New X-Men: E is for Extinction (Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely)
Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men is one of my all time favourite runs on any comic. It managed the impossible when I took a chance on the first volume and bought it so many years ago. It then continued to do the impossible as I continued to pick up the trades and explore Grant Morrison’s vision for the X-Men. It was the first time I had encountered his writing and the first time I was blown away by Frank Quitely’s unique and absolutely brillant art. It is a near perfect run in my opinion and like I said, it managed the impossible. But perhaps most importantly the most impossible thing it managed to do was make me care about the X-Men.
Up to reading New X-Men and watching the Bryan Singer movie my feelings towards the X-Men were mixed at best. I loved the cartoon as a kid with its many characters, layers and storylines. I thought the more well known characters where cool (I dare you to find someone who doesn’t think Wolverine is cool) and I knew about the more highly acclaimed arcs and issues. But man trying to get into X-Men comics was like storming an impenetrable fortress with a decaying sea bass as your weapon. Everything references something that happend previously and half of the time the characters were still getting over things that had happend years ago. It was dense reading that was really tough going in the pre-wikipedia days (yes there was a time before your every question was answered by the internet).
Thankfully the prior knowledge requirement for E is for Extinction is at a minimum, instead it relies on paving new ground full of new ideas and a new mission for the X-Men as their challenges grow and change….FINALLY! This is Grant Morrison’s answer to the question of what would happen if Xavier’s dream was on the cusp of happening. To paraphrase a line from Gladiator “There was once Xavier’s dream. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish.”
The stakes couldn’t be higher and Grant Morrison manages to deliver on them on every possible level. It was a treat to revisit were it all started and remind myself why I like this particular run so much. Also it makes Emma Frost one of the central characters for the X-Men franchise and for that I am thankful.
The volume in question gives us the first part to the Cassandra Nova arc and everything that comes along with it. The tables have been turned and it looks like humanity is starting to die out to make way for the growing mutant population. The parasitic Cassandra Nova comes along to finally enact her revenge on Xavier (it’s complicated and gets explained in the next volume which is thankfully being included in the collection). She arrogantly strides in to the X-Men’s lives like a hurricane and really shakes things up. She manipulates one of the remaining members of the Trask family into activating and sending what can only be described as a mega Sentinel to hit the mutant community in its heart, Genosha.
Cities get levelled in the Marvel Universe all the time, especially if they are not American ones and the heroes need something to be sad about. But the destruction of Genosha despite being a fictional place carries more weight than any other city destruction. It is complete and utter destruction and genocide on an unimaginable scale. It is the inciting incident that effects the whole of Morrison’s run on the book and it is something that is still harkened back to today. It shows that Grant and Frank aren’t kidding around this is the X-Men on as big of a scale as possible. Widescreen with everything to play for.
The X-Men are completely unprepared for it and as a result they spend most of the volume reacting to Cassandra Nova’s assault. It is very much them scraping a small victory from impossible odds and even then it turns out that it is all part of Cassandra’s plan continued into the next volume! The end of the volume slows things down a bit as we get a look at the busy Xavier School for the Gifted and all the young mutants going about there day then bam! You get the setup for the next part and a “To Be Continued…” It is gripping reading where the writing and the art work together perfectly.
The extra features for this volume are the now regular profiles on the writer and artist along with some character sketches and interestingly, a short piece of the changes that Grant Morrison brought to the X-Men franchise with this particular run. It really highlights the importance of his run and how it has shaped so much of the X-Men franchise even to this day. Despite a lot of the bigger changes and themes eventually being reversed or dropped there is a surprising amount that is still in the modern day incarnation of the X-Men. It is great to take another look at it and see all these little things and ideas that have stood the test of time. Especially in an industry where a lot of the time the work of older creators is swept under the rug.
If you have never read it or like I was before reading this years ago, never really been interested in the X-Men. I implore you to check it out because this is as good as comics can get.