Having a miniseries prelude to a big comics crossover event isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the case of “Death of X” it allows for people who haven’t been keeping up with one side (such as myself with the Inhumans) to get on the same page with those who have so that they’re properly invested for the showdown. Having read through this, do I feel properly invested? No, not really. I’ll be picking up “Inhumans vs. X-Men” mainly because I’m invested in the overall direction of the “X-Men” titles. All “Death of X” does is suggest that investment is going to bite me in the ass when it comes to reading the event itself.
The big problem facing the Inhumans and the X-Men is the matter of the Terrigen Clouds circling the globe. While Terrigen is a key part of Inhuman culture, being how they transform into Inhumans at a given time, its current incarnation happens to be deadly to mutants. Cyclops and his team find this out firsthand when they respond to a distress call on Muir Island. Though he at least has the courtesy to let the other X-Men know about this, and Storm immediately starts talking to the Inhuman Queen Medusa about the matter, Cyclops quickly takes matters into his own hands. With the help of Emma Frost he sends out a psychic proclamation to the world drawing a line in the sand between the two factions and setting the stage for war.
This isn’t too far out of character for Cyclops given how he’s been acting over the past few years. While he also lies about Terrigen’s effect on humans as well, that actually ties into the One Good Twist this story has to tell. In fact, the story actually reads a bit better a second time through when the twist is revealed, showing that writers Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule did put a decent amount of thought into it. It also leads to a potentially interesting direction for Emma Frost given her relationship with Cyclops. I actually don’t find it hard to believe that what happens to Cyclops here would push her back on a path towards supervillainy.
These things, along with the generally quite good art from Aaron Kuder and Javier Garron, are the best things about “Death of X.” Everything else… Well, I can at least see what Lemire and Soule were going for. They clearly wanted to tell a story about two sides who were both in the right and who wind up on a collision course despite the best of intentions due to communication issues in the fog of war. What we actually got feels like nothing more than two writers working with a mandate and several plot points to articulate, chief among them the setting up of a war between two factions. The way they go about doing this is to have both sides act in a needlessly dumb and antagonistic manner towards each other. So you have the end result reading like both sides are going, “Oh we don’t want a war, BUT WE’RE GOING TO FIGHT ANYWAY!” It’s exactly as entertaining to read about as it sounds.
Then you have the fact that there’s one key thing unexplained about these Terrigen Clouds. Namely, is this all the Terrigen there is now? If that’s the case, then I can see how Scott’s actions at the end of the volume would be a royal affront to the Inhumans and their cultural identity. If it isn’t, then he clearly did the right thing and the Inhumans are actually the bad guys here. While Lemire and Soule clearly take pains to explain everything else in the miniseries, this is one plot point they should’ve made crystal clear.
I also want to mention that there are three significant deaths in this volume. One of them is relatively minor. Another is arguably integral to the story the creators wanted to tell. Then you have the one that was clearly done to ratchet up the drama and get the audience involved. “Oh no! How could they have killed [This Character]!” is what we’re meant to feel. Said death only wound up stoking indignation for me. The character involved was absolutely integral to a certain writer’s very lengthy run on a particular X-title and had earned a happy ending for it all when it was over. I recognize that no character will be left alone forever at Marvel or DC, but wheeling this one out just so they can be killed off is cheap and manipulative. Even worse is the fact that there’s a pretty good chance given this character’s power they’re not really dead. So the death scene meant to raise the stakes of the story just turned out to be pointless. Great job guys!
Given the quality of this miniseries, casual X-fans will probably do well to just wait until the first batch of titles from the “ResurrXion” relaunch are collected. Lemire and Soule have done good work individually elsewhere and you’d be better served checking out those titles. Together, they appear to be struggling under the mandate of spearheading a conflict that shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place. Marvel tried to turn the Inhumans into an off-brand X-Men that they fully controlled the rights to and we’ve all suffered as a result.