X-Men: X-Termination


By Greg Pak, David Lapham, Marjorie Liu, Matteo Buffagni, André Araújo, David López & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-549-9

Since the 1960s comics fans have been totally au fait with the concept and complexities of alternate universes and the bewildering potentialities of an infinity of Earths. Offering irresistible temptations to writers and fans alike, the hallowed plot device offers the opportunity to creatively meddle and play at will and still back-pedal if readers get too stroppy or upset or – worse yet – bored and confused…

Marvel has a highly structured multiverse and every alternate realm comes with its own “Official Reality Number” – the regular mainstream continuity is set to Earth-616 and the Ultimates Universe is designated Earth-1610 for example.

Of course, once introduced, each and every new iteration is somebody’s favourite and consequently characters regularly traverse the cosmic void between continua barely distinguishable or wildly variant.

There have been many miniseries such as Avengers: United They Stand or Blink and even regular series set on or between these divergent planes such as Exiles, Age of Apocalypse and others…

It generally takes a clear head and true devotion to follow and wallow in the minutia of the enterprise. Consider that your only warning…

Collecting Age of Apocalypse #13-14, X-Treme X-Men #12-13, X-Termination #1-2 and Astonishing X-Men volume 3, #60-61 this hugely enjoyable but woefully continuity-entangled cosmic rumble attempts to bring a little clarity and clear some very crowded decks with a bombastic brouhaha that first appeared between March and April 2013.

The mini-event appeared in selected mutant titles beginning with Age of Apocalypse #13 which offered an ‘X-Termination Prologue’ by David Lapham, Renato Arlem & Valentine De Landro set on the alternate dubbed Earth-295, where the early death of Charles Xavier led to an appalling Reality in which the self-appointed mutant god of natural selection Apocalypse almost eradicated humanity before a coterie of radically different heroes and villains stopped him.

In the wake of the 1995 “Age of Apocalypse” event, many of this Earth-295’s inhabitants escaped to “our” world and generated a tidal wave of plots and story-arcs. One such was tragic widower Kurt Wagner, a teleporting sword-wielding X-warrior determined to hunt down a band of genocidal Apocalypse minions including Sugar Man, the Blob and evil twisted versions of Iceman and the Beast.

However, whilst he pursued vengeance in our world, on his own Earth the last survivors were losing a battle against the legacies of the defeated Apocalypse: a shattered eco-system, insuperable differences between the equally devastated human and mutant populations and even cosmic meddling by cosmic interlopers…

Led by Jean Grey , her lover GraydonHorror ShowCreed and a mysterious strategist dubbed Prophet, a disparate band (including cyborg Donald “Goodnight” Pierce, Deadeye and Fiend) have spent more than a decade fighting Apocalypse’s self-appointed successor Weapon Omega and hunting a cosmic artefact dubbed a “Life Seed” hidden millennia past by one of the pan-dimensional star gods called Celestials.

Now their apparently futile battles are nearing an end, whilst on Earth-616 their old comrade Nightcrawler – currently working with Wolverine’s covert black ops team X-Force – having captured his major objective Henry (Dark Beast) McCoy, prepares to abandon his new friends and return to his broken home world…

Simultaneously in X-Treme X-Men #12 – another ‘X-Termination Prologue’ by Greg Pak & André Araújo – Alison Blair, the Dazzler of Earth-616, is leading a team of heroes from a plethora of Realities in a crusade against a league of malign Charles Xaviers. These terrifying telepotents have pooled their formidable psychic resources in a scheme to conquer the entire multiverse and Alison is determined to stop them

Even with an appalling attrition rate her squad – psionic super-computer Sage, Grecian man-god Hercules and strange versions of her old X-Men comrades Wolverine (Howlett), Scott Summers and a very young Nightcrawler Kurt Waggoner – are barely holding their own against the Evil Xaviers.

Now, on a predominantly Egyptian Earth, the rogue telepaths have opened an inter-dimensional rift and begun feeding on the energies released by sacrificing hundreds of humans. In a frantic assault the X-Treme team rescue and apparently redeem an enslaved Xavier (or rather a self-sustaining Professor X head in a jar), but the sinister psychic savants’ meddling has opened a hole to a far greater realm and deadlier threat…

The saga properly begins in X-Termination #1 (by Marjorie Liu, Pak, David López & Allen Martinez) with the origin of the multiverse – a deliberate construction of massive and ancient cosmic intellects designed to imprison their greatest mistake in the void between Realities, trapped for eternity between infinite layers of Creation.

Recently, however, the incessant crossings and transfers between supposed inviolate Realities has weakened those walls ands now the portal manufactured by the Xaviers has breached it completely, allowing something intolerable to break out…

On Earth-616 Wolverine’s X-Force team – Gambit, Iceman, Northstar and Karma – are hunting their treacherous former ally Nightcrawler (of Earth-295, remember?) whose actions have led to the death of team mate Fantomex, and brought him into an insane alliance with the Dark Beast.

The inter-dimensional fugitives are in San Francisco attempting to manipulate the power of a dormant Space God known as the “Dreaming Celestial” when X-Force arrives, but the Beast is able to use the giant’s power to open a gateway to 295 through which the pair escape.

However, as Nightcrawler hands the war-criminal McCoy over to Jean and Prophet, it becomes clear that something is wrong. The portal isn’t closing, only spewing out a torrent of vile detritus from who knows where…

Only when in short order both X-Force and then Dazzler’s X-Treme team emerge from the spitting, arcing rent in reality does Nightcrawler begin to realise the potential catastrophe his rash actions have triggered – a fear confirmed when a trio of monstrous unstoppable humanoids emerge and begin absorbing all this Earth’s energy and life-force. They have already consumed the Egyptian Earth to get here and within seconds the amassed, amazed army of heroes suffers its first fatality…

The saga continues in Astonishing X-Men volume 3, #60 (Liu, Matteo Buffagni & Arlem) as the assembled warriors redouble their efforts but are easily repulsed. The only successes come when Karma’s psionic talent provides the embattled heroes with the secret origin of the deadly devourers and Iceman’s powers provide a defence the creatures cannot absorb…

The elation is short-lived as the beings split up and one uses the still-open portal to voyage to Earth-616 and another irresistible, immovable feast…

Panicked and galvanised, the 616 heroes prepare to follow but Prophet bids them stop and think. He has a notion that the Celestial Life Seed lost somewhere on Earth-295 might be the only weapon capable of stopping the inter-dimensional ravagers. However as the heroes separate into teams to tackle the threat to multiple Earths and seek out the seed, Dark Beast McCoy makes his own plans to profit from the heroes’ sacrifices…

Lapham, Araújo & Arlem extend the epic in Age of Apocalypse #14 as Wolverine, Howlett, Hercules and Northstar join Prophet, Gambit, Deadeye, young Kurt Waggoner and Sage in San Francisco on 616 and find the devourer absorbing the inestimable energy of the Dreaming Celestial.

On 295 a team of X-champions and a battalion of robotic Sentinels fight a futile holding action as McCoy, Nightcrawler, Scott Summers, Dazzler and Jean hunt deep under the Earth for the Seed, painfully aware that the ancient artefact created Apocalypse and threatens to transform whoever uses it into something as bad, if not worse…

However when Jean and Nightcrawler secure the “Apocalypse pod” and abandon their former comrades, they are in turn ambushed by McCoy who steals the vital, yet horrific device for his own purposes…

On Earth 616 another hero dies as the antediluvian invader absorbs the forces within the Dreaming Celestial and grows to monumental proportions. Moreover as the X-fighters regroup in X-Treme X-Men #13 (Pak, Lapham, Liu, Guillermo Mogorron, Raul Valdés, Edgar Tadeo, Carlos Cuevas, Don Ho & Walden Wong) they discover an even more ghastly threat.

The trio are merely a vanguard for an infinite army of energy eaters and all the power being consumed will be used to free the horde to absorb and end each and every iota of creation…

With multiversal Armageddon imminent, Astonishing X-Men volume 3, #61 (Liu, Arlem, Jose Kleber de Moura Jr. Buffagni & Raul Valdés) sees more heroes fall, one self-despising villain redeemed and a valiant sacrifice to the Apocalypse Seed at last result in an effective weapon against the devourers. Also unleashed is the true secret origin of Reality, revealed before it all spectacularly wraps up in X-Termination #2 (Lapham, López, Mogorron, Valdés, Cuevas & Martinez) with the end of one universe and the migration of the last of the heroes to another.

No prizes for guessing which one…

Taught, fraught, beautifully rendered by many talented hands and unarguably spectacular, if a little hard to follow in places, X-Termination also includes a beautiful cover-and-variants gallery by Greg Land, Salvador Larroca, Kalman Andrasofszky, Ed McGuiness, Morry Hollowell, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Rain Beredo, Mike Deodato and Philip Noto – but no digital add-ons or extras this time.
™ & © 2013 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.