Top of the Pile: Inhumans vs. X-Men

Inhumans vs. X-Men, the fight brewing since Marvel’s two main timelines collapsed into one during 2015’s Secret Wars, finally happened. The story lacks the high-stakes punch of Avengers vs. X-Men but this gives it the flexibility to tell a better story.

The catalyst is a massive cloud of terrigen mists unleashed by Black Bolt, former king of the Inhumans. The mists transform latent Inhumans into their super-powered forms but are lethal to mutants. Originally there were two of the clouds, but X-Men leader Cyclops destroyed one in the Death of X mini-series. An uneasy peace existed in the aftermath of that fight, with mutant and Inhuman scientists trying to figure out a way to save mutantkind.

As the crossover opens, mutant scientist Beast determines that things are about to get much worse: the cloud is going to collapse, contaminating the entire planet with terrigen and rendering it inhospitable to mutants. The mists are holy to the Inhumans, so simply destroying them would not only prevent any new Inhumans from being formed, but be an act of high sacrilege. And yet if the mutants do nothing they’ll all be dead within weeks.

An X-Men war council is called and the mutants reluctantly decide to launch a first strike against the Inhumans, incapacitating their leadership so that they can unleash a terrigen-neutralizing super machine designed by the mutant inventor Forge.

A satisfying crossover

Comic book crossovers are hit-or-miss. They’re more likely to miss the bigger they get; crossing over into more titles may tie those heroes to the larger event, but the secondary and tertiary storylines are increasingly tenuous, ridiculous, or obnoxious (possibly all three). Inhumans vs X-Men avoids that by using the conflict to tell interesting stories … and they’re stories that have been set-up by months of preparation.

In All New-X-Men we’ve got the budding romance between the time-displaced teenage Iceman and his Inhuman boyfriend Romeo. Yes, it’s all blatantly Shakespearean, but you know what? It still works. In Deadpool and the Mercs for Money — a title I didn’t even know existed before the crossover — we’ve got an alternative timeline in which Negasonic Teenage Warhead negated the mutant-harming aspects of the terrigen mists. Unfortunately, the Inhumans took that as sacrilege, launching off years of war. It’s a bonkers title, but as in Uncanny Avengers I found it amusing and kind of touching for Deadpool to be the grown-up in the situation.

Uncanny Inhumans has Ms. Marvel leading the second string Inhumans — those who recently got their powers — in a counterattack against the mutants. As they do so, they come to realize how dire the situation is for the mutants … and start questioning which side they are on … and whether there should be sides at all.

Extraordinary X-Men features the time-displaced teenage Jean Grey and the Stepford Coukoos (teenage clones of telepath and former villain Emma Frost) fighting to keep the powerful Inhuman problem-solver Karnak trapped in his own mind. They have some excellent scenes, though I have no idea what’s going on with Fantomex and man-made super-environment known as The World. That’s a corner of the X-verse that I never explored and after this series … I still have no desire to explore it.

The tenuousness of the conflict is one of the most attractive things about the story. No one wants to be having this fight. Almost everyone knows what the stakes are … and can’t see anyway out of it. The main crossover title, Inhumans vs. X-men plays with this tension as good people are forced into making bad decisions … until they come to their senses and do the right thing. The story satisfactorily pays off the setup of Death of X and provides a killer arc for Emma Frost, aka the White Queen.

It also seems pull the X-Men — and mutantdom in the Marvel universe — from the brink of extinction. Of course, the thing that will really get the mutants thriving again is Marvel/Disney re-acquiring the X-Men movie rights from from Fox. Marvel’s allegedly (and infamously) been sidelining the mutants because of they didn’t want to feed Fox’s movie machine. That concern evaporates in light of the merger and this crossover — which happened back in 2016 — could help setup the X-Men’s return to greatness.

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The Inhumans and X-Men face off in the first issue of their crossover series. Credit: Marvel Comics.

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