Sean Maher's Quality Control

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

X-Tinction Agenda: Bringing out the 11-year-old in me

So, not a lot of time on Tuesday either - just because I've got a promising lead, that sure as hell don't mean it's time to quit looking. The devil you know, the snake in the grass, the bird in hand, the eggs in the basket, and so on.

On the other hand, I spent a lot of time on the bus 'cause the places this time around were farther apart. So I took the chance to re-read an old, dubious classic from my youth: The X-Tinction Agenda crossover.

Heh. What a doozy. This 9-part story was taken from three issues each of Uncanny X-Men, The New Mutants and X-Factor back in, what, 1992? That would have found me about eleven years old.

At the time, it was the most incredible thing I'd ever read. Seriously, this shit totally blew my mind. And while a lot of that stuff had to do with me being eleven (I'm not gonna take any potshots, but Liefeld seemed a bit more godly at the time), I can still see what it was that appealed to me.

First of all, this is amazingly dark for pre-Image mainstream superhero comics. The insane Cameron Hodge is always shooting spikes through people's shoulders, pinning them bloodily to the wall, and talking about cutting off their heads or their limbs. The character design is well and truly disturbing, and scary as fuck. The dude's head is being kept alive by demon magic and attached to a crazy spider-snake-scorpion lookin' robot body the size of a house? Man, that was wicked. Warlock dies strapped to a rack. Storm and Rahne are shaved bald and made mindless prisoners. Wolverine lies dying without his mutant healing power... at the time, I bought it. I didn't really think he'd die, but it was pretty damn heavy to see him lying there helplessly when I'd thought he was easily the baddest-ass in the whole world.

Also, the crossover coincides with some of Jim Lee's best work on Uncanny X-Men. The work still holds up, honestly. The color reproduction is surprisingly solid for something from this time (a lot of the other stuff I've seen has been dead shoddy) and there's something a little more wild and dirty about his style from this time than the more polished work we've seen in recent years. It suits the desolation of the Genosha-based story really well.

The story is kinda silly, sure. But there are some neat ideas here; watching so many of the X-heroes fight without their powers was great, as it showed the differences in how each character dealt with such adversity. Claremont hadn't lost his mind yet and was still writing great X-characters, if you ask me, and I was always a fan of Louise Simonsen's characterization on X-Factor as well. The lasting impact of the story on Rahne is also pretty dramatic and stark. And frankly, a fight between Wolverine and Archangel is too cool to let me complain about how tacked on it is, 'cause I don't care that it was tacked on.

Anyway, I don't know that I'd recommend this to anyone who didn't come up around the same time I did, but I think it definitely shows what an X-crossover can do when it's done right. The whole story is done in nine issues of the regular titles, all the important characters share their face-time pretty well, there are some wicked cool fights and some consequences that may not be permanent but certainly make an impression.

And that's what I wish we'd focus on more in today's event comics. Forget about making permanent changes and moving the focus to next year's comics - sometimes I don't want to be thinking about what I'll be reading next year. How about just telling a story that entertains me right now? Thank you, X-Tinction Agenda, for doing just that, and keeping me humble.


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