Extraordinary X-Men #1-2
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Humberto Ramos
It’s a brave new world for Marvel in its post-Secret Wars status quo, yet Marvel seems intent on revisiting the same old same old for the X-Men. Extraordinary X-Men features the mutants once again on the brink of extinction, still hated and feared by humans, and needing to band together to face the insurmountable odds against their survival. If the status quo sounds very similar to the post-House of M landscape, it’s because it is.
Oddly enough, even as familiar as the status quo is, it requires a huge amount of set up, which hampers the new creative team of Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos. Previous head writer, Brian Bendis left the mutants on a note of hope, with the possibility of peaceful relations between humans and mutants being closer to reality than ever before; following the time skip after Secret Wars, the release of the Terregin Mists by the Inhumans has led to a sterility plague on mutants, who are now more hated than ever. The incongruity between the end of Bendis’ run and the start of Lemire’s raises questions as to whether or not the editors even bothered with attempting a seamless transition between runs, and whether or not the premise were forced on the new creative team.
This leads to another problem for the book: the two issues both serve the standard bringing-the-team-together plot, and the team still isn’t formed by the end of the 2nd issue. The book is simply too decompressed, with the pace too plodding to stand out from other similar X-Men relaunches; these two issues could have been compressed into a slightly thicker first issue without really losing any substance. It doesn’t help that one of the biggest surprises of the first two issues, the return of a long absent villain, is spoiled by Marvel’s own solicitations; the book has this weird issue with plotting and editorial mismanagement, and it doesn’t feel entirely like it’s Lemire’s fault.
Fortunately, Lemire has a very strong take on the characters, nailing their personalities and individual voices much more ably than his predecessor. Lemire understands the chemistry among his cast, and the underlying history that punctuates their relationships, making them feel more like people instead of quip machines to bounce dialogue against. Moreover, this is the first, in a long time, that I’ve felt the X-Men to be uniformly likeable, with Teen Jean Grey most benefiting from Lemire’s pen, as she finally sheds her sanctimonious streak in favor of a much more human characterization.
Humberto Ramos is a dependably strong artist, getting the body language of each character, as well as perfectly getting the expressions for each scene. His strong line work is most impressive in the various action scenes, with a particular strength when dealing with Magik. However, I wonder if Ramos’ cartoony work is appropriate for Lemire’s writing, considering that the book is tonally dark; there were occasions where I wondered if some scenes would have been more effective under a grittier artist.
While Extraordinary X-Men is not off to the best start, it nonetheless shows a great amount of potential. Should the pace and tone issues be resolved, Lemire and Ramos could go on to write a landmark run for the X-Men, as their take on the characters is easily the strongest the X-Men have had in years.