Review by Ian Keogh
Be warned from the start, this isn’t the X-Men graphic novel to pick up without being well versed in their continuity. Nightcrawler was a key character in the 2010 version of X-Force, but this was Nightcrawler from an alternate universe, not the Kurt Wagner X-Men readers had grown up with. Expelled from the team after killing someone, Nightcrawler is a lost and lonely figure, and his determination to find his way back to his own world is the plot that propels X-Termination.
His world is known to others as the Age of Apocalypse, from which an alternate version of the Beast is also a refugee on the X-Men’s Earth, but their world has recently undergone a change of leadership. It’s the world we see in the opening chapter skimming around a lot of familiar names with unfamiliar aims and personalities before jumping to another alternate Earth and another alternate team of X-Men. Their mission attempting to prevent ten evil versions of Charles Xavier destroying the multiverse isn’t going as well. Confused? You possibly will be unless you’ve been following events in X-Treme X-Men.
When everything calms down, the big revelation is that constant travelling between dimensions has weakened barriers put in place eons ago to stop incredibly powerful beings who absorb energy and matter. Hmmm. Three beings, the teams of X-Men from three worlds… Is a pattern developing?
The novelty is that members of the three teams are mixed to create three new teams, in practice meaning writers David Lapham, Marjorie Liu and Greg Pak get to play with characters other than those restricted to their own titles. Artistically X-Termination begins well, with the likes of Andre Araujo (sample art left), Renato Arlem, Matteo Buffagni, Valentine De Landro and David Lopez starting things off, but as things continue and the pages are allocated around Europe at the halfway point, standards plummet, with Guillermo Mogorron untroubled by basic matters like foreshortening, scale or perspective and Raul Valdes (sample art right) equally messy. However desperate the story becomes, it’s not as desperate as some of the art. Honestly, not since the 1990s has Marvel seen pages as poor as some of these.
This is a shame, becausse if you accept the assorted alternate X-Men the plot is intelligent, stretching right back to the origins of the Marvel universe and making sense of creatures who at first seem nonsensical and operating on instinct alone. Also a pity is that an introductory chapter with the alternate Nightcrawler formed part of Astonishing X-Men: Unmasked when it would have been better included here, giving this Kurt Wagner some greater depth and even an emotional pull. Action, however, is the priority, and establishing the threat means character deaths, so unfortunate for anyone who’s become fond of some of the alternate universe creations over the course of their titles. You’d care more if some of the worst artists could actually invest their characters with any subtlety, mind.
As is so often the case with 21st century superhero events, any promise is thoroughly shredded by an assumption that any old art will do, and ten artists over eight chapters with completely different styles is of no concern. The lack of standards ranks this even lower. Should you be able to see past that, the entire story is also available in the bulkier paperback X-Men: Age of Apocalypse – Termination, along with the story of how Apocalypse was overthrown.