Extraordinary X-Men is the second of my post Secret Wars books to come in, and another that I enjoyed. Like Spider-Man, though, this book goes on almost as if Secret Wars never happened. Of course the characters have changed, but the world itself shows little difference so far, and the characters act as if it never happened in many respects. Now, I haven’t gotten to the end of Secret Wars yet so I don’t know if that’s part of the overall story. Perhaps they don’t remember that span of time. The team consists of Storm, Magik, Iceman (the older), Colossus, Nightcrawler, Jean Grey (the younger), and Logan of Old Man Logan fame. It’s a good lineup of new and old favorites, Storm is in charge of the school as before and the issue is a ‘team-gathering montage’ of sorts as a new threat is hinted at and Storm, Bobby, and Magik teleport around the world to collect the rest of their team.
The issue doesn’t waste any time with recaps, build-ups, or stage setting. Jeff Lemire jumps right into the action with us, giving us a view of the world that is, as Magik fights to save a little girl in India. We do get a brief “What has the world come to” page before, and Storm talking to the memory of Xavier but the transition to the meat of the story is quick. Right away, thankfully, the word mutant is used, and if you read my previous article you know this was a concern. Rumor was, due to problems with movie licensing, Marvel might be getting rid of the idea of mutants all together. It’s still not clear whether this is still happening, however. People may not know, in this world, that the X-Gene is gone. This is alluded to during Secret Wars when the only cure for a virus that is killing mutants is to remove the X-Gene from every mutant in Battleworld. We really don’t know yet if that has carried over into this world or not, but I’m hopeful that our beloved outcasts won’t be turned into the relatively boring inhumans (sorry to any inhuman fans, it’s just not my thing.) This is also supported by Jean’s vision to Storm about the state of mutants all over the world, but, and this is a big but, the terrigen mist that was killing mutants is still killing them and she says no more new mutants are manifesting. It is possible the X-Gene hasn’t been removed yet, as proposed during Secret Wars.
The story is good for the most part, though it’s very much a team building story. It’s a lot like the first part of any team action movie, or Ocean’s 22.5, where our core heroes (in this case Storm, Magik, and Iceman) have to go around convincing their old buddies to join up for one last adventure. Each character gets their moment in the spotlight, more or less, and we get a glimpse into the characters as they are now. While no one mentions Battleworld, God Doom, or any other events from Secret Wars, the affects of their time there seem to be hinted at. By this I mean they are all working through issues that came up right before or during Secret Wars. Jean is following through on her plans to give up being a super hero, trying to go to school and lead a normal life. Peter is living on his farm, seeming to want to keep his mind occupied with work, and Nightcrawler is hunting demons, whether it’s because he became one or he’s attempting to become more solid in his faith we don’t know yet. Logan is off doing his thing, acclimating to a world so different from his own, and being his loner self when his teammates come calling. This issue gives us a glimpse into each of these lives as the team is gathered together.
Humberto Ramos’s stylized art is as good as we’ve come to expect after his recent run on Spider-Man. Sometimes over-exaggerated poses and anatomy, facial expressions, and detail make his art unmistakable for anyone familiar with it. His faces tend to be the most distinct feature of his work, often beautiful at rest, and becoming wildly expressive when displaying emotion. He has a way of creating panels at rest which move quickly to explosive action, often through simple changes in expression and pose, enhanced by the colors and inks of Edgar Delgado and Victor Olazaba respectively. The costumes are updated (mostly) and unique to each mutant, but still reminiscent of their old outfits before the recent shakeup. The entire art team blends well with the detailed pencils, bright coloring, and use of dark inks and shadows. It lends to the feel of the old X-Men books, but moving them into the future of design and story.
So far I’m happy with what I’m seeing. Marvel, once again, came out of the gate with a great offering and didn’t skimp on the art or the writing. I think this would be a good jump off point for anyone looking to get started reading X-Men, as even some of the veterans will have a great deal of character building to go through after recent events. There’s some references to older stories, and some backstory that the reader is expected to know, but overall I think a new reader wouldn’t find that too much of a hurdle. I also think older fans will enjoy this book, and hopefully future releases. It really does feel like a continuation of the X-Men we’ve come to know and love, with some changes of course, but nothing so over the top that it breaks the bank. Take a peek, new and old readers. You might be surprised by what you find.