Posted on Friday, March 10, 2017
by Paul in x-axis
So that’s that, then. The Terrigen cloud is done with, and the attempt with shoehorning the Inhumans into the mutants’ role seems to have run its course. There are still Inhumans titles to come in 2017, but they won’t be squatting in the X-Men’s spot. This is all for the best. It was driven by considerations of corporate synergy more than anything else, and placed the Inhumans and the X-Men alike in roles that did no favours to either, not least because it sent the X-Men back to the “no more mutants” set-up which had only just been resolved.
Now, as for how we get to this eminently desirable outcome, well, that’s the IVX crossover, and in particular the IVX miniseries. And we’ll get to that. Oh, we’ll get to that.
But first, I’ll finish up the tie-in issues from the core titles. Just like All-New and Uncanny, Extraordinary X-Men finds itself working in the margins of a story being told elsewhere, and offers three essentially unrelated spotlight issues. Yes, sure, they’re related by using the IVX crossover as backdrop, but that’s window dressing – it’s other stories that are really being advanced here. It’s a choppy way of doing things and a messy compromise, but while none of these stories could be called a home run, they do have things going for them.
Issue #17 is the most successful of the bunch. It’s an old trick: the regular cast viewed from the perspective of a very minor character. Here, it’s one of the mutants rescued from the mists and camped out as a refugee in the grounds of X-Haven. These guys have notionally been there for the whole of Jeff Lemire’s run, but aside from Sapna, they’ve largely been ignored. They’re an abstract presence, something that’s sort of logically consequential upon the plot, rather than having any real impact on anything.
With the Inhumans/mutants thing coming to a head, though, it does make sense to shove these guys out there, both to try and humanise the conflict, and because they’re presumably all going home soon, so this is the last chance. Lemire smartly builds the story around the very fact that everyone has been ignoring them, and while they’re free to wander around the building, none of the regular characters are really paying them any attention. Alisha’s younger sister, who idolises Storm, is about to die of M-Pox, and Alisha decides to finally go and yell at the main cast to pay some attention to the people they’re supposed to be caring about. This all leads to Storm breaking off from the main story to visit the dying girl, which could have been horribly mawkish, but is actually played pretty well. Artist Eric Koda carries off a nice balance between making the characters human and portraying the X-Men as remotely heroic (from Alisha’s point of view).
There’s an awkward transition at the end where this is all somehow meant to motivate Storm to decide that the X-Men have to fight for the mutants and must therefore do as the plot of the crossover dictates. But the basic idea of trying to humanise a clunky set-up, and by acknowledging that neither we nor the X-Men have really been all that invested in the personal stakes of the extras in the garden, works well in its own right, and manages to give the whole thing a bit of weight.
Issue #18 is a Forge story, following up on the running subplot from Lemire’s run that Forge has been pretty much sitting in his lab the whole time, pining for Storm, meekly working away on important stuff, and largely being ignored by everyone else. It feels like it’s mainly intended as an exercise in rehabbing Forge, who’s been rather strangely written over the last few years before settling into the role of Storm’s vaguely creepy ex who needs to get over her. Lemire’s main agenda here seems to be to purge Forge of that baggage, which is fair enough, but the story feels like a weirdly scattershot way of going about it.
Forge actually has a major role in the plot of IVX, namely to invent the macguffin that will solve the problem. The issue starts off with a sequence of him vaguely hoping that Storm will come to talk to him properly before the big mission, and not being quite able to conceal his disappointment when she just wants to talk about practicalities. This isn’t a bad scene; you can see why Storm would be irritated at having to deal with this right now, but it’s not like Forge really thinks it’s a good time to talk. He’s just not very good at concealing his feelings.
After that, we get a sequence with him and Old Man Logan which explains what happened to him in the Wastelands timeline – complete with guest art from that book’s Andrea Sorrentino, which is a nice visual touch. But there’s not all that much to it. Apparently Forge became the protector of a Cheyenne reservation and decked it out with defences that he designed. So in a bleak future timeline, he got to be a proper hero. Okay. I’m not sure where that’s really meant to take us – Forge has been heroic plenty of times – but okay.
And then, to round out the issue, we have Storm dropping by to talk to Forge properly before the crossover plot starts. This doesn’t work at all. You can see the idea – at first she doesn’t want to talk but then she decides he deserves better and she wants to smooth things over before the big fight – but the scene is clumsy, to the point where it almost reads as if it’s going to be an impostor exploiting Forge’s desperation. When it becomes clear that, no, it’s the real Storm… it’s just kind of odd. Victor Ibañez’s art feels like it oversells her emotion, which might be the problem; it feels like too much of a departure from her usual self-controlled professionalism. A more restrained version of the same scene might have worked.
Issue #19 is a Magik/Sapna story which has bugger all to do with IVX. It happens to take place in the margins of the big climactic fight scene, but frankly, any old fight would have done for the purpose. Magik is yanked away from the action by Sapna, who was thought to have been killed off a few issues ago, but who turns out to be hanging around as a ghost in a dark dimension within the Soulsword. Sapna is lonely, Sapna doesn’t want Magik to leave, and ultimately Magik helps Sapna escape as a ghost that only she will be able to hear. So that’s Magik’s new status quo – she’s got a ghost child tagging along with her.
Eric Koda provides some really nice artwork on the scenes inside the Soulsword, with everything in negative colour. It’s the best thing about the issue. The general idea of saddling Magik with a ghost companion is not bad either, at least in theory. She’s become very flat and cynical, and giving her a new relationship which casts her in a different role can help to move her out of that. But it doesn’t feel like Lemire really gets Magik’s voice; this doesn’t particularly feel like any previous version of the character. And Sapna is a bit of a cipher – Lemire can write rounded children, he’s done it plenty of times, but for some reason Sapna doesn’t convince. She feels like a generic character relying on her powers to make her distinctive. So both characters feel a bit off, and I don’t find myself caring much about their story.
And then, of course, the issue has to try and somehow spin a random fight from a different book into serving as an ending. Which it doesn’t.
Still, on the whole these three issues rate as patchy to okay. There’s some reasonable stuff in here, but some definite misfires as well.