This week saw the end of Death of X, a four-issue miniseries that pitted the X-Men against the Inhumans. It also prepares the ground for Inhumans V X-Men, the next miniseries that will pit the X-Men against the Inhumans. IvX will be different, though; it will bring an end to an ongoing plot that’s been running through the X-Men and Inhumans books for over a year now. Let’s take a look back…
The Past Year
For some years now, X-Men fans have felt that Marvel were paying ever-less attention to the X-Men. The popular theory was that the franchise was effectively being diminished as a snub to Fox, and that instead the House of Ideas was trying to big up the Inhumans as an X-Men replacement. So it was that, in the aftermath of Secret Wars, Marvel decided to troll that group of fans with a plot in which the Terrigen Mists – spread across the world during the Infinity event a couple of years earlier – were proving poisonous to mutants.
Here was the new status quo; the very Mist that created new Inhumans was killing X-Men. So one race’s growth was at the expense of another’s very existence.
Where It Gets Messy
The post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe involved a time-jump of eight months, so Marvel chose to try to mix things up by having an unseen disaster in the past. Learning of the impending doom of the mutant race, Cyclops had taken a stand against the Inhumans, and – according to countless scenes – become a clear supervillain. He was presented as though he’d tried to commit genocide against the Inhumans in an act of reprisal.
With Cyclops defeated, the public nature of his genocide attempt led the X-Men to retreat to Limbo, although a handful remained active on Earth (see All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men). Hatred of mutants reached a new peak, while the Inhumans continued to be celebrated. Three Terrigen clouds continued to traverse the globe, pursued in the pages of Uncanny Inhumans.
Death of X
Finally, Death of X took us back in time eight months to see Cyclops’s actions. It seemed that, eight months ago, there were two Terrigen clouds circling the globe, and he recruited the young mutant Alchemy to transmute one of these clouds into harmless (unidentified) red rain. Cyclops then made a stand against Black Bolt and Medusa, and was killed for it. In a rather cool twist, it turned out that he’d actually died of Terrigen poisoning, and the Cyclops who’d been seen was actually a psychic image created by a grieving and angry Emma Frost.
Straightaway you can see the continuity problems. If there were only two Terrigen clouds circling the globe, how is it Crystal’s team have been following three in Uncanny Inhumans? Why is the destruction of a Terrigen cloud akin to an act of genocide? Why is the world reacting with such anger because Cyclops destroyed half of an alien substance that’s been introduced into our atmosphere? The twist with Emma Frost was a superb one, but the reality is that the continuity has been… awkward… to say the least.
(What’s more, given that Terrigen Crystals are a naturally-forming substance, what’s to stop the Inhumans just… looking for more?)
The Fundamental Problem
Fundamentally, I think the idea of playing the X-Men and the Inhumans off against each other in this way was a mistake. A large group of X-Men fans were already predisposed to dislike the Inhumans, so trying to make the Inhumans more relevant at the expense of the X-Men was a foolish move. That’s especially the case given Marvel is set to increase the Inhumans franchise’s profile even more next year, with a comic-book-accurate Inhumans TV series. You don’t start out by alienating some of your audience.
Making matters worse, the whole arc felt extremely artificial, especially given the Terrigen Mists had been circling the globe for two years with no impact on mutants before Secret Wars. Sloppy continuity has just made things worse. In all honesty, I view the core concept as a poor one, and I consider the quality of editing – which should have been focused on continuity – to be disappointing. In my view, it seems as though Marvel is now just trying to get this plotline over and done with as quickly as possible.
I actually feel really sorry for the writers. Jeff Lemire and Dennis Hopeless really have drawn the short straw, dealing with an unattractive status quo and performing well as writers regardless. (Cullen Bunn has been able to keep a little more away from the main arc, and has done his own thing with skill.) Continuity problems like those I mentioned above should have been picked up by the editors, and frankly are very disappointing. Over at DC, the “Rebirth” arc is meticulously plotted across the whole franchise, in a telling contrast to current editorial oversight at Marvel.
The good news is, Inhumans V X-Men will bring an end to this sad period, and launch a new era – one that Marvel has called “ResurrXion”. It can’t happen soon enough.