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X-Tinction Agenda is a famous crossover storyline that ran through X-Men and its spin-off comics X-Factor and The New Mutants. This collected edition includes all the titles (X-Men #270, New Mutants #95, X-Factor #60, X-Men #271, New Mutants #96, X-Factor #61, X-Men #272, New Mutants #97 X-Factor #62) that make up the complete story arc in one 224 page volume. The X-Men are 'mutants', humans born with incredible abilities who, under the guidance of Professor Charles Xavier, have formed a superhero team and have an underground base of operations in New York. The X-Men have become a sort of franchise and two other mutant superhero teams - X-Factor and The New Mutants - share their facilities although X-Factor is the only one that has gone 'public' and is known to definitely exist by the outside world. As we pick up the story here the X-Men are presumed dead after recent events (it's a long story) but have returned to their base in New York where The New Mutants are rather surprised to see them. X-Men leader Storm has been turned into a teenage girl (another long story) but she still has white hair and can still control the weather. Meanwhile, Professor Xavier is absent and away from earth (an even longer story), and big, big trouble is brewing for his spandex clad superhero students.
Genosha is an advanced island nation in the Indian Ocean that has an authoritarian government with a particular distaste for mutants. In Genosha, mutants are owned by the state and anyone found out to be one is turned into a mindless 'mutate' slave by their Genegineer David Moreau. The Genoshans regard the X-Men to be mutant terrorists for once operating on their soil and want them extradited to Genosha to stand trial. Obviously, neither the X-Men or the United States government will agree to this so the Genoshans take matters into their own hands and stage a bold attack on the X-Mansion grounds in New York with a team of Magistrates (Genoshan soldiers), kidnapping Storm and The New Mutants members Warlock, Boom Boom, Rictor, and Wolfsbane. As a diplomatic row over this brazen act breaks out, the remaining members of X-Men and The New Mutants team up with X-Factor (who are led by Cyclops) to head for Genosha and try to save their friends. Independent of them, Wolverine, Psylocke, and Jubilee have also heard the news and are headed there too. They soon find a surprising and exceptionally ruthless and powerful old enemy waiting for them.
Although X-Men always had great characters it, in my experience, is sometimes a comic that takes itself a little too seriously and often requires a lot of backstory knowledge. X-Tinction Agenda is one of the more memorable arcs in the comic and one of my favourites out of the ones I've read, not least for the way it unites all three comics and throws all of these characters together into what becomes a desperate struggle. The story features Storm, Gambit, Banshee, Forge, Wolverine, Psylocke, Jubilee, Archangel, Beast, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Cannonball, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Warlock, Boom-Boom, Rictor and Cable. As if that wasn't enough, it also pits Cyclops against his brother Havok - who has had his memories wiped and is now working for Genosha. I quite like the way here that their (respective) optic and plasma blasts have no effect on one another as mutants cannot harm their own flesh and blood with their powers in this way.
X-Tinction Agenda has a great villain in Cameron Hodge, a monstrous spider like cyborg with a human head who scuttles about and is always drooling. Hodge was once human and friends with the X-Men but became leader of an anti-mutant organization known as The Right. After his death at the hands of Archangel, Hodge became a mutant impervious cyborg as a result of the pact he made with N'astirh (yet another long story) and has now teamed up with Genosha's bonkers government to get revenge. Hodge is great fun, a genuinely creepy, grotesque and formidable villain. A strength of the story is that it takes our heroes down to their lowest ebb when they are defeated and captured by the sadistic Hodge. The story arc includes the death of a major character and plenty of action as the assorted X-Men and their colleagues battle 'Magistrates' on the streets of Genosha and Hodge in his headquarters.
One slight problem with X-Tinction Agenda concerns the art. As this is a collection of a story that ran through three separate comics, each with their own artists, the art therefore is not consistent and changes with each new chapter. The problem is the X-Men comic chapters, drawn by Jim Lee, contain absolutely fantastic art. He deserved some sort of award for the way he drew an angry Wolverine and the slinky Psylocke (in the skimpiest superhero costume ever) and his illustrations of Hodge and his insect like mechanical body are great too. The art in the X-Factor and The New Mutants comics here lacks the power and grace of Lee's work and seems a step-down by comparison. The story is still fun to follow throughout this collected edition but you do sort of wish Lee could have somehow done the whole thing himself.
One nice touch in the story is the inclusion of CNN type television shows discussing the diplomatic crisis and there is an amusing cameo by Frank Castle (aka The Punisher) when a camera is thrust in his face on the street during a show which asks random members of the public what they think. 'Get that camera out of my face before I make you eat it!' There are (of course) a few clunky lines and some of the writers involved in the individual issues are better than others but the main storyline is a good and entertaining one. It supplies plenty of action, a great villain and some nice little moments like, for example, Wolverine (sans his healing factor) being put in a cell with old flame Jean Grey and Gambit deliberately allowing Hodge to hit him in the leg with a spiked dart so that he can use it to unpick his handcuffs. I've heard this may have been toned down a little from the (rather violent) original comics and if so that's a shame.
X-Tinction Agenda is not a classic and the art is uneven but it is a lot of fun and one of the more entertaining (and grand scale storylines) I've encountered reading X-Men and its various spin-offs.