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Feb 26

Uncanny X-Men #16-18: Inhumans vs X-Men

Posted on Sunday, February 26, 2017 by Paul in x-axis

So, more tie-in issues, then.  I’ve done All-New, I’ve still got Extraordinary to go after this.  That’s a lot of Inhumans vs X-Men.  And what could be more exciting than a lot of Inhumans vs X-Men?

But of course, this is a Marvel crossover in 2016/7, which means it’s not as if these stories actually serve to answer the wider plot.  The now-standard crossover format is to have the entire story confined in a miniseries, and for the tie-ins to be stories written in the margins of that plot.  That’s what we have here.

There are advantages to doing it this way – principally, that in the days when every book had to pretend to advance the plot, the result was hideously complicated stories, a very long shopping list, and a lot of pointless side quests that served solely to provide plot fodder for secondary tie-ins.  But the downsides are pretty significant too.  It means that ongoing titles find themselves shoved to the margin of their own plot for several months, while casting about for something that can be done with the premise of the crossover.

Many recent crossovers have been designed with a premise that doubles as a suitable plot springboard for the tie-ins – somebody turns out to be a Skrull, some random secret is revealed by the Watcher, some alternate version of the series from Battleworld.  Unfortunately, Inhumans vs X-Men doesn’t even really have that – or at least, the Uncanny tie-ins seem to find little inspiration in it.  Its three tie-in issues consist of three unrelated one-shots, and while they all use the crossover as background, only one of them really tries to do anything thematic with it.

Issue #16, by Cullen Bunn and Edgar Salazar, at least uses the tie-in for a bit of misdirection.  It initially presents itself as an expansion on the idea from the core series of the telepaths trying to tie Karnak up in hallucinatory knots so as to keep him off the board.  And this is okay as a cat and mouse battle of wits, with Jean and the Cuckoos trying to convince them that he’s already escape and Karnak continually seeing through the illusions.  The fact that the current incarnation of Karnak is so blisteringly amoral means that the clumsiness of the plot presents fewer problems for him, too.

In fact, the real story here turns out to be that one of the Cuckoos (Irma, if you want to know) is secretly trying to go further and access Karnak’s powers to help Fantomex explore what the Someday Corporation did to the World when they tried to “hack” it in the previous story.  The upshot of that is that Fantomex in turn is manipulating Irma and as soon as he has what he needs, he cuts her out and cheerfully sets about trying to hijack the World for his own ends.  This, of course, has not the slightest thing to do with the crossover story.  It’s not a hugely interesting story in its own right either, to be honest, since I can’t say I’m especially invested in Fantomex and the World, and while Irma’s story could potentially go somewhere, it isn’t followed up in these issues, and… well, I can never remember which one is Irma, which is not a good start if you want me to care about her storyline.  I get the idea, and it’s a solid enough idea, but I just don’t care.  Still, it’s quite a creative way to hide a different story within a tie-in.

Issue #17, with Ken Lashley on art, takes us to Limbo, where (over in the main series) the X-Men dumped some of the Inhumans to keep them out of the way.  The hook for this story is that Sabretooth and Rachel Grey are trying to find some bit-player Inhumans who have wandered off, before they get killed by the local demons.  But in fact, Sabretooth is trying to find Monet before she kills the Inhumans herself, thanks to Emplate’s influence.

This doesn’t entirely make sense, because Emplate’s whole thing is that he needs to feed on mutants.  The story does acknowledge that, in a hand-waving sort of way, which seems to suggest that Monet is going after the Inhumans through vindictiveness, but it doesn’t really make much sense.  The bigger point – and it actually is a major development – is that Sabretooth’s normal personality is re-asserting itself, and he ultimately kills an Inhuman bit player in order to keep Monet’s secret.

This falls under the heading of a plot development which is welcome more because it promises to draw a line under a very bad idea than because of its inherent interest.  Randomly altering characters’ personalities in Axis was a hopeless idea and in every other case it’s pretty much been forgotten about already.  I genuinely couldn’t tell you what Havok’s current status quo is meant to be.  Sabretooth has clung in there longer than you’d think, but with fairly limited returns.  The effect starting to fade potentially leads to some more interesting directions; but that’s for the future.

Issue #18 heads to New Attilan, where Xorn and his “Sleepers” try to keep order over the remaining Inhumans still living there.  Everyone is basically miserable: the Inhumans are terrified, the Sleepers are being pressed into service as unwilling soldiers, and Xorn sees the whole thing as at best a deeply regrettable necessity.  Sebastian Shaw is there too, to give Xorn somebody to kick against, and to keep him as a relatively sympathetic figure.

The ultimate idea, I suppose, is that Xorn feels that he’s wound up as a jailer to both groups, and can’t ultimately contain his frustration, leading him to feel he’s … not up to the job or something?  It’s all rather vague, perhaps because Xorn’s role in this book so far has largely been to serve as a dispenser of aphoristic wisdom.  Seeing the mask slip and letting him feel overwhelmed by the situation ought to be interesting, but his reaction feels too pat for it to work.  Perhaps part of the problem is that this is the issue most clearly revolving around the Inhumans vs X-Men themes, with Xorn caught between trying to serve as a bridge between the mutants and the Inhumans, and finding it all beyond him.  And that’s where you run up against the problem that Inhumans vs X-Men doesn’t work, but we’ve been through that before.

Given the crossover remit, these three issues could have been a lot worse – while they deliver the advertised crossover, they’re actually more interested in advancing unrelated storylines of regular characters.  But it’s all very bitty, and it’s hard to avoid feeling that these ideas would have worked better attached to a story that belonged wholly to this book.

Bring on the comments

  1. Don_Wok says:

    I already regret asking this but I haven’t read an xmen comic in a couple of years but who is currently xorn? Last time I saw them they were a future version of the Jean grey from the past?

  2. Oneminutemonkey says:

    We are all Xorn. /removes helmet to reveal angel form, saves Captain Sheridinclair from certain doom, vanishes into a plot hole.

  3. ChrisV says:

    As far as I’m aware, this Xorn is still Shen Xorn, the Chinese mutant whose brother pretended to be both Magneto and Xorn during the Morrison run (as per complicated ret-con).

  4. Chaos McKenzie says:

    Does anyone know if they will be wrapping up storylines before the relaunch? Like will M and Sabretooth have a resolution before the next relaunch? So frustrated. I’ve been reading X-Men monthly for 30+ years, but I’ve finally reached my limit. I’m done after IVX unless Rogue comes back or something groundbreaking happens… Can’t wait for you to write about ExtraOrdinary X-Men tie-ins, worst Magik story ever. I get that each writer wants to bring their own thing to each book, but we’ve reached a point where they flat out ignore everything. Like the Cyclopes thing and all that… so crazy. I never thought I’d be done. But done I am.

  5. Chief says:

    The X-Books are just completely unrecognizable to me now. I pop in every couple years to see if anything has improved and things are just flying further off the rails.

    To anyone of you long-time readers out there, 1990’s or earlier, what brings you back each month?

  6. Suzene says:

    @Chief

    The knowledge that it’s all cyclical, relaunches happen about once a year, and that with a baker’s dozen of X-Books around, even during the low points, I can usually find something featuring my favorites. This round was an exception: I literally have no X-Books I’m buying regularly. But I’ll certainly pick up Iceman this summer, and maybe XM:Blue if the mysterious sixth member is a character I give half a damn about.

  7. Chris V says:

    I’ve been around since the Chris Claremont days.
    I haven’t been as big a fan of the X-books (barring an occasional book, like David on X-Factor or Ellis on Excalibur, or what have you) since Claremont left the title.
    It’s more of a habit for me at this point.

    Originally, I was a completest, since I had collected the entirety of Uncanny X-Men (except for issue #1), and didn’t want to let my collection lapse. So, I kept buying, even during the Chuck Austen days….
    When Uncanny X-Men vol. 1 wrapped up, I was thinking about moving away from the X-books, unless they had a really strong writer again (like Morrison was).

    I got interested in the Marvel relaunch though, and decided to expand my list of monthly Marvel titles, instead of cutting back.
    I wasn’t fond of the direction of X-Men, but I kept thinking, “Hey, I waited out the Austen years! Nothing will ever be that bad again, at least.”
    I just sort of keep buying.
    There are constant relaunches at current day Marvel, so nothing too bad lasts too long.

    I heard that Jeff Lemire was taking over one of the X-titles, and got excited, because I am a fan of Lemire.
    Then, I read the new direction, and the X-books are quite bad.
    Yet, there’s another relaunch coming up, and the new direction actually looks promising.
    We shall see….

    So, basically, I buy because I came to love these characters so much under Claremont, when I was a kid, and can’t really bear to truly let the characters go, even though my fond memories date to the 1980s.

  8. Chaos McKenzie says:

    I’m full on addicted. Or at least was… I didn’t have any friends growing up, so the X-Men were my friends and family, and every week I’d get to follow-up with them. So when I try to stop now, I feel like I’m giving up on old friends, but really it’s more like the old friends are unrecognizable to me now.

  9. Dazzler says:

    I was very heavily addicted to X for about a decade. So much so that I still follow this blog, read the solicitations every month and flip through the books at my LCS. I pick up volumes very occasionally, but I haven’t really been interested in anything these books have done for almost 20 years.

    The O5 could have been an interesting story, but they’re not trying to tell a story. It’s just another gimmick to milk dry.

  10. bnyblm says:

    I wasn’t even around for Claremont, I came on for X-Men #1 in the 90’s (ok, ok I know that was Claremont but you know what I mean haha). I still got hooked though and followed the whole line.

    I agree with others on here about the fact that these characters have become friends. I’ve witnessed them go through hard emotional struggles and in a really weird meta way, they’ve been around for all of my hard emotional times as well. You come to care about them.

    It’s almost like as much as I want them to triumph against the villain of the day, I have the same hope for them to triumph against whatever horrible remit or writer is handling them. I don’t blame THEM, so I keep hoping they’ll push through and the next writer/direction will allow them to come back to being themselves. And every now and then it happens.

    You stick with your friends through the hard times right? I mean the whole concept is “individual misfits that come together and have each other’s back when everyone else hates them”. I think anyone that bought into that as a kid (literally haha) has a tougher time bailing when things get bad.

    All that being said, I do believe all the mediocre re-launches will kill the die hard crowd. It gives a jumping off point for those that have held on through sheer momentum. It allows lifers to leave without as much guilt haha. I also get people who don’t recognize the characters anymore and feel like they’re wasting their money. Which, judging by the sales charts, is a growing population.

  11. Zachary Adams says:

    I still feel like Marvel completely glossed over the one interesting story to be told with Inverted Sabretooth. The idea that “good” Victor was an Avenger but failed at it, and ended up following Erik and Raven around again but nominally as an X-Man working for a cause instead of a hired murderer in it for the blood feels like it has some real pathos behind it and could’ve been the springboard for something interesting. Instead, everyone fought as hard as they could NOT to address it until such time as they could just make him a baddie again.

  12. JCG says:

    That’s Marvel for ya.

    Too busy jumping from one status quo to another so they don’t have time to explorer the potentially worthwhile bits of them.

  13. Chaos McKenzie says:

    And a lot of recycling. M and Emplate have been done to death. M’s current status pretty much ignores everything Peter David did with her. Like Lemire ignoring everything done with Magik by Gillen and Bendis. It’s too much. The new guy at my comic shop of 30 years said to me the other day… “They don’t make comics for you anymore.” And I guess it’s true. I used to be a big CBR junkie, and now the top 15 lists make me gag and the quizes are so simple they must be made for complete comic virgins or the dumbest common denominators in the history of mass consumption.

  14. mark coale says:

    Weird. Second day in a row i heard someone mention CBG.

    I wonder if this “back to basics” stuff Marvel has been putting out is a way to try and draw back longtime fans that have not enjoyed the legacy versions of the silver age heroes.

  15. wwk5d says:

    Content issues aside, I really am not a fan of the redesign for CBR’s website.

  16. Puzzled says:

    Wow. Bnyblm, I have a very similar story except circa UXM 298. None of my friends liked comics, I was a private person even when I was a kid, so I felt like I had this whole world that was mine. I knew those characters.

    Now, forget about it. For years now I’ve felt like the characters were just paper dolls the writer du jour was playing with. The stories are so forgettable.

    I cannot remember the last one that demanded I pick it up in store. The last time I went to a comic store was because I just so happened to find a new one near a bookstore. (Picked up a few of PAD’s original run for 75 cents each, then filled the gaps buying from comiccollectorlive.com.) I wouldn’t dream of paying full price for a new X-Men comic today. Not with this constant reboot/rehash/retcon/refreshbull. They lost my money some time after Astonishing finally ended. But I have my favorite runs collected (Claremont incl Classic, David, Morrison, Whedon, Milligan), and I have many of the omnis (except I’d still like the first two of the 60s run and Uncanny X-Force.) For now I’m okay with my head canon lasting from X-Men v1 #1 – the end of Uncanny Avengers v1. They could pull me back in at any time but I have zero hope, considering how many times relaunches have sounded promising but only delivered yet more holding pattern/event setup mush.

    I wish Paul would do a state of the Xbooks column some time soon. Maybe after the relaunch? I still check here often and the x-axis seems fewer and further between each time, which is understandable. For now I’ll keep re-reading old issues (there are some fun blogs that analyze each issue) and keeping my fingers crossed to someday see Paul saying ‘that’s more like it.’

    (FWIW, I did like Carey’s run, it just never felt like a proper team book most of the time and even when it did it was confined to a larger status quo that I didn’t like much.)

    As for these issues. I don’t remember much of the Fantomex one, I can’t stand inverted Sabes and M plate, and so I think the Magik one was better even though I hate the Sapna stuff. It’s hard to be invested in any of it when you know the subplots will probably be dropped and ignored (poor Havok) or resolved clunkily.

    I too am rooting for the characters to defeat their writers!

  17. Niall says:

    Individual issues have actually been pretty good. Lots of crap, but none of it was Chuck Austen levels of awful.

    The problem is the meta-level stories. Schism was stupid. AVX had some moments but it was a dumb idea and the reactions didn’t fit. AVI is a fine idea but the whole world thinking Cyclops was Hitler for taking out a wandering chemical weapon made no sense.

    Marvel needs editors who edit and who realise that readers notice when they fuck up devolve a character or ignore an arc, drop a sub-plot or have characters act stupidly for the sake of convenience.

    If you look at recent years, the stories I’ve liked (Gillen’s Uncanny, Rememnder’s Uncanny X-Force, Cable and Deadpool, Generation Hope, David’s X-Factor, Whedon’s Astonishing etc. ), writers keep acting as though these things never happened and they had no impact on characters. Sometimes, they make it more rewarding to stop reading because at least then if somebody pisses on something you’ve enjoyed, you won’t know about it.

  18. Jeff says:

    The aftermath of Morrison’s New X-Men is what did it for me. I liked Whedon’s run well enough, but everything else the X-Titles did at that time was basically a hard reset of all the new ideas Morrison introduced. I think once I started to realize the characters weren’t going to be changing any more I started to lose interest. Taking away the concept of mutants fighting for the future and just making them a dying off species and removing the ability to introduce new characters just killed any enthusiasm I had. Especially coming off of Morrison’s run which was the polar opposite of that.

  19. Chris J says:

    @Chef:
    A friend lent me a bunch of Claremont comics in the late 1980s, which made the X-Men feel fun and familiar to me. In the 1990s I liked Age of Apocalypse because it was totally self-contained and fun to figure out how the alternate characters mapped back onto the regular universe. I lost interest around Onslaught, came back for Morrison (which I still love), left after Whedon’s run.

    I liked Remender’s and Spurrier’s X-Force runs, but mainly I come here to read Paul’s writing. I’ve been reading X-Axis since 2003! And it’s better than the X-Books at times.

  20. Kreniigh says:

    Poor Peter David. When I look through my back issues, I see long runs of his work on various series, and I realize how very little other writers picked up on / acknowledged it. Remember the Pantheon? Yeah.

  21. Person of Con says:

    I’m trying to think of the most significant creation of David’s that’s still around and kicking (excepting his current Spider-Man 2099 title). Banner Hulk was retconned into the Professor (and is now dead); Madrox the detective was wiped out in Death of X, in a death only slightly more ignoble than Cyclops himself. I guess Ewing used the Maestro fairly recently, in the Contest of Champions title.

  22. Person of Con says:

    *slightly less, that should be

  23. Niall says:

    You know Peter David has an excellent record and a loyal readership on the X-books. Hope he gets a run on something new soon.

    I had a somewhat happy thought today. Wildcards is getting a TV series. Given GRRM’s involvement, it is likely to be successful. If this happens, I predict a prompt return to the days of District X and Mutant town.

  24. Niall says:

    So IVX ended. I look forward to Paul’s review.

    Because it was bad. So, so bad. And what they did to Emma?

    So, so, so bad.

  25. Matt C. says:

    I didn’t think the overall IvX series was too bad, though a better written story would’ve properly played up the tragedy of it all (the whole conflict basically occurs because the two sides are paranoid of each other, and would rather risk war than trusting the other).

    But I agree that what they did to Emma was straight-up character assassination, and really gives a sour taste to the whole thing.

  26. Suzene says:

    It’s not paranoia when one side straight-up says they’ll go to war to protect something that is literally killing the other side. The X-Men had absolutely no reason to give Medusa even the slightest benefit of the doubt, no matter how much revisionism Soule and Lemire plop onto the page.

  27. wwk5d says:

    “the whole conflict basically occurs because the two sides are paranoid of each other, and would rather risk war than trusting the other”

    No, it occurs because Beast was an idiot for not telling Medusa what was going on until the final issue. As one review pointed out, the whole mini-series could have been avoided with one Whatsapp text from the Beast to Medusa.

    Of course the Inhumans can’t be percieved as the villains, so lets just shit all over Emma instead.

  28. Nu-D says:

    When it became evident to me as a maturing reader (around 1995) that the X-Men were not going to mature along with me, I gave up on following them over the long-term. They aren’t the same characters, arc-to-arc, issue-to-issue, writer-to-writer. What’s been done with Cyclops, for example, is not the logical consequences of the character I knew from the 1980’s and 1990’s. It’s something else. Someone else. And I’m not very interested in that person.

    With that said, from time-to-time there is a writer, an arc or a story that IS about the Cyclops I knew, or it’s about one that is different but equally interesting. I like reading those stories. Whedon’s Amazing is an example of a new story about “my” X-Men. Morrison’s New X-Men is an example of a story about different X-Men, but ones that were really interesting.

    But I wait for the reviews to come in before I pay any money. I’d like to follow the X-Men, but I’m not going to try every cardboard cut-out in the shape of the X-Men just to see if it’s really them. I’ll wait to hear the reviews, and if it sounds like the real thing, then I’ll read it.

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