For the past three years, certain sectors of Marvel Comics fandom have felt divided. The current “Inhumans vs. X-Men” series seems like a direct response to that division — one that has put the two groups heroes at odds, both in the comics and in comic stores, as fans reacted to new storylines. As the Inhumans stepped into the spotlight like never before, some X-fans felt as if they were encroaching on their territory — and conspiracies theories stemming from speculation about film rights only fanned those flames. But now that the complete line-ups for 2017’s Inhumans and X-Men series have been announced, it looks as if we’re about to enter a new era for each group — one that returns them to their roots.
Mutants and Inhumans first came into conflict — as in real=world conflict — in the wake of 2013’s “Infinity” event. During that event, Black Bolt set off the Terrigen bomb that contained the Inhumans’ life-giving mists. The Terrigen cloud then spread across Earth, unlocking the Inhuman genetic potential in every human descended from the first Inhumans. The fallout of this was first chronicled in December 2013’s “Inhumanity,” a storyline that saw new Inhumans emerging from their cocoons with new — sometimes dangerous and strange — powers. If that setup sounds familiar, then you’re experiencing what a lot of X-Men fans felt three years ago.
The “Inhumanity” setup mirrored the classic X-Men setup almost exactly. Before the spread of the Terrigen mist, newly powered individuals in the Marvel universe were usually mutants — especially if their debut issue didn’t have the room to detail an elaborate radioactive accident. That made perfect sense, too, as “they’re just born that way” made for a quick and easy origin to pretty much any character no matter how minor. But the Terrigen cloud provided a new readymade origin for a whole new crop of heroes. Now instead of superheroes reacting to a newly powered-up mutant, many of them were reacting to new Inhumans.
It also didn’t help that this plot development dovetailed with theories regarding the X-Men’s film rights. As soon as “Inhumanity” happened, X-fans immediately assumed that Marvel was turning the Inhumans into a mutant placeholder in the comics to ready the introduction of more super-powered characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As Marvel Studios doesn’t own the rights to the X-Men or the mutant concept, fans reckoned Marvel Studios needed a quick way to introduce powered people like mutants into the live-action universe. That’s definitely been the case on ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” as the show has introduced a number of new Inhuman characters and explored plotlines similar to the ones found in X-Men comics (like persecution, prejudice and government regulation). The character Daisy Johnson, initially presumed to be a mutant in the comics, had her comic book origin expanded to match that of the version played by Chloe Bennet on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Following “Inhumanity,” the Inhumans’ role in the Marvel Universe increased dramatically. Prior to “Inhumanity,” the Inhumans had been supporting characters in the Marvel Universe. Originally introduced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the ’60s in the pages of “Fantastic Four,” the members of the Inhuman royal family were treated as, well, inhuman. They were distant and aloof, members of a quasi-alien society and they rarely had consistent, sustained interactions with the outside Marvel Universe. They’d appear for a storyline and disappear. Medusa and Crystal gained exposure as members of the Fantastic Four or Avengers, and then returned to Attilan. The Inhumans had ongoing series in 1975, 1998 and 2003, all of them ending after a year.
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All that changed after “Inhumanity.” Marvel launched “Inhuman” in 2014, which then led into the recent “All-New Inhumans” series and the current “Uncanny Inhumans” series. Marvel introduced new Inhuman characters in their own ongoing series, like Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl (of “and Devil Dinosaur” fame). Karnak, a lesser-known member of the Inhuman royal family, also got an ongoing series. After 50 years as supporting players in the Marvel Universe, the Inhumans finally had a whole comic line to call their own — but they were tied to the Earth more so than ever before.
As the Inhumans’ prominence grew, the X-Men became more and more isolated — in the comics, at least. It’s worth pointing out that the X-books have consistently sold very well, Marvel continued to put top talent on their books, and the X-Men had their own events (“Battle of the Atom,” “The Black Vortex”) and participated in Marvel events (“AXIS,” “Original Sin”). In the narrative of the story, however, the X-books felt more closed off than usual. After killing Professor X while possessed by the Phoenix Force, Cyclops took a dark turn and became a radical mutant revolutionary. His actions drove a wedge between the X-Men, causing them to come into conflict with each other instead of external threats. As the Inhumans became more externally focused, with Crystal traveling the globe to recruit new Inhumans, the X-Men became more internally focused as they struggled to figure out the right way to carry on Xavier’s dream.
The X-Men’s situation has only grown more dire in the last year as the Inhumans and X-Men have been put directly at odds with one another. With the launch of “Extraordinary X-Men” last year, it was revealed that the Terrigen mist had become deadly to mutants. Those that came in contact with it caught the M-Pox. The disease also rendered all mutants sterile, meaning that the cloud giving Inhumans life had also marked the race for extinction. Things have been bad for Marvel’s mutants, and the source of that problem has been the Inhumans. That leads into “Inhumans vs. X-Men,” which just kicked off this week. And while we don’t know what this battle royale has in store for its participants, we do know what’s coming up for them in spring 2017.
Spring 2017’s ResurrXion will bring with it two new lines of Inhuman and X-Men comics — and early information about them indicates that a big change is ahead. Marvel has announced three new Inhuman books: “Royals,” “Black Bolt” and “Secret Warriors.” While “Secret Warriors” seems to be continuing the current status quo of an Earth-based team of Inhumans, “Royals” — which reunites and focuses on the iconic royal family — will head to the stars once again. The same goes for Black Bolt’s first-ever ongoing series, which will see him imprisoned on an alien planet. These two new ongoings will once again reunite the Inhumans with the strange and exotic locales that were part of their earliest stories.
Similarly, the X-Men line seems to have found its hope again. We don’t yet know how or even if the M-Pox will be cured, but we do know that there are plenty of X-Men alive and well in the future ResurrXion setup. The X-Men line will include “X-Men Blue,” “X-Men Gold,” “Iceman,” “Generation X,” “Jean Grey,” “Cable” and “Weapon X.” “X-Men Gold” will feature a straight-up classic roster of X-Men and, for the first time in years, both X-Men teams will live under the same roof. Additionally, the school will be front and center in “Generation X” — and that school will be in Central Park. It’ll be hard for the X-Men to remain closed off from the Marvel Universe when they’re smack dab in the middle of New York City for the first time in their entire history. It looks like the X-Men will all be on roughly the same page again, and that’s a welcome change. Even the titles “X-Men Blue” and “X-Men Gold” harken back to a time when the teams were united. Those names are symbolic.
The last three years have been a weird and wild ride for fans of the X-Men and Inhumans. The franchises swapped status quos in a way, leading many fans to question what the future held for their favorite characters. Now we know at least what the spring holds: the Inhumans will return to the stars and the X-Men will once again to the outside world. After three years of status quo shakeups, infighting, expansion, seclusion and wars, it looks like we’re finally entering a bold new era — one that has room for both Inhumans and X-Men.
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