"U.S.Avengers": A Guide to Marvel's New Patriotic Superhero Team
From movies, TV shows, comics and novelizations of movies that were comics, I think it’s a safe bet that everybody knows what the words ‘Xavier’s Dream’ means. Martin Luther Xavier Jr. has been telling people this dream in long speech bubbles for years; the idea that mutants and humans can coexist in harmony. Sure, his actions have been questionable at times, but this one thing has been his anthem since the books started. He’s considered other views, he’s accepted some ‘evil’ mutants in to his home, he’s been pretty fair and has always worked with humans and taught to the betterment of man and mutantkind. An educator and an orator, he’s always made sure that peaceful coexistence was his goal.
This means a lot of fighting.
Rare in the Marvel Universe are the non-violent demonstrations for mutant equality. While fine control and a level of self-esteem might have been the goal for Danger Room training, we think of it more as a place for squad tactics and target practice. Make no mistake, the fight did tend to come to them from human fears and evil mutants, but for a man so set on peace it did take a lot of fastball specials and telepathic mindwipes to try and make that happen.
(WARNING: Hey Nightcrawler, there’s a SPOILER below this break so if you’ve never read X-FORCE or didn’t check out your own appearance in this week’s UNCANNY X-MEN #523, go find out what happens and then come back. You’re not going to be happy…)
As time went on, The Dream sort of got fighting all tangled up with it. No one questioned the all the punching and blasting that came with wanting to share this world with others. Of course you’re going to make teams and have a supersonic jet and sequester yourself from the rest of humanity if you want to work with them so much! It seems weird if you really thinking about it, but it wasn’t often that you did. The fight was the thing to bring the conscience to the reader and we learned a lot in those slugfests about ourselves and fitting in and other outsider concepts. Taking in teenagers to train them in battle was just part of the fun of being an X-Man! It’s like that really horrible portrait that hangs on the wall at your aunt’s house. You cringe when you see it, it’s so out of place. But after time, it just sort of blends in with the rest of her decor and when you do see it, it’s a laughable kind of kitsch.
The latest incarnation of X-Force should be renamed The Guns and Knives Club. They even brought in Angel and gave him knives again so he could fit in with this dark and brooding set! The art work is phenomenal, but can overdo it on the ‘dark and somber’ to the point where you’re squinting at the page to see where the teeth or claws are. Characters are lovable, teeth-gritting, hard-bitten men and women who can seem at times like the Herman’s Head of Wolverine comics, each with their own view on how much they should stab. It’s the Showtime original series of Marvel’s merry mutants right now, the place to go for your grim spectacle and action that the rest of the books can’t spend the time to handle right now. In a very delicate balance, all of the X-Books have their purpose, both in style and storytelling, to tell the new history of the X-Men and mutantkind. X-Force is the ‘taking the fight to the enemy’ part of that story, a place the book has had for quite some time.
So why is Nightcrawler shocked and appalled to see Wolverine’s handiwork? Did he forget that Wolverine is a stone cold killer? Where has been for the last 25 issues of the X-Force series? Did he never run into at least one the black-clad Gun and Knife Club members in this super small mutant community? Or were they always the quiet ones who kept to themselves that this type of violence was never expected from?
Nightcrawler has been in this business from the ‘All New, All Different’ days, he should know the score by now. It’s not the best ideal for peace in our lifetime, but it’s how the world works today. It’s why we don’t have a school anymore, it’s why Kurt Wagner himself presided over the funerals of children back in Westchester. Killing is an ugly business but that line has been crossed for some time now. Quite frankly, it’s a rather jarring moment in a very fluid book this week as we all have to stop and deal with a level of violence that everyone else was over issues ago.
Or is that the problem? Should we be just as outraged that the original peaceful Dream has devolved into black ops missions and wholesale slaughter? Was the hallway conversation between Cyclops and Beast where Hank McCoy walked away from his family desensitizing to the problem at large? In Dark X-Men: the Confession, I’ll admit that I was a little confused by why Cyclops was so upset over his X-Force team when having a regular offensive line just seemed like good defense. He’s had the mind of Apocalypse rolling around in his brain. He’s fought for the life of Jean Grey against angry aliens. He needs to survive.
Xavier is a relic of the past. In recent issues, he’s just this ghost hanging around, a shade of the man he used to be. He’s almost embarrassing when Magneto arrives on the asteroid home of Utopia, like when your grandpa makes a rude comment about Germans because of his time in World War II. He’s weak, unable to see the obvious when Cyclops goes in to pull the Void out of Emma’s mind (seriously! how did no one see that coming?). Xavier doesn’t even advise them anymore. I wonder if he even teaches anything, education being the greatest weapon against those that fear and mistrust you. But we all know that’s not the goal anymore.
The X-Men no longer look towards the future or share an overlying metaphor about being an outcast in society. If so, I’d say we all have to find out own floating asteroid and defend it with a black ops squad or that in order to be accepted, you have to punch people in the face. Where before, the X-Men had the world of tomorrow to fight and defend, Cyclops only looks towards today. As the leader, he accepts only himself and rarely makes room for anyone else, because this is an army. It’s been said a dozen times before, all the way up to last week at WonderCon in San Fransisco. Axel Alonso said that the X-Men have become an army, and that an army can be their own sort of family. There’s no room for dissent when the survival of your species is on the line. On the other hand, the X-Men started out as students that grew into a family. While an army can create the family bond, a family bond is hard to harden down to a military viewpoint.
Cyclops is the product of his training. While Xavier might have taught him how to lead, how to make the best of his mutant ability and gave him a home, Scott Summers doesn’t have the best track record with love and acceptance. He shoots well in a measured, geometrical sense, giving him little depth in his perceptions of friends and family. He’s certainly the only one in the room with a ‘rose-tinted’ view.
I just wonder if he dreams.