Extraordinary X-Men #1 will probably be seen as energetically drawn and colored sacrilege by both long time X-Men fans and ones, who jumped on with Bendis’ work. And for new fans, it’s darkness for darkness’ sake as the X-Men’s outsider metaphor is drowned out by the Inhumans and turned into yet another post-apocalyptic story. Lemire also makes a few stumbles in his plotting, like having characters tell about an upcoming mystery involving Cyclops and a cure for mutant disease instead of seeding compelling visual clues or starting to build arcs for characters. And his final page cliffhanger, which was probably meant to be the triumphant return of a “dead” X-Men, falls flat because it already happened in a Secret Wars tie-in. This is one is probably on editorial though. Even though Humberto Ramos’ manga influenced, yet wide-screen art adds some pep to the X-Men’s powers and fight scenes to go along with Edgar Delgado’s bold color palette, Extraordinary X-Men #1 is a misstep for the franchise in plotting, themes, and characterization.
With a dose of political satire, some soaring team-up action grounded in character moments (Storm struggling with her power; Quicksilver’s daddy issues; Wolverine the reformed assassin), and a robust arc for Cyclops, Ultimate X-Men #4-6 is definitely an improvement over the preceding three issues. The “death” of Beast is a cheap storytelling ploy, and I am still skeezed out from Wolverine’s sexual liaison with Jean Grey, but Millar and the Kuberts end this first arc on a triumphant, if dark note albeit with some skeletons in the closet waiting to be brought out for the following “Return to Weapon X” storyline.
Mark Millar and Adam Kubert’s work on Ultimate X-Men #1-3 really is the blockbuster action take on the X-Men, but there is enough flashes of characterization, pretty layouts (Not so much those ugly leather costumes.), and clever twists like Wolverine being a bona fide villain and Colossus’ old crime boss supplying Magneto with a nuke. It’s not a particularly deep comic and scratches the surface of the idea of “post-humanism”, but Ultimate X-Men #1-3 is adequate popcorn entertainment, which led to it selling like hotcakes. (Ultimate X-Men #1 was the number one book in December 2000 with 117,085 copies, and issues 2 and 3 stayed in the top 3 with numbers around the 90,000 range.)