"Extraordinary X-Men" #8 ended the first chapter of the title's "Apocalypse Wars" storyline with a hefty cliffhanger: the majority of the X-Men find the missing members of their team, but Colossus is now a Horseman of Apocalypse, while the junior members have all aged in the blink of an eye. Jeff Lemire, Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba use "Extraordinary X-Men" #9 to show us most of what occurred when Colossus and company vanished from the Sugar Man's secret lab, but it's a sequence that unfortunately loses steam a little too rapidly.
The first three pages of "Extraordinary X-Men" #9 really are fantastic, though. Materializing in a vast desert, Colossus and the kids are confronted with a floating door before them and a massive temple to Apocalypse behind them. In this, Lemire and Ramos create a setting where the reader and characters instantly register that something is wrong, putting them both slightly off-base. The concept is creepy, and Ramos and Olazaba nail the idea in the visuals. The steps of the temple leading up to Apocalypse's stone mouth are imposing even as the image conveys the idea that the structure is devouring those who approach it. Add in colorist Edgar Delgado's shades of yellow, and it feels isolated and alien -- a desert that literally never ends.
Unfortunately, the rest of the issue never lives up to that initial promise. Really curious readers might be happy to know who Colossus replaced as a Horseman or how Martha got her new, more advanced containment unit. However, while I appreciate the way Lemire shows rather than tells us that the kids wandered through a series of biospheres over the course of a year, it's a sequence that lacks a hook to hold the reader's interest. There's nothing of great interest in the multiple fights that break out, and -- when their timeline intersects with Storm and her team -- the issue is over and the confrontation between the X-Men and the Horsemen is pushed off to the next issue. Not even Glob's pining for Jean Grey (which is sort of cute in its persistence, even after a year of wandering) can liven this up.
The one brief exception is the glimpse of all of the interconnected spheres that make up the Omega World of 3549. Ramos, Olazaba and Delgado make that two-page spread breathtaking, really bringing to life the concept of different realms all preserved within separate spheres. It brings to mind a refuge and a zoo simultaneously, and the vastness of this possible future is visually startling.
The idea behind "Extraordinary X-Men" #9 isn't bad, and Lemire does get points for showing rather than telling. The problem is that the showing goes on for a little too long; there's just not enough of a hook to make this story worthy of an entire issue. Hopefully, with the exposition more or less completed, the next chapter will kick the story back into high gear. For now, though, this issue slips away from the exciting cliffhanger that led it here.