With a few hiccups, the X-Men comic book and film franchises are both extremely popular in their own rights. Of course, one of the largest issues for Marvel’s mutant team, at least on their studio's side, is their lack of film rights. Since FOX owns the lucrative franchise, rumors about the de-emphasis of the X-Men on the comic book pages have made the rounds with regularity, despite their continual multi-title runs. Despite insider reports about a possible shared licensing deal between Marvel and FOX, it’s hard not to view the comic giant's latest moves as the battle of the film licenses.
It’s undeniable that the X-Men have been through rough times lately, what with being de-powered and weakened by the Terrigen Mist (released by the Inhumans leader Black Bolt) covering much of Earth. At the same time, all the hype about Marvel wiping out their beloved X-team sounded like just that, until San Diego Comic-Con, that is.
The latest major Marvel event (after Civil War II, of course) threatens to end mutant crusaders once and for all. Marvel revealed the team-throwdown, X-Men vs. Inhumans, during Comic-Con and released further details. Written by Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule, with art and covers by Leinil Yu, the first official X-Men and Inhumans’ crossover saga will test the mettle of both teams. Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso explains gist behind this cross-comics throwdown that’s teased since the All New, All Different reboot began:
"Tensions have been rising between the X-Men and the Inhumans for a long time. Now they've reached the boiling point and both sides have everything to lose. Charles, Jeff and Leinil are bringing the fireworks for a cataclysmic confrontation that answers the inevitable question: 'Is the Marvel Universe big enough for Inhumans AND Mutants'?"
Begun during the Secret Wars event, the feared doom – or at least downward dramatic arc – of the X-Men continues with the Death of X mini-event. In it, the fate of at least one Cyclops will be revealed, as well as that of Emma Frost. Death of X is also a precursor to coming war for survival teased in Inhumans Vs. X-Men, which promises to break out the big guns of the mutant and Inhuman world, including Ms. Marvel. The thickening plot, as described Marvel:
“As the Terrigen Mists roll across the Earth, birthing new Inhumans and poisoning the planet’s Mutants, time has run out! Terrigen is on the verge of reaching a saturation point in the Earth’s atmosphere. The X-Men have one choice – destroy the mists, or risk the planet becoming permanently poisonous to their kind. With their backs to the wall, it’s take action now…or become extinct forever.
United together, the entire Mutant race stages a desperate final strike. There’s only one problem – the Inhumans won’t go down without a fight. And they’re calling in everyone! The Royal Family, the Nuhumans, Ms. Marvel, Quake and even Moon Girl!
It’s all on the line as these two Marvel mainstays go head-to-head! Only one can survive. Who will be left standing when the dust clears? It’s all been leading to this! The ultimate war for survival begins this December in INHUMANS VS. X-MEN #1!”
The end-of-days X-men conspiracy theorists certainly sound a little less wackadoo following Marvel’s announcement. Certainly, it's possible that Marvel wants to cut off the flow of creativity towards their X-line, in order to limit the amount of additional material FOX has to make films with so the MCU regains the film rights. Still, with over 40 years of history (give or take), there are hundreds of great plots to choose from. Their move could also be strategic – a means to force FOX’s hand at the negotiation table and allow joint rights, a la Sony. However, the most likely scenario is that Marvel is cranking up the buzz so they can make a killing selling comics to fans worried about losing their beloved X-Men.
Even without the license to the X-Men, the likelihood is low that Marvel would kill off one of its prized properties. At the same time, with a presence on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a possible feature in the works, the Inhumans could easily become Marvel’s go-to team. Even if Marvel wipes out all mutantkind this December, with big names like Storm, Wolverine, and Cable attached to the team, the X-Men probably won’t disappear for long.
Inhumans Vs. X-Men #1 arrives in comic stores this December.