After some slower middle chapters, “Extraordinary X-Men” #11 kicks “Apocalypse Wars” back into action, as Jeff Lemire, Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba pit the X-Men against the future Horsemen of Apocalypse. With the nature of the Omega World refuge revealed, the X-Men’s scramble to save the mutant embryos peaks as the story arc rumbles towards a conclusion.
At first, “Extraordinary X-Men” #11 feels like it’s going to be another massive fight scene — and, to be fair, it starts out that way, as our team starts trading punches (and various concussive blasts) with the Horsemen. Lemire and Ramos quickly mix things up, though; they shift from a physical battle to a mental one (with Jean trying to save Logan from the Venom symbiote) and then back to the physical once more, all of which works because of how the intensity slips up and down the scale. Lemire and Ramos make Jean’s rescue attempt a one-page moment of calm within a sea of chaos, with stark white backgrounds even as Ramos starts slipping tendrils of Venom back onto the page. And then, as you turn the page, the violence escalates so quickly it’s deliberately jarring.
In the big battle, Lemire is careful to give just about everyone something to do and keeps things surprising. Deadpool’s new attack method against Iceman is skin-crawling in how creepy it comes across; Ramos keeps the details of it small and vague, allowing readers to mentally fill in the finer details of what’s being spewed at our heroes. We don’t need every little joint and limb drawn there, because we know on some level what it looks like and how awful it must be. Similarly, Ernst and Martha’s fight against Colossus works not only because it pits two characters you might not have expected against each other, but because those involved reveal abilities that should serve as a surprise to readers.
The second half of the book shifts focus as Storm and Nightcrawler ascend the levels of Apocalypse’s pyramid, and it’s there we get several important moments. First, it puts Nightcrawler into an active, driving role, something he’s been lacking in ever since his resurrection, and it’s nice to see him making decisions and jumping into the fray, even when his instincts are wrong. Second, it finally brings the MacGuffin of this storyline — the stolen ark of mutant embryos — back into the game as Storm and Nightcrawler try to rescue what could be the future of mutant-kind. It’s nice to see this element not swept under the rug and get the attention it deserves. We also get more than just the Horsemen of Apocalypse; seeing what Apocalypse himself has been up to in this future timeline (and why simply killing him is not an option) fits in well with the overall theme of survival, even as it helps place the previous issues’ meandering travel through Omega World in a better light, since it helps explain the number of lives now at stake. All of this feels like a real payoff for this storyline as a whole, even as it races towards a conclusion next issue.
Ramos’ art also strengthens “Extraordinary X-Men” #11. For example, moments like Deadpool’s new attack are drawn in a way that’s designed to unnerve the reader. Ramos is also quite good when it comes to fluid-looking characters, like the Venom symbiote oozing and flowing across the page or Colossus’ new liquid metal attack. Ramos and Olazaba draw creations that slide from one panel to the next, mimicking movement in a way that is often hard to achieve in a static medium. I also found myself impressed with how they drew Apocalypse; at first, he seems so slender and frail it’s hard to compare him to the massive monster we’ve seen in the X-Men titles for decades. When we get a closer look at his face, though, there’s so much hatred and malice in those eyes — complete with an ominous glow from Edgar Delgado that’s both bright and somehow dead on the inside — it’s impossible to see him as anything or anyone but Apocalypse. It’s an impressive feat.
The “Apocalypse Wars” storyline in “Extraordinary X-Men” has been all over the map; some chapters are exciting and gripping, while others feel like they barely move. “Extraordinary X-Men” #11 is definitely one of the stronger issues. It moves swiftly towards its conclusion, even as Lemire and Ramos take time setting up their next storyline. Here’s hoping the title is back on track for the future; right now, it’s full steam ahead.