Death of X #1
Written by Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule
Art by Aaron Kuder and Morry Hollowell
Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Considering the amount of talent behind it, Death of X #1 is a surprisingly shoddy debut for Marvel’s latest event title. Spinning out of the X-Men and Inhuman line of titles, writers Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule draw very clear battle lines for the upcoming war between Marvel’s put-upon teams, but bungle the wildly different tones they employ for the two concurrent plots in the debut. Even worse, a beloved mutant character is sacrificed at the altar of shocking event death with little fanfare as if the pair were following a set event comic rubric.
Artist Aaron Kuder, whose work is usually a high point no matter what the book, also suffers during this debut, his usual detail and dynamism replaced with a duller, almost rushed-looking edge, despite the moody charge of Morry Hollowell’s colors. Though handled by all manner of talented creatives, Death of X #1 only succeeds in being a jumbled and problematic slog.
Opening one year ago with a jaunt to Muir Island, Death of X’s problems quickly become apparent. Answering a distress call from Jamie Madrox, Scott Summers and his Uncanny X-Men find the island eerily empty and then investigate further. As their investigation starts, Soule and Lemire jarringly cut to Matsumoto, Japan where Crystal and her team of Inhumans are monitoring the incoming Terrigen cloud as it descends on an awaiting populace.
Basically the crux of this whole debut can be boiled down to “The mutants have it bad and the Inhumans have it great,” but the approach Soule and Lemire take is anything but subtle or even really that interesting until the powerful final page. The X-Men section sends the team through a grim, almost Resident Evil-like investigation through Muir Island only to discover a new way that they are being killed wholesale, setting them on the path to revenge yet again. But, in Japan, the Inhuman focused section is almost hilariously sunny as Crystal and her team not only face a welcoming public, but save a new insanely over-powered Inhuman and thwart a HYDRA attack. The disparity between the two plots is seriously bracing and does little to get the readers behind either group, as the mutants come across as reactionary zealots while the Inhumans look like blissfully ignorant hippies, unaware that their exalted cloud is infecting mutants.
And then there is the lonesome death of Jamie Madrox. As Scott and his team come to discover, Jamie, who has been studying the effects of the cloud, succumbs to the infection but lives long enough to deliver the bad news to Scott just after he discovers a mass grave of Jamies behind the main facility. I understand completely why Soule and Lemire took this action because I understand that events have to start big and hook readers with something either shocking or exciting or they die on the vine. That said, the image of hundreds of dead Jamies conjures comparisons to mass graves that I don’t find particularly tasteful. Even worse, as the mutants are and have been Marvel’s gay parable and go to place for queer representation, the idea that there is an AIDS-like disease threatening and killing them is yet another distasteful mark against this event’s debut. Jamie Madrox deserved better. Mutants deserve better. Most of all, readers deserve better.
Death of X’s crimes are numerous, but perhaps the most unexpected of them all is that it managed to have bad art from Aaron Kuder, the man who put the “Action” back in Action Comics. Though his eye for scope and action beats are given plenty of room to shine here with multiple double page splashes that bounce from Muir to Japan with ease and keep the issue’s main set piece looking precise, its his characters models that really suffer.
Each member of the cast looks ill-defined and almost mannequin like as they either grimace or smile their way through each scene; the attention to detail that made his Action run so visually stunning all but gone here. Colorist Morry Hollowell is the only member of the creative team who comes out the other side of this debut looking good. His wide spectrum of colors adapt admirably to both the moor like darkness of Muir and the blazing sun of Japan making him the only person on Death of X to nail the dual tone of both stories.
Though backed by a truly outstanding creative team Death of X #1 is dead on arrival. With their tonally divergent script and problematic narrative choices, both Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule are functioning way below their usual output and starting this new event on a distasteful note. This first issue also manages to make one the most exciting artists to come out of DC in a long time hard to look at which is the final nail in the coffin. The X-Men and the Inhumans may be headed for blows but Death of X #1 just feels like punching down.