Most epic battles are epic because of the skirmishes that led up to it. Ideally, the tension grows and the stakes rise to set up a final showdown wherein both sides think they’re Mario and neither side believes they’re Bowser. This is what makes battles like Batman vs. Joker, Superman vs. Doomsday, and Deadpool vs. Short-Sighted Fox Producers so meaningful. It’s also why the final showdown in Inhumans vs. X-men has everything working against it.
In the case of this latest clash between two superhero teams, the skirmishes are forgettable and the stakes as unbalanced as a fight between Juggernaut and a sick puppy. From the events leading up to it, to the tie-in issues that try to add badly-needed depth, Inhumans vs. X-men fights an uphill battle that may as well be upside down. It tries to be epic. It tries to be balanced. It just doesn’t have the style, substance, or setup to make it work. To be epic, at this point, would require Onslaught-level power and/or a deal with Mephisto.
Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire may not be willing to call Mephisto, but they still try to make the most of what they’ve got to work with, which isn’t much. Through five issues, the tension is there. The drama is there. There’s a genuine effort to mold the conflict into something that feels balanced on both sides.
With Inhumans vs. X-men #6, however, the proverbial shot clock is running out. The drama, tension, and every other concept that’s been lacking has to pay off. However, that payoff never arrives in full. It’s not a total bust, but it doesn’t feel like a worth-while investment, either. It’s an investment that the Tony Starks and Warren Buffetts of the world would never make in the first place, but it’s not one of those investments that bankrupts either side.
The most that can be said about Inhumans vs. X-men #6 is that it ends the conflict. It ends in a way that doesn’t make either side look good. In fact, both sides come off as woefully incapable. There are any number of opportunities to avoid or mitigate the conflict. These opportunities are either ignored, glossed over, or fumbled with comic ineptitude. It’s an inherent flaw that has plagued the X-men/Inhuman conflict since before the event started and the final showdown that unfolds in this issue does little to resolve that.
That’s not to say the conflict is completely without drama. Lemire and Soule do make a concerted effort to make Inhumans vs. X-men #6 feel personal for the characters. This is most apparent with Emma Frost and Medusa. These two characters are, arguably, the primary driving force of the conflict. What they do and the decisions they make help give the struggle the depth it needs to feel like more than just another superhero clash. At a time when superheroes are more likely to fight each other than aliens, killer robots, or Thanos, that’s very important.
Medusa vs. Emma Frost doesn’t have the same epic undertones elicited by Batman vs. Superman, Captain America vs. Iron Man, or even Wolverine vs. anybody who steals his beer. However, it still feels very personal. Emma Frost makes it personal. She blames the entire Inhuman race for killing Cyclops. She takes it upon herself to exact the kind of vengeance usually reserved for Wolverine. There’s no doubting her dedication. At the same time, however, there’s no denying the inherent flaw this creates.
In the end, it’s also Emma Frost who makes the conflict feel so forced. The main driving force of the Inhuman/mutant clash is supposed to be the Terrigen Mists, which is poisoning mutants all over the world. That issue gets resolved with a level of ease that feels downright inane and not just because Moon Girl succeeds where Beast, Forge, and every genius mind in New Attilan fail. It ends up feeling like a secondary concern, a formality has to happen before Emma Frost can fight Medusa.
By making the Terrigen Mists so trivial, it underscores everything motivating the X-men in this conflict. On top of that, they don’t even get to make the decision that eliminates the threat of the mists once and for all. The Inhumans are the ones that do that. As soon as Medusa finds out that the mists will make the world uninhabitable to mutants, she doesn’t even hesitate. She jumps at the chance to remove the mists from the atmosphere.
There’s no argument with Storm. There’s no fight with Emma Frost. Old Man Logan doesn’t even need to insult her. She just learns something that the X-men could’ve easily told her in a simple text message and does the right thing. The fact that all anyone had to do was tell Medusa that the mists were about to exterminate an entire species makes every struggle in Inhumans vs. X-men #6, personal or otherwise, seem unnecessary.
In the grand scheme of things, neither the Inhumans nor the X-men come off as winners in Inhumans vs. X-men. They don’t come off as losers, either. The X-men do achieve their goal. The Terrigen Mists are gone. Mutants no longer have to worry about being gassed to death. They don’t even need the Scarlet Witch to lose her mind again or cast some fancy spell to make it happen. That means they don’t have to live in demon realms anymore for their own safety.
The Inhumans don’t come off as losers, either. Thanks to Medusa’s hard choices, they come off as heroic and understanding. They make a sacrifice to prevent genocide. It comes at a cost, but New Attilan is still intact. No Inhumans die or suffer horribly. There’s nothing stopping them from thriving again, albeit under different circumstances. Compared to being gassed to death, those circumstances aren’t too bad. In that sense, it’s still abundantly clear which side has its movie rights owned by Disney and which side does not.
With respect to creating a meaningful superhero clash, Lemire and Soule just don’t have the ingredients to make Inhumans vs. X-men as epic as others before it. The circumstances, drama, and character motivations just aren’t there. They are still able to make the most of it. Some of the flaws are inescapable. Others are just ignored. In the end, the resolution just can’t be as epic as it needs to be. No amount of psychic manipulation from Emma Frost can change that.