Comic Review: Death of X #4

A bit of forewarning here: there will be SPOILERS involved, so if you have a desire for the twist to be gobbled up innocently by your eyeballs, we'll give you a warning so you can skip over to the end of the review. Okay? Okay. 

This issue is the culmination of all the cruel shit Marvel has been heaping on its mutant population since 2013's "Infinity" storyline, and we finally get to see what felled Cyclops in the All New All Different Marvel You Betcha Alright universe. I have to admit, I was initially off-put by the announcement of this series, but seeing that it was being masterminded by Charles Daredevil Soule and Jeff Moon Knight Lemire definitely helped assuage the worries. And newly Marvel exclusive artist Aaron Kuder was helming the artwork (I actually really enjoyed his work on Action Comics with Greg Pak), so it had to be passable, right? 

Well, kinda. 

Things come to a head here with Cyclops' team in the forefront, trying to eliminate one of the last large Terrigen clouds while Medusa, Black Bolt, et al watch helplessly from across a valley. Truth be told, I haven't been following Marvel that closely outside of Moon Knight, Nighthawk, Daredevil, and Squadron Supreme - something about this mission Marvel is on to obliterate its past and usher in brand new versions of all its characters has really left a sour taste in my mouth. So when I saw all these cool new character redesigns I was pretty pumped; things are more streamlined, more stylish, and in general look cooler than I've seen them look since Astonishing X-Men debuted...except poor Sunfire. Dude's still in the Japanese Frog Man suit he's so notoriously tied to. 

But I digress - Cyke has a plan that involves Sunfire flying new mutant Alchemy into the cloud to change its composition from Terrigen to something that isn't deadly to mutants. Y'know, the stuff that has been eradicating the mutant species for three years, leaving an ocean of corpses in its wake. One would think that getting rid of one of the giant clouds would be okay, because the Inhumans still have as great a number as they've ever had -- and it's still rising -- in their emerging race. But it's not, so heroes fight heroes (as is the status quo in Marvel Comics), and someone's gotta die. 

One of the highlights of this issue, though, is when Alchemy and Sunfire are knocked out of the sky on their first attempt at taking out the cloud, and the young British mutant breaks his arm and begins to panic. Cyclops talks to him, and I swear to God this is the first time I've seen the Cyclops who would lead willing followers into the maw of Hell in years - his words are inspiring and empathetic, his facial expression both commanding and concerned. It was a powerful moment that drove the mission again, despite staring down the barrel of Black Bolt's grim mug. 

SPOILER ALERT, MON FRERES

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And yet that's part of what made this issue so damn frustrating: Lemire and Soule make a situation far more interesting than it should be. Kuder and Javier Garron give some stunning artwork that makes the action and posturing more compelling than it should be. Hell, the action from when Sunfire takes flight a second time to when we see that Alchemy has indeed been affected by M-pox -- to a startingly powerful degree -- is hyponotic. It's breakneck pace and heart-wrenching story all in several pages, and you think, "My god, maybe this will actually be the shocking climax I've been hoping for!"

And then Cyclops gives a fantastic speech where he confesses that he's no longer a man, but an idea of mutant survival...and is spoken to smithereens by Black Bolt. Like, his eyes warm up and then BWOMP - he's gone. It's suprisingly brief, still a little powerful, but it just doesn't feel right. It's too damn quick for the man who has been the face of mutant kind since "Schism." 

And THAT'S when we get the nuttiest nut punch in quite some time: y'see, Cyclops didn't just get blown away by Black Bolt. That Cyclops really WAS just an idea: Scott Summers has been dead for an awfully long time. He's been dead since he and Emma first started investigating the Terrigen Clouds, rapidly contracting M-pox and dying privately in Frost's arms. She's been exerting herself to create a worldwide illusion of Scott Summers this whole time, which you can see by her mysterious blood noise when Cyke gets the Blackagar Boltagan treatment. 

He pleaded with her at his dying to keep their quest going, and she did. She kept him as an ideal, a paragon, going despite the fact he was so dispassionately eliminated. It was such a shocking twist by Lemire and Soule who, once again, made something riveting when it could have very easily been tiresome. But was it what we the readers deserved? Was it what Cyclops, who has been evolving more as a character in the last five years than he did in the previous 20?

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END SPOILERS

It was a noble effort by all, to be frank. Lemire and Soule created a palpable tension with the lead characters, but the exposition was just so heavy at times. The part with the Cuckoos attacking the Royal Family was really clever, as was Emma's rationalization for doing what she did. Kuder and Javier Garron utilized facial expressions and body language to really deliver some heavy emotions, but how much posturing is too much?

And there's a part towards the end where Havok and Emma are talking after Cyclops' funeral, and they're both like, "Well, both sides lost a lot, and now there's this tense partnership, but what the hell actually got accomplished?" That's what I'm feeling as a reader: there were REALLY good moments scattered throughout this, some really good character dynamics and powerful scenes, but what really happened other than letting us know how Cyclops died? What else was this supposed to accomplish as a series? 

Soule, Lemire, Kuder, and Garron were miracle workers, to say nothing of the work done by inkers Jay Leisten (and Garron himself), colorists Morry Hollowell & Jay David Ramons, and letterer Joe Sabino (whose work really was exquisite - with all the talking going on, the dialogue very easily could have become Bendis-level distracting with all the word balloons crowding the panels, but Sabino did a great job of enhancing the story instead of detracting from it). But this was ulitimately a frustrating close to a frustrating series, and that falls at the feet of Marvel Comics and the editorial teams. Cyclops deserved better. Readers deserved better. Hopefully ResurrXion restores what's been missing. 

6 out of 10 Goofy Sunfire Masks