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Sunday, October 20, 2013

X-Treme X-Men Vol. 2: Invasion

Title: X-Treme X-Men Vol. 2: Invasion

ISBN: 0785110186

Price: $19.99

Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2002

Artist: Salvador Larroca

Writer: Chris Claremont

Collects: X-Treme X-Men #10-18

Rating: 2.5/5

While the
first volume of X-Treme X-Men had its qualities it felt a lot like Chris
Claremont wasn’t entirely sure where to go with what he’d written, like he’d
put himself into a corner. The idea of the diaries was good in theory but the
villain Vargas was just too ill defined to be taken as a true threat and the
plot kept veering off in directions it didn’t need to go in. Thankfully
Claremont’s decision after tying up things in Australia was to put that plot on
the backburner and limited himself to the much more direct plot of an alien
invasion. Which drastically improved the quality of this arc.

linked up with the team after dealing with the events in Australia, Gambit
approaches Storm apparently knowing something about a jewel in her possession
as they lay low. Well no sooner can you say the words “MacGuffin” than it’s
revealed the jewel is key to an invasion and as is Gambit. As both are taken by
the invasion’s advanced guard, the X-men pursue the kidnapper to Madripoor,
arriving just in time to be trapped inside as it’s cut off from the world by a
force-field. With legions of technologically advanced troops storming the
island nation, the X-Treme team find themselves as Earth’s only line of defense
against an unknown foe. Seven mutants against an armada capable of enslaving
entire dimensions.

As with
before, Salvador Larroca’s art remains consistently excellent from beginning to
end. While there are definitely some problems when it comes to one action
flowing into another, they’re still beautifully drawn and inked. Even for
characters which have been around for decades this is the best they’ve looked
in a long time. The only time it ever has any problems is with the character of
Lifeguard (yes they do make fun of the name) with a changing appearance, but that
could easily be put down to her powers.

The story
itself has much more of the focus, pacing and concentration upon the action
which Volume 1 lacked. While there are breather moments in combat and quiet
bits, these are installed at key points within the plot and you never feel
they’re out of place or getting in the way of things. Many actually offer some
surprising moments of characterization such as one newly activated mutant
beginning to regret his choices and asking if the X-Men’s lives are “always
like this?” It adds moments of humanity which tend to be missing in a lot of
stories or are mishandled by certain authors (Millar, Bendis, looking at you)
even if it can come across as slightly hammy at times.

at the same time it could be argued that it sometimes moves too fast. There is
a very abrupt beginning in which we have information both delivered via
flashback and as events move, which doesn’t seem to gel very well. While it
goes a considerable way to get the story moving quickly the start can be
jarring at first and is unlike something you’d expect in a modern comic.

For the
majority of the book the action with the X-Men trying to stem the tide really
works well. You get a sense of the sheer power and scale of the invasion very
early on. While only running battles are seen rather than full blown
engagements, the local military is thoroughly beaten down every time and the
victories the X-Men make never seem to do enough impact. Well, at least up to
the point where Rogue cuts loose, but explaining that bit would ruin one of the
story’s major highlights and shows just why the X-Men are quite capable of
taking on alien invasions without serving as backup to the Avengers.

The 80s
style writing continues here, giving it the same sort of clunky charm the last
book had but it feels far more appropriate and as if the style is being used
well. Some noticeable flaws remain such as many newly introduced characters
being ill defined, especially in light of how strongly the main team-members
are written in this. While the recently introduced Lifeguard and Slipstream
actually come off well, many of the similar villains seem extremely generic or
we are given little more than a name. This is especially unfortunate because
the main villain, Khan, has an interesting idea behind him and feels like he could
have been truly fleshed out into an interesting reoccurring villain or at least
someone who could be remembered for a few years. When much what little of his
motivations the comic delves into are revealed, he comes across like some
lesser version of Warhammer 40,000’s Emperor, leading his forces on a continual
crusade for unity. It’s just a shame a lot of this is put to one side to emphasize
upon a possible relationship with Storm.

The final
thing to truly note is that the arc actually ends on something of a positive
note. While it’s made clear that their victory is a costly one, and affected
some of those involved more than others, it doesn’t try to crush any feelings
of positivity to make what happened feel as grim and pyrrhic as possible. The
comic still makes it clear there’s been a victory and their adventures will
continue rather than endlessly beating the heroes into the ground and trying to
make the universe darker and darker at every turn.

This isn’t
an arc I’d recommend to everyone but if you’ve got some basic familiarity with
the franchise and are willing to ignore a few unexplained details this is an
okay read. While definitely not something to seek out at all costs it’s
definitely worth picking up at least once, reading over a few hours and then
(probably) forgetting about it. If you’ve disliked how the X-Men have been
portrayed as villains constantly of late and how Marvel seems to be trying to
force every single last outcome to an event to be as bleak as humanly
imaginable this one might be worth looking up.

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