Underrated: Inhumans Vs X-Men (or: Why the X-Men had every right to freak out)

The graphic novel edition of Inhumans Vs X-Men came out recently—and is currently only $5.99 on Amazon, so grab it while it’s cheap. While the series got pretty bad reviews in single issues, the graphic novel reads much better. In fact, this might be the best X-Men story since Bendis took over after Avengers Vs X-Men.

Before reading IvX, it helps to binge read Inhuman and Uncanny Inhumans (Charles Soule), All-New X-Men: Inevitable (Dennis Hopeless), Uncanny X-Men: Superior (Cullen Bunn), All-New Inhumans (James Asmus), and Extraordinary X-Men (Jeff Lemire). Aside from a few story arcs here and there, they’re enjoyable. In fact, Uncanny Inhumans #15 gave one of the best panels of the last year:

Too much emotion. Call back later.

This creates a good emotional buildup going into IvX, especially on the X-Men side. They’ve suffered before, but this was brutal. How much more metaphorical can Lemire get than putting their “X-Haven” in the hellish landscape of Limbo? It worked, though. The Terrigen cloud can’t be predicted, it’s unforgiving, and it kills mutants. They’re in constant panic mode. If the mutants are meant to represent civil rights movement (which of course, they are), the M-Pox era highlighted this part of the struggle of being an Other in America perfectly.

The Inhumans, on the other hand, were the well-intentioned but ignorant “privileged” Americans. Medusa gives Beast access to the Inhumans’ lab, but aside from Beast saving their asses in Uncanny Inhumans Vol 1: Time Quake, he’s absent from the rest of the series. Even worse, Medusa complains that he is keeping Medusa’s favorite NuHuman, Iso, too busy trying to make sure that Mutants don’t go extinct because of Black Bolt’s Terrigen cloud. But Medusa isn’t vindictive—she just doesn’t get it.

Which brings us to IvX. Beast discovers that the Terrigen Cloud is mixing into the atmosphere, and in a matter of days, the planet will be uninhabitable for mutants. They need to leave Earth, but he knows that won’t happen. He knows it isn’t an option, but he doesn’t want a war with the Inhumans, so he tries. Of course, it doesn’t work, and the X-Men panic and attack New Attilan while Forge and Old Man Logan go after the Terrigen cloud.

Epic battle ensues! Leinil Frances Yu delivers six issues of intense battles that would make even a crappy story worth it. This book looks like an event, something missing many of the blockbusters from Marvel and DC for the last 17 years. It would be easy to post a bunch of shots like this:

When the blimps show up, you know it’s about to go off.

But the best panel from the graphic novel is this one, because…

Holy Awesome Teleporting Dog, Karnak!


Okay, back on track, and here we get into some SPOILERS, so read with caution.

A group of NuHumans, including Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl, learn what’s happening and immediately start helping Forge build a machine to deal with the cloud. After they succeed, Moon Girl brings the trigger of the device to destroy the cloud. Tense moment, right? If Medusa presses the button, that’s it for new Inhumans. There are no more Terrigen crystals (maybe—Maximus knows how to make more but is keeping it close to the vest for now). Without the cloud, they have nothing to trigger Terrigenesis

Does Medusa hesitate? Nope. She knows it’s not just the right choice—it’s the only option. But she says something right before that reveals just how ignorant the Inhumans have been towards what mutants were experiencing:

Is there a facepalm emoji yet? There needs to be.

Eight months of the Terrigen cloud killing mutants and Medusa still doesn’t get it. She does what’s needed, but still doesn’t understand the X-Men. But Iso, one of the young NuHumans, does get it. The X-Men weren’t sure if Medusa would go with it. Why not? Medusa’s a hero, surely they could trust her. But what makes them so apprehensive?

Religion. Not the X-Men’s—the Inhumans. Terrigenisis isn’t just a cool process to get mysterious powers; it’s a religious ritual. That’s why the cloud still existed in the first place and why Beast was trying to keep the peace by finding a cure for mutants instead of a way to destroy the cloud from the beginning. The X-Men were essentially afraid of the Inhumans using the “religious liberty” argument while the X-Men are screaming “We’re dying!”

It’s a civil rights battle perfect for 2017. Well-intentioned but kind of ignorant—even goodpeople who just don’t get how their values might impede on the rights of others. That’s the Inhumans during the Age of M-Pox. They’re not bad people—just clueless. And the X-Men have decades of experience of good people completely ignoring their struggle, why should they think the Inhumans would be any different?

But it has a happy ending. Once Medusa realizes just how much the mutants are struggling, she destroys the cloud. And then a bunch of other stuff happens that reminds the world that maybe mutants should be feared. The last ten pages aren’t as great as the six issues before. Especially the epilogue. This was an X-Men story, but it ends with Medusa narrating. She pats herself on the back for saving the mutants, ignoring her eight months of negligence. But isn’t that an American tradition too? When the majority does the right thing for the minority, they hijack the story to make themselves look like the hero? It’s what Medusa does. She thinks she’s the hero just because she decided extinction wasn’t right.

That’s why IvX is an underrated X-Men story. While so many readers complained about the treatment of the X-Men franchise post-Secret Wars, Marvel gave us—maybe accidentally—an X-Men Civil Rights story perfect for our time. And they didn’t need to use Hydra to do it.

Roman Colombo
Roman Colombohttp://romancolombo.com
Roman Colombo has been teaching comics and movies at Philadelphia area colleges since 2010, including Temple University, Drexel University, and Rosemont College. He has several publications in journals such as The Bookends Review and monkeybicycle. He's also the author of Trading Saints for Sinners, his first published novel.