"Extraordinary X-Men" #8 juggles two storylines, and -- despite there being no real connection between them -- the end result has a strong sense of balance. Who would have thought the return of a (mostly forgotten) villain from 20 years ago, a trip to the future and a consult with a doctor would have come together so well? Jeff Lemire, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba and Victor Ibanez, that's who.
The lead story is part of the "X-Men: Apocalypse Wars" event, something that's impressive considering Apocalypse himself doesn't actually make an appearance in this comic. What we get instead is an old lackey of an alternate universe Apocalypse: the Sugar Man. His attempt to rebirth the mutant race in a way that makes them subservient to him results in an X-Men squad getting lost in time; while the "lost in time and altered upon discovery" story has been done before, this one works because of its two solid hooks: the genetic ark of possible mutants that some of the team is trying to rescue and what happened to Colossus, Glob, Anole, Martha and Ernst.
It would have been an easy route to have the young trainees fall prey to Apocalypse and become part of the latest Horsemen team; sidestepping that trap and instead having them grow up into heroes is a much more pleasing outcome, which reveals their potential and justifies their presence as part of the "Extraordinary X-Men" cast. While the new Horsemen aren't high on mutant numbers, the choice of characters is pretty smart the more you think about it; all four Horsemen have a history of being easily influenced or were once villains. It's a good cliffhanger, and that's not even including some of the other character work being done, like the tension between Storm, Old Man Logan and Forge.
Ramos and Olazaba return to "Extraordinary X-Men" to draw the main feature, and it looks good. They're perfect for a character like Sugar Man, who has always come across as distended and warped, a perfect match for Ramos' hyperbolic artwork. That said, they also know when to keep things toned down and more refined, like the scene in Storm's office. There's a real electric tension between Storm and Logan there, and Forge comes across as dashingly handsome upon his entrance, making him the perfect spoiler. The designs of the future characters look good too; the grown-up kids are all recognizable but definitely aged, and the Horsemen have a good unified look while still being distinct individuals.
The backup feature fleshes out Sapna, and we finally learn what her mutant power is thanks to Doctor Strange. It's a fun twist on a power we've seen another character have in the past, and the story takes it to its logical extension. Lemire's story gives us a good hook for going forward, too, both in terms of keeping Illyana's life from being too easy, as well as raising questions on just how powerful and adept Sapna is with her magical power. Ibanez returns to the book after his guest stint on the last storyline, which is a smart choice since he did a good job there. As it turns out, Ibanez is quite good at drawing icky tentacles, and his Strange looks mystic in temperament as well as ability. Giving Ibanez backup features to work on when not in the main rotation is a smart usage of his skills.
"Extraordinary X-Men" #8 is a fun issue, one that raises questions and ups the ante for the characters. The idea of the M-Pox still feels a little too nebulous and forced, but Lemire, Ramos, Olabaza and Ibanez continue to give us good stories set within its confines. I'm definitely eager to see what happens next.