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May 30

Heroes Reborn: Magneto & The Mutant Force #1

Posted on Sunday, May 30, 2021 by Paul in x-axis

“Beware! Psychic Rescue in Progress!”
by Steve Orlando, Bernard Chang & David Curiel


This is a thing.

Why is this a thing?

I do not know.

I do not know why this is a thing.

Well. Maybe I know why this is a thing.

Heroes Reborn was name of the 1996/7 event where AvengersFantastic FourIron Man and Captain America were relaunched by Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. The 2021 Heroes Reborn has nothing to do with it whatsoever. I can only assume the name was chosen for trademark renewal.

That’s always a good impression to put front and centre, isn’t it? Trademark renewal.

It’s an Avengers arc which has sprawled into an event comic. History has been changed, the Avengers never existed, and now the biggest heroes of the Marvel Universe are the Squadron Supreme of America. Who are basically a hard-right JLA.

I couldn’t care less about Jason Aaron’s Avengers and I couldn’t care less about Heroes Reborn. I gather the gimmick of the main series is something to do with “the Marvel Universe, but if it was a bit more like the DCU”. Is that interesting? It’s an own-brand Amalgam, isn’t it?


You might say that it’s unfair to read this comic in isolation from the rest of the series. But bluntly, what is the point of publishing an X-Men one-shot as a tie-in to an Avengers alternate reality arc, if not to drag in some X-Men readers? Why bother, otherwise? Creative integrity? Pull the other one.

So if that’s the point of the exercise, then yes, sure, it’s absolutely legitimate to read it in isolation.

The plot, then. The X-Men of this timeline are the Mutant Force, a reference to Magneto’s team from Captain America Annual #4. Most of them got wiped out by the Squadron Supreme a while back while protesting against the Mutant Registration Act. Magneto has most of the surviving mutants hiding out on Island M. One day Magneto figures out that Xavier has somehow survived within his subconscious, and breaks Emma Frost out of jail so she can try to rescue him.

This leads to some of the mutants going into Magneto’s mind to try and rescue Xavier, while the rest try and hold the Squadron Supreme at bay. Magneto gets to do some fairly routine speechifying about how mutants need Xavier’s heart alongside his anger. And there’s a bit near the end with the Squadron that I guess probably plays into the main arc somewhere.

Mainly this issue is about the twist. If there’s an interesting idea in here, it’s to do with the twist (so, spoilers ahead). Xavier isn’t actually Xavier, which ought to be abundantly obvious from the bleak and angry nature of the mindscape. But everyone wants to believe it’s him, and so they just ignore all the warning signs by interpreting them as a natural reaction by Xavier to everything that’s happened to him.

That’s… vaguely interesting? I suppose?

No, it’s really not, is it.

It’s a slog, this. I have read it through, but I haven’t managed to do it in one sitting because I just can’t keep my attention on it. My mind wanders, looking for more stimulating fare like wallpaper. Maybe some sort of character piece could have been done here, but the basic concept of Heroes Reborn really has nothing for an X-Men story to work with. An alternate reality where things turned out worse for mutants? The X-books already have one of those. What’s the point of doing “Age of Apocalypse, but very very mildly”? There isn’t one, but here it is anyway.

Referencing a bunch of story elements isn’t enough to carry an issue. Dusting off an obscure character like Mister One and Mister Two is cute, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Bernard Chang’s art is fine, I guess – there are a couple of quite nice costume redesigns – though the visual flow is sometimes choppy.

But if you’re going to do the meta gimmick of pretending it’s an issue from an alternate line of comics – which it does, with mock footnotes and “next issue” trailer – then really you’re aiming to produce something that seems like it’d be a fun series. This doesn’t feel like a series you’d want to read. It doesn’t even really read like a first issue; it’s a middle chapter of a book in flux that never entirely establishes what a regular issue of Mutant Force would be like.

It’s a dud. There’s another X-book to come in this event – Heroes Reborn: Weapon X & Final Flight #1 – and god, I’m not looking forward to that.


Bring on the comments

  1. JD says:

    Technically there is another quasi-X-book in the Heroes Reborn lineup : HYPERION AND THE IMPERIAL GUARD, a Legion of Superheroes spoof. It’s actually pretty good for what it is, but the fun surprise was the STARJAMMERS backup, which looks like a book I’d actually want to read.

    The gimmick is that this is played as the “last issue before cancellation” where the whole team bar Hyperion get killed off Broodified, with STARJAMMERS as the replacement “grittier” title on the schedule.
    So far, I feel like this is the only tie-in that actually worked well within the format.

    I’m also mystified by the main HEROES REBORN book, as it seems mostly concerned with building up the Squadron Supreme as characters (none of whom are particularly interesting so far), with only a few token pages each issue devoted to Blade gathering the Avengers back for the climax.

  2. Chris V says:

    “Mutants always lose.”

  3. The Other Michael says:

    Such a strange yet inconsequential issue, because obviously, none of this will ever be followed through upon.

    Until this universe gets its own designation and future, even less interesting, stories are told in it.

    For the sake of completion:
    Magneto’s Mutant Force includes:
    Frenzy, Rogue, Jubilee, and Misters One and Two, with new recruit Emma Frost.

    Versions of Fantomex show up as a security team, obviously echoing his original concept as one of the Weapon Plus program.

    Mutants seen on Island M include:
    Gentle, Surge, Pixie, Sabra, Grizzly(!), Madrox, Magma, Domino, Anole. There are a handful I don’t recognize because they’re not quite distinct enough. Of special, baffling note, is what appears to be someone looking exactly like Skullfire from X-Men 2099, calling Hyperion a flatscan. What he’s doing in the present is a mystery.

    Original five X-Men were apparently:
    Angel, Jean, Legion, Beast and Iceman… reflecting the Summers Brothers being off in space as part of the Starjammers.

    All in all, a weird little footnote to the Heroes Reborn storyline that mainly serves to explain what the -other- mutants are doing while the Avengers are non-existent, Wanda’s off being a villain as part of Siege Society/one of Whizzer’s rogues gallery, and the Summers family is in space. I’d almost suspect that whoever (Mephisto?) is behind the reality alterations specifically wanted the mutants out of the way by constructing this scenario for them.

  4. Chris V says:

    Have we ever seen any alternate versions of Legion before (outside of realities he created)?

    Due to Hickman’s ret-con, Moira and Xavier specifically planned for the birth of Proteus and Legion during life ten for a specific purpose in Moira’s agenda.
    We know that Proteus never existed in any of Moira’s prior lives.

    I suppose it is possible that Xavier was a bit less cold and clinical towards having a child than Moira.
    Still, considering what type of father Charles has always been portrayed, it makes you wonder.

  5. Suzene M Campos says:

    Ed Brisson’s “Final Flight”. Because the world needed a bleaker, gritty take on Alpha Flight. I don’t even want to know what he’s doing with Aurora aka Jeanne-Marie Negan.

  6. Adam says:

    I’ve been touch and go on Aaron’s AVENGERS run but I’m quite enjoying the “Heroes Reborn” series itself, despite having zero interest in the premise when I heard about it. The hook may be lacking but I find the issues themselves loads of fun.

  7. the new kid says:

    Since we’re sort of talking about it…

    The best part of the original Heroes Reborn was Fantastic Four. Basically Jim Lee doing FFs greatest hits updated for the 90s. Fun for what it is.

    Iron Man had its moments. Cap and Avengers were awful.

  8. Si says:

    I love the reviews where Paul is annoyed and you can’t help but read it in his voice.

  9. Mark Coale says:

    From what i remember, the best stuff in heroes reborn was letting Robinson to wrap it all up so ir didnt completely go off the rails.

    Worst part was naturally Rob’s nazi eagle Capt America.

  10. Col_Fury says:

    re: the new kid

    It was either summer ’96 or ’97; some friends and I went to the Chicago Comicon for the weekend (Friday thru Sunday). Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld were guests that year had booths promoting Heroes Reborn.

    Saturday morning, we got into the hotel’s elevator to go to the show. On the way down Rob Liefeld got in, since he was also on his way to the show. We recognized him and said (something like) “Hey, you’re Rob Liefeld!” His response was (something like) “Oh, great. Are you going to yell at me about Captain America too?” Us: “um, no, it’s really… good…” Awkward silence until we went our separate ways.

  11. Chris V says:

    The best part of Heroes Reborn was getting rid of that dreadful Teen Tony nonsense.

    Avengers, FF, and (especially) Iron Man were quite poor at the time of the relaunch.
    So, there wasn’t any great loss, and it gave the message to Marvel to fix Avengers and Iron Man after Heroes Reborn. In that sense, it can be seen as a positive.

  12. Thomas says:

    I know this isn’t the place for it, but man…Aaron’s Avengers. Big swing and miss as far as I’m concerned. Marvel is really entertaining him by keeping this run going.

  13. Luis Dantas says:

    @Mark Coale: Wasn’t it Walt Simonson who finished Heroes Reborn? Or at least the Avengers book?

  14. Andrew says:

    Of the original Heroes Reborn, Fantastic Four is, by far, the best of the lot – Lee’s art is, while not his greatest work, is terrific and striking comparative to all of the other books.

    The storyline is a 90s update of the original 60s stories and is largely pretty good from what I can remember of the last time I read it about 20 years ago.

    Iron Man has a great idea behind it and a pretty good first issue but my memory is that Portacio basically only drew the first two issues before fill-in city. The rest of it being terrible.

    Liefeld’s Cap is famously terrible but if nothing else, thanks to the huge number of splash pages through it, his six issues read really quickly and art-wise are pretty good for Liefeld.

    I still have fond memories of Paul’s original review of Captain America Issue 6 (The random Cable issue) from around 1997.

    Avengers is absolute bollocks. Terrible Chap Yaep art, ugly, ugly character designs and the storyline is incoherent to say the least.

  15. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    The most topical thing about this issue is Xavier acting weird and everyone making excuses for it because they want to believe.

    Most of this Heroes Reborn event has been very DC referential, but I’m not sure about Mutant Force.

    Metal Men or Doom Patrol?

    I dunno.

    PS- I enjoy Aarons Avengers and this mini event has been fine so far.

  16. Mark Coale says:

    The way i remember it, Robinson wrote the last issue of the 4 books that wrapped up the Heroes Reborn stuff. I think he was also writing the last couple issues of Cap. Dont recall the details of the other books.

  17. Allan M says:

    4 of the 5 last issues of Heroes Reborn Avengers are written by Walt Simonson, who has the real Thor show up, mostly just to make fun of how awful Liefeld’s attempts at faux-Shakespearean Asgardian dialects were. Amusingly contemptuous of what came before.

    Fantastic Four was the best of the line – it’s just a tribute act, but it’s a very pretty one. Iron Man’s the only one with any staying power beyond mockery. The Portacio armour design is (loosely) adopted on the MCU, and it has a prominent role for Pepper Potts as Tony Stark’s love interest, whereas the mainline version had been written out back in the 70s or so. Busiek subsequently puts her back in the book as a regular and that mostly sticks, but Reborn does it first.

  18. Paul says:

    Liefeld’s Avengers issues were dialogued by Jim Valentino and Jeph Loeb. The Thor dialogue isn’t quite as bad as people remember, but it’s certainly bad enough that Simonson intentionally parodies it when he takes over mid-storyline. He also has the real Thor point out that there’s a nuclear reactor in Manhattan, and nobody else seems to have found this odd.

    In fairness, Simonson wasn’t just going meta for the sake of trashing the earlier story. The whole plot of Liefeld’s issues turned on HR Loki realising that it wasn’t a real universe, and that the “Asgardian” characters all had false memories of Ragnarok to explain why they couldn’t go home. So it was fairly meta to begin with.

  19. Martin Gray says:

    I’ve enjoyed several of these HR issues but this was horrible, Steve Orlando at his worst – he knows the story but doesn’t do enough to get it across to the reader. Too many characters, choppy writing and that worst of all X-Men fallbacks, the psychic landscape.

    I wish this was a continuing series so I could snub it.

  20. Yes, James Robinson came in to write #13 of each of the original miniseries, but as I recall continuity got rebooted again and the Heroes Reborn universe got merged with Wildstorm, so you had Spartan in the Avengers, and Vision as a member of Stormwatch, and then everyone fought Galactus.


  21. Luis Dantas says:

    And then they made a whole other miniseries with Man-Thing, Franklin Richards and a few other characters to attempt to cash a bit more money and postpone the return yet a bit more…

    But hey, does that mean that now both Vision and the Martian Manhunter were Stormwatch members at some point?

  22. Chris V says:

    The Daydreamers mini-series with Franklin, Man Thing, Tana Nile, Artie, and Leech was a really nice series (written by J.M. DeMatteis).
    It was published before the Heroes Return mini-series.

    If more of everything revolving around Onslaught/Heroes Reborn had been like the Daydreamers mini, I would have greatly enjoyed it.

  23. Mark Coale says:

    So weve go e full circle, since a number of us put over that JMDM book last week or whenever that man-thing book was recently.

  24. Luis Dantas says:

    Daydreamers may have been excellent for all I know, but I don’t think that having quite that much being published as a prelude to having the proper characters back into publishing was a wise strategy.

  25. Chris V says:

    It dealt with Franklin having to come to terms with the fact that his family was dead.
    It was the story that needed to be told after Onslaught.

    Of course, the fact that the heroes were back about three months after Daydreamers ended took some of the emotion away from the series.

  26. Nu-D says:

    I never read the original Heroes Reborn, or most of Onslaught, for that matter, but reading this …

    Xavier isn’t actually Xavier, which ought to be abundantly obvious from the bleak and angry nature of the mindscape. But everyone wants to believe it’s him, and so they just ignore all the warning signs by interpreting them as a natural reaction by Xavier to everything that’s happened to him.

    …made me wonder if this is supposed to tie into a Onslaught-rewrite somehow? A dark angry Xavier in Magneto’s mind? Seems clearly to be a call back.

  27. Jerry Ray says:

    I’ll agree that Aaron’s Avengers is a big nothing. It’s so over the top that it hardly feels like a story – it’s like a parody of an Avengers comic. That recent Phoenix arc was full-on unreadable.

  28. Thom H. says:

    I always enjoy the idea of Marvel and DC parodying each other’s characters. This issue doesn’t strike me as an especially good use of the trope — as Uncanny X-Ben mentioned above, Mutant Force isn’t an obvious analogue to any DC team. Doom Patrol is the usual go-to in this case, but I’m not getting that vibe here. Maybe I’m missing something. The art was nice, though.

    As a big fan of Ed McGuinness’ art, I’ve tried to like Jason Aaron’s Avengers but it’s just not happening. And bringing in the Phoenix was the nail in the coffin for me. Repeated use has worn that concept down so far that I can only roll my eyes when it’s brought back for another lame iteration. Honestly, even Claremont went back to that well too often and that was 30 years ago.

  29. Mark Coale says:

    I don’t really get tying the Phoenix to Thor either.

  30. neutrino says:

    Mutant Force was actually a group organized as a pseudo Brotherhood of Evil Mutants by Magneto in Captain America Annual #4. Orlando has a thing for it because he thinks Kirby is endorsing “respecting and listening to cultural boundaries and lived experience.” Actually Kirby is refuting it.

  31. wwk5d says:

    “I don’t really get tying the Phoenix to Thor either.”

    Same. One of the dumber things Aaron has given us.

  32. James Hayes-Barber says:

    I kinda liked today’s issue with Darkhawk as a weird meta retro pastiche of Spider-Mand and Batman. Seeing a riff on Death in the Family/The Night Gwen Stacy Died in retro coloring and inks was kinda cool but then again I am a stickler for alt-history fiction, I once wrote an entire alternate timeline where Barbie became a major multimedia franchise instead of Transformers.

  33. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Counterpoint- Mama Phoenix is pretty goofy fun.

  34. Moo says:

    Best thing to come out of the original Heroes Reborn was Thunderbolts.

  35. […] are two X-Men one-shots which tie in to the Avengers’ Heroes Reborn event. I reviewed Heroes Reborn: Magneto & The Mutant Force #1 a few weeks ago, and wasn’t exactly impressed. So let’s say right now that Weapon X & Final Flight […]

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