After the dull, lifeless thud that was the Death of X event (which I found no redeeming qualities in), we moved swiftly on to the bigger event that Death of X was designed to lead in to: Inhumans Vs X-Men.
Prior to picking up IvX #0, I had reason to be apprehensive. Some others were dismissive on account of IvX being a cynical attempt to rework the AvX (Avengers Vs X-Men) event from some years ago.
That didn’t bother me, as major comic book brands always do that anyway, and all that matters to me is that we get a good, enjoyable story and product.
My concern was that, as stated, I really didn’t like Death of X at all – and so I worried IvX #0 would be more of the same.
Fortunately, IvX #0 put my concerns to rest fairly quickly.
IvX #0 employs the same narrative mechanism of Death of X by having the story take place a number of months earlier than where we *currently* are in the timeline.
I particularly really loved the scenes between Henry McCoy and the Inhuman Iso, in which the two of them are working together to try to find a scientific solution to the Terrigen clouds crisis and their effects on Mutants. What I love about this material is that it is so perfectly illustrative of the kind of character Hank McCoy is and so in keeping with this character we’ve known all our lives. “All things are possible with science,” seems just about perfect.
His passion for science and his belief in science and research always being the key. Seeing his faith here that science and science alone will yield the solution to the Mutant/Inhuman problem is refreshing in a series that inevitably also centers on lots of action and conflict, but also reminds me of some of the best McCoy stories I’ve read over the years (thinking right back to the Legacy Virus).
His enthusiasm for being in lab conditions and working to solve the problem this way – as opposed to the other ways – is infectious and his insistence that science will provide the answer is endearing in light of the kind of intractable fanaticism shown by the likes of Emma Frost and Magneto.
These scenes also help balance out the story by having a Mutant and Inhuman working together to solve their shared problem, with the implication also that McCoy can be some kind of mentor figure to the young Iso. McCoy’s later scene with Medusa is also a good one.
All in all, these particular scenes are a really nice way to start this series. IvX #0 is a really good Beast story.
It’s also a very good opening installment of this event in general. It builds at a very well measured pace, cutting back and forth effectively between different characters and their preparations. Unlike in the Death of X event, what we get here is good storytelling and stage-setting with solid dialogue and characterisation.
Every character more or less reads like the legitimate version of themselves; which, again, wasn’t the case in Death of X.
Aside from McCoy, there’s fairly good character work throughout. Emma Frost as the single-minded schemer works a little better here than it did in Death of X. Her scene with Magneto is particularly good. Essentially, IvX #O is all about characters and factions preparing for an impending situation: the lead players in this equation – Emma, Medusa, McCoy, Storm – are all positioning themselves, assessing their options and making their preparations.
Sides are subtly being taken and alliances forming.
That creates a good level of tension and foreboding; it also gives us the chance to see differing personalities and ideologies and how they each respond to the looming crisis, which has always been a good thing in X-Men comics.
IvX #1 immediately ups the stakes and the tension and, from the first page, continues the quality-level established in #0.
McCoy’s visit to Scott Summers’ grave before breaking his bad news to the other Mutants is a particularly somber, appropriate scene. Having previously enjoyed Hank’s enthusiasm and faith in science and his own intellect in IvX #0, his admission here that he has “failed” and that his research can provide no solution actually hit me rather hard. You can feel and taste Hank’s reluctance to admit to or face this futility and, moreover, his reluctance to report it to Emma, Storm and the others.
The scenes with the ‘senior Mutants’ (so to speak) discussing what to do about their race’s impending extinction are the best thing about IvX #1. The tension and misgiving in these scenes is palpable throughout. The way the characters are rendered in a dimly lit space also really helps convey the mood.
McCoy’s admission – not only that he has failed to find a scientific solution, but that the situation is much worse than previously thought – puts the stakes into an essentially apocalyptic place for Mutantkind.
It is no longer a matter of merely protecting Mutants, but a matter of survival. McCoy’s suggestion that “we could leave” (literally, find a new planet to live on) sums up this dire state of affairs.
All of the clashing personalities here – Magneto, McCoy, Emma, principally – are well written, and I could honestly have read an entire issue set solely in this room with these people and this problem.
McCoy’s reluctance to accept Emma and Magneto’s more aggressive plan for dealing with the Inhumans shows the crisis of both conscience and interest than McCoy is going through, particularly as someone who has worked closely with Medusa and the Inhumans.
This is why this entire early section of this story is so strong a Hank McCoy story: his disappointment – the sense of finality – when Storm also, reticently, seems to endorse Emma’s plans, seems like the final, fatalistic blow to his good intentions.
I genuinely care so much about some of these characters – Hank in particular, in this instance – that I feel for him, watching him go through all of this. And when Storm literally strikes him down with a lightning bolt (when he tries to storm out of the room in disapproval), I genuinely feel a pang in my gut for what some of these characters are being driven to.
This is all good stuff. In particular, having Emma and Magneto talk the others through their well thought-out plans for how they’ll neutralise each specific Inhuman threat makes for interesting reading: they literally have a character-by-character game-plan for taking out each major Inhuman – from Karnak and Medusa to Black Bolt, with even the dog Lockjaw’ – and even the order they’ll need to do it in.
While this explanation feels a bit like the beginning of a heist movie, I like how meticulously it has been thought out and what it says about Emma and Magneto.
All of this is really good stuff.
It was reminding me, in fact, of some of the best ‘Illuminati’ material, particularly early in Johnathan Hickman’s Avengers (‘Time Runs Out’) material, which consisted a lot of the major players – Stark, Rogers, Strange, T’Challa, etc, and also Hank McCoy – sitting around a table and having tense, end-of-the-world arguments about what to do, and eventually falling out with each other ideaologically. I really always loved that material, and I really like this material here too.
There are a lot of little details I particularly appreciate here: one of them being the fact that Rogue is the one who votes against Emma’s plan. My one complaint here is that Rogue isn’t given enough of a place in these events. But my positive is that Rogue is included at all and that, being included, she is the one who votes with her conscience – voting against an attack against “people who never did us any harm”.
This aside, I do wish Rogue was being given more prominence: in general More Rogue is always a good formula.
The characterisation of both Mutants and Inhumans here is very strong, as are the dynamics between the Mutant ‘agenda’ in regard to the Terrigen Clouds and the Inhumans’ perception of the same phenomenon.
A really good example of this is how the book cuts from Hank, Emma, Magneto and co discussing how to deal with or eliminate the T-Cloud problem and goes to a scene of Medusa meeting a group of newly-transformed Inhumans and giving them a meaningful, heartfelt speech about what Terrigen is and an anecdote about her own transformation. It’s a really good way of showing how the same phenomenon can mean very different things to different people, and a good way of framing the ‘crisis’ in two diametrically opposite contexts.
That’s what works very well about the whole premise of IvX – there isn’t a simple, straightforward answer. The T-clouds are essentially life-giving to the Inhumans and a sacred, more or less religious, experience around which their entire sense of identity revolves. And, to the Mutants, the clouds are literally an existential threat that could see Mutants become extinct.
What helps this story work particularly well is that we do see both sides of the equation genuinely working hard to find a solution that can help both sides. The real conflict only unfolds when hope has run out for a solution. Had this story neglected that side of things and been all about battle and conflict from the start, it wouldn’t work – it would just seem like another tacky, superhero showdown event.
Instead, we get it properly spelt out and explored that these (mostly) aren’t martial or hot-headed figures spoiling for a war, but (mostly) genuinely well-meaning characters trying to solve things peacefully.
That’s also why all of the McCoy/Iso material from IvX #0 is so important – and why seeing McCoy the academic and Medusa the peacemaker helps make sure we frame this event as a conflict essentially between two sets of Good Guys and not a battle between good and evil.
Even Emma, for all her scheming and harshness, has been waiting for McCoy to conduct his research before she launches into her hostile plans against the Inhumans: even she is giving science a chance first.
Although, on the subject of Emma, she continues to be a little hard to get a read on. Her insistance on Scott having been murdered by Black Bolt – which she keeps playing up emotionally as justification for her actions now – is confusing, given that we know this isn’t what happened. In fairness, this confusion is acknowledged in the story itself (by the Stepfords, I think); but it’s still difficult to fully understand what Emma is doing.
At any rate, IvX #1 pushes on to the inevitable confrontation between Mutants and Inhumans and it does so very well.
Again, the pacing and the cutting between scenes is expertly handled.
And, even though we know from spoken dialogue that Emma and Magneto aren’t planning to kill any of the Inhumans, there’s something that feels so uncomfortably cut-throat about what happens here (particularly when Emma ‘deals with’ Black Bolt). One of the recurring sources of discomfort in this storyline has been the sense that the Inhumans are the ‘good guys’ or the innocents in this equation and the Mutants are acting like the Bad Guys.
This, strictly speaking, isn’t true – it comes chiefly from focusing on what the likes of Emma and Magneto want to do, whereas the likes of Hank and Rogue show a more sympathetic, compassionate attitude. And, in fairness, even Magneto and Emma are acting from the absolute necessity of trying to save Mutantkind’s existence on earth: so what they’re doing is arguably very necessary.
Still, the *perception* in these events is that the Mutants are perhaps morally on the wrong side of the equation (a perception that is reinforced by Hank McCoy’s reaction to the plans); and this is amplified by the almost mercenary-like way they set about strategically neutralising their ‘enemies’ here, particularly, as mentioned, the way Emma tricks Black Bolt by ‘breaking the truce’ without warning (and on what is supposed to be neutral ground) and, elsewhere, the way Magneto attacks Crystal and the others on the R.I.V after they *rescue* him from harm (thinking that he is a Mutant victim in need of help).
It is the underhandedness of the attacks that makes it uncomfortable to read: not so much the underlying reason for the attacks.
But that is what is so challenging and interesting about this storyline – it really isn’t a story about right and wrong or good and evil, but about a desperate situation, a ticking clock and the need for characters to take action.
IvX #1 builds, inevitably, to scenes of Medusa and her people preparing New Atillan for the Mutant surprise-attack, with Medusa literally looking out and seeing Storm leading an X-Men attack team.
IvX #2 picks up the action with a suitable level of momentum and tension.
Something that struck me very much occurs on page 7, where we have a grand image of Medusa, in full battle mode, facing the approaching attackers. When she says “this is my home, these are my people” and warns that she won’t let the X-Men harm them, I was struck by how much she seems to echo the Magneto of old.
I was literally thinking back to images and scenes of Magneto way back in the X-Men: Mutant Genesis period. This was almost a more blatant visual representation of something that has been evident to me for a long while now: specifically, that the Inhumans in today’s Marvel Universe are what the X-Men and Mutants were back in the old days.
This has been evident from back in 2014 and it has been evident throughout much of the Inhumans-based storytelling since (a point that I’ve made before). And now here is Medusa, the Queen of her people and their saviour and defender, and it is very reminiscent of Magneto’s days as the “saviour of Mutantkind”. Once, it was Magneto defending Mutants from the perceived threat or actions of Humans, and now it’s about Medusa defending her people from the Mutants.
There are therefore layers of irony and resonance to all of this (particularly when you add in the fact that Magneto is now on the other side of the equation; though, of course, in his mind still very much fighting for the same thing he was fighting for in the past).
But these kinds of observations will have me going round in circles and I’d be here all day – so I’ll get back to the story.
But it’s just that that particular image and dialogue with Medusa really hit home that connection. This actually goes even further later on, in a scene where Medusa attacks Hank McCoy (the time-travel version) when he infiltrates her premises: the way she lift him into the air and says “how dare you invade my home like this?” is soooooo Claremont-era Magneto/Mutant-Genesis that I really do wonder if this is a deliberate echoing. She literally looks like she’s even in a Magneto pose when she does this.
Most of IvX #2 is all action, battles and tactics. It is mostly of the well done kind, with everything well paced and everything kept interesting.
The Mutants essentially win at this point, with the Inhumans – even Medusa and Crystal – being transported to Limbo. This transporting of the Inhumans to Limbo against their will is a very clever strategy, though it is also (like all of this) ethically questionable and makes also for a particularly grim image.
IvX #3 has less of the engaging tension of previous issues, but moves along adequately.
There’s some nice little moments here, such as Iso and Inferno outsmarting Forge and Logan respectively, or like Iso referring to Kamala Khan as someone “who knows everyone” and thus making her the first person to contact for help.
Kamala literally texting every ‘Nu-Human’ she knows to gather an ‘army’ to help take back New Attilan is a fun little moment.
There is a bit of a gripe with this aspect of the plot, however – specifically, the realisation that the X-Men only took out the big players and forgot to go after the newer Inhumans. On one hand, I can accept that they wouldn’t have been able to identify every single Inhuman or ‘NuHuman’ cropping up all over the world and therefore couldn’t neutralise them. On the other hand, characters like Ms Marvel and Synapse are high-profile enough to have been on their radar – and should’ve been factored into their plans. Kamala, for one thing, is hardly someone you’d overlook, while Synapse works on Rogue‘s own team.
As such, while I like the idea of the newer, more obscurish Inhumans ganging together to launch the counter-offensive – and I enjoy seeing it happen – I’m just not convinced Emma and co would’ve left themselves open to this. It seems more like an oversight written into the story to allow the Inhumans’ fight-back to occur.
It’s a relatively minor gripe, given that the general quality level remains fairly high in this story.
The way Jean Grey is used to keep Karnak out of the game (right from IvX #1 to now) is particularly interesting; on the other hand, the way we’re shown that Emma is handling Black Bolt is pretty grim – and continues to add, somewhat uncomfortably, with the sense that the Mutants are really behaving like extremists.
Some of this effect is countered in IvX #4, however, as the NuHumans mount their tactical, layered counter-attack against the X-Men.
Watching the various characters play this out is interesting, in the same way as the original Emma/Magneto-led attack on the Inhumans was. Having Mosaic be told to watch out any “blondes” is funny, as is having him get into Magneto’s mind to uncover as much information as possible. Mosaic is put to good use here, but what it crucially leads to he, Kamala and the others coming to the realisation that the Mutants have acted out of necessity – out of the urgent need for self-preservation.
While these middle issues of the series are less engaging in the earlier installments, having Ms Marvel literally ask “who are the good guys here?” gets nicely to the heart and soul of this entire story and series of events.
While there is an element of convenient plot-devicing to help resolve the story, what does work well enough here is that the story makes use of its vast array of characters to let the story work itself out. Everyone from Iso and Inferno in one instance, to Kamala, Mosaic, and then in IvX #5, Moon Girl and Forge.
This is a story that depends on a number of its minor characters and not just the big players like Medusa, Magneto or Emma Frost. In fact, one of the good things about this story is that, while it’s the big players who get us into the conflict and whose actions heighten the problem, it’s the smaller players, the kids and novices, who find the middle-ground and are able to think of solutions to de-escalate the conflict.
That’s a nice element to this story.
Unfortunately, we then go into IvX #6 – and in true Marvel ‘event’ tradition, that almost certainly means either an anti-climax or a problem-riddled finale.
Predictably then, the IvX finale doesn’t scale any great heights.
It’s mostly a multi-character royal rumble that goes on too long, ticks most of the comic book cliches, and, in fact, suffers additionally from becoming too dense, too busy and even kind of confusing in places.
On first reading, it’s actually a little jarring to follow all of this action, especially when there are about a dozen abrupt twists involving various characters.
It’s all done without much flair or style and is, in effect, poor storytelling.
Moon Girl and Forge arrive to provide Medusa the means to disperse the Terrigen Clouds – as well as an explanation for why the X-Men have taken the actions they’ve taken. There are problems with all of this resolution too. We’re told that X-Men didn’t tell Medusa the reason for their actions (literally, Mutant extinction) because they didn’t have time to wait and see if she would side with them against the Terrigen Clouds: but I find it rather unlikely that Storm wouldn’t have found time to speak to Medusa, given the severe circumstances.
It just seems like Storm’s neglect of Medusa was written purely so that we could go ahead with this conflict.
We also find out, crucially, that Emma Frost – as I had ascertained several issues earlier – has basically lost the plot.
Here, however, her behaviour becomes so manic, so super-villainy, that it kind of undermines any sense of believability. I already thought she was behaving like a mad super-bitch throughout this series – I didn’t really need to see her summoning an army of re-programmed Sentinels and essentially trying to wipe out the Inhumans.
It’s more extreme than it needs to be here and just feels like very bad treatment of the character. By the end here, everyone – even Magneto – has turned against her, justifiably.
But this whole final act strains credibility and feels forced.
What’s the reason for her madness? We’re told that when Scott died, she went off the rails – driven made by her love.
The fact that her blaming Medusa and Black Bolt for Scott’s death doesn’t make sense (Scott died long before that conflict) is, I guess, meant to be a symptom of her mania. But it just undermines the entire story.
This story worked really well when it was all about a massive crisis with no easy solutions and these different sets of characters trying to make the right decision – which brings them into conflict. But by having Emma’s mad vendetta be so central a part of these events (it’s even suggested here, I think, that Emma manipulated Magneto’s mind too – which I don’t think actually works, if you track back the story), it takes the dramatic focus away from those issues and complexities and centers it instead on a highly questionable characterisation of Emma Frost.
Some of the better elements aren’t entirely lost: it still works out alright that Moon Girl, Kamala and the others had to come together and make things right, and that some of the Inhumans and Mutants made their peace and began working together again some time before Emma’s lunacy was revealed.
But IvX #6 is nevertheless a poor finale to what has, at times (especially early on), been a good, very promising storyline. It is dominated by badly choreorgraphed and excessive superhero action, confusing behaviour and questionable characterisation, and it really doesn’t do any justice to anything.
Most of the X-Men come off the worst in this scenario (Rogue notwithstanding), but really all of this could’ve and should’ve been a lot better.
The ending does, to its credit, give us some meaningful change and some meaningful resolution. Medusa does take a difficult decision to save Mutantkind by sacrificing a precious part of the Inhumans’ existence. And we also learn that she has stepped down as leader of her people – though this decision is also a little odd and doesn’t get any lead-in, and so seems like something done just to create new, different stories beyond this rather than something that makes sense or fits with Medusa as a character.
Nevertheless, it at least gives us some semblance of a meaningful ending to this. It doesn’t fix the creative problems with the rest of this conclusion, however.
It’s a pity. Inhumans Vs X-Men, in the end, fails to justify itself in storytelling terms: it ends poorly, and really the best IvX material occurs in the opening couple of issues, where it had promised a lot more.