E Is For Extinction #2:
Writers: Chris Burnham & Dennis Culver
Artist: Ramon Villalobos
Release Date: July 22, 2015
Old Man Logan #3:
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Release Date: July 22, 2015
God Doom preserved reality itself by smushing several alternate universes into a single Battleworld. Welcome to the premise of this season’s obligatory macro-Marvel event, Secret Wars. Or more pertinently, Doctor Doom’s new cosmic self set the bedrock for some crazysauce X-Men adventures.
To be precise—crazysauce adventures starring several incarnations of the X-Men. Just about every venerable Big Two comic franchise deals with time travel and parallel worlds at one point or another. However, the X-Men—a band of superpowered mutants once led by a regal telepath in a tweed jacket—have developed a knack and reputation for traversing the wibbly wobbly time stream that exceeds all of their contemporaries, save for (maybe) The Flash. Hence the team’s near-ubiquitous presence on a planet defined by What If? stories occurring simultaneously in each of its nation states.
But waitasec: how could it be that the early ‘90s cartoon X-Men who live in the Westchester portion of Battleworld haven’t heard about their counterparts living in the neighboring Domain of Apocalypse? How can the Days/Years of Future Past-era X-Men struggling to survive in the Sentinel Territories remain oblivious to the Morrisonian X-Men residing in Mutopia right next door? Isn’t anyone on Battleworld freaked out by Marville, where everyone is an adorable Skottie Young variant cover?
Old Man Logan #3 Cover Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Viewed from a broad perspective, Secret Wars doesn’t make a lick of sense unless we assume almost every character has no curiosity whatsoever about what transpires beyond his or her domain. In other words, we’ve been asked to assume most Marvel super heroes and villains are Americans. Appropriately, the Canadian Wolverine of the Wastelands territory abandons the luxury of ignorance in Brian Michael Bendis’s Old Man Logan—a continuance of Mark Millar’s classic 2008 post-end times Wolvey yarn of the same name.
Fifty years after Earth’s supervillains put their differences aside, worked together and murdered the crap out of most of humanity’s protectors (as far as anyone in the Wastelands knows), a severed Ultron head falls from the sky. As Ultrons have been wiped out in this version of history, a newly-unretired Wolverine embarks on a quest across multiple domains to determine the anomaly’s cause. By issue #3, he’s climbed the wall that separates the Wastelands and Apocalypse’s kingdom (in defiant indifference to the laws of God Doom), and ultimately winds up in the Tony Stark-ruled Technopolis.
With this series, Bendis has done well what Bendis typically does well. When his knack for characterization and dialogue gets pushed to the forefront—Logan’s encounter with a dying Emma Frost in issue #1, and a brief back-and-forth with a yet-to-be-codenamed Tabitha Smith in issue #3, for instance—the writing holds up quite nicely.
This coherence doesn’t quite survive when the plot forces Bendis to navigate Secret Wars’ labyrinthine continuity. After Logan stumbles across the Ultron remnants in the inaugural OML’15 book, he muses, “Maybe the Thors already took care of it,” referring to God Doom’s planetary police force of magic hammer-touting ass kickers. But then at the beginning of issue #2, Logan encounters a none-too-pleased member of the Thor Corps, and asks, “Why’re you dressed like a dead man?!” as if he had suddenly forgotten the global law enforcement agency existed after talking about them hours before.
Later in issue #3, Technopolis Baron Tony Stark—ka-zillionaire super genius—says he hasn’t even heard of X-Men, even though he lives on a planet with something like seven different sets of them? Meanwhile, as we know from M.O.D.O.K. Assassin, a giant floating head with useless arms and legs somehow knows about everything that’s happening in domains nearby his Killville?
It tells you something when pictures overshadow text in a Brian Bendis comic. Andrea Sorrentino landed a full-time gig with Marvel right around the time he got the Old Man Logan assignment, and evidently went to great lengths to impress his new bosses. Sorrentino combines a blurry Polaroid-style realism with minimalistic color deployment into visuals that emphatically establish OML’15 as a different animal from 2008’s more traditionally rendered foundation. Wolverine has fallen out of the sky into a dumpster plenty of times in his day, but by underselling the sequence in #3, Sorrentino made Wolverine falling out of the sky something I’d hang in a museum.
E Is For Extinction #2 Cover Art by Ian Bertram
Speaking of tiptoeing on the line between low art and high art, Grant Morrison’s New X-Men from the early ‘00s reinvented the franchise thoroughly, dialing it back to a status required a invalidate few of the decade’s most nonsensical retcons. So it’s encouraging that Marvel tapped frequent Morrison artist Chris Burnham to pen E Is For Extinction, an exploration of the Mutopia domain fashioned after Morrison’s vision for X-Men and named after his debut arc on the series.
Issue #1 begins with Professor X blowing his own brains out rather than be possessed by his wicked twin sister, Cassandra Nova. This sets the stage for Magneto to take over his old frenemy’s operations, and assemble a squad of hipster X-Men. While hardly pleased about these circumstances, Cyclops, Wolverine and Emma Frost are too old and dumpy to do much about it. Beast, retired from superheroing, works as a geneticist who uses virtual reality simulations to show patients what it looks like inside their own testicles. Meanwhile, Magneto has chained a Phoenix Egg, presumed to contain Jean Grey, in the basement of the Xavier Memorial Education Nexus, formerly known as the Academy for Gifted Youngsters.
If the final page of the following installment is any indicator, E is for Extinction is going to get freakier, even by Secret Wars standards. What proceeds mainly consists of a big fight sequence, and a twist that might wrap up the primary story too early. Let’s emphasize might, given only Doom knows where they’re going with the next three issues.
Artist Roman Villalobos does a more-than adequate Frank Quitely impression, while Burnham and Dennis Culver insert a smattering of guffaw-worthy quips into the dialogue. But the series hinges on readers having a nostalgic appreciation for Morrison’s New X-Men. Let us not forget that a sizable portion of Secret Wars followers potentially hadn’t learned to use the bathroom yet when those books came out and, lauded though they may be, it’s not as if New X-Men shows up on very many “Crucial Classic Required Reading for Comics Nerds” lists.
As E has been a standalone story with no connection to Battleworld’s master plan thus far, it’s worth picking up, but only if you’re still bitter about Barnell “Beak” Bohusk turning human during Decimation and/or Chris Claremont telling us Xorn was just a clone of Magneto that entire time he was rampaging through New York City.
Which I am, by the way. Very bitter.
Bring back Beak, you bastards!