Inhumans vs. X-Men #1
Written by Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire
Art by Leinel Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and David Curiel
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
There is a lot that could potentially go wrong in Inhumans vs. X-Men #1. Most fans look at the title with worried eyes over what the ultimate meta-fate of the X-Men and mutants in the Marvel multiverse will be. While there is no believable route by which Marvel abandons its Inhumans, it's still important to look at where they exist as an intellectual property in the context of Inhumans vs. X-Men. A large number of readers will likely decide whether or not they look into the adventures of Medusa, Black Bolt, Crystal, and Gorgon based solely on not only the quality of writing in this book but how the narrative treats them. Charles Soule, Jeff Lemire, and Leinil Francis Yu juggle this insane variety of characters and personalities and push the story to a believable boiling point full of game-changers that lesser crossovers would hold out on until #3 or #4.
Soule and Lemire pick up where Inhumans vs. X-Men #0 left off. Beast has failed in months of attempting to save mutants from the effects of the Terrigen Mists, and the representatives of major mutant factions convene to discuss their strategy in lieu of this. The writers increase the tension and urgency by giving the mutants a time limit. Not only can Beast not save them from the mists, but in two weeks time the mists will permeate the atmosphere and kill them anywhere on Earth. He presents two options: leave the planet or die.
The juggling between the Inhumans and X-Men's narrative threads is masterfully done with points of complimentary tension. Medusa is consoling several frightened young inhumans who have yet to undergo Terrigenesis and recounts her apprehension at undergoing the process when she was younger, interestingly with a callback to Madam Medusa in Fantastic Four #36 when Medusa says that she hoped the clouds would make her invisible - Wizard had enlisted her into the Frightful Four in Fantastic Four #36 to be their analog of the Invisible Woman. Unlike the mutants who face total extinction, readers are given an emotional insight into the importance of the mists and the process of Terrigenesis itself. Medusa tells the young children that the clouds will make them become the truest form of themselves.
The Inhumans, or more specifically the Inhuman High Court, are still being portrayed in a negative light by the story. They seem overzealous and dogmatic. As readers are given insight into the process by which young Inhumans are introduced to the Terrigen Mists, there is a palpable uncomfortability. Medusa sounds New Age to a fault, and the language she uses, saying that the young inhumans are not truly themselves until they have completed Terrigenesis, sounds psychologically abusive and cultlike. That said, it does so while staying well within the bounds of established Inhuman culture. It's very reminiscent of the X-Men Evolution episode "The Cauldron II", wherein Magneto sends mutants into a genetic enhancer that returns them as "adults" - their powers are greater but who they are as individuals are fundamentally different. The Inhumans are as othered as the mutants are, but the Inhumans have their own purist-led society in which to isolate themselves. New Attilan feels a lot like Magneto's Genosha, and Medusa feels increasingly like the Inhuman equivalent of Magneto.
Magneto is given incredibly human vulnerability despite his self-righteousness. As one of Marvel's most morally complex characters, his brash confidence in confronting the Inhumans outright mixed with his genuine fear of his peoples' genocide is not only believable but moving. His connection to genocide as a concept and his specific reference to the Mists gassing the mutants into extinction is profound and given a light in-text touch. Nobody chimes in with an "Oh yeah, the Holocaust," because the moment doesn't need it, and Soule and Lemire respect the character and the reader enough.
It gets crunchier when juxtaposed with the genuine efforts of Crystal and Gorgon to save a mutant in Chechnya in danger from an approaching Terrigen Cloud. The cut to the X-Men as Magneto discusses attacking the Inhumans really cements IvX as less about heroes and villains and more about competing interests, albeit interests with vastly different consequences, as Old Man Logan eloquently states.
There is not a single artistically sub-par panel in the entire book. Some specific highlights include an incredible panel of Emma Frost as she turns into her diamond form. It keeps her just human enough that it seems less like a superpower and more like an uncanny deviation of a norm. Alison Blaire's dazzling return is a five-panel supernova that is one of the most colorfully appealing sequences of the year as David Curiel gives the scene an inherent magic through color alone. Leinil Francis Yu has given Curiel so much to work with in terms of artwork that the comic doesn't lose an ounce of steam after that highlight, as readers are immediately treated to the visual feast of Jean Grey mindtrapping Karnak. This particular sequence highlights another strength of the entire book, that it is a case study in effective use of light and shadow.
The X-Men's heist-like nullification of major inhumans at the end of the issue is a revolving door of kinetic artwork and storytelling, and really shows off the entire creative team's strengths. The mutant that Crystal and Gorgon saved turns out to be Magneto, which is the best possible choice that the story could have made. Crystal and Gorgon were the most sympathetic inhuman leaders toward the mutants, so having their trust shattered while they were only trying to help is going to have some consequences for how they see the ensuing conflict. It's this sort of "best possible choice" aspect of the story that makes what Soule and Lemire have written so effective. Every opportunity that Inhumans vs. X-Men #1 has to collapse in on itself, strong writing and breathtaking art push the issue to incredible heights and cement it as one of the strongest books of the year.