Robot 6

The Fifth Color | No Mutants, No Peace

Does your family have a flag?

Does your family have a flag?

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.

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Comments

9 Comments

Wow. Very good essay. You’ve highlighted a lot of misgivings I’ve had about the direction the X-Men have gone in lately.

When you think about it, Cyclops is basically becoming more and more like Magneto. He’s preparing mutants for war. He ‘s begun using lethal force against his enemies, albeit indirectly (usually). And I know the X-Men are going back to San Francisco soon, but isn’t Utopia, a haven for mutants, just another Genosha? Small wonder Magneto’s grown so interested in Cyclops lately. It does make me think, however, that Cyclops’ growing similarities to Magneto are at least somewhat intentional…

I personally see it as a natural sort of evolution (he, see what I did there?) from the original concept. From a school (that needs to fight) to a family (that also fights) to finally, an army (well, you get the point). And while Magneto engaged in outright terrorist attacks to human objectives, making violent statements in national TV while some building burns behind; Cyclops has kept his “knives and guns” very well hidden and just saying “let us alone”. Not because he’s an hypocrite, but because the tone of the fight has changed: Magneto was a racist fighting for supremacy, while Scott is a leader fighting for survival.

(Excuse for the grammar and syntax, english is not my first language)

Magneto was right…Cyclops has has Xaivers veil lifted from his eyes. He now knows what must be done for the continued survival of his mutant kind. They must press forward no matter what the cause. Fight or die. He has done what Xaiver could never do, he has unified Mutant kind. I think this is his natural character progression. Great story to follow!

The flip side of this arguement is that characters like Nightcrawler aren’t going to argree with a black ops team – it’s the issue of sure, you fight like that to survive, but at the same time, you will ask yourself ‘is survival worth becoming as bad the thing I fight’ and to many people the answer is going to be no. Then there is the secondary issue of discovering that for ages now one of your friends has been sanctioning murders, and several of your other friends have been doing them. That’s a pretty vast breach of trust for people who you thought you’ve known for years.

Also, to me it’s more like Cyclops has been edging closer and closer to the edge since Messiah complex, but in some ways, unlike say, Magneto, Xavier or Cable, you never get quite the same idea that he knows for sure where his edge is. It’s an interesting direction for the character, but I don’t think all the choices hes made are necessarily the right ones, even if you can see why he made them.

Huh. I’ve read the Morrison run on X-Men, Whedon’s Astonishing, and little else since 2000. I grew up on the 90s stuff, and have been reading through the Essentials, and while it’s necessary for titles and characters to change and grow over time, this essay seems to illustrate why X-Men has no more appeal for me anymore. The franchise has seemed to devolve into Days of Future Past, only tied in with the “real world” because Marvel likes to keep things somewhat analogous to our current real life situation for some ridiculous reason. The problem is, though, none of it seems to be all that interesting.

I really enjoyed this. i wish I had more to add. The slow slide into hopelessness and militarism might be a natural reaction to the decimated mutant population but it’s not enjoyable to read about.

Steven R. Stahl

April 10, 2010 at 10:22 am

What situation would the mutants be in if M-Day hadn’t happened?

That’s the problem I have with the current direction of the X-books; the “decimation” of the mutants was artificial and had nothing to do with the idea that the mutants were mankind’s future. If M-Day had resulted from a suicide gene activating and killing 99 percent of the mutants, then the definition of them would have changed. They’d be evolutionary failures and struggling to stay alive.

If a story had someone with mind control powers order every paranormal except for Spider-Man and Wolverine to kill himself or herself, and those two were all that was left, would the deaths have been a horrible tragedy? Or would the story have been an incompetent piece of junk written by someone who didn’t know what he was doing?

The M-Day storyline didn’t have a theme. The development was akin to a soap opera director looking at his budget and saying, “We can’t afford all these actors. Some of these characters have to die.”

SRS

The entire point of the enemy in the book is simple: lets make a group so evil that no one will care if they are executed. The Purifiers are people who kill children, murder civilians if it would be blamed on the mutants, and try to murder babies without even flinching.

But it is important to remember what Nightcrawler is appalled by: execution, a cold blooded murder.

X-23 kills the purifier because he is a purifier, not because of a threat. The X-men have apparently survived for years without having to kill every person who fights them. And no one cares about this killing, because the group is apparently so ‘evil’ that Nightcrawler is seen as the ‘idealist’ when he questions such an action. He is an idealist because he does not realise there is a super evil group chasing them whose every member deserves to die. To me, it seems as if Nightcrawler is the only sane one of the group.

This is lazy writing, where it’s black and white, and if you want to see a gray area, then you’re wrong. If this is supposed to be a more realistic threat, then it is absurdly ridiculous. Dr. Doom is more realistic.

Carla, that was a great piece. But as they say, ‘war begets war’. If the X-Men ever chose to go pro-peace, they might have a better chance. Because being against something just generates more opposition.

Saying that, your piece, for me, sums up the dullness of what the X-Men concept has now become. As you wrote recently, the X-Men were once ‘The Strangest Teens Of All’ and maybe you don’t need a school to show that, but that’s still a great concept with relevance and accessibility. It’s still got a lot of juice. It’s just so clear and simple.

There are so so so many ways they could’ve written the mutant story, but once more Marvel has chosen to follow the military style of mutant teams fighting and it’s always about Xavier’s (ex-) students etc etc. Marvel might’ve trimmed down the mutant numbers, but so what — they still can’t tell an interesting story with the ones they’ve got left.

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