It is time to reshuffle the X-Books again, and so we begin a new era with Extermination #1.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: August 15, 2018
Collected in: Extermination
|EXTERMINATION, PART ONE OF FIVE
The original team of teen mutants brought together by Professor Charles Xavier many years ago have been shunted through time to find a world they barely recognize but were determined to help. Now, finding themselves targeted for death, the future of mutantkind lies squarely in the hands of its past. Can the fate of the X-Men be changed?
While Fox held an iron grip on the movie rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four Marvel ran an unofficial (and unsubtle) campaign to drive both properties into the ground. They were largely successful with the Fantastic Four — helped in no small part by Fox’s awful attempts at making movies with the franchise — but the X-Men managed to stick it out. Despite heavy pressure to have mutants replaced with inhumans over the last few years the X-Men fanbase has stuck with the titles. That does not mean damage was not done, though. The current X-Men setup is a nightmare that makes the mid-90s Gordian knot of dangling plot threads seem inviting by comparison.
The Fox buyout by Disney is nearly complete and so it is time for Marvel to start repairing the damage they have done to their franchises. Fantastic Four relaunched last week after a several year hiatus, and now the X-Books are cleaning house. There had been a concentrated effort in the last year or so to get the X-Men back on the map, but Extermination #1 marks the first real steps towards correcting mistakes of the past.
Right now the biggest obstacles to this process are the time-displaced original X-Men floating around in the present mucking about with continuity. The original idea behind them was to shock Cyclops (at the time doing his best villain impression, and currently doing his best corpse impression) into realizing just how far the X-Men had drifted from their original goals. It actually was a sound idea in theory, but the team outstayed their welcome and have become just as derailed as their present day counterparts. Having them around not only presents a continuity nightmare, but it takes away from the modern versions of the characters. The time-displaced kids are functionally completely different characters at this point, but they are overshadowing their own counterparts. It also unnecessarily confuses readers when we have to distinguish between young and old versions of characters living side-by-side.
The kids are just part of the equation. Core characters like Cyclops are dead and their legacy tarnished. Wolverine is wandering around again, but they somehow managed to stretch that out into multiple mini-series just to make things confusing. He even has multiple alternate reality doppelgangers wandering around to muck things up even more. These are all just scratching at the surface since the X-Men have been accumulating entangled continuity threads like wayward Pokemon for years, and it has been at a critical mass for some time. Something has to change.
General Thoughts on Extermination #1
At the beginning of this year the Avengers books cleaned house with Avengers: No Surrender. Ultimately that mini-series did not accomplish much, but it did at least streamline the Avengers lineup down into a more manageable number of books. Now it is the X-Books turn as we say goodbye to X-Men Blue and X-Men Gold soon. X-Men Red will persist, as will some of the solo titles, but otherwise the line will again refocus on the upcoming Uncanny X-Men relaunch. Extermination #1 is the stepping stone to that. Unlike Avengers: No Surrender, which took a more new reader friendly approach in the beginning, Extermination jumps right in with plot threads picking up from X-Men Blue and Gold. It also rather quickly starts sweeping away some of the more unnecessary subplots from those books.
There is some merit to the approach taken here. Rather than just ignoring the subplots of the last few years and pretending they did not happen Extermination #1 decides to tackle the issue head on. So what we have here is Ahab and his hounds jumping over from an ongoing Rachel Grey subplot in X-Men Gold to hunt the X-Men Blue team, with perhaps more success than you would expect. Similarly a new face (sort of) is also moving against the X-Men Blue team for reasons yet unknown, and they likewise have a certain degree of success.
Extermination #1 is so far establishing a number of questions that need answering while also wiping out some continuity chaff. Most notably is the removal of Bloodstorm from the board, which is a bit of a safe starting point since she should probably never have been floating around in the first place. Between her and the second character knocked out of play in this issue (I will not spoil who that is) it is apparent that part of the remit of this series is to get us back down to the only having a single version of each X-Man. The ultimate goal, I assume, is to get the various time displaced characters back to their correct time stream at long last. And good riddance to that.
Thoughts on the Art
Jumping over from Avengers: No Surrender is Pepe Larraz on art, with Marte Gracia joining him on colors. Extermination #1 is an action-heavy issue, and Pepe is a master of action sequences. He does struggle a bit in this issue on calmer scenes, with facial expressions in particular suffering from time to time. Overall, though, he brings the same engaging work to this book that he did to No Surrender. I would not be surprised if Marvel kept handing him high profile event books, and well they should. Marte also brings a large palette of colors to bear, which keeps the book visually interesting despite the number of dark alleys and the nighttime setting of most of the book. There are a few visual hiccups throughout, but overall this is a solid, good looking book from start to finish.
As a starting point this issue works well. I truly hope that this series does not descend into a pointless bloodbath of secondary characters being offed, but at the same time I hope this first issue was not simply throwing some characters out as a token nod to making it seem impactful. The X-Men have been in serious need of some house cleaning for a while, and if done properly Extermination could certainly fit the bill for that. This series is also much shorter than No Surrender — down to five issues from fourteen — so there is much less room for fluff, which dragged the original series down a bit.
As a new beginning for the X-Men Extermination #1 seems to be a solid opening issue. Unlike No Surrender I would probably counsel interested new readers to perhaps wait for the Uncanny X-Men relaunch before diving in, or going back and reading X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue before starting here. Either way, Extermination is doing a job that is necessary, and it is off to a decent enough start for that purpose. For the first time in a while it seems like the X-Books may finally regain some focus and ditch some of the unnecessary trappings it has picked up in recent years.