Extermination #2 Finds Beauty In Mutant Chaos

by Tony Thornley

Sometimes it’s clear where a story is going early on. The mark of those stories is in the telling. It’s the character work, the surprises along the way, the action within it that becomes important- the old adage of “it’s the journey, not the the destination.” And honestly, that’s why I like Extermination #2.

While young Cable continues to hatch his plan, the X-Men regroup. They have determined the best thing to do is split up the remaining four if the time-lost team. Cyclops isn’t having it, and his teammates try to talk him through it, instead opening themselves up to another attack, this time with Cable taking Angel. In the chaos after THAT, Ahab attacks the mansion, transforming several X-Men into Hounds…

If it sounds dense, it is. The creative team fits a lot of story into these 22 pages. It’s a huge compliment to the team – writer Ed Brisson, artist Pepe Larraz, color artist Marte Gracia, and letterer Joe Sabino – that they’re able to make this issue feel so big.

To Brisson’s credit, he lays out where the story is likely to go, but makes it clear that we’ve got surprises on the way, mostly in how it plays out emotionally. I absolutely love the character work that he’s putting on the page. This sort of emotional depth is a big part of what X-Men has been missing for several years now.

It’s funny to realize what you’ve been missing but couldn’t put your finger on. Last issue, it was Scott’s interactions with Bloodstorm. This issue, it;s his pain following her death. Cyclops is raw and hurting, and it’s clear from his behavior. It’s a perfect example of “show, don’t tell”.

The action scenes have been great too. X-Men writers have a reputation for melodrama during fights (hello angry Claremontian narrator!), but Brisson is able to take that and shift it. While there’s some beautifully rendered fighting going on, the script is still honoring the characters and giving them their due.

And speaking of the gorgeous fights, Larraz and Gracia’s work here eclipses last issue, and that’s a tall order. This is a beautiful book, cover to cover. Where the script pours in the emotion, Larraz makes it obvious on the page.

I talk a lot about facial expressions and body language, but here we get chemistry. This is the artistic equivalent of two actors that just click in a movie or TV show. Beast, Angel, Cyclops and Marvel Girl are all close friends, and you feel it. And there’s a deep love between Scott and Jean – not romantic love necessarily, but as best friends, and a deep connection. You don’t see comics art portray that very often as well as Larraz does it here.

Let me tell you, Gracia colors the hell out of those pages, too. The first conversation between Scott and Jean takes place at dusk, and where Larraz gives us a deep connection to the people, Gracia gives us a connection to the world. This feels so very real, and just nails the beauty of a good sunset, without turning it into the focus of the pages.

Then there’s the action scenes. The original team’s fight with young Cable is intense, messy and frantic. There’s also my favorite panel of the issue – Jean screaming at Cable. Then at the end of the issue, Ahab arrives, and in three pages the X-Men are knocked back on their heels in a chaotic frenzy of violence. It all ends in a jaw dropper of the cliffhanger, as one of the most popular and prominent X-Men is turned into a Hound – and seriously, this art team gets all the credit for how great it is. Sorry Ed.

Once again, knowing that Brisson is one of the creators at the helm of the X-Men after this event, I’m thrilled to see what’s next. I hope this art team is along for the ride, too. This will be an X-event talked about for years to come, and rightfully so.

Extermination #2 is available now from Marvel Comics.

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