Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2017
by Paul in x-axis
The crossover is upon us. All-New X-Men has two issues tying in to Inhumans vs X-Men, a crossover which is welcome only in the sense that it might finally draw a line under a direction that didn’t work at all. It’s not the sort of thing that All-New X-Men, a book about teenagers on an endless road trip in a magic bus, particularly lends itself to.
But the biggest problems here stem, not surprisingly, from the fact that Inhumans vs X-Men itself is just a dud premise. I’ve been through this before, but let’s recap briefly. The story is driven by the Terrigen clouds which are floating around the world empowering latent Inhumans and killing mutants. The X-Men, having bent over backwards to try to find some other way of solving the problem, have now exhausted their options and are getting rid of the cloud. This, apparently, is supposed to be some sort of moral dilemma.
And it simply isn’t. It isn’t even a dilemma in the prologue miniseries where Cyclops – or rather, an illusion of Cyclops created by Emma Frost for publicity purposes – destroys one of the two clouds, because it’s a poison gas cloud, for god’s sake. The X-Men are obviously right. The Inhumans are obviously wrong. And the story bends over backwards dementedly trying to convince us that both sides have a point. It’s totally ridiculous, and it means that every story that touches it is kneecapped before panel 1.
All-New X-Men‘s tie-ins consist of two spotlight issues which are perfectly fine in terms of what they bring to the table, but are stuck working with a dud idea. Incidentally, the decision to go with two more solo issues is a curious one. It fits nicely with Marvel’s current crossover format, where one book does the real plot and everyone else does something in the margins. But All-New X-Men has only just completed a string of solo issues, and it feels like the team element is getting sidelined a bit.
Issue #17 is an Iceman story, picking up the obvious dilemma which was set up a few issues ago: Iceman has divided loyalties because his boyfriend Romeo is an Inhuman. Of course, the story desperately wants us to accept that young Iceman is appalled by the X-Men’s plan because they’re going to “destroy the cornerstone of the Inhuman society”, which I guess is just about a defensible position if he’s supposed to have doubts about whether it really is going to kill all the mutants.
So anyway, Iceman joins in the big attack on Attilan and then goes his own way and rescues Romeo, and that’s basically your issue. To the book’s credit, it rounds things out with some decently observed flashback sequences which do a respectable job of selling a relationship with a character who was only just introduced, and if you’re prepared to run with the idea that there’s some sort of dilemma in play here (which is an act of tremendous generosity, but the book implores you to play along), it just about gets away with it. The relationship really needed a longer build-up to give it the weight it needs – and Romeo remains a bit of a cute cipher with an overly obvious name – but Hopeless and Bagley do enough to sell the idea that Bobby cares, which is enough to get by.
Issue #18 is a Cyclops story. And here we hit bigger problems, because pretty much the whole issue hinges on you accepting the idea that the older Cyclops’s supposed destruction of the first Terrigen cloud was an act of unfathomable monstrous villainy, a concept which – have I mentioned this? – has singularly failed to get off the ground. Now, if you’re willing to buy that starting point, there’s a set-up to work with here, because young Scott’s direction is largely about trying to escape from the shadow of what the older Scott did, and here he’s being specifically confronted with the Inhumans themselves.
But that is one hell of an If, despite the book’s strenuous efforts to convince us otherwise. “The world sees Scott Summers as a hate criminal who committed pre-emptive Inhuman genocide”, apparently, but this is blithering nonsense. This book is trying so hard to make this work – it’s the centrepiece of an entire take on a central character – but the foundations are just not there. The pay-off of this issue is Scott learning that Emma tricked everyone and that his older self never actually destroyed the first cloud after all. In theory that should be a really strong moment as Scott learns that he never committed the terrible crime which has been dominating his thoughts for so long – and his relief and anger at Emma do kind of work – but it can’t transcend the basic defects in the whole premise.
These two issues actually come quite close to working, purely on the strength of the emotional reactions of the main characters. If they’d had a viable central plot to play off, they’d probably have been good. But I don’t think anyone can make the Inhumans / X-Men stuff work at this point. Let’s just get it over with and move on.