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Oct 16

What If? Infinity: X-Men #1

Posted on Friday, October 16, 2015 by Paul in x-axis

Some questions can only really be answered with another question.  Take, for example, the X-books’ contribution to a load of What If? one-shots based on 2013’s Infinity crossover.

The book asks the question: “What if the X-Men were the sole survivors of Infinity?”  To which the obvious response is, “Why would anyone want to know that?”

Infinity, let’s recall, was an Avengers crossover.  In fact, it was the culmination of a lot of build-up in Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers stories, to the point where it was widely regarded as having some serious accessibility problems for any other readers drawn in by the event promotion.  In fact, at its core, there was a fairly simple idea: the Avengers are going off to space to fight the Builders, whoever they are, and while they’re away, Thanos attacks Earth.  That’s not too difficult to get across to incoming readers.

But it wasn’t an X-Men story.  The X-Men’s only tie-in issue was Wolverine and the X-Men Annual #1, which was a Kid Gladiator story, and has nothing to do with this issue.  As a hook, “What if the X-Men were the sole survivors of Infinity?” is a bit like asking “What if Power Pack were the only survivors of the Phalanx Covenant?”

Joshua Williamson and Mike Norton are a solid professionals doing their best with a premise that gives them very little to work on.  Sensibly enough, they don’t try to do much with the details of Infinity, since none of it would be particularly relevant to the X-Men anyway.  Instead, the set-up is simply that the Earth has apparently been destroyed, and a handful of X-Men who managed to flee the planet are sitting around in a spacecraft, scavenging wreckage, and generally not doing much else, since it’s apparently a rather empty universe post-Infinity.  Cannonball’s in charge, and it’s always nice when somebody remembers that he was supposed to be the emerging leader of the future.

Then, a ship shows up with a group of Avengers on board, led by Sunspot.  That allows for a nice reunion with Cannonball – which gives Norton something to get his teeth into.  And again, since they’re the only two X-Men who were in Hickman’s Avengers and thus have a connection with Infinity, it makes reasonable sense to put them at the centre.  This is pleasant enough, in a gently uneventful sort of way.  Then, Williamson remembers that he needs a plot, so it turns out that the Avengers are being mind-controlled by a baddie.  It happens to be Supergiant from Infinity, but it could as well have been anyone, because she gets in three lines of dialogue and lasts a grand total of six panels after being unveiled.  She is very swiftly despatched, and everyone decides to stay together and call themselves “the X-Men” in an awkward attempt to justify the “sole survivors” bit of the title.

I didn’t read Infinity, so it’s entirely possible that the story provides some context which adds depth to the fairly perfunctory proceedings here.  At the very least, I imagine it provided some reason to care about Supergiant, and perhaps it made a big deal of separating Sunspot and Cannonball.  I’ll give it this issue the benefit of the doubt on those two points.  Even so, that leaves a basic and routine story with a tacked on fight scene, which ends up reframing the title question as “What if some of the X-Men were the sole survivors of the Earth?”, and answers it with “They would hang around on a spaceship.”  And that’s just not enough to hang an issue on.

Bring on the comments

  1. Justin says:

    I get your point and totally agree with it, but at the same time ‘What if Power Pack were the only survivors of the Phalanx Covenant’ had me looking off in the distance lost in thought for a solid thirty seconds.

  2. Nu-D. says:

    You slogged through Brian Bendis’ X-Men run, but you didn’t read Infinity?! Wow, you made the wrong choice.

    Infinity wasn’t Earth-shattering, but it was smart, exciting and well crafted. In contrast, the X-Men comics being simultaneously published were flaccid putrescence.

  3. Odessasteps says:

    The What If Avengers with Thanos was pretty decent.

  4. Hellsau says:

    I don’t know where to post this so in the comments of the review of a random throwaway one-shot will do – you two put together a fantastic podcast. I’ve been listening to a bunch of Magic: The Gathering podcasts (and there are a lot of them) and a lot of these podcasts are 2-3 people just talking, very similar to what you guys do, but so many of these podcasts are totally lifeless as if they don’t really want to be doing this anymore and would rather do anything other than talk with eachother. House to Astonish usually starts out on a topic but sometimes the conversation goes very far off course, and that’s fine, because you two have a good interaction and you sound like you actually have something to say. HtA combines good commentary with humor and passion. I don’t even read most of these comics and I still enjoy listening about them! Thanks for being great, Al and Paul.

  5. Nowadays, What If is almost entirely variants on the crossover de jour, but there was once another subgenre of them as well–the Butterfly effect “what if this small change happened” sort of story, like issue 10, what if it had been Jane Foster who found the hammer of Thor (of course that could never happen). They explored continuity on a larger scale, basically.

    I bring that up because, though I feel a bit odd mentioning another podcast here, the Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men podcastjust got through the Mutant Massacre a few weeks ago, and from that, an X-Men-related What If I’d like to see is what if the X-Men team and X-Factor had actually communicated over that period?

    Would knowing Madeline was still alive and with the X-Men change Scott’s behavior? Would X-Factor have done something more direct about Magneto working with the New Mutants? Would the Massacre itself shape out differently? (Which I guess brings us back to “event” based What If.) I know the current brand is more focused on recent events that lend themselves to current readers, but given the premise of all these Secret Wars books set in X-Men yesteryear, maybe there’s a market for deeper delving as well.

  6. Skullfirer says:

    Person of Con,

    That’s exactly what I was hoping Secret Wars would offer. Predictably it didn’t. Like most of New Marvel it was all hot air.

    (Crap, Marvel sucks these days. But apparently they must do well in digital sales with all the new readers they have been desperately seeking and sucking up to–so well they won’t reveal their numbers because… it’ll make the Distinguished Competition jealous…?)

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