Marvel Comics has been reprinting classic X-Men tales under a new “Milestones” banner and Chris Claremont’s X-Tinction Agenda was one of the latest to get emblazoned with the yellow cover. This is actually a new printing of a paperback released in 2016 with the exact same contents. This is a good story that meshes with what Jonathan Hickman is doing since it focuses on a mutant-enslavement island nation of Genosha. Mutants have good reason to fight humans, let alone eradicate them, and this story is a good example of why.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The biggest and best adventures of Marvel’s mighty mutants – these are the X-Men Milestones! The X-Men, New Mutants and X-Factor are targeted for X-Tinction! To rescue a friend, the X-Men must invade the mutant-enslaving island nation of Genosha – but the Genoshans’ memories are long, and their revenge will be terrifying! As the Magistrates strike, X-Factor and the New Mutants are drawn into the conflict…and soon discover old foe Cameron Hodge powered up and pulling the strings! The three X-teams are kidnapped, brainwashed, stripped of their powers, forced into combat – and at least one among them will die! Can the powerless X-Men triumph over the military might of an entire nation? And
when the dust settles on this classic crossover, will the X-universe be changed forever?
Why does this matter?
This was a big, multi-title event in 1990 featuring nine chapters and the epitome of X-Men popularity. This is also another good example of how mutants are stand-ins for those subjugated in real-world history. Genosha serves as a kind of Nazi Germany and it’s haunting in its real-world inspirations.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The artists involved with this work are incredible, including Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld — all of which ended up forming Image Comics a short time after this event ended. This was prime Jim Lee with even arbitrary panels really lifting off the page and dazzling. Liefeld gets a bad rap, but some of his work here is quite dynamic and well worth a look. This is the early days of Marvel events and it’s very much thanks to the superstar artists that this event still stands the test of time.
The book opens with Uncanny X-Men, which leads into the actual nine part event which spills across X-Men, X-Factor, and New Mutants. If ever there was a book that is being harkened back to with Dawn of X, this might be the one to read. Claremont and co-writer Louise Simonson make this work feel tantamount to mutants in general making for a read that feels quintessential. Jim Lee draws the first part and the yellow costumes all look fabulous. There sure are a lot of dialogue balloons, but that’s Claremont’s style to a T. Essentially the first part brings the disparate mutant teams together after a few team members are kidnapped. Characters like Wolverine, Psylocke, and Jubilee must infiltrate the enemy base to rescue their friends (who are strangely nude…maybe to help increase sales?). All the main players are involved including Cyclops and Cable and it amounts to a wild ride of fight scenes and even intimate moments like Jean and Logan making out.
Is the narrative long-winded and overly dramatic? You betcha, but that’s part of the ’90s X-Men charm. There are quite a few moments that’ll have you cheer, squeal “oh no”, and remind you how sci-fi this series can be. Cameron Hodge is one of the wildest villains you’ll ever see, a head slapped onto a cyborg body. One scene, where he has a cardboard cut out of a normal man’s body attached to his head, is borderline horror stuff.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The art by Jon Bogdanove is certainly sound, but it pales in comparison to the efforts of Lee and Liefeld. The anatomy is where it falters the most, with some characters looking a bit rubbery in their posture. With his contributions popping in between Lee and Liefeld, it begins to become apparent the work suffers under the verbose nature of Liefeld and Simonson when the art isn’t as crisp and dynamic.
Is it good?
I had fun with this sometimes nonsensical event style book. The art withstands the tests of time and the story is a good example of how event books can weave so many characters into one narrative, supplying ample doses of action and character intrigue.
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