Look, if you’re living in a sci-fi or fantasy setting….just …
Essentially, Fox has nothing to lose by playing it safe, but apparently they don’t have much to lose by backing the ugly underdog, either. The best case scenario? The improbable success of Deadpool gives Fox a mandate to make superhero media weirder, smarter, and more subversive. Worst case: we get another Avengers clone with more sex and blood. Both scenarios make Fox a boatload of box-office money, so why not get a little weird?
Marvel’s merry band of mutants have been noticeably less merry since the All-New, All-Different Marvel Now launched in October. Extraordinary X-Men was criticized for being reductive in its storytelling, pitting the mutants against the threat of extinction yet again, and if that idea put you off of the book then issue 7 definitely won’t bring you back.
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.
The recent revelation that Inhuman Terrigen mist is lethal to mutants, reeks of an editorial mandate and adds further fuel to the fire regarding Marvel’s recent distaste for the X-Men franchise. This act of segregation, due to the fact that the world is now (literally) deadly to mutants not only is a blatant attempt to sequester the franchise and put it into an isolated corner of the Marvel Universe, but it also spits in the face of everything the franchise is supposed to stand for. Very few comic books have ever managed to reflect our culture, or make such poignant social commentary as the X-Men franchise has. After all, the ethos of the franchise is that of change and acceptance. For decades, mutants were used as a sort of universal metaphor for anyone or any group of people who were abused, discriminated against, or persecuted by society. With this recent wave of social justice movements sweeping through our society at such a torrid pace, it’s clear that the X-Men are just as relevant and necessary as they’ve ever been. But instead of continuing the fight for justice and equality, Marvel would rather have the X-Men cut their losses and throw in the towel. It just goes to show that art doesn’t always imitate real life…even when it should.
In a sentence, Ultimatum is the superhero comic that will make you hate superhero comics and will have you reading nothing but Harvey Pekar, R. Crumb, and Daniel Clowes for the rest of your comics reading career. (My apologies to Fantagraphics.) Jeph Loeb really should have apologized to Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis for destroying their carefully crafted, simultaneously optimistic and nihilistic universe with all the skill of a child knocking over sand castles and then pulling its pants down to take a piss on the wretched ruins.
There’s a certain trend in most stories where the characters go through some sort of change or growth by the end of the story; they’re no longer the same or in the same position as they were in the beginning. After all, this is the point of a story. “Messiah War”, the Cable/X-Force crossover, completely ignores this crucial aspect of storytelling and winds up being the crossover where nothing happens. “Messiah War” is a seven part crossover that never needed to happen, starring Cable the babysitter and the worst X-Force roster ever assembled. Although it’s not the worst X-Over of all time, “Messiah War” has very little working in its favor. The characters are generically bland, the plot is way too simple to justify a seven issue crossover, and there’s no real resolution because as previously stated, this is a crossover where NOTHING HAPPENS!!!!
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.