’s enemy Reuben Brousseau is aligned with both the mystical Morgan le Fay and the technologically-driven Orchis. Even Nightmare relies on the alien horde known as the Brood to target the X-Men.
Sins of Sinister has taken this further, shifting the X-Men into a futuristic dystopia where the Sinister Quiet Council has transformed the heroic mutant nation into a cruel expansionist empire. Books like Storm & the Brotherhood and Immoral X-Men have openly taken cues from franchises like Star Trek. Even the magical elements of Sins of Sinister in Nightcrawlers have been in direct contrast to the expansion of the technologically-driven Red Diamond Empire. But the fact of the matter is, the Krakoa Era is coming to an end. The upcoming Fall of X seems poised to close the book on the current era of X-Men stories, suggesting a split from the franchise’s current direction.
Marvel’s Future Plans for the X-Men
In order to distinguish the future of the franchise from the iconic Krakoa Era, creators need to take the mutants in different directions. Captain Britain’s work in Excalibur, the team’s peace with Madelyne Pryor in Dark Web, and Nightcrawler’s journey in Legion of X could set the mutants up to enter the world of magic. A return to the more street-level Marvel Universe could also place mutants alongside characters such as Luke Cage — building off the human connections they might develop alongside the Kingpin. The team fully focusing on being superheroes again could bring bombastic energy overall.
The science fiction concepts that have come to define modern X-Men stories have been fascinating and given the franchise some of its best stories. However, there are so many more themes that could be further explored in a setting where the mutants are forced to rely on other elements in the world. The X-Men sci-fi era was wonderful, but it has peaked and Marvel’s mutants will inevitably go in a new direction.