The Fifth Color | X-Men history doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes
The sad truth is that comics aren’t real. While mankind may have actual mutations (and some of them are super cool), none of them really warrants a special school or a uniform. Fighting for acceptance and tolerance thankfully doesn’t come by fighting giant robots designed to kill you. And, I hate to say it, but declaring yourself a sovereign nation off the coast of San Fransisco takes more than just an OK from the mayor’s office. So there is no way for the X-Men to be real, and therefore we can’t hold them to a truly “realistic” point of view.
At the same time, however, we do need to be able to relate to these guys, and that’s something the X-Men do nicely with a theme of social justice, teenage angst and the ever-vigilant battle of acceptance. Recently, these basic concepts have been taken in much more broad of a sense than, say, when they first started. Characters have grown up, loved and lost, tried to sustain families, and had their numbers physically shrink and dwindle. And then Apocalypse drove a giant floating sphinx over their house. In ever-escalating stories, the base concept of the X-Men was devoured for bigger and more dramatic concepts. In today’s comic market, it’s hard to keep our interests, and some days you have to try something new on top of something else new to keep things fresh and exciting.
Then again, going back to basics doesn’t hurt either, and X-Men: Schism seems to be on its way into familiar territory. A clear example of how the world hates and fears mutants, Sentinel proliferation as a nice metaphor for our own nuclear-weapons issues, old villains returning with new faces and a clear motivation that is nothing but evil — this is starting to feel like the comics I used to read, just revved up with a new engine and a new coat of paint. Hope and her crew are a great way to keep close to heart the “youth against the world” sentiment of the X-Men as they fight for the future.
Everything seems to be right on track … so why is Wolverine out of his canucklehead mind?!
(WARNING: Spoilers ahead for X-Men: Schism #4, so grab your copy and read along!)
Here’s the basics: A huge super-Sentinel bomb thing is headed for its single-minded destination: Utopia. Nearly everyone who’s ever fought a Sentinel before is either off in another part of the world or out of commission. Cyclops, back in the “Prelude to Schism” books, decided and told everyone that Utopia would be where they drew their line in the sand, and he plans on defending their island. Calling out for as many X-Men as he can get, Hope and her crew, plus Rockslide, Anole and Dust, show up and want to fight as X-Men. The music swells, we all feel entirely inspired and ready for the battle to come when Wolverine arrives like a big wet noodle and demands they retreat.
This is where things fall apart. Cyclops is ready to lead these teenagers into battle with this crazy mega-Sentinel bomb thing and do what it takes to hold their ground. Wolverine, on the other hand, refuses to see more children die under their watch and wants everyone off the island so badly he’s willing to blow up the whole place. They fight. The Sentinel looms over them and we have to wait for Issue 5 for the stunning conclusion.
Seems kind of weird, doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t Wolverine the “fight and/or die!” kind of guy while Cyclops is the traditionally more reserved character? Logan was not but six pages ago ready to lunge at this huge mega-Sentinel monster thing claws first. It blasted him back into the Pacific Ocean — but when has that stopped him before? Besides, if he’s so concerned about putting kids in harm’s way, well … Kitty Pryde and Jubilee might have a different view of things. Wolverine’s stance isn’t even tactically sound; where are they going to run? There are Sentinels everywhere, and this giant mega-Sentinel monster thing came out of a suitcase and built itself from surrounding material. It’s a pretty fantastic weapon, and I’m certain the people who made that wouldn’t just build one and call it a day.
Even worse for his point of view is that Hope and pals want to be there. They volunteered, and knew what they were getting into. Sure, a lot of these kids are untried, but there are three former New X-Men with them and they’ve survived one of the bloodiest class years in Xavier’s school history. Hope herself was trained by Cable and should know a lot about unbeatable odds. Idie Okonkwo was given a doll in the first issue of X-Men: Schism as Wolverine tries to give her something more age-appropriate than a mutant refugee nation. She has no connection to the doll, nor any connection to the more happy times of the first class of X-Men. Despite her obvious troubles and fear of herself, she tells him that she’s made peace with who she is. Not the most ringing endorsement from a girl who thinks she’s a monster, but certainly the acceptance of someone learning how this all is played. It’s like she’s read some old X-Men comics.
But then again, how does she refer to herself? A monster. It’s one thing for Hope to want to be gung-ho and charge into the face of battle, it’s another thing to allow it. Did I mention that Dust, Anole and Rockslide came from one of the bloodiest school years at the school? I am honestly not sure there has been any attempts at education since they left Westchester. This started as a “Gifted and Talented” school, a way to help mutants not only learn how to use their powers but to do some good with them, to learn how to cope with being feared and hated, not to just kick and explode. The X-Men are falling further and further behind their original goals, and the one in charge is the one to blame. Wolverine’s motivation is to save kids, it’s really hard to argue against that.
So is this really the final straw between Wolverine and Cyclops, resulting in a wedge being driven between the X-Men themselves? Or, let’s face it, has this always been the wedge driven through the X-Men when a wedge needs driving? Let me put it this way: When has Wolverine ever been the big-picture guy? He’s the best there is at what he does and that involves stabbing, not delegating the needs of an entire nation. He’ll fight to the bitter end but if the fight’s unwinnable, Logan will find a way to survive until there’s nothing left. Scott Summers, on the other hand, has had nothing but the big picture to look at since he joined the X-Men. He’s the leader of the X-Men, from when it was just five awkward kids to when its roster is bursting with new mutants. Xavier taught him that from the beginning, along with a core foundation of idealism. The idea that we can make the world a better place together, so standing one’s ground doesn’t seem that far-fetched. Not to mention he’s got hope on his side, in both the upper- and lowercase- forms.
Issue 5 will most likely change the face of the X-Men comics are we know it, which is also a very familiar and debatably welcome sight to mutant-kind. I hope we survive the experience.