This article is from the X-Men Comic Books FAQ, by Kate the Short (firstname.lastname@example.org) with numerous contributions by others.
Information on "The Twelve" had been around for eons. An entire question
in this FAQ centered around who the possible candidates were, based upon
a handful of Master Mold appearances. The only thing certain was that it
had to do with a future conflict with Apocolypse. People weren't even
sure whether the Twelve were all heroes, or included the major good guys
*and* bad guys of the fight with Apocalypse. Apocalypse, of course, was
trying to take over the world. He wanted to obtain the powers of the
twelve most powerful mutants. He was going to take over Nate Grey's body
as his new host, but Cyclops sacrificed himself and the two merged.
Soon after that, the X-Men lost their powers due to a plot by the High
Evolutionary and Sinister, and went their merry ways trying to live new
lives powerless. During this time, Professor Xavier went into space to
teach mutant Skrulls how to use their powers.
All of this was a setup for the return of the master X-Men writer, Chris
Claremont. Claremont had been an editor for Marvel for years, and rumors
were always circulating as to whether he would return and "rescue" the
titles from their poorly-written existence. So a new event was concocted
to bring him back and increase sales--X-Men Revolution! The two main books
would be given over to Claremont, while three of the other titles (X-Man,
Generation X, and X-Force) would be given to "plotmaster" Warren Ellis.
The books would all include a "six-month gap" during which all kinds of
"neat" changes would happen, allowing the new writers to take the teams in
plot-leaping directions. All of this was to take place shortly after the
release of the "X-Men" movie in July 2000.
The X-Men movie was a hit. It topped the box office and left some older
fans wanting to return to the titles. The excellent cast, including
Patrick Stewart as Xavier and Ian McKellan as Magneto, was paired with
nifty special effects to create a very enjoyable, albeit alternative,
version of the X-Men. Fans, and Marvel staff, hoped that the movie would
lead new readers into the newly-revamped books.
Chris Claremont took over the two main titles, with artistic help from
Leinil Francis Yu and Mark Morales on X-Men and Adam Kubert, Salvador
Larrocca, and Tim Townsend on Uncanny. His new plots, however, left a
lot to be desired. Some nifty points occurred, including the switch of
powers between Phoenix and Psylocke and the appearance of former foe
Tessa on the team, but most were not explained. New member Thunderbird
III (Neal Sharra) was introduced, and Cable joined the main ranks. The
big problem was that there were no logical, recognizable villains faced.
You see, Claremont and company felt that old villains like Magneto had
been beaten before, so a new group, the Neo, were introduced.
The Neo stories had many problems. The characters were supposed to be
very powerful, like mutant versions of mutants. A new step in evolution,
if you will. But their powers were tired, their motivations unexplained,
and their characters undefined. "I am ____!" became the standard of high
characterization for the Neo, the Goth, the Twisted Sisters, and the
like, all of whom were supposedly different groups. Shadowcat, who was
also given a major personality change, went missing. Nobody really
bothered to look for her. The same was true of other characters. And,
while the two titles were again supposed to be two books with two teams
and storylines, the state of perma-crossover left them effectively merged.
Meanwhile, Counter-X debuted in Generation X, X-Force, and X-Man. Warren
Ellis started out with some interesting ideas, but the stories generally
left fans divided. X-Man was revamped by Steven Grant and Ariel
Olivetti, and was generally the only success story. The change to Nate
Grey as a sort of shaman was a huge departure from the previous
conceptualization of the character. Loads of parallel-Earth stories
ensued, but the book had an increased fan base. Unfortunately, it was
cancelled with issue #75, at the end of its first year of Counter-X.
Brian Wood and Steve Pugh took over Generation X from Jay Faerber and
the Dodsons, and led off with a House of Correction storyline that had
huge gaping plot holes all through it. Luckily, later stories that
explained the death of Synch during the six month gap, and focused on
character development, were much better. However, at the end of the
first year of Counter-X stories, the title was cancelled with issue #75.
Ian Edginton and Whilce Portacio took over X-Force, the least successful
of the Counter-X revamps. The book, which had been interesting under the
run of John Francis Moore, had faltered. But the revamp, which stripped
the team to four characters and started out with a ludicrous story of
aliens taking over people in San Francisco, left characters with ugly
costumes, ugly faces, few lines, new powers, and murky colors. The book
was also late, late, late. Of all of the revamps, X-Force was the flop.
To tie in with the release of the movie, two new items debuted. X-Men:
Evolution was a cartoon featuring an alternate version of the X-Men. A
new Ultimate title, Ultimate X-Men, was also introduced, led by Mark
Millar and Adam Kubert. Like the movie, it featured black-leather-clad
X-Men in a team setting, though it was more like an alternate version
of X-Men #1. Neither seemed earth-shattering, though Ultimate was set
to be continuity-free (at least, compared with the main titles).
The shakeup that had begun with the new teams and titles and creators
was continued with the ascencion of Joe Quesada as the new Editor-in-
Chief after Bob Harras was fired. Many cancellations were announced,
including Generation X, X-Man, and Mutant X. Fabian Nicieza's well-done
Gambit was merged with Joe Harris' interesting Bishop (brought back to
our timeline for a joint miniseries), and both titles were cancelled.
John Byrne's nifty but slow X-Men: The Hidden Years, which was filling
in the gaps between (Uncanny) X-Men #66 and Giant-Size X-Men #1, was
announced as cancelled, but a write-in campaign and pressure from Byrne
meant that he had an extra issue or two to tie up loose threads.
Then came the restructurings and firings. Though Claremont's more recent
stories, dealing with the search for Destiny's diaries, seemed to give
more old-style characterization, he was released from the main books and
was given a third X-Men title to write. It was announced that the main
titles would be given over to Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely (X-Men) and
Joe Casey/Ian Churchill (Uncanny). Frank Tieri and Sean Chen took over
Wolverine with a back-to-basics approach (which translated into more
action). Popular Cable writer Robert Weinberg, working with Michael Ryan
and Andrew Pepoy, had given structure and intrigue back to that title,
but he was booted in favor of another writer. And in a bizarre twist, it
was announced that X-Force would be entirely revamped by Peter Milligan
and Mike Allred, and would feature a large team of all-new characters.
X-Men was renamed New X-Men as of issue #114, and Morrison and Quitely
introduced the scaled-down team of Cyclops, Phoenix, the White Queen,
Wolverine, and a newly-mutated Beast. They, along with Professor X,
reopened Xavier's school to a new group of students. Unfortunately,
Xavier had a twin sister, killed in the womb, that wanted to take over
his mind and ruin everything he'd worked for. A Chinese mutant, Xorn,
was introduced, as was a young winged mutant named Angel. The tone of
Morrison's New X-Men was distinct and unusual, and the book achieved
critical success, though some fans objected to new characterizations.
Uncanny X-Men was put in the hands of Casey and Churchill, who gathered
the team of (Arch)angel, Iceman, and Nightcrawler, added Chamber, and
included Wolverine for a few issues just for fun. The first few issues
focused on celebrity and family, as the team convinced Chamber that he
should join the team. After a visit to a mutant brothel, a mutant who
called herself Stacey X was added to the team. The Church of Humanity
was introduced as a threat. Sean Cassidy later showed up as the leader
of the European X-Corps, featuring former members of Generation X,
X-Factor, and Freedom Force (villains).
Meanwhile, Chris Claremont was shunted over to X-Treme X-Men, paired
with Salvador Larocca on art. He built a team using Storm, Bishop,
Rogue, Thunderbird, Sage, Beast, and Psylocke. Psylocke was killed
off by a villain named Vargas, and Beast's injuries and subsequent
"treatment" by Sage transferred him to the New X-Men team in a more
bestial state. Gambit rejoined the team, and two new characters were
introduced: Heather Cameron (Lifeguard), who could turn into whatever
form she needed, and her brother Davis (Slipstream), whose surfing-
teleportation powers were activated by Sage. Though the team was
supposedly formed to locate Destiny's diaries, a quest introduced in
X-Men #109, more of their efforts went towards battling organized crime
in Australia and Madripoor, and fighting off an alien invasion.
X-Force's makeover in the hands of Milligan and Allred was more of a
critical success. Almost all of the team featured in the first issue
was killed, and new team members quickly bit the dust after that,
until a more complex set of relationships developed between Orphan
and U-Go Girl and the newer team members. Conspiacies and corporate
links formed a backdrop to a unique set of characters, all trying to
figure out who they were while tentatively forming relationships
within a team that seemed unstable at best.
Cable was turned over to Tischman and Kordey, who took the character
in a more political real-world direction. Wolverine continued under
the hand of Frank Tieri, who seemed to believe that large, long
fight sequences were the epitome of characterization. Multiple Icons
miniseries were published, many of which seemed rather lame. One bright
spot was Judd Winnick's new Exiles title--a Quantum-Leap-inspired book
with a lot of light humor to it.
A mere year after the upheaval, the Marvel offices were at it again.
Quitely's slow pace meant that Ethan Van Sciver would become a regular
penciler on alternate arcs from Quitely on New X-Men. Low sales and odd
plots brought Chuck Austen in to replace Joe Casey on Uncanny, though
Casey's X-Corps idea became the X-Corporation in New X-Men and Uncanny.
Critical success X-Force was winning new fans, but older fans complained
about the bait-and-switch nature of the title, so it was relaunched with
the name X-Statix. To battle low sales, other titles were also renamed
and rebooted with #1 issues. Darko Macan became the new writer on Cable,
renamed Soldier X. Deadpool, a semi-X-related title, was renamed Agent X
and was written by Deadpool writer Gail Simone, with art by UDON Studios.
One new book, Weapon X, brought together a team of former X-Men allies
and foes (working for the government as a black ops team), and was
written by Frank Tieri with art by Georges Jeanty.
It is not clear if the relaunches and reboots will be successful, but it
is likely that Marvel will keep trying. At the very least, the new style
of the books means that there are finally three separate and distinct
core titles, and a number of supporting titles, that each have their own
team, purpose, style, and audience. Fans no longer felt compelled to buy
every issue of every title in order to keep track of what was going on.