For the longest time (and by longest, keep in mind that this was from the perspective of 13 year old), this was the only issue of X-Tinction Agenda that I actually had. I was thrilled when I picked it up. This wasn’t the first issue I ever picked up (if I remember correctly, that was Uncanny #275) but this was my first time buying a back-issue. I remember looking forward to the weeks that I would get to choose where we would eat out on Friday night. For the longest time, I would pick Shakey’s buffet, not because of the great food (looking back it actually sucked) but because Metropolis comics was there and that was the only place I knew of to buy comics. It was always a fight with my parents because they really didn’t like Shakey’s. Eventually, I discovered a pizza place closer to home that my parents actually enjoyed and guess what… there was a comic shop right next door! That’s where I purchased this issue. It’s funny remembering that, but it was such a great time in my comic collecting life. There were few things as exciting as a young teen as going to the comic shop with my best friend and then eating pizza. Of course I remember the owner of that comic shop being some old, cranky woman who I’m pretty sure never read a comic in her life. But I still loved going there.
I’ve been comparing X-Tinction Agenda all along to a three-act play. The first act set the stage. The second act introduced a scenario that the heroes were unable to overcome (often the tragedy). This issue kicked off the third act which would lead up to the climax of the story. Now, as you can maybe tell from above, I may be looking at this issue with a certain bias due to my fond memories, but let’s face it: there’s a reason Jim Lee is considered one of the industry’s greats.
One part I particularly enjoyed was the first page. We’re treated to various television interviews about what is dubbed “The Genoshan Crisis”. Both heroes and civilians are interviewed. It gives a nice view into how others view the various crises the X-Men face. The X-Men (from here on out, “X-Men” includes both X-Factor and New Mutants) are at an arraignment in front of a Genoshan judge. We are reminded that a virus prevents any reference to the X-Men from being catalogued (no idea what I’m talking about? go waaaay back to Uncanny #158). Cable finds out that when he joined the New Mutants, his name immediately got included. As a result, there is no evidence of any of the X-Men being American citizens. I found this part rather humorous.
Wolverine loses his temper a bit, but is easily put back in his place by Storm (a mutate who was assigned to the judge) and the Magistrate leader, Chief Anderson. As a result, the X-Men are given two options: become a mutate, or be turned over to Hodge. Guess which option they choose?
Once Hodge goes to work, Cable once again tries to break free. This time, he gets some assistance from Gambit. Unfortunately, it turns out no better than the last chapter. This time, it’s Gambit who gets the wooden stake in the leg. Hodge goes to work on Cable’s bionics which convinces Psylocke that enough’s enough and she opts to go through the mutate process.
Hodge then goes to work on his former best friend turned arch-enemy: Archangel. For fun, he decides to drop both Archangel and Wolverine into the same pit. Did I mention that Warren has always hated the runt (heck, I think he’s quit the X-Men twice because of Wolverine)? Also turns out that without his mutant power, Archangel has no control over his wings and they attack of their own volition. Wolverine, also without his power, does his best to avoid the wing knives by taking the fight to him.
Elsewhere, Psylocke is transported to the mutate room. Guess who easily overpowers her guards, even tricking one to blow apart her shackles? Elsewhere yet again, Hodge, accompanied by Rahne (who also is a mutate) corners Wipeout and kills him. Back with the other X-Men, Cyclops reveals that Psylocke had planned her escape the whole time and that he knew that Gambit took the shot in the leg on purpose. Cyclops calls him “A thief, par excellance”. Gambit manages to pull the bolt from his leg with his mouth, drops it and catches it with his feet, then uses it to pick the lock on his shackles. The X-Men are quickly freed and rush out. Meanwhile, Havok finds Wipeout’s body. Rahne accuses him and Magistrates quickly show up and arrests the mutant.
Okay… let me take a minute to explain something. Normally, I try to give a general synopsis, but the reason it seems so hectic above (and more to come) is because that is how Claremont paces this story, which is absolutely fantastic. Everything is building up and the constant switching between the scenes (similar to a good movie or TV show) gives the feel of everything building and makes you want to turn the page again and again. It’s one of the reasons I consider this entry the best in the cross-over.
Elsewhere, several Magistrates are up to something. They are escorting Storm and are obviously on edge. We quickly find out why. Hodge shows up, blasting them. Apparently, his relationship with the Genoshan government has ended. We find out later that elements within the government had been plotting against Hodge and I can only surmise that he figured it out. Chief Anderson returns fire, but her troops are mercilessly cut down. Amazingly, she’s saved by Psylocke (although it’s only begrudgingly as Psylocke only really cares about saving Storm).
The X-men quickly break up the fight between Wolverine and Archangel just as the magistrates burst into the room. Storm attacks Cyclops, but as it turns out, the attack is actually restoring Storm to her normal self, both in mind and body. Psylocke bursts in with Hodge close behind. However, just then, Cyclops unleashes a devastating optic blast at Hodge. Turns out that Storm was also restoring his powers.
In case you couldn’t tell, I absolutely love the art in this issue. The action is non stop and as I mentioned earlier, the pacing is absolutely amazing. My only complaint? That the rest of the cross-over is downhill from here. Whenever I read this saga, I find myself always looking forward to this issue. Once I’m done, I find myself dreading reading the rest. I also like Claremont’s references to the past (the virus, the rivalry between Wolverine and Archangel). Psylocke and Cyclops really shine in this issue for those of you who like them. Psylocke kicks ass and Cyclops is the best leader.
I love this issue, but for those of you who haven’t been reading comics for the last 20+ years, what do you think of this issue on its own? Am I praising it a bit much? Who remembers their first comic or their first back-issue?