By Jason Juniewicz
Mutants are on the brink of extinction. This simple, crushing notion is the focus of the newest X-Men crossover, "Endangered Species." Writer Mike Carey, along with a cadre of stellar creators, takes readers on a roller-coaster ride through a series of backup stores in UNCANNY X-MEN, NEW X-MEN, X-FACTOR and X-MEN from June to October.
Carey promises that this is a crossover event not to be missed by any X-fan. "This is where we spell out what's at stake--for the X-verse as a whole and for a lot of individual characters," says Carey. "And it's where we get a sense of how the key players are aligned on the eve of...something incredible and irreversible."
The crossover focuses on Beast and just what he is willing to do to save the mutant race. "It's about one man's quest to pull mutantkind back from the brink of extinction," adds Carey. "The man in question is Henry McCoy, a.k.a. the Beast. But we're not seeing him primarily as a superhero here--we're seeing him as a scientist wrestling with a problem in the face of which the superheroes are helpless. This is Hank McCoy, two-fisted scientist, as you've never seen him before.
"When Wanda Maximoff said 'No more mutants' [in HOUSE OF M #8], she didn't just depower existing mutants," notes Carey. "She warped reality on a level that was far more profound than that. Since that day there hasn't been a single mutant birth or mutant activation. Homo superior--mutantkind--has been reduced to fewer than 200 members, and the inexorable process of attrition is working to reduce those numbers ever further. As one of the greatest scientific minds in the X-verse, it's down to Hank McCoy to see if there's a scientific solution to this crisis--and at what cost."
What Beast finds may be more than any mutant can handle. "It may mean that they don't HAVE a future," states Carey. "It's already put a huge question mark over the role of the Xavier academy, which can expect its current cohort of students to be its last ever. As Beast's odyssey continues, we'll see him interacting with a very wide cast of characters, all of whom are united by one thing: They're staring into the abyss. Into a future where the countdown gradually ticks down to zero and the last mutant (probably Wolverine) turns out the lights and closes up shop forever...
"In a less cosmic sense, this is a question that every X-Man has to face and answer alone, and as we've seen in the ENDANGERED SPECIES one-shot, their reactions are enormously varied. It's a question that will create unlikely alliances and unexpected enmities."
The crossover event also hopes to answer some questions that may be weighing on many X-fan's minds. "Can science undo the effects of magic?" asks Carey. "Can the mutant race survive? And how far is the Beast prepared to go to ensure that it does?"
If you need to catch up on your recent X-Men lore, Carey has some suggestions to help get you up to speed as well as a look into the future after "Endangered Species" comes to an end. "Start with the HOUSE OF M mini-series," suggests Carey. "That's where it all started. And then read [DECIMATION: HOUSE OF M - THE DAY AFTER], which showed the repercussions spreading through the lives of the X-Men's core cast. Finally, read this year's X-MEN ANNUAL to see how some of the biggest powers in the X-verse are reacting to this situation.
"After that, 'Endangered Species' carries us forward into the end of year crossover, 'Messiah CompleX,' where all of this ignites in a way that you won't see coming."
With all of that in mind, here is what has been happening as "Endangered Species" rocks its way through the X-Books.
"No more mutants." Those simple words spoken by the Scarlet Witch
are what started all of the trials and tribulations that mutants have been going through since HOUSE OF M came to an end. Mutants are in danger of going the way of the Dodo, a fact compounded by the revelation in X-MEN ANNUAL #1 that there have been no mutant births since M Day.
The X-Men begin to contemplate this realization through the X-MEN: ENDANGERED SPECIES ONE-SHOT, when they bury another mutant, killed when he is accidentally hit by a car. At this point the X-Men
realize that the 198 mutants that kept their abilities intact thanks to Doctor Strange
's timely intervention are becoming fewer and fewer, making every mutant life ever more crucial to the survival of the species. This is where Beast
begins a quest that will take him through the X-titles for the next few months as he searches for answers in an effort to save the latest endangered species: mutants.
Beast's mission led him to turn to questionable potential allies from Mr. Sinister to Dr. Doom in hopes of finding answers, traveling from Mount Wundagore to Genosha in search of the truth. In the midst of his journeys, Beast found himself confronted by Dark Beast, his skewed alternate reality counterpart from the "Age of Apocalypse" timeline who had also begun to study the phenomenon of the "Decimation" event.
Beast reluctantly joined forces with his dark twin and ended up pushing his experiments to even shakier moral ground, exhuming dead mutants from the Neverland concentration camp and enlisting Bishop to strong-arm Mutant Town drug dealers into providing samples of Mutant Growth Hormone narcotics. The final straw, however, came when Dark Beast used an untested serum on one of the human children in the Guthrie family-the clan that produced X-Men Cannonball and Husk as well as the late Icarus of the New X-Men-nearly killing him, leading Beast to beat his doppelganger savagely and end their association.
Running out of options, Beast contacted Dr. Strange in hopes of finding a solution through magic, but fruitless tours of the mystical realms and even alternate realities courtesy of Uatu the Watcher began to convince Henry McCoy that the clock had indeed run out on mutantkind.
Finally, on a trip to Transia, Beast found the one responsible for all the chaos: Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. Apparently having lost her memory, Wanda spoke to her former teammate as if she had never met him and in the end he elects not to tell her. His search a failure, Beast returns to Neverland to give the bodies of the mutants held there a proper burial.
Added on 11/2/07:
Other Visual Guides on Marvel.com:
Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter
| Civil War
| Dark Tower
| Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America
| Infinity Gauntlet
| The Initiative
| Marvel Zombies
| Spider-Man: Back in Black
| World War Hulk
| X-Men: Endangered Species