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230: Chris Claremont X-Treme X-Men Retrospective

Introduction to X-Treme X-Men

*Editor's note: This is my 230th blog and I have never been this stuck before. I've spent 3 weeks laboring on it, and I'm pretty sure I'm struggling because of how few inspiring things I have to say about X-Treme X-Men. So with that being said, I will admit that is not my best blog, and probably my worst retrospective (which are usually my best) and I just need to publish it and move on.

Prior to reading X-Treme X-Men, I had heard, at best, mixed reviews. After completed the run, I find myself asking what has changed since his original run (Here's my original Chris Claremont Retrospective?) Had he lost touch with the X-Men? Had the readers expectations changed? Was there too much editorial interference? I'll explore these questions today, but we need to start by understanding what was happening behind the scenes.

To begin, we learn from EiC Joe Quesada in an interview in Wizard # 111:

“One of Chris’ wishes was to write X-Men that wouldn’t be impaired by the ever-present continuity, or intertwining with all the other adventures of all the X-books,”
“We said, “Chris has a good point, and he’s got some good ideas about it – let’s go with that.” We took him out of a situation where he’s having a hard time, and gave him a situation where he’s gonna flourish.”

The hard time being referred to here was where Claremont has struggling to get traction as he took over the Adjectiveless X-Men line for a while. In Comic Creators on X-Men, Claremont said:

“Joe’s original thought was to give (writer) Grant Morrison one X-Men book and me the other,”
“Then he asked me what would I like to do if I had my choice. I said I’d like to do X-Men under the Marvel Knights imprint, which was more out of continuity, out of the mainstream. That way I could do what I want and not have to worry about playing nice with the other writers. The next thing I knew I was on X-Treme (X-Men). We divied up the characters between the three books and that seemed pretty fair.”

It's pretty entertaining for me now to hear that they really did divvy up the characters after I had jokingly written out how a character draft might have taken place prior to diving into the new 2001 era.

In an interview with in 2003, Claremont looked back on his ups and downs writing the X-Men from he left them in 1991 to leaving X-Treme X-Men:

“It’s hard to walk away from something, there are memories, scars, regrets and all the rest of them. But there (were) other things I wanted and needed to do back then and I did them. I got a second chance to come back and do the book three years ago and for various reasons pretty much beyond my control it didn’t work out. On the other hand the last two and (a) half years writing X-Treme X-Men has been a real delight. The opportunity of working on 24 issues with (artist) Salvador Larroca has been wonderful. I have yearnings but no complaints.”

He gushes more about Larocca in a more recent interview on AIPT:

"I would say he’s an artist who just gets better. It’s wonderful. Looking at it was just, holy cow, this is just brilliant and it gets better with every issue."

Further on AIPT, he said the following when asked what he was proud of:

"Well, the whole thing. The fact that for the 46 issues, we were basically one writer, two artists, and a heck of a lot of stories. There’s some stuff that I’m really proud of by me, Salvador Larroca, and Igor Kordy. And my fundamental regret is that they pulled the plug, because I would’ve loved to keep going and seeing where we’d have ended up. I felt like there were a lot of stories to tell. There were a lot of good interactions.

Major Themes

1st Major Theme - Failed Plots

Destiny's Diaries

The XTreme X-Men series was set up in XMV2#109 to be a splinter team focused on hunting down Destiny's Diaries. I was having a hard time getting invested in the plot so I was happy when they pivoted away halfway through, unceremonious that it may have been.

I'm sad to learn that this plot could have been even better when hearing about where Lifeguard and Slipstream could have gone. In X-Treme X-Men #10, 2002, Sage was looking at a prediction from one of Destiny’s Diaries that had a picture of Storm, Bishop, Thunderbird and Lifeguard facing off against Deathbird alongside a text about Lifeguard:

“Earth shall be her home, the stars her destination. Mothered by War, her Father’s her Salvation. The price of Xavier’s Dream shall be the Ancient Aerie’s FALL.”

This plot was developed further in X-Treme X-Men #14, when it was revealed that Lifeguard’s mother was Shi’ar royalty. So her “war(ring)” nature was caused by her Shi’ar genes and her “salvation” was her humanity inherited from her human father. Was it possible that her mother was actually Deathbird who spent many years in exile on Earth prior to her debut appearance in Ms. Marvel #9 in 1977, or was her mother the sister Deathbird claimed to have killed in Ms. Marvel #10?

But before the answer, and the fall of the “Ancient  Aerie” (the Shi’ar Empire), came about, Lifeguard and Thunderbird left the X-Men in X-Treme X-Men #19, 2002, to go search for Lifeguard’s brother, Slipstream, and a cameo appearance in Excalibur vol.3 #5 in 2004 aside, they never appeared again, despite Claremont’s assurance to that readers of X-Treme X-Men hadn’t seen the last of Thunderbird and Lifeguard. “I have plans to resolve the situation with those characters,” he said.


The jury is still out on this one, but Claremont is shifting the focus from Destiny's Diaries to this new status quo that the X-Men are the Internationally sanctioned XSE, which was the policing group Bishop was a part of in his future. I believe this will play out as Claremont takes over the primary X-Men comics, so we'll see..


Speaking of failed plots, it appears as though there were a number of plots that were introduced, but never got off the ground.

In an interview with Newsarama, we learn about an abandoned plotline involving a Genoshan Mutant. In X-Treme X-Men #31, a female Genoshan mutant from a refugee camp in East Africa killed some soldiers who had murdered people from Doctors Without Frontiers. Apparently this was the beginning of a new storyline, but besides a quick reminder of the Genoshan mutant’s existence in X-Treme X-Men #33, nothing was seen of her again. “In certain cases what looks like a dangling plotline may actually be, stuff came in and got in the way,” Claremont said to “It had to wait until a queue opened up so to speak.”

In 2003, Claremont told about two story-arcs in queue for X-Treme X-Men:

“Following “Intifada” (in X-Treme X-Men #31-35) was originally meant to be a four-part high adventure, as the X-Treme team visits a country in Central Asia that has been taken over and is now wholly ruled by a quartet of mutants, in their variation of the classic Rudyard Kipling story, “The Man Who Would Be King”. It’s meant to be fun, stealing liberally from the Arabian Knights, the work of H. Rider Haggard and just about every swash & buckle Hollywood epic ever imagined.”

“That’s the set-up for what was intended as the keystone arc for this “season”: “Sixteen Million,” Claremont continued. “The premise here is utterly simple. Sixteen million people died when Cassandra Nova’s uber-Sentinel annihilated Genosha. Now, a group of survivors – ordinary citizens of that country, some mutant, some not – have banded together to exact what they consider is appropriate (and Biblical) retribution on the world at large that stood by and allowed their country, their friends, their families to be murdered. In all the time that’s passed since that terrible event, no one has been publicly and legally brought to account for that crime against humanity, and for all these people know it could happen again, anytime, anywhere, to any group of mutants seeking to build a decent life and homeland for themselves. They don’t consider this terrorism – terrorism was what was done to them in the first place, they consider it justice. Eye for eye, life for life.”

“The precursor arc to “16 Million” has the title “Kill Charley,”” Claremont revealed on his Cordially Chris forum. “”Kill Charley” is an echo of Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill.””

2nd Major Theme - Failed Villains

It's tough to watch Morrison evolve the X-Men so flawlessly while Claremont struggled. Morrison was doing things like changing how mutations work, bringing in new philosophies, expanding the school, and bringing in new heroes.

Claremont should be better than this, but it seems like his approach to evolving the X-Men was through introducing new villains. We had seen the Neo fail to live up to expectations in X-Men Volume 2. He tried to introduce a new major villain, Vargas, in X-Treme. You know Claremont intended great things because Vargas killed Psylocke! However, Vargas was never too impactful and was quickly forgotten.

In 2003, Claremont confirmed on his Cordially Chris-forum that he did have plans for the villain Vargas to re-appear, too, but that didn’t happen, either. He explained that any plan he had was dependent on editorial approval, and that had become an increasingly difficult thing to achieve in the last few years.

“If (editor) Mike Marts and I decide to pursue the Shi’ar story arc, then we’ll let you guys know when it’s a done deal. Same goes for Hecate.”

3rd Major Theme - Editorial Intervention

I don't know if we can fully blame editorial intervention on the failure of this series, but after doing some of this research I feel like I have a much deeper understanding of how much interference there was compared to his original run. Apparently he had plans for Psylocke to come back to life, but this was shut down because Marvel wanted to stop bringing dead characters back. In addition, Claremont wanted to bring Kitty back, but he was told that she needed to stay out. The biggest blunder probably came from the politics around Beast. In Comics Creators on X-Men, Claremont said:

“Grant, in his manifesto, specified which characters he wanted,” I went up to Matt Hicks, who was my editor, and sat down and blocked out the first year and it was great. My contract specified I did two books a month, but I only had X-Treme so I wrote two issues a month and got really far ahead.”

“I did a year’s advance worth of stories built around the Beast,” Claremont revealed to “Only to discover that Beast had been pulled from my cast and handed over to Grant Morrison’s cast (in New X-Men). That meant rewriting an entire year’s worth of stories, which was a pain in the neck. Some stories had to go in one direction, some stories had to be postponed and others pulled completely. It changed the entire timeline. (…) So even when your plans are totally meticulous, there is always the unexpected to be factored in.”
“The Beast stayed in our first arc because Salvador Larroca had already drawn it,” Claremont told Comics Creators On X-Men, “but I had to rewrite everything else. So suddenly, the Savage Land arc, which was all about the Beast, became all about Storm.”

Again, I'm not going to say that this is the excuse for everything, but I immediately find myself thinking of life in college before the Cloud. Sometimes I would write a paper and it would be brilliant, but then my computer would turn off before I could click save. The next version was always, always garbage. The combination of anger and trying to re-create the original paper led me astray. Maybe, just maybe, this is the cause.

Breaking Down the Arcs

Intro/Spain (1 - 4)

The art was cool and Sage started off strong, but this opening arc in Spain started off pretty weak. Psylocke was killed in this opening arc by an unknown character who didn't come across imposing. Thunderbird was still around after having a weak showing during Revolution.


Lifeguard and Slipstream (5 - 9)

With Psylocke being killed, Claremont decides to bring in Gambit to ground the team with another popular heavy hitter. Lifeguard has a strong debut, but her brother Slipstream, the Red Lotus, and cop Terry Baltimore don't make an impact. A fun dynamic between Sage and Sebastian Shaw wasn't enough to make this arc more compelling.


Khan (10 - 18)

I could see the story Claremont was going for in this arc. There were moments of brilliance, but it dragged on too long and weak characters such as Thunderbird and Slipstream (who leaves here) made it slow to a crawl.


Transitions (19)

If we're counting Kitty's Mekanix story in addition to these transition issues then we have a pretty strong showing. I was happy to see Thunderbird leave the team, but sad that Lifeguard had to go with. Gambit and Rogue also take a break from the team.


Mekanix was intended as an ongoing series, but Claremont revealed on his Cordially Chris-forum that it didn’t have enough readers to continue. He said that as things looked in 2003, Mekanix would end following its six-issue test-run and that he had plans for Kitty (Pryde), but it hadn’t been decided yet if he would have the opportunity to include the rest of her Mekanix cast. Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) ended up appearing in X-Treme X-Men and Shola Inkosi re-appeared in the 2004 Excalibur vol.3 series.

In Mekanix #6, 2003, the mutant-hating Purity organization member Alice Tremaine began to repair a small mutant-killing Sentinel back to operating capacity and was seen still working on it in X-Treme X-Men #33 that same year, but although Alice Tremaine later appeared in Uncanny X-Men #449, 2004, and in the 2005-2006 X-Men: The End series also written by Claremont, her pet Sentinel was never seen again.

Schism (20 - 23)

This was primarily a cop story between Sage and Bishop, and I'm sorry but it was pretty bad. No amount of Wolverine could help it.


God Loves, Man Kills 2 (24 - 30)

Big name, poor execution. Cannonball joined the team and was portrayed better than he had in the past with the X-Men, but the plot itself was incredibly weak.


Intifada (31 - 35) and Storm: The Arena (36 - 39)

Rogue and Gambit come back in this one, but it's another incredibly weak story.


Prisoner of Fire (40 - 45) and the Final Issue (46)

This story wasn't terrible, but even Kitty couldn't help the series end on the right note.




It was great to see Storm relevant again and leading a team of X-Men. She kept her gravitas, but she didn't get any material here that gave me that same excitement I got in the original run.

The biggest shock to me was Storm's apparent distrust of Charles Xavier. Which really means that Claremont did not think Xavier was a trustworthy character. The X-Treme X-Men team was originally created so that Storm could keep the power of Destiny's Diaries away from Charles.


Sage was hands down the best part of X-Treme X-Men. I hope we see a lot more of her in the years to come.


Did you know Bishop's a cop?


Such a shame to see a core character die so unceremoniously.


Powerless, not the team leader anymore, running in circles with Gambit.


He died at one point. I got my hopes up, but unlike Psylocke, he didn't stay that way.


It's good to get some Sam. It certainly wasn't terrible Sam, but it also wasn't his best.


“The Beast stayed in our first arc because Salvador Larroca had already drawn it,” Claremont told Comics Creators On X-Men, “but I had to rewrite everything else. So suddenly, the Savage Land arc, which was all about the Beast, became all about Storm.”


“For whatever reason - and the writing/writer has to take his own share of responsibility – (Thunderbird) never seemed to gel with the readers (in X-Men vol.2),” Claremont  told “So I tried a second time with Neal (Shaara, Thunderbird) in X-Treme (X-Men), didn’t seem to work there, either. “Delhi Dimwit” was a particularly memorable description of him on-line. With character-designs, it’s always hard to tell - what works in concept may not travel to execution. Sometimes that can be fixed, others you just have to take your lumps and move on.”

“A character may crash and burn, as Neal Shaara did, suggesting we not emphasize him, unduly in future,”

Claremont concluded to


I really liked Lifeguard, but not sure why she was cast aside so quickly. I mean, I get it with her brother.


Q: Who were you most excited to write for?

Well, Kitty, obviously. I really find it hard, especially with X-Treme X-Men, to pick favorites. When we did the split, I felt like I got my wishlist. And then when I got Gambit as well, it was like, “Whoa, this is even better.” It’s like, how do you choose between Sage, Remy, Rogue, even Logan, I mean, he’s a guest star, so to speak, but, you know, as is my wont, I put him through hell. As I say at every convention, I don’t play favorites. It just makes no sense. It’s a waste of effort.


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