Partway through Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos' "Extraordinary X-Men" #2, Iceman -- having watched Old Man Logan walk away from Storm's offer to join the X-Men -- quips, "Gee, this is going well." This statement haunted the rest of my read-through of this issue, and -- though this run is only two issues old -- it feels like the most apt thing to say regarding the story. This is yet another dark and dreary installment of what is quickly becoming a Series of Unfortunate X-Events. No character in the book is enjoying themselves; even Jean Grey -- the one character who found happiness away from the school named after her -- has it cruelly snatched away from her.
I find it hard to blame Lemire or the art team, who roll up their sleeves and do their best to make this direction work. Lemire develops the team as they slowly coalesce into a unit once again. His Logan is great, and I'd love to see that character continue to develop, as we only see him in the open and close of the story. The writer will have to continue to exorcise Logan's demons for a while longer, but the loner Clint Eastwood vibe fits well, especially with Humberto Ramos's depiction of the character as a squat drifter, the years of fighting and fretting showing on his face.
Storm -- given so much brilliant development in Greg Pak's solo series that ended earlier this year -- is a frustrated, frayed leader, watching the future of mutant-kind slip through her fingers like grains of sand. While they all told Scott Summers he was wrong, the school finds itself smack in the middle of what he had warned them about. Iceman finds considerable development here, serving as the lone sarcastic voice and the audience's through line for much of what happens.
Ramos' character work and new costume designs are a bright spot throughout, with Victor Olazaba's thin inks giving his work even more weight and allowing more shared focus on the artist's detailed panels. The pencil renderings of Logan's memories are as beautiful as they are haunting. The splash page reveal of the big bad of this first arc is a showstopper, blending the character's power and mystery with ease. Edgar Delgado's colors are all appropriately cool to match the dour tone of the story, warming only as the danger explodes around the mansion and readers discover where, exactly, X-Haven has been deposited. Though the art guides the reader's eye in most places, Joe Caramagna's lettering fills in any gaps, pushing the script through the action.
It's a shame that, once again, the X-Men are punching bags for the Marvel Universe. Though nefarious power struggles were always inherent in the series since Claremont's run, there were still moments of hope to pull the reader through. Right now, the franchise feels like it's bullying mutants. It's always darkest before the dawn and it's possible that hope is around the corner, but right now there isn't much to "Extraordinary X-Men" that isn't depressing. Lemire and Ramos are fantastic talents who are doing their best with what they're given, but I'm looking forward to their work in a setting that gives their characters a bit more of a chance.