New X-Men: E is for Extinction
With its decades-long pedigree, slew of spin-offs and film franchise currently enjoying mainstream success, X-Men is one of Marvel's flagship titles. New X-Men is Marvel's bid to inject a more contemporary, hip flavour into the iconic brand by getting one of comics' most popular left-field writers - Grant Morrison.
E is for Extinction will be best enjoyed by those who already have some idea of the superhero team's long-running history, although its fresh plots, characters and writer could be enough to grab inexperienced readers. Story threads started here will only be fully tied together at the end of the series but each New X-Men volume contains a self-enclosed chapter in the overall framework. E is for Extinction is no exception, although to find out what really happens, we recommend buying volume 2 (New X-Men: Imperial) at the same time.
Professor Xavier - whose name puts the X into X-Men - is the creator of a school dedicated to teaching mutants to improve their skills and use them wisely. The story begins with his attempts to locate and mentor an ever-increasing number. Villainy soon enters the fray, and it's down to the New X-Men to stop Cassandra Nova from eradicating Professor X and his kind through an act of mutant genocide - aided as she is by a swarm of 'sentinels' and a mild-mannered ex-dentist, who's fearful of his future status in the history books as mutant-kind's answer to Goebbels.
Against the backdrop of this epic tale, Morrison does a lot to bring the X-men up-to-date. Old characters like Cyclops and Jean Grey are given cracking new looks and back-stories. The previously po-faced character of Cyclops greatly benefits from battling a recent case of possession, and his childhood-sweetheart marriage to Jean Grey is now at risk from the obvious charms of Emma 'White Queen' Frost (once a supervillain, now one of the Xavier school's most giftedly obnoxious teachers). Regular characters like the Beast and Wolverine all have their turns to shine, and the story is given an edge by the introduction of a confused but sassy batch of the latest new pupils at the school.
Both the writing and the art on this story are modern, accessible and dynamic. Frank Quitely's art is X-quisitely detailed and both he and Morrison have been justifiably lavished with praise for turning the franchise around. Dated old-style costumes are replaced with chic designs for women and urban guerilla-wear for men, physiques look powerful but believable, and most of the outrageous curves normally sported by female characters in this genre are rightly ascribed to the team's heartless, diamond-skinned sauce-pot, Emma Frost.
An ideas-driven plot held together with an understanding of team dynamics and dialogue that's as smart as a whip, makes this most recent X-Men revamp a likely winner for old and new X-fans alike.
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