Whenever shit goes bad for the X-men, Apocalypse is there to make it worse. When shit is going good for the X-men, as rare as that might be, Apocalypse is there to fuck it up. He’s the living embodiment of Mondays, hangovers, and Brett Ratner for the X-men. Now, he’s set up shop in another dystopian future since the X-men can never have too much of those. I’m just going to mark the ways in which Apocalypse gives this dystopian future his personal touch in Extraordinary X-men #9. I doubt it’ll be as memorable as Age of Apocalypse, but since this isn’t 1995, I’m okay with that.
That said, did Age of Apocalypse have a big ass temple shaped like Apocalypse’s head? I think not. Take that, 1995! In a flashback to the moment when Colossus and a team of D-list X-men nobody gives more than half-a-shit about first arrived, this is the first thing they say. Compared to some of the other dystopian futures they’ve seen, it could be worse.
They quickly figure out that mutants aren’t just fucked in this dystopian future. They’re dead. Not near extinction, not dying, not sick. Fucking dead. Apocalypse said they had their shot. They should’ve been a bunch of xenophobic, slave-owning, elitists like the Inhumans. As such, Apocalypse determined, probably with the aid of Disney lawyers, that mutants had to go and they did. And Apocalypse isn’t known for making exceptions and that includes time travelers.
Enter Apocalypse’s horsemen, who we met in the first issue. They see mutants they’re like exterminators who just found out they missed a few rats. They know Apocalypse is a neat freak when it comes to the gene pool. That means Colossus and these kids need to be as dead as Josh Trank’s directing career. It leads to a quick, somewhat rushed fight, but that’s kind of fitting. These aren’t the X-men’s heavy hitters. This is Colossus and a bunch of kids on a field trip. They couldn’t be less equipped without bringing feather dusters and dildos to this battle.
Being the heroic communist he is, Colossus helps the kids get away while he takes on Apocalypse’s horsemen himself. These are the same horsemen Apocalypse empowers to give natural selection a meth-fueled kick. So even if we hadn’t known he failed miserably in the previous issue, I doubt even Rocky Balboa would’ve bothered cheering for him here.
This means this story is going to be driven by Glob Herman, Ernst, Anole, and No Girl from here on out. I’ll give those who don’t read an X-men comic that doesn’t involve Wolverine stabbing something a moment to get their shit and leave. For those who stay, it’s not nearly as bland as it sounds. These may be D-listers, but they’re of the lovable variety. They’re like the opposite of Kid Omega and Hope fucking Summers.
They find out that in this future, Apocalypse as created these little dome-like cities that he totally ripped off from Kandor. These cities contain those who he deems fit for survival. I imagine that process was almost as intensive as a typical top 10 pick in the NFL draft. So unless there’s a Peyton Manning on their team, they’re fucked.
Flash forward a couple of days and the D-listers start exploring these worlds. One of them is Magika, a world where all of Marvel’s magical creatures dwell. It’s basically Harry Potter, My Little Pony, and Frozen. It seems so fanciful. They even meet a cute little creature named Moogum. Sure, he says mutants are already damned to the deepest pits of Brett Ratner’s septic tank, but he’s still cute.
Well, he doesn’t exactly stay that way. At first, Moogum pretends to help them. Then he reveals his true agenda. No, it’s not some elaborate conspiracy out of a shitty Dan Brown novel. Moogum just wants to eat them. Is it crude? Hell yeah. But does it make for some fun chase scenes you’ll never see in Scooby Doo? Hell yeah. It’s not an epic battle, but it shouldn’t be. This isn’t Wolverine on a drinking binge in New Orleans. These are D-list X-men who haven’t even fought evil clones yet. They’re still working their way up.
More time passes. Anole, Glob, Ernst, and No Girl keep traversing these worlds. Along the way, Glob laments how he’ll die a virgin and how he’ll never get a chance to lose it to Jean Grey. It may sound fucked up, but I won’t lie. I’d probably think the same in Glob’s position. I would also lament if I never saw Emma’s tits, but that’s just me.
They eventually end up in a world run by Iron Man robots that call themselves Stark-self. They’re basically what’s left of Tony Stark, who has been long dead, most likely due to liver disease or rectal trauma. He’s not exactly a friendly face, but after facing a kid-eating monster like Moogum, it’s an improvement. How sad is that? A killer robot is an improvement for a group of teenage X-men?
This time, the fleet of Iron Man robots don’t try to kill the X-men or try to shoot the Phoenix Force with a big ass gun. Instead, Stark-Self actually provides some valuable insight into what’s going on in this umpteenth fucked up dystopian future. Earth is basically no more. Apocalypse held these big ass trials in the past and basically cut out the parts of Earth that were worthy of survival and killed the rest. That means the Atlanteans, the Wakandans, the mystics, and Stark-Self survived. And yeah, even the fucking Inhumans survived. That’s right. Those xenophobic, slave-owning, Game of Thrones wannabes got to survive. Disney’s lawyers are just that powerful.
Aside from Apocalypse’s agenda-driven criteria, this is basically all that’s left of Earth. And mutants were determined long ago, with little debate with lawyers, to be unfit. So there’s no Phoenix Force or Secret War to save them. They just fucking die. Pretty sure everyone at Marvel Studios jerks off to that idea every night. But these young X-men manage to remind Stark-self that he was once a friend to the X-men. Sure, he shot a giant gun at the Phoenix Force and did jack shit when they were going extinct, but he was still a friend. Guilting a robot in a dystopian future into helping them is basically what the X-men have been reduced to and since Stark’s robots are slightly more advanced then dumb-ass Sentinels, they agree to help.
That’s not to say Stark-self offers to help these vulnerable kids fight for survival. That would be too generous, even for a living and sober Tony Stark. Instead, they provide No-Girl with a new robot body and send them off into other worlds. This leads to a nice training montage of sorts. It shows days, weeks, and months passing as these D-list X-men survive with an aptitude worthy of a C-plus, if not a B-minus. It’s not going to put them in the same league that will allow them to look at Storm’s ass or flirt with Jean Grey, but they definitely make the case that they at least deserve a chance.
It’s the kind of development we don’t see enough of these days, D-list characters moving up a grade. The Kamala Khans and Miles Morales of the world are exceptions, not the norms, and they got to build on brands that were already there. These kids have never worn an X-men uniform, never been turned into living weapons, and never got to team up with Deadpool. So seeing them grow into survivors is satisfying in a special sort of way. Sure, it’s kind of rushed, but it has to be.
And moments like Anole pointing out how Mole Men survive this world, but not mutants is incredibly poignant and incredibly said. It’s another testament to the current state of mutants for Marvel.
Finally, we reach the present time. The flashbacks and flash forward are over. The D-listers finally catch up with the A-listers. Now, they can start battling Apocalypse’s horsemen and it feels like a fair fight. This time, it definitely has all the makings of an epic clash. The X-men versus Apocalypse’s horsemen is like Wonder Woman and Power Girl in an oil wrestling contest. It’s hard to set up something that has the potential to be just that awesome. Now the rest of the X-men know that this is all that’s left of the world and Apocalypse is the dick that stuck it that world.
While the setup is epic, the details are somewhat light. But that’s not to say it’s rushed. That’s not even to say it’s finished. This is just the beginning of the battle. It doesn’t try to finish everything too quickly. There’s no comic equivalent of premature ejaculation, at least not yet. We just now know what led to this moment and how fucked this future is. No dystopian future is going to surprise any self-respecting X-men fan at this point, but context certainly helps.
The only other context this battle offers is just how overmatched the X-men are. Even with their A-listers, they’re in a fractured, fucked up world where Apocalypse has already purged mutants from existence in ways Disney executives can only jerk off to. So even with Storm leading the charge, she doesn’t exactly have the X-men in the strongest position to take on Apocalypse. She doesn’t overtly blame Cyclops for this, but you can tell she’s probably thinking it. In fact, I imagine everyone on the team will come up with at least six different ways to blame Cyclops for Apocalypse Wars when all is said and done.
So...is it awesome?
Well this issue fills in some blanks. It explores some colorful, fanciful worlds that can’t usually be explored without tripping balls on LSD. But in the spirit of 4/20 and all the stoners who celebrate it, I think that’s appropriate. In terms of actually moving the story forward and getting us closer to another classic clash between X-men and Apocalypse, Extraordinary X-men #9 doesn’t do much. Like the last 30 years of this country’s drug laws, the effect is limited. Unlike drug laws though, there is some meaningful contribution.
Jeff Lemire isn’t just letting the X-men’s heavy hitters flex their nuts. He’s getting D-list X-men characters and giving them a chance to join the C-list. After reading Extraordinary X-men #9, I can’t honestly say that these characters have failed miserably. Now I’m not saying Glob Herman or Ernst are going to be on Bryan Singer’s short list for future X-men movies, but they at least deserve some credit at a time when fucking Squirrel Girl gets her own series.
Final Score: 6 out of 10