How does that old saying go? There’s a time and a place for everything? Something like that anyways and in Extermination it’s time for the original five X-Men who were dragged into the twenty first century by Beast to go back to their proper time and place. Because, according to Cable, if they don’t, there won’t be a future for any X-Men as every single mutant in existence will be wiped out in a devastating war. It doesn’t matter how much stock, or trust, anyone usually places in whatever Cable says, this time he’s right and from the first panel on the first page, the race is on to return the X-Men to where they belong before an old enemy can remove them from the board entirely and instigate his dream of mutant genocide. With mutantkind’s existence at stake, the X-Men are thrust into a war of attrition that’s waged between a “hero” who wants to save them no matter what it costs him and those around him and a villain who wants nothing more than to see every single mutant burn in the fires of conflict.
Extermination is one of those comic events that you have to strap yourself in and hold on tight for, because a lot, and when I say a lot I mean a LOT, happens in a relatively short amount of time. People die, the whole dynamic of the team radically changes and as soon as you think you’ve grasped what’s going on, Ed Brisson throws a curveball your way, ups the ante even further and flips the plot upside down. Taking its cue from a multitude of genre thrillers, Extermination plays the “all-hope-is-lost” card before finding that one elusive hand that not only promises, but also delivers, salvation in the final act. Meaning of course that it’s an action filled tale that relies heavily on the artistic talents of Pepe Larraz, Ario Anindito and Oscar Bazaldua to deliver said action, which they do in grand, and beautifully detailed, style. Talking about action*, as so much of it fills every page of Extermination, you’d be forgiven for thinking the sheer volume of superheroic mayhem would leave little room for characterisation and good old fashioned story-telling, but you’d be wrong.
Brisson weaves the sort of time travel based plot that would fry Einstein’s brain, while postulating that history, instead of being defined by cataclysmic events is actually built around the interactions of individuals and that its structure is as reliant on the latter as it is the former. When Brission gets down to the nitty gritty and explores his ‘hero’s’ motivation, it all comes down to a single panel and one line says so much about the hidden relationships that exist at the core of every family dynamic and if you’re anything like me, that line will just break you. And then Brisson goes and ends the book on a cliff-hanger that’s worth the price of admission alone and is destined to throw the X-Men’s world into an almost unrecoverable tailspin. Stan would have liked this book and it would have made him happy knowing that the fate of his X-Men is in good hands. Excelsior… Tim Cundle
*How many times can I use the word action in a review? One of these days, I’ll stop procrastinating and actually pick up a thesaurus…