Marvel's Extermination is set to bring the time-hopping adventures of the original X-Men to a close. Written by Ed Brisson, drawn by Pepe Larraz, and colored by Marte Gracia, the series begins in promising fashion, with multiple story hooks that will sink into readers and not let go.
Extermination #1 doesn't waste any time getting to the action. The issue opens with a glimpse into a grim future before snapping back to the present day to catch up with the time-displaced X-Men. It isn't long before mutant-hating mobs, time-traveling supervillains, mysterious amnesiac children, explosions, and firefights are introduced into the narrative, but Brisson keeps things tight and avoids overindulging in spectacle for its own sake. Every fight, blast, and blow is intended to push the story along, which keeps things moving at a brisk pace.
As is the case with many superhero events, it is hard to say the too much about the issue's plot without spoiling the story. In the case of Extermination, it is safe to say that after years (in real time) of time spent in the present day, to the point that the team has become comfortable thinking of the present day as home, it is finally time for the original X-Men to pay the price for the damage they've done to the timeline. As it turns out, there was someone else who was possibly responsible for making sure the X-Men paid what they owed and, through that character's inaction, more damage was done to the timeline, specifically the X-Men's own future. Now a mysterious hooded figure has come to make things right by doing what others would not. Anyone fond of the edge-of-your-seat action thriller feel of previous X-Men event series Messiah CompleX will likely appreciate the tone and pace that Brisson and Larraz have set in the first issue.
This is a refreshing return to the tension that was at the heart the original X-Men's story in Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen's (and others') All-New X-Men, a tension that was lost as other creators tried to figure out what to do with the characters after their initial narrative impetus had run its course. This return to form is accentuated by the colors by Gracia, who colored Immonen's work on those early All-New X-Men issues. As in those issues, Gracia adds a real depth to Larraz's work, which is some of the best he has done for Marvel, and makes even the desolate future look full and vibrant, avoiding typical desaturated brown tropes so often seen in apocalyptic settings.
While the focus is tight, the scale is large. Extermination has been billed as the final chapter of original X-Men's journey, and it does appear to be that, but the first issue makes it clear that this is a story that has ramifications for the wider X-Men family as well. The issue incorporates one or two members of other X-Men teams to help increase the feeling that the stakes here are high, but wisely chooses to leave the rest of those teams at home so that the issue isn't bogged down by crowded shots of mutants doing nothing of interest while they wait for the next fight.
Brisson also keys into the relationships between the X-Men in order to make the issue's important plot beats feel personal. Without giving too much away, multiple X-Men fall in this issue and the story sells the weight of it by focusing specifically on the reactions of whichever characters were emotionally closest to the fallen.
However, this is also one of the weaker points of the issue. Of the death's that occur, one feels perfunctory while others feel much more unexpected, but they are both somewhat inglorious, going down easily and quickly enough to push at the believability of the story. It is, admittedly, a tough narrative corner to navigate. Marvel has gone to such great lengths to establish the X-Men as super-competent survivors that it is hard to make any of their deaths feel earned without spending at least an entire issue on just that, and Brisson definitely does not have that kind of time to spend here, but it does have the unintended (presumably) side effect of priming the reader for the "gotcha" moment where those deaths are revealed to be fakeout. That doesn't actually seem to be what's happening here, but it is still hard to shake that feeling.
Regardless, Extermination #1 is going to draw readers in hard from the start and leaves them with a final page worth talking about. There's tension, there's mystery, there's drama, and there's action, and it all looks good. For once, the hype may not be hyperbolic. Based on the first issue, Extermination is an epic X-Men event years in the making.
Published by Marvel Comics
On August 15, 2018
Written by Ed Brisson
Art by Pepe Larraz
Colors by Marte Gracia