Over the years, the X-Men have had all sorts of adjectives appended to their name: Uncanny, Amazing, Astonishing and New, to name just a few. Now we have a new way to describe them in “Extraordinary X-Men” #1, debuting this week from Jeff Lemire, Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba. Unfortunately, it’s a bit misleading; this latest direction for the X-Men feels less extraordinary and just extra ordinary.
Once again, the X-Men are back to being feared and misunderstood, doubly so with the Terrigen Mists blanketing the globe, as mutants who come into contact with them experience deadly side effects. With the X-Men now hiding in the mysterious X-Haven, Storm and Magik are recruiting a few X-Men that had walked away from the team, even as anti-mutant sentiment grows. All the while, the mutant population begins to teeter on the edge of extinction.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because “Extraordinary X-Men” #1 comes across as a remix of past X-Men storylines and ideas. The M-Pox feels like a retread of the Legacy Virus, killing mutants and causing them to be feared. The lack of any new mutants being detected is very familiar to the post-“House of M” status quo, when Scarlet Witch kept any new mutants from appearing while also slicing their numbers down severely. Of course, the X-Men in hiding and hated by the world is a well that Marvel’s dipped into more times than one can count. Ironically, it’s that last one that feels the most out of place in this comic; with Marvel heavily pushing the Inhumans as the new subgroup to be feared and hated, this wave of anti-mutant hysteria feels out of place, doubly so now that mutant numbers are so much lower. There are mutterings about how Cyclops is somehow to blame for all of this, but — with no evidence on how or what he did — it’s nothing new for the moment.
With Lemire having almost certainly inherited a lot of the overall setup, what’s left in terms of the comic’s own individual merits? It’s mostly a series of small character portraits, letting us dip into what the majority of Lemire’s cast is up to in this brave new world. Even here, though, it feels like business as usual. Colossus yearns for the simpler life. Storm doubts herself as a leader. Nightcrawler’s in a swashbuckling setting. Again, this is absolutely nothing new or noteworthy. I liked Storm’s “advisor” in the opening pages, as it’s a nice touch on whom she’d want to turn to for help, and it’s good to see a new writer just as interested in using Magik as Kieron Gillen and Brian Michael Bendis were. On the whole, though, it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’ve already seen this comic.
Ramos and Olazaba provide solid and attractive visuals to the comic. They’re at their best with the quieter moments, like Storm peering over her folded hands or Magik talking to Colossus in his farmhouse. Action sequences come across a little muddled in comparison; it’s hard to follow what’s happening in India, and there’s a certain generic look to lot of the different power usages throughout the comic. Ramos is certainly familiar with the characters here, though, and on the whole they look pretty good in that signature blocky style.
“Extraordinary X-Men” #1 is a thoroughly middle-of-the-road debut for the X-Men’s newest series. For the moment, nothing particularly stands out in this rehash of concepts and settings. Given time, Lemire, Ramos and Olazaba may very well make their comic stand out from what came before. For the moment, though, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before.