Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Scot Eaton (p), John Dell (i), Frank DíArmata (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Editorís Note: X-Men: Endangered Species arrives in stores this Wednesday, June 20.
Ariel Carmona Jr.
Following the events of M-Day and Decimation, the X-Men and mutants as a population in the Marvel universe have become scarce, their numbers dwindling by staggering proportions. This issue, rather than being an action-packed romp, is rather solemn and low key in its depiction of yet another mutant funeral scene. Unfortunately, a lot of talking head action amounts to very little new information.
The writing in the comic is good, and the pacing is what it should be for a one-shot, nothing Earth shattering, just a competently crafted introductory tale. Mike Carey, a writer who in the past has been criticized for his efforts on titles like Superman manages to spin a good yarn here, albeit a little heavy in the pathos. He does a good job of keeping the expository information to a minimum, most of it having been covered in the multiple series following House of M.
Of particular interest is an appearance by an old X-Men foe who tries to make the argument that for all their visionary thinking, Xavier and the rest have been guilty of infighting, and in many ways adding to the mutantís current plight.
Loganís conversation with Cyclops is also a rewarding dialogue on the nature of existence in the face of possible extinction. Why do the X-Men continue to fight, even in the face of possible extermination? Because they donít know how to do anything else.
I also like the artwork by penciller Scott Eaton; heís got his own style and he knows how to render the requisite facial expressions necessitated by a story heavy on the dialogue and light in the action department. His style works well for this title.
Frankly, this comic doesnít stand up to some of the series immediately following M-Day such as Son of M, or Generation X, and maybe thatís why Marvel has relegated it to one massive backup story in all its X-titles starting with X-Men #200. Iíll have to survey follow-up issues to see if it can hold my interest long-term.
A motley crew of X-Men crash some poor kidís funeral because he happened to be one of the one hundred and ninety something remaining mutants on the planet. And so begins the first multi-title X-event in a while, except that nothing actually happens here other than an awful lot of moping.
Over the last year or so, Mike Carey and Ed Brubaker on the core Uncanny and X-Men books, as well as Peter David and Kyle & Yost on X-Factor and New X-Men, have brought a much needed breath of fresh air to the X-franchise. So much so that Marvel has finally decided the time has come to revisit the time (or at least 90s) honoured tradition of the multi-title mutant crossover. Though details remain vague, the drive of the event will most likely be the X-Menís quest to reverse the Decimation brought down upon them by the Marvel Universeís resident psychotic witch, Wanda Maximoff. The event proper is still several months away, so to whet our appetite we get the Endangered Species one-shot. Unfortunately, itís rather underwhelming.
A bunch of Xavierís pupils have gathered to pay their respects at the funeral of a young man who was a mutant. Why? Because, as the boyís father points out, heís one more name crossed off the ever diminishing list of remaining homo superior, and I agree with the outrage the man expresses at the X-Men treating his sonís death as a statistic. To be honest, the X-Men come across as little more than self-centered funeral crashers.
As a regular reader of most of the X-titles, the problem I have with this issue is the fact that itís essentially just 34 pages of the X-Men moping around and grieving, with everyone getting the obligatory brief spotlight before moving on to the next scene. It really feels like a by-the-numbers job with most characters behaving as caricatures of themselves. How many times over the last two or three years have we had the scene with Emma threatening to do something morally wrong, Scott exclaiming ďEmma, you wouldnít!,Ē and so on and so forth. Logan gets to be all angsty, Beast tries to cope with the situation by making light-hearted comments, Xavier invades peopleís private thoughts, etc. Thereís also an odd passage where Cannonball accuses Bishop of not warning them about this given that heís from the future. Surely, Sam would have had many opportunities to do this before now. And I was under the impression that Bishopís future was pretty much divorced from the regular Marvel Universe by now.
However, I suppose this issue is about setting the scene for things to come and for anyone who hasnít picked up an X-book in the last 5 years, Iím sure it does its job of bringing them up to speed, but for anyone who follows the books semi-regularly, the whole thing just becomes tedious. Nothing transpires or is revealed that regular readers donít already know. One of the X-Menís old adversaries puts in a brief appearance at the funeral and his inclusion makes some sense, but I really fail to see why his hired muscle attacks Xavier. Theyíre not ordered to, thereís no point in it and theyíre taken out from one panel to the next. Itís as if Carey felt the need to put some form of action in there to try to combat the tedium.
Scott Eaton does an alright job on pencils, but itís far from inspiring. Then again, thereís not an awful lot in the script to be inspired by. He gets to do a nice visual of Cyclops cutting loose with his powers, but thereís little to rave about here.
I was hoping this issue would set things up for this fallís mutant extravaganza, but all it actually does is recap the current post-Decimation situation. Whilst Mike Carey has written some good stuff over in X-Men, this falls rather flat, though I suspect most of it is editorially driven. All in all, itís not bad per se but is hardly what you need to get you excited about the upcoming event.
From its opening line until the final page, Endangered Species is a book about tackling hard to face aspects of life: control, helplessness, loss. It isnít an action packed book, for certain, but it delivers a story with depth that demonstrates a strong understanding of the characters involved.
The X-Men have always been a group of incredibly strong individuals, people willing to put their lives on the line for what they consider to be the greater good. But now they face a threat that canít be kicked, punched or laser-beamed out of existence. With a few words Wanda Maximoff banished the mutant species (if not the individuals) to the edge of extinction and now only a fraction of that storied race remains. Up Ďtill this point, I had just viewed M-Day as a way to clean up all of the dozens of hardly or not-at-all known mutants, an editorial decision that was made for convenience rather than narrative. After all, how has it really affected the Marvel Universe? Most (if not all) of the big time players have retained their powers. In last weekís release of World War Hulk readers saw that S.H.I.E.L.D. could still muster enough telepaths to evacuate a city of several million people.
However, in Endangered Species, this may change. At the very least we see the members of Xavierís Institute grapple with the fact that they are now dealing with an enemy that is beyond fisticuffs and possibly of their own making. If done poorly, this could be extremely boring. After all, watching a bunch of people ruminate on the fate of themselves and their species essentially translates into watching people stand around. But through the use of clever dialogue and narration, it becomes an interesting book to read that brings up several frightening issues. For example, how must it feel to be a man as powerful as Charles Xavier, a man who conceivably has enough mental might to rig a presidential election, and be utterly helpless in the face of losing everything he has ever fought for?
All of Xavierís students have this problem to deal with, to a greater or lesser extent. Born with extraordinary powers, each is used to having more control (or in the case of Scott, having to exert more control) than your average citizen. In the case of old hands such as Logan, who have spent much of their lives in conflict and death, facing extinction takes things to a whole new level. Even the most naÔve and oblivious of the X-Men have some idea that they are entering new territory. Endangered Species gives us the introspection of several of the players as they look into the face of it. The writing and art captures this extremely well, making an engaging and interesting story.
With this strong start Endangered Species promises to be a more cerebral story than your average super-powered fare. If the team behind it manages to keep this up, it raises the question, how can they deliver the usual rock Ďem, sock Ďem adventures that many readers demand? If these two elements are successfully combined, then Endangered Species could be an adventure that most will enjoy.
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With Civil War only just over and World War Hulk kicking off last week, youíd think that Marvel had enough crossover elements on its plate at the moment. Still, someone must have thought that another big event was called for, and so this Endangered Species one-shot kicks off the storyline which will see the X-Men start to deal with the fact that the days of mutants appear to be numbered.
This issue does a pretty good job of recapping of the status quo of mutants in the Marvel Universe, and I enjoyed the way that Carey centres the issue around the funeral of a mutant who isnít a superhero or villain, but just an ordinary member of the public, killed in a completely unremarkable way. It underlines the idea that every mutant life counts in the post-House of M world and gives the issue a suitably sombre and foreboding mood. Scot Eatonís artwork is impressive, too, depicting the X-Men in a style which is sometimes very reminiscent of Astonishingís John Cassaday (and thatís a big compliment), and capturing the essence of the story in some memorable images, such as the full-page splash of an elderly Wolverine surrounded by the headstones of his dead comrades. However, itís Frank DíArmataís colouring which is the real star of the show, using deep, dark, rich shades to reinforce the tone of the book, and complementing Eatonís linework in some lovely panels Ė most notably as the book draws to a close (the scene between Cyclops and Wolverine contains some particularly beautiful visuals).
However, despite the obvious calibre of the bookís writer and artists, there are some fairly major problems with the issue which detract from it. The most notable is that it seems like a rather arbitrary time to start getting concerned about the problem of the worldís stunted mutant population: if the plight of the X-Men in the wake of House of M needed to be addressed urgently, surely it should have been done so immediately, rather than letting the titles continue as normal before suddenly deciding that the ďdecimationĒ of the mutants was worth doing something about ? The long delay between ďNo More MutantsĒ and a book which suggests that someoneís actually going to try to address the problem has taken away some of the momentum of the plot, and the manner in which this issue doesnít really present any compelling change in the lives of the X-Men (or even a catalyst for any kind of major development) doesnít do much to hook me into this story. In fact, we learn more about the event from the final text page of advertising than we do from the entire story of this issue, and that makes the entire issue feel pretty redundant.
Endangered Species, then, isnít a badly written or illustrated comic book; itís just a pretty dull and uneventful one which acts as a decent enough summary of where the mutant community stands in current Marvel continuity but simply doesnít do enough to make me interested in buying into the main event. If youíre an X-Men fan already, youíll probably be interested in picking this up to see where the teamís big event is headed, but most other readers will probably find this to be a little empty and unsatisfying.
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