[WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ‘DEATH OF X’ SERIES AHEAD!]
The span of time between the release of 2015’s Secret Wars and the first batch of post-Civil War II comics has been a confusing one for Marvel Comics readers. Without any clarification as to how or why anything is the way it is other than “because comics”, readers have been forced to hold their questions and press on, hoping for a less-cloudy future on the horizon.
The Death Of X miniseries is perhaps the best example to date of this company-wide mass-confusion, where clarity and quality are sacrificed in exchange for hurriedly setting up whatever new status quo the writers want going into the next big crossover. In this case, the end goal is resurrecting Cyclops (albeit on borrowed time) and setting up the beginnings of the major conflict that will lie at the center of next year’s Inhumans Vs. X-Men event.
The plot centers on the mutant Cyclops and his team’s efforts to vaporize a Terrigen Mists cloud. The Terrigen Mists – which empower Inhumans – are toxic to mutants and have sterilized the entire race in addition to slowly killing them off. After confronting the Inhumans, Cyclops sacrifices himself in battle against the Inhuman King, Black Bolt.
In the aftermath of Cyclops’ funeral, his brother Havok says he cannot believe his brother would have acted the way he did. It is then that psychic mutant Emma Frost drops a bombshell – Cyclops died months earlier of the M-Pox plague and the Cyclops everyone saw fighting Black Bolt was an illusion crafted by Emma! She wanted to give her lover a more meaningful death – one worthy of a good man fighting for a good cause. The mini series ends with Emma Frost madly reiterating Scott’s own words that “ideas never die”.
As an individual comic, Death Of X #4 is underwhelming until the big reveal at the end. The twist seems like something from Grant Morrison’s X-Men run and it’s a brilliant touch by Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule. As a long-time Cyclops fan, it was nice to see Scott Summers fighting for mutant lives again and I’m excited to see where a broken Emma Frost goes in the future, fighting against the people responsible for Scott’s death, with the fate of all mutants at stake.
That said, I don’t think the X-Fans needed any more motivation to read Inhumans Vs X-Men. I think most of them are burned-out on the Terrigen drama and desperate for more stories focused on our favorite mutants. The only thing this issue accomplishes in terms of plot is eliminating any sympathy the readers might have for Black Bolt & company, as the Inhumans are proven completely ruthless in their treatment of the mutant people.
While the overall story of Death of X may have redeemed itself with this final act, it is still a struggle to read due to the atrocious artwork. The facial expressions are amateurish, the depictions of the characters’ bodies and costumes are sloppy and there’s no consistency from page-to-page. The only positive point regarding the way this book looks is that future X-Men comics will look fantastic by comparison.
In the end, Death Of X was mostly a waste of time. I would recommend only reading the first and last issue, unless you are – like me – really desperate for some quality Cyclops action. That said, I will give this mini-series credit for two things. The first is the tragically sad twist and what it means for Emma Frost going forward. The second is that, as a result of this story, have absolutely no sympathy for the selfish Inhuman scumbags – a group that I previously loved very much.
If you’re like me and want nothing more than X-Men comics to be great again, I think brighter times are ahead. In the meantime, I recommend going back and rereading Morrison’s New X-Men or Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men and not wasting your money on Death Of X.