The New X-Men: E is for Extinction was written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Frank Quitely with Leinil Francis Yu and Ethan Van Sciver helping out. When I picked this one up back in 2002, I was an old time X-Men fan; one who had cut his teeth on mutant madness during the twilight days of Claremont and Byrne’s famous run on the title, retained my fandom for years even with Claremont’s ever more convoluted plots and glorified in the tremendous artwork of people like Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee until the Age of Apocalypse in the mid-90s made me finally walk away. So when I read Morrison’s "take" on the X-Men, I wanted to be blown away by it and turned back into an X-fan. Unfortunately, I wasn’t. This graphic novel was okay but not much more than that.
The story setup here is that a new super villain has shown up; her name being Cassandra Nova. Not only is she some super telepath, but she is also an identical genetic clone of Charles Xavier and embodies a new type of evolutionary advance in the human race. Ms. Nova is quite frankly a dynamic leap in homo sapiens superior, a.k.a. as "mutants," so in other words, she is a mojo bad ass. Add to this the fact that she wishes to annihilate every "mutant" on the planet, and it is clear that the X-men have got a major problem on their hands.
Like all good stories, Morrison has more than one plot line going on here, so "Super" Nova isn’t all the fun. We have lots of relationship issues among the team. Henry a.k.a. Beast is dealing with his continued mutations. Scott is acting withdrawn and a tad bit crazy after his recent possession by a villain. Naturally, he and Jean are having problems. Emma Frost comes on board the team after a huge cataclysm on Genosha, and she instantaneously begins seducing Scott. Wolverine is lurking around, and Professor Xavier is his normal self. Oh, and we have this crazed "New Age" cult leader who is preaching that mutant organs should be used to turn "regular" humans into super humans.
Yeah. I don’t know how that would actually work either, but I’m not a scientist.
Anyway, the action begins in this one very earlier and just gets ratcheted up more and more as the tale goes along. We have sentinels killing mutants. Mutants killing mutants. Humans trying to kill mutants, so they can get their body parts to become mutants. And by the end, we have a major twist in the story that nicely sets up graphic novel number 2: Imperial.
As for the art, I cannot complain at all. It was top notch and told the story extremely well. Each panel was tailored to convey the mood of the characters as well as their inner struggles or tone of voice. Many times I found myself already knowing what type of encounter I was about to read just by viewing the art, which means that the artist is doing a great job in my world.
All in all, E is for Extinction had all the elements of an interesting graphic novel: great team, lots of action, and several plots going on. Like always, Morrison gives his readers a great villain; this time it is Cassandra Nova, who is powerful enough, devious enough and bloodthirsty enough to carry the story. Even the team dynamics and "Whoa is me, I’m a mutant" plots were somewhat interesting. As for the art, I can’t say anything bad about it. However, this graphic novel fell flat for me in 2002 and again in my 2014 re-read. Perhaps I am not a Morrison fan (though I have enjoyed other books he has written) or perhaps I treasure the "old" X-Men of my youth too much. Whatever it is, however, this graphic novel was a bit schizophrenic in its story telling for my taste, so much so that even the great ending can’t save it.
Like I always say though – don’t take my word for this graphic novel, read it and see what you think.