Apart from mutants, there exists a divergent strain of super-powered humanity created by alien manipulation—the Inhumans. Rather than developing superpowers at puberty as mutants do, an Inhuman’s powers are activated through exposure to the mysterious gas known as The Terrigen Mists.
A recent attack on the Inhumans’ secret city released an uncontrolled wave of The Terrigen Mists on Earth and revealed a shocking side effect—The Mists sickened and permanently sterilized any mutant exposed to them! Thankfully, The Mists are non-lethal to ordinary humans, but that hasn’t stopped panic from rising-up over this new “M-Pox” that is turning seemingly normal people with Inhuman ancestry into superhuman monsters.
As leader of the X-Men—a superhero team made up of mutants who defend the whole of humanity while ensuring the safety of the mutant race—Storm has tasked herself with gathering up as many mutants as she can in a new place of safety that she has dubbed X-Haven. She has also started gathering as many of her old-teammates as possible—people she can trust to help her in the battle ahead.
Unfortunately—and as always—Storm is not unopposed in those goals. Some mutants, such as the teenage version of Jean Grey, are unwilling to join her due to their desire for a normal life. Some, like Piotr Rasputin (aka Colossus), think there’s no place for one such as them in the new order. And old enemies are working on their own schemes to change the destiny of mutant-kind for their own sinister ends.
Still, Storm will do what she can to weather these challenges. But can even she be prepared for the shocking discovery of a version of her former lover Wolverine from a dark future where the X-Men are all dead? A discovery made all the more surprising by Wolverine’s recent death in her time.
The back-cover of this collection describes it as “an All-New, All-Different Beginning For The X-Men”, and while the idea of a plague born of the Terrigen Mists is new, virtually everything else about this new series seems to be a rehash of older X-Men storylines. The M-Pox threat is reminiscent of The Legacy Virus and, apart from the location, there seems little difference between X-Haven and the mutant sanctuary/nation Utopia, which was established after the destruction of the mutant sanctuary/nation of Genosha, and so on.
The damnable thing is that this familiarity may bore the established X-Fans who will be the only people capable of reading this story and grasping all the nuances. Writer Jeff Lemire gamely tries to explain elements like The Inhumans and the Terrigen mists to new readers who may only know the X-Men from the movies. Yet he doesn’t bother to explain things like why a teenage Jean Grey from the past is now living in the present (long story short: time travel is complicated and, as one character quips, “it wouldn’t be the X-Men without a time-travel thing”).
This might have been tolerable if Lemire had managed to make the characters at all interesting. Unfortunately, the characters are largely one-note and the cast is too large for anyone to be truly developed. The one exception to this is the interaction between the teenage time-displaced Jean Grey from the past and the time-displaced Old Man Logan from an alternate future. Lemire manages to avoid making this relationship creepy (the younger Logan made no efforts to hide his attraction to the grown-up Jean Grey) but the whole thing feels like a retread of Logan’s previous fatherly relationships with other teenage heroines like Shadowcat, Jubilee, and Armor.
The artwork by Humberto Ramos proves livelier than Lemire’s script. Ramos sports a manic aesthetic that is full of raw energy. His artwork has improved greatly in recent years, having lost the grittiness that made some of his past work resemble street graffiti more than polished professional comic book artwork.
There’s nothing in this book that is inappropriate for the intended teenage audience. That said, there’s little to recommend Extraordinary X-Men, vol. 1. It isn’t bad but neither is it great and there are many X-Men comics that are better-crafted and more accessible to new readers.
Extraordinary X-Men, vol. 1: X-Haven
by Jeff Lemire
Art by Humberto Ramos
Marvel Comics, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: T+ (13 And Up)