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Marvel is Sabotaging Their Own X-Men Relaunch

The X-Men comics franchise is bigger than its ever been since the 1990s - but Marvel's sales strategy is already risking damage. Again.

X-Men Cover Cyclops and Summers Family

Marvel Comics is unwittingly sabotaging their X-Men relaunch. Back in the 1990s, the X-Men were considered the gold standard of superhero comics. Those days had seemed to be long gone - at least until Marvel recruited celebrated comic book writer Jonathan Hickman to conduct a recent relaunch.

It's proven to be a remarkable success, with the relaunch translating into strong sales. October 2019 delivered the best month in three years for the Direct Market, with Hickman's X-MenPowers of X, and House of X books all driving sales. ComiXology has been reporting similar digital sales as well, proving that this relaunch is scratching readers' X-Men itch. The only question is whether or not the X-Men can maintain their momentum.

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Unfortunately, Marvel Comics seem to be unwittingly sabotaging the X-Men's success. The problem is that the comic book publisher has realized they're on to a hit, and as a result the X-Men range is once again expanding. Unfortunately, Marvel isn't doing a particularly good job of staggering the books - as noted by ISnowNothin on Twitter, the X-books double- or even triple-ship most weeks until the end of January. The week of December 18 is particularly brutal, with no less than five X-Men comics coming out on the same day. Each issue is priced at just $3.99, which means anyone attempting to follow all these books at once will have to pay out just under $20 - the week before Christmas.

Jean Grey X-Force Cerebro Cover

It's not hard to see why Marvel has done this; they're operating by the most basic laws of supply and demand. Right now, there's clearly a demand for the X-Men, so they figure they might as well dine out on it. Unfortunately, this is a short-term strategy, because it essentially forces the various X-Men titles into a match of "survival of the fittest" that would make Apocalypse proud. The simple truth is that, at this kind of price, most readers are going to have to choose which books to prioritize - especially so close to Christmas. Hickman's flagship X-Men is probably safe, but all the other X-Men comics are effectively competing with one another on the day of their release. A more staggered approach would prevent this competition, and ironically probably result in better sales performance across the range. Marvel's strategy is pretty wrong-headed.

Making matters worse, Jonathan Hickman's X-Men franchise appears to be far more closely coordinated than is typically the case. Each one of the comics is exploring important concepts that were seeded through Hickman's Dawn of X and Powers of X miniseries, and they all link together in quite an interesting way. Major events from one book are having repercussions across the range; X-Force #1 saw Charles Xavier assassinated by an anti-mutant conspiracy, and the repercussions have been felt in every title. This means there's actually a risk readers will unwittingly miss a crucial issue, and as a result Marvel risk the entire range beginning to lose traction.

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