One year ago, in the aftermath of “Secret Wars,” Marvel launched the X-Men franchise in a whole new direction. They introduced a new ‘extinction’ plot, one tied to the Terrigen Mist that the Inhumans had released across the world. Now, finally, that arc has come to a close.
There’s a lot riding on Inhumans Vs. X-Men #6, the issue that finally closes off the extinction arc and sets up the “ResurrXion.” Somehow, Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule have to make sense of the last year’s worth of stories, and bring matters to a close with a conclusion that’s emotionally satisfying. Somehow, having pitted the X-Men and the Inhumans against one another for over a year (and through no less than three events), they need to leave us with the sense that both groups are heroes.
Here’s the surprise: They (mostly) succeed. Let’s ignore the questions of logic that undermine the whole arc; I’ve discussed those at length in earlier reviews. In terms of sheer dramatic impact, the reality is that Inhumans Vs. X-Men #6 actually succeeds. The overall narrative comes to a satisfying conclusion, with Medusa cast as a hero once again, making the hardest decision of all; can she sit back and secure her own race’s future, at the cost of the world’s mutants? Instead, Medusa chooses to employ Forge’s latest deus ex machina device, and destroy the world’s Terrigen with the press of a button.
Meanwhile, the issue focuses in on the character of Emma Frost, and frankly, she’s presented as absolutely insane. She’s out for blood, and it’s implied that she’s been telepathically manipulating both mutants and Inhumans for the last six months. Magneto’s strange, uncharacteristic attack at the end of #5 was actually triggered by Emma Frost controlling his mind, and it’s implied that he may have been under Emma’s influence for the last year’s worth of Cullen Bunn’s Uncanny X-Men run.
All in all, though, this isn’t a good issue for Emma Frost. It seems that her grief over Cyclops shattered her mind, and she’s left screaming in rage as the Inhumans fight back. I understand that Lemire and Soule are trying to write Emma as broken, but the moment she screams at Karnak, I cringe. As a fan of the character, who’s seen her grow and develop from Chris Claremont’s bondage villain to the teacher of Generation X, and then to the X-Men mainstay, it’s as though all those decades of character development have just been forgotten. It’s heartwrenching.
Meanwhile, the issue’s overall structure is rather problematic. Why, for instance, doesn’t Emma unleash her Sentinels until after the Terrigen has been destroyed? Given she wouldn’t be expecting to survive the Mists, I simply can’t understand her tactics. Again, it may well be that Lemire and Soule are just trying to write Emma as insane, but that’s not good enough; she’s always been ruthlessly intelligent, and that’s part of what made her a powerful and dangerous villain back in the days of Chris Claremont. It doesn’t help that Emma actually lampshades the issue, asking herself, “Why didn’t I start with this?” The readers are simply left shrugging, unsure of the answer.
Leinil Francis Yu has a massive artistic challenge on his hands here, and he (mostly) lives up to the immensity of the task. His cast is enormous, and deploys every trick in the book to ensure each character is differentiated. Unfortunately, where he falls flat is with the grander moments – the Blackbird’s destruction is a very strange scene, and the destruction of the Terrigen Cloud is rendered in an anti-climatic fashion; if anything justified use of splash-pages, it’s surely a global event. Meanwhile, he struggles with one character in particular – and, unfortunately, it’s Emma Frost. There’s a moment as Emma looks upwards, her eyes clearing as she uses her powers, that just doesn’t quite feel right for the character.
All in all, Inhumans Vs. X-Men #6 is as flawed as the last year’s worth of X-Men / Inhumans arcs; but it serves its purpose, drawing this era to a close. We’ve had some classic books – Cullen Bunn’s Uncanny X-Men run has been top-rate – but, in general, the overall concept has been disappointing. Now that it’s finally come to a close, it’s time to move on – to the “ResurrXion!”
Inhumans Vs. X-Men #6 is a dramatically satisfying conclusion to the last year's arc, but it's sadly as flawed as the overall Terrigen concept. Still worth the read, though!