Posted on Tuesday, March 28, 2017
by Paul in x-axis
Where Uncanny X-Men struggled for a sense of resolution in its final issue, Extraordinary X-Men has no such problems.
Of course, it has several advantages over Uncanny. Of the three X-Men titles from the outgoing era, this was the lead title, the one about the actual X-Men in the actual school. All-New was a time-travelling second team of X-Men and Uncanny was X-Force hoping to sell a few more copies. But Extraordinary was the X-Men taking refuge in Limbo while they hunted for a cure for the Terrigen Mists. Ill-advised as that direction may have been, it was embedded in this series. And so the end of IvX genuinely closes the door on this chapter of the X-Men.
There are other advantages. Writer Jeff Lemire is not coming back for the relaunch. This is a shame, in some ways. Considering the unpromising remit which he was given, he’s made the best of it, and it would have been nice to see him get a chance to handle the X-Men without the literal cloud hanging over them. But then again, perhaps not. For years now, Lemire has been producing indie books which are consistently great, and superhero books which are consistently good to middling. Creatively, he’s probably better served on an oddball title like Moon Knight (which, from what I’ve seen of it, is practically an extended fever dream) than he is adjusting to the demands of a central franchise. He can do it, it just doesn’t bring out the best in him. Interestingly, Lemire’s Old Man Logan – which he’s staying with, and which has a more eccentric and distinctive tone to it – has been outselling the X-Men titles for a while now, at least in the direct market.
Lemire has also made matters easier for himself by keeping the subplots to a minimum and largely wrapping them up. Okay, Glob Herman’s pining for Jean Grey never really went anywhere, but it never really needed to – it worked just fine as a character thing for him. Lemire’s major subplot, the Sapna storyline, hasn’t exactly resolved, but it has been brought to a turning point which feels like a suitable time to pass the character on.
That leaves the whole idea of the X-Men being camped out in Limbo hiding from the Terrigen Mists, which, obviously, is now over. And so this final issue consists of the X-Men quite literally dismantling their status quo and going home. Job done, challenge overcome, win for the good guys. It’s not a tone that the X-Men get to hit very often, and while you couldn’t exactly call this subtle – it’s full of “it’s good to smile again” dialogue – it does at least feel earned. Victor Ibañez has always been good at bringing out the human side of the characters, and that surely helps strike the right tone here.
You can’t spend an entire issue on packing up and going home, of course, so part of the book is given over to tying up one last loose end – retrieving Cerebra after she was battered during the crossover. That gives us a few pages of fighting wild Sentinels (which Ibañez also handles nicely), and allows Lemire to quietly tie up the question of where Emma got her killer robots from. It’s a case of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, but it helps the finality.
Finally, we’re left with the school deserted aside from the X-Men themselves, and because this is all about reasserting a return to normalcy, Lemire winds up his run with a couple of pages of baseball. This trope occasionally gets wheeled out just as a way of signalling that you are indeed reading the X-Men, but Lemire is using it correctly here – the point of the baseball games was that the school was a little haven of normalcy in which, somehow or other, Everything Is Going To Be Alright. Wrapping up an X-Men run on an unambiguously optimistic note for once, Lemire can invoke it fair and square.
It’s unfamiliar to see the X-Men in such positive mood, though anything looks like a step in the right direction when you’ve just fended off the poison gas cloud. There’s a limit to how far you can take it in an ongoing series – there has to be a conflict, after all – but it would be nice to hope that we can finally close the door on these extinction level threats and get the X-Men back to the sort of stories they do well. Maybe we can get back to the idea of the mutants as the dawning future, and get some much-needed hope into the mix again.