Review by Karl Verhoven
Ghost Box was a cerebral start to Warren Ellis’ batch of Astonishing X-Men stories, so the beginning of Exogenetic takes the other route, opening with the non-stop action of a rescue mission, following which not one, but two of the X-Men’s deadliest enemies manifest in San Francisco. Phil Jimenez’s sample art shows Wolverine setting about one of them, but the other is best kept under wraps.
Ellis takes a different approach with the plot, and Jimenez is a more traditional artist than the previous Simone Bianchi, but very good. Strong layouts and clarity are his strengths. There’s never any going back to try and figure out what’s going on in a Jimenez strip, and when it comes to having to supply a sense of immense scale later in the story, his pages are magnificent.
Despite Exogenetic being more straightforward, Ellis still manages to throw in some interesting ideas, such as a theory about why mutants manifested in the nuclear era mentioned in passing, and how Storm’s affinity for Earth’s weather doubles as geo-location. He also supplies some comedy moments during the action rush, largely at Cyclops’s expense. “We have something on the radar, the size of which… Well, it’s either your mooted air vehicle or we’re under attack by Long Island”, is Beast’s thoughts on first seeing the craft controlled by their foe. That foe is new, but Ellis has conceived a way of them returning some known, if not famous, mutants, albeit via the gruesome Ellis twist. Key to the proceedings is Abigail Brand, the female Nick Fury protecting Earth from threats originating off-planet, except Ellis fudges that slightly for the sake of his story. From the time he’s given her over both his stories so far, she’s a personality Ellis likes.
Perhaps the revelations and ending won’t be to all tastes, but they’re clever and they’re different, and isn’t that what we say we want from superhero comics? While Exogenetic is fun, there’s still the thought that Ellis is producing work that’s acceptable, but he’s not really stretching himself, as if these are the comics he wrote in the bath while spending his working day on something that mattered to him. Perhaps Xenogenesis will change that feeling.