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The Fifth Color | Avengers vs. X-Men presents the ‘antivillain’

Fear Itself TeaserThe last blows were thrown in the six-month long battle between the Avengers and X-Men, where someone had to win and someone had to lose. In professional wrestling (a.k.a. sports entertainment), if two faces (good guys) fight, one of them by default had to become a heel (bad guy). His values can change, he can become cowardly, he may use a dirty tactic or even something as simple as turning on the audience can start the herald of boos from the crowd and shifty looks from former allies. If two heroes fight, someone has to be the loser and someone has to be in the wrong.

But what if they’re not? Can one straddle the line between good and evil and use both for their own purposes? We can see it didn’t work out too well for Scott Summers, but what were his goals and how did they suddenly seem so horrible? If we have antiheroes, why can’t we have the opposite, the antivillain?

WARNING: Avengers, X-Men, one of these guys had to lose, so grab your copy of Avengers vs. X-Men Round 12 and let’s study the results!


We all know antiheroes; they’ve been a comfortable part of comics for quite some time. Heck, they are littered throughout modern storytelling and can be found as a way to show off that “dark”, “edgy” and/or “gritty”movie execs and comic fans want to see more of. I’m not saying the concept is new (thanks, Wikipedia, for dating the term to 1714!), but it seems that Wolverine is super-cool and a lot of characters want to be like him. We all agree that Wolverine wins the Antihero Achievement Award for Marvel Comics? From the beginning, Logan has had blood on his claws, and he’s known for his fight first, snarl questions later attitude. He’s generally a loner and chafes under authority (okay, Avengers membership and headmastering aside). The Punisher seems to get more and more antiheroic every issue; actively killing people without remorse for the violent crimes his targets commit may seem like poetic justice, but there’s a reason Captain America didn’t let him hang around in Civil War. Frank Castle uses villainous methods to perform heroic deeds, forming his own morality and idea of justice. Is the Punisher just? It’s debatable, but on the whole, saving people’s lives by killing criminals has to score one for the good guys.

To put it another way, Han Solo is my personal classic antihero: he’s an out-and-out criminal who plays by his own rules and has no qualms about lying, cheating or shooting first to get what he wants. He resists authority, but in the end does the right thing by coming back and helping Luke so he can blow up the Death Star, putting him back in the hero category. He could have just taken the money and walked away, but despite his less-than-heroic nature, Han Solo chooses to be a better man than his means. I’m sure you have your own antihero favorite, but the pattern of behavior is easy to see.

So let’s talk about Scott Summers. Cyclops isn’t very popular and really hasn’t been despite the best efforts of writers and artists. Popular opinion calls him a stick in the mud, and often leaves him with the blame rather than the credit. It’s what happens when you’re the guy in charge and Wolverine does whatever he wants. Despite not winning any popularity contests, Cyclops has always been considered a hero. He was the leader of the X-Men, he had been fighting for mutants and trying to create a place for them to live in peace with humans. Scott has been troubled, but he has traditionally always done the right thing.

Avengers vs. X-Men #12 - art by Adam Kubert

the road to here was paved with good intentions

Sadly, becoming a vessel for the Dark Phoenix force makes you a villain. Jean Grey had to go through it, so does Scott. In his final moments with a power beyond cosmic measure, Cyclops tried to destroy the earth and killed the man who mentored him. As part of the Phoenix Five, he helped enforce a sort of martial law where the Avengers were hunted down and imprisoned. He played God with the powers he was given and thought he knew better than anyone else. And, let’s face it, when you actively oppose Captain America, you sort of default to being the villain of this confrontation. Now matter how well meant Tony Stark was through Civil War and even beyond the fact that his Registration Act won the day, it’s really hard to root against Captain America, especially when he’s fighting for your freedom.

That was one of Cyclops’ many problems throughout this conflict that help to label him the villain of this piece: No matter how well-intentioned, Cyclops was against freedom. With his species on the brink of extinction, he was ready to try to save them by any means necessary. Looking back at what he did before turning dark, it was wide-sweepingly authoritarian, but it was world peace. Scott Summers fought the Avengers with clean energy, water and food for everyone, humans and mutants alike. He declared that giant racist robots were as illegal as nuclear weapons and went in front of the UN to make it so. No Avengers were killed in this battle, they were detained. Phoenix-empowered, he could have destroyed them as several opportunities and while he declared “No More Avengers”, he never really decimated them as Wanda did to mutants with her famous words. When Namor veered into a more traditional villainous act of drowning Wakanda, not only did Namor go behind Cyclops’ back to do it but the result was Namor being stripped of his powers. There’s a leadership structure here among a nigh-omnipotent cosmic force, and for as long as he could, Cyclops tried to enforce order.

Compare this to say the works of House of M, where a world was remade so that humans were the edge of extinction and mutants were the ruling class. Under the Phoenix Five, mutants and humans were given everything they needed to prosper, they simply had to accept change. Stop war. Live in peace. These are weird tactics for a villain.

But Cyclops was. By the end of it all, he is in chains (weird-looking chains, but chains nonetheless) and Captain America refuses to let Scott take any sort of credit for the benefits left in the wake of their battle. Scott Summers will be tried and prosecuted  something may even happen to his brain next week in Uncanny Avengers #1. Despite the new age of mutants and Captain America’s willingness to try and protect a population that normally missed the radar of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Scott Summers was wrong and he’ll pay for his crimes.

But is he really wrong? Antiheroes start off wrong, but the choices they make are what make them right in the end. Han Solo is a scruffy looking nerf herder, but he makes the choice to fight with the rebellion. The Punisher murders criminals in the street, but he remains a dark deterrent to those who would work in New York’s underworld. Wolverine may play by his own rules, but those rules always include doing the right thing.

Scott Summers, as an antivillain, starts off right. Hope did need to be ready, the Phoenix Force would save mutantkind and they would thrive again. This was never for personal gain. Scott Summers started out with no intentions of watching anyone burn in the fires of the Phoenix. He wanted, if I can borrow a phrase, a finer world. Once given the power to make one, his actions twisted his original intentions into villainy.

Avengers vs. X-Men has given us a lot to mull over in the coming days. It’s the first step toward the NOW and an all-new look at our heroes in fresh titles. It’s made the Avengers the best and brightest of the Marvel universe. It’s thrown the mutant race for a loop and probably some all new students for the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning. And it has created a new way to view our heroes and villains, painting a new shade of gray to give characters depth in action and motivation. Then again, I could be completely wrong and antivillains have been around for longer than I’ve noticed. Leave your idea of the antivillain — someone who uses more heroic means to do the wrong thing — in the comments. As Captain America leaves us with in the last few pages, if only the ends always justified the means.

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24 Comments

Charles J. Baserap

October 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I wrote this elsewhere and on a site I write for, NerdtopiaCast.com, I’m writing up a “defense of Scott Summers” piece in the coming weeks:

I’m still annoyed at how, when you look at it, the bulk of it is the fault of the Avengers and yet Cyclops bears all the blame somehow. Even people who hate him have to see, logically, that he set on his path because of Wanda’s actions in House of M which were largely fostered by the Avengers lying to her about her kids. The Phoenix only came into Cyclops and the others because Iron Man fucked up and split it by accident and then Hope rejected it. Cap comes across as a total hypocritical douche for being willing to forgive Wanda whose actions killed MILLIONS and washing it away as, “Oh well she just wasn’t herself, ” and treating Cyclops like he intentionally set out to hurt people from day one. It was very jarring to see the same guy who treated Wanda with kid gloves despite much more blood on her hands act the way he did throughout.

Cyke made mistakes but stack them up to Wanda or half the other heroes being mond controlled every third Tuesday and it’s tough to see how a team who goes into a guy’s house and makes demands to take one of his own into custody or else , helped cause the mess that set this all in motion in the first place (Disassembled, House of M), and backed Wanda less than six months or so after she killed multiple Avengers, come out smelling like roses.

Cyclops made the claim that Hope would contain the Phoenix, control it, and restore mutants. Guess what happened? Yeah. EXACTLY that.

Oh and hey,Cap? How many people did your boy Bucky assassinate? You know. That partner of yours you let be Captain America? Oh, he wasn’t himself? Fancy that. Obviously the A stands for Asshole. Lol

Honestly, I was so tired of seeing Beast and others paint Cyclops as the bad guy throughout everything since Messiah CompleX. He made some poor decisions, but never ONCE did we see him not struggling with them. He didn’t do them all willy nilly or malice. He wrestled with it, it upset him. Hell, even right up until the end he was fighting the Phoenix Force. It wasn’t Hope and the Witch that stopped him–it was HIM. HE was the one that broke through to himself. Cap and Beast can both suck it.

Cyke didn’t do a single thing half the other heroes didn’t do. Assembled a hit squad that killed people? Hey, Cap, how about them Secret Avengers and, Beast, remember when you helped said Secret Avengers kill an entire group of people as a “preventative measure?” You know, after you helped your girlfriend shoot a laser into a Ghost Box and kill an entire world? Which was after you consorted with Dark Beast, Sinister, Doom, Zola, et al looking for a cure for M Day? Any of that ringing a bell? Wanda went batshit and killed Avengers and millions of mutants who died in mid transformation or in situations like being underwater or flying when their powers gave out. Wolverine killed his way through SHIELD and Northstar and who knows who else. Bucky shot himself through the Cold War. Black Widow helped. Xavier? You know that guy Cap says was the greatest? He became fucking ONSLAUGHT, nearly ended reality, was responsible for the heroes being removed, trashed NY and killed who knows how many! But there were outside influences for them, so it’s ok. Just not for Cyclops.

It’s weak sauce making him out to be the main bad guy, especially, like I said, since the majority of the fault lies in the Avengers having lied to Wanda in the first place which is what lead to Disassembled and House of M, and thus forced Cyclops into a position where he was one of 200 constantly being faced with extinction whether assassins at his school, or robots from the future on his island.

I completely agree. Even after the dust has settled I cant see cyclops as the villain in all this. If Cap had listened to scott in the first place then whole thing would have resolved nicely.
As far as leaders go, cyclops is probably one of the best. He makes the impossibly hard decisions but still shoulders the blame and guilt.
He’s not the head of a team or a headmaster of a school. He’s a leader of men.
I got the feeling that his incarceration for him isn’t a problem because from his point of view it’s mission accomplished. He’s saved the species.

Do you know what, where the hell were the avengers during messiah complex or any of it?

I’ve often wondered if you couldn’t make a similar anti-villain argument for Batman. It’s a less obvious approach but depending on the stories you look at there is a case for it.

Batman clearly starts out with the best intentions: he is going to stop crime, clean up Gotham, and prevent anyone else from suffering the loss of their parents like he did. And that’s more or less what he tries to do throughout his whole, continuity-defying career. He’s clearly setting out to do the right thing and every decision he makes is justifiably in keeping with that goal.

But ultimately, Batman is either wrong, or just a really bad superhero. There is a long history throughout the Batman comics of the idea of superhero escalation; all of Gotham’s many supervillains are just a response to Batman. It’s brought up explicitly in the final scene of Batman Begins. It’s a running point throughout Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, the definitive Batman story. There it’s repeatedly coming from the dubious psychiatrist of Arkham Asylum, but is ultimately carried out. Joker returns, snapping out of a coma, only when Batman does. Without Batman, there’s no Joker. The famous stories set in the first year of Batman’s history are likewise fairly light on true super villainy: Year One and Long Halloween are essentially noir-mob stories with Batman, and the implication is that until Batman had become a crazy urban legend and created a power vacuum that the Rogues Gallery grew up around him.

To recap: before Batman, there was crime in Gotham, but it was largely organized crime or the low-level thuggery associated with many large cities. Post-Batman, the city is rampant with super villainy. Gotham has more super villains than any other DCU city, and they tend to be much more concerned with causing maximum collateral damage than anyone else’s villains. Lex Luthor, for all his faults, is never the rampant serial killer that most of Batman’s villains are at some point.

So Batman is arguably making crime worse and Gotham more dangerous while trying to do good. Certainly an argument for a non-hero classification. But moreover, his explicitly stated goal of sparing others his childhood trauma is fairly directly destroyed by the Bat-family concept. To wit: Robin III (Tim Drake) loses a father largely as a result of Tim’s involvement in the war on crime, mentored by Batman. Bruce’s own son has his father die, then return to life, only to join his father in a volatile war against his own mother, in which one or all would certainly die in any realistic world. Moreover, beyond the collateral damage of directly endangering children’s families, Bruce endangers children with a degree of non-challance which is, frankly, criminal. Robin II dies, Robin IV dies, Batgirl is paralyzed. All purely because Bruce Wayne doesn’t see a problem with teaming up with 12 year olds to fight crime. When he is occasionally called on the hypocrisy of this, either by the equally hypocritical Alfred or by Leslie Thompson, he adamantly learns no lesson from it. The child endangerment charges that should be brought against Bruce Wayne are staggering…

Everything Bruce does seems like it is crime fighting, but ultimately, the Batman is crime causing: it brings out the craziest, most dangerous aspects of his city. He effectively shuts down the crime which is controllable (has anyone used the Gotham crime families in a meaningful way since Jeph Loeb?) but can’t seem to corral a dozen psychopaths for very long. And he endangers children and families far more than simply being in Gotham ever did (although that was never for the faint of heart). It’s less obvious than Cyclops, but in his own way, Batman does just as much evil in the name of doing good as Scott Summers.

DeleteMyCommentBecauseUDisagree

October 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Wow, Dodson is channeling Greg Land there

By the way, this Cyclops AVX stuff is so ludicrously dumb that it is beyond describing

I disagree. Scott Summers and Batman’s situations are too different. Batman’s villains are a response to Batman’s actions in almost all cases. Scott Summers and the X-Men were the response to mutant discrimination and violence. Regardless of the X-Men’s existance, people would have still hunted and tortured mutants. The X-Men and other teams were the defensive response to such a threat.

That’s actually why I like the X-Men so much. It’s almost ALWAYS personal as opposed to a lot of the things that happen with the Avengers and other relatively human groups.

Ozymandias in Watchmen. A man that knew the world will end soon and had to do something.

I saw no reason Scott Summers needs redemtion.

Steven R. Stahl

October 5, 2012 at 7:38 pm

AvX didn’t have a viable plot. There was never a solid reason given for the Phoenix Force’s presence, even though it was the core of the storyline. In AVX #12, Stark (via Cap) is wrong about the Phoenix Force needing a host; if it did, the Phoenix Force would never have approached Earth. If Stark’s “conjecture” about the Phoenix Force intending to create new mutants was correct, then the Avengers’ actions were pointless. They tried to force the Phoenix Force to do something it intended to do anyway–except that there’s no connection between “No more Phoenix” and the reappearance of mutants. In declaring that Wanda’s power was equal to the Phoenix Force, Marvel Editorial ignored the Life Force retcon in AVENGERS: CHILDREN’S CRUSADE and left no reason for anyone to take the Scarlet Witch seriously as a character anymore. This is the third time Wanda’s “basic” power has been redefined to cosmic levels: the first was Byrne’s doing; the second was Bendis’s. She’s not a person; she’s an animated plot device whose “power” does whatever the writer wants it to do in a given issue.

If Marvel Editorial’s goal was to have more mutants appear, they could have done it without AvX, or without any event. In AvX, readers got a bunch of random events, including a death that nobody thought was tragic, that add up to zero.

SRS

“Can one straddle the line between good and evil and use both for their own purposes?”

No. Good and evil don’t work that way.

Scott’s been messed up since at least the whole Utopia nonsense, and I’m glad it’s finally over. Hopefully he will get the redemption he needs. If Tony and Reed can be fixed after their horrible Civil War fascist period, I am sure Scott can as well.

The ends never, ever justify the means. Not ever. Risking the lives of everyone on Earth in the hopes of restoring mutants’ powers was not a choice he had the right to make.

Well, the Hyperion/Power Princess side of Squadron Supreme comes immediately to mind as an early (first?) example of “using heroic means to do the wrong thing,” with the Nighthawk/Master Menace side on the “using villainous means to do the right thing” opposite end of the spectrum.

All hail Mark Gruenwald.

It irks me to see how high and mighty the Avengers are portrayed in all of this. The Phoenix Five were created from the Avengers’ lack of understanding and fear of the Phoenix. Then they push the five-headed monster they created into darkness and corruption and proved utterly inept at stopping it. All of a sudden Tony Stark “finds faith” and does what Scott was trying to do from the beginning by trusting Hope to handle the Phoenix. Scott may not have had the piece about Hope training under Iron Fist (where did that come from anyway?) or the part about Wanda using her reality manipulating powers, but he had faith from the start. The Avengers and the X-men both failed as heroes on this one and both sides should be reflecting on that, instead of putting all the blame on one man who despite best intentions, fell victim to the power of a cosmic space god.

So Wanda gets a free pass even though Doctor Doom is her only witness she was possessed by a stupidly named, never before even hinted at power but everyone sees Scott possessed by a known overwhelming force and he gets the blame even for the Avengers’ actions. Ass hats…

While Scott remains somewhat sympathetic, he WAS the villain of the story. Whatever he intended to happen, this whole thing started with Scott knowingly playing with fire by trying to control the Phoenix, a nigh-omnipotent force which he KNEW to be both corrupting and capable of unspeakable destruction, and the Avengers trying to prevent the worst. Regardless of how things turned out, there really wasn’t any rational reason at the beginning of the story to think that the Phoenix would bring anything but death; even beyond its history with Jean, the Phoenix was wiping out entire planets just as it was traveling towards earth. With a giant firebird of doom flying towards the planet, it seems pretty legit that the Avengers would want to stop it; they were working with what they KNEW the Phoenix could do (cosmic genocide) against what Cyclops WANTED and HOPED the Phoenix would do (restore mutants). Sure, Scott was desperate, but he was gambling with the entire planet, mutants included, that the Phoenix could be controlled. He was willing to risk everyone and everything for a hunch. That is not a particularly heroic beginning. And of course, he ends the story by murdering Xavier and nearly the entire planet. I know, I know, he had been corrupted, but again, he was the one who decided to take a gamble with the Phoenix in the first place.

And really, Scott has been getting less and less heroic for a few years now. He sanctioned X-Force, a team of assassins, to go out and kill potential threats. The targets were bad people, of course, but that does not make Scott’s actions heroic. In Schism, he actually has a CHILD kill members of the Hellfire Club. Again, bad people, but again, not heroic. These and many other cold-blooded, callous decisions mark a slow skid down a slippery slope of morality for Cyclops in recent years, ultimately culminating in a man who’d kill countless people for the “greater good” as Dark Phoenix.

Cyclops>avengers and them fake x-men. This event was just pure silly and I’m glad to not spend a cent on this shit piece of work. Right when this event started I was 100% sure that marvel would make the avengers come out as supreme heroes and them x-men (cyclops, magneto, emma) the bad guys, just because of the movie avengers that grossed in billions. A bunch of the people I know that went and watched the movie was expecting the flash or green arrow to appear as thinking they fall in the same brand lulz wtf? Only reason why it was a major hit was because of robert downey jr, thor guy and scarlett johanssen (sp). Its the only reason why people went out and watched it. Marvel straight out whoring the characters to people that doesn’t even follow comics, but fuck it cuz its all about the $$$ and who cares about the die hard fans. All good as Imma halt on buying marvel comics until the writers and editors start paying attention to what they’re doing. Seriously, re-read the avx event then pretend to not shake your head while going thru it.

The character of Cyclops Scott Summers has surpassed any character in any brand of comics and stayed true to his cause. Capt America, Wolverine, Spider Man, Thor, Iron Man and Hulk needs to step aside and bown bitches for the truest new icon of Marvel in Cyclops Scott Summers. The savior and true messiah of the mutantkind and the true X-man and the victor of avx. Hail King Cyclops!!!!

Does anyone find it ironic that Architects basically destroyed the House that Stan and Jack built?

Thanks for presenting a thoughtful look at an event that warrants a much deeper examination than some fans are willing to give it. I think Marvel deserves credit for delivering an event where the moral lines are not clear cut and that the case for different sides can be argued with equal conviction.

Wolverine goes on killing sprees in X-Force, Scarlet Witch committed genocide, Iron Man did horrible things during Civil War and yet…Cyclops (under the influence of a cosmic entity thanks to the Avengers) kills a man who has come back from the dead at least three times and yet he’s the one in the cell with Wolverine looking so smug and high and mighty and standing next to Captain America…

To me the logical continuation of the mutant race (and the X-books) would be a revolution to free their “mutant leader” Cyclops who kept them alive and who in the end brought them back from extinction. But of course this won’t happen as Wolverine will probably go into politics (or something equally stupid that someone said in a “creator summit” anyone remember the “Let’s put Wolverine on the Avengers”?)

I don’t hate the character of Wolverine, it’s just that he works best without the overexposure (like in Joss Whedon’s run)

Hollywood has really screwed Marvel. Wolverine makes money (new movie coming out) and the Avengers made a ton of money. So there is a mandate that they have to mix the Avengers with mutants (especially Wolverine)

How do we do this:
1.Have people acting out of character just to fit into the story they want to tell, like forcing jigsaw pieces together and “change” the Marvel Universe
2.Bring the “old” x-men into the future (thanks to the film X-men first class I suppose)
3.Uncanny Avengers (Wolverine, mutants and Avengers together) to force the people who only read X-books to read the A-books I suppose
4.Replace Uncanny X-men with Wolverine & The X-men (because Wolverine makes money)

When are they going to figure out that the movies don’t make people who didn’t read comics pick up comics. It might entice people who already read comics try out something they haven’t read before, just like a book to film adaptation might entice someone who reads books to try out said book. The rest of them just DON’T READ AND WILL NEVER READ.

Anyway these “changes” will only last 12 months tops until their next big universe changing event (Schism didn’t even last a year)

Thank you Marvel for ruining my X-men

@Shawn:
Heh… fancy that.

We all know that this was an extremely poor, badly written and overly decompressed storyline with one of the worst “solutions” to solving the problem. Essentially what all was shown in 12 issues could have easily been done in 1 issue. “No more phoenix” …. LOL, great writing there.

@yuri, according to that kind of logic, even Watchmen could’ve been told in a single issue. As for AvX, the fact that the solution to dealing with Phoenix Force was simple in the end doesn’t mean that it was immediately apparent.

My thoughts?

I think this story has to be understood in light of the character development Scott’s been going through for a number of years. First off, I think we have an ongoing narrative that shows his character slipping, and some areas of bedrock in his life being stripped away – beginning with his recovery from Apocalypse’s possession. His marriage to Jean, while was pretty much the completion of his greatest character arc for decades, broke down after an actual telepathic affair (not just telepathic hints and a single snog, as with Psylocke). Then, I think, his faith in Xavier’s Dream was shaken; I’m actually tempted to suggest that Scott never believed in the Dream at all, but rather believed in Xavier. From Onslaught onwards, writers have consistently shaken the ‘purity’ of Xavier’s character, with probably his darkest deed being the erasing of Vulcan from Scott’s mind.

By the time we get to House of M, this seriously shaken man is placed in charge of the entire mutant race. Events are spiralling out of control, and the superhuman community divides. That’s when you have a key moment; Scott keeps the X-Men out of the Civil War, on the basis that the X-Men aren’t interested in the Humans’ war (to paraphrase his comments to Wolverine in the Wolverine issues of Civil War). Notice that this idea is completely opposite to Xavier’s Dream; Xavier believes in mutants being the next step of Human evolution, i.e. just as Human as the next person. In that throwaway line, Scott displayed an ideology vastly different to that of the X-Men.

And then, Xavier returns – and soon after, Scott loses his real father, Corsair, under Xavier’s watch (and comments during Messiah CompleX show that Scott initially blamed Xavier for this). Hope is born, and Scott takes a step of faith in sending her into the future; with Xavier dead, Scott disbands the X-Men.

I think we have to see Manifest Destiny as an important moment. It’s not simply that the X-Men were disbanded, then reformed; it’s rather that the X-Men in the vision of Xavier ended, and the X-Men in the manner of Cyclops arrived. He openly admits that he’s creating an army, and he has a hit squad to kill off enemies that he believes will potentially drive the mutant race to extinction. There are few lines Scott won’t cross; and this is where the schism with Wolverine starts, with his willingness to use X-23 in X-Force. Logan isn’t comfortable with that, and he and Scott even have a scrap about it. But to Cyclops, this is survival – because he believes that Hope will return, and he’s initially building an army in order to defend her, as he’s expecting her to return as a baby. Only when X-Force capture Bishop does he realise that Hope’s experience of time is different to his own, so she may not return as the baby he’d prepared for.

Bishop is a threat, and Hope’s survival is more important than the survival of any other mutant. Scott is willing to send X-Force into the future in the middle of a mission to save young mutants, because he already prioritises Hope above all else. Again, it’s an important character point for Scott.

Norman Osborn takes charge of the Marvel Universe, and the mutants fall back to Utopia. Now, this is an interesting point. Is it a coincidence that the mutants have been gathered together into San Francisco, when there’s a potential fallback position just offshore? Scott had evidently already reasoned that this may happen, and prepared this fallback. He declares Nation X. And that, I think, is when we first hear it; he declares to Emma that he’s expecting, at the end of all this, to wind up in jail. But if his people survive because of this, then it’s a price he’s willing to pay. Beast isn’t happy with Scott that he allowed Hank to be tortured in pursuit of his plans, but that argument isn’t really fair; on Breakworld, Scott showed that he’s willing to both die and be tortured himself in order to emerge with a tactical advantage. To be jailed is nothing compared to Breakworld.

As time passes, Scott’s belief in Hope is becoming increasingly deep-rooted. When Hope returns, Scott is willing to risk anyone and anything to save her – witness his speech before sending the team out after Hope and Cable. It swiftly becomes clear that Hope is tied to the Phoenix, and suddenly everything’s tense again. From Bishop, and indeed from Madrox, he knows the future could go in two directions. In a way, that awareness is a crisis of faith for Scott, and his faith in Hope is struggling to deal with the reality of who she is as a person. His solution? Train her. Not in morality and ethics, to prepare her to use power with wisdom; but in combat and battle. He’s become so focused on survival, that he’s lost his moral awareness.

This is the next key point; Scott now considers everything from the perspective of a military leader. Wolverine is growing uncomfortable with the use of children in combat situations, but Scott – who, after all, battled against the Sentinels when he was a teenager – sees no problem with this. He has a child kill to stop the Hellfire Club. And that’s when things break down, and Wolverine heads off to re-establish the old X-Men dream. Curiously, initially Xavier seems OK with Scott (c.f. Prelude to Schism), but the relationship there seems to quickly sour.

Enter the Phoenix Force. Scott’s found it easier to believe in Hope when she was a baby, rather than a complex person who resists his guidance and has actually learned about the Phoenix Force already. But he’s committed, and there is absolutely no way he will consider surrendering what he believes to be his sole hope to Captain America. When the Phoenix Force splits, he absorbs a fragment into himself and concludes that Hope just wasn’t ready for it. He then sets about to enforce Pax Utopia, and it seems – initially – to go well.

But Scott’s drowning in his own power. He thinks welding the San Andreas fault will stop earthquakes in California, for example. The corruption of the Phoenix Force is also exerting itself, and he honestly believes that the time has come for mutants to rule. Note that this is not Xavier’s Dream, for all he claims it to be so now and again. Coexistence and rule are different things, and Xavier is heartbroken. Cyclops the First, indeed; what a foolish, power-focused perspective. The Avengers oppose Scott, so they must be stopped; but, of course, Scott doesn’t want to go to the lengths that Namor and Emma will choose. He’s failed to consider that each of his allies has the same power that he has. In a kingdom based on power, there is no reason for the others to follow his commands.

And so it all goes wrong, and ironically Scott emerges victorious, really. The Phoenix Force is ultimately absorbed into Hope, and the mutants are restored. As he himself had predicted, Scott goes to jail – in a prison clearly inspired by Magneto’s plastic prison in the first X-Men film. Scott is almost a prophet; everything he predicted has come to pass, and he can now take the punishment that he knew would be his.

Huh…to be honest, I’m not sure what’s the point of the writer. Scott stars right and ends wrong? But, no, he stars right and ends RIGHT again. His point was that the Phoenix wasn’t necessarily evil, Hope could control it, and restore mutantkind. He was completely right in all those points.

The writer also doesn’t seem to gasp the concept that Cyclops did not seek the power of the Phoenix for himself, only getting by Tony’s screw up. And even then it’s quite possible the world would be fine without the Avengers deliberately attacking him without provocation- a point that was made in many reviews in other sites, should be said, as well as by Reed Richards- which was what eventually turned him insane (read UXM #19 and say he was in complete control of his mental faculties) and the the Avengers fail to acknowledge this.

In the very beginning, I thought both sides had legitimate points. Scott seemed very sure the Phoenix was coming to restart the mutant gene and he has had plenty of experience with the Phoenix, but on the other hand the Phoenix tends to blow up planets. By the end, I saw Cyclops as the tragic hero of the piece. Just look at that last panel in Uncanny X-Men #19.

The Avengers, particularly Steve Rogers, acted like such self-righteous jerks. From the beginning they never had any intention of negotiating with the X-Men, they just showed up on Utopia and told Scott how it was going to be. They tried to kidnap a teenage girl (interesting that the “ends never justify the means” people seem to justify shady things the Avengers do just fine). Wolverine kept trying to murder that same girl (sure Steve threw him out of a plane in response, but apparently as long as Logan could help him defeat Cyclops, all is forgiven). And Tony’s big phoenix-killing gun is the reason the P5 existed at all, so what they did while possessed is pretty much the Avengers’ fault.

And last I checked, being possessed by a powerful cosmic entity has traditionally meant characters aren’t considered responsible for their actions, but Captain America doesn’t like Scott Summers, so I guess he and the other P5 are screwed. Cap’s characterization was just awful throughout AvX. The prison scenes were just ridiculous, with Cap apparently playing the part of Sally Floyd. After reading UXM #19, any doubt in my mind about who was the hero of AvX. Cyclops was right.

A few extra things to consider, not that any of this will matter:

Cyclops was NOT right. The whole desperation play Iron man made that created the Phoenix 5? Was because when the phoenix DID claim hope, just as Scott had planned, she realized she flat couldn’t handle it. she said so explicitly. Nevermind Cyclops delibritely IGNORING that fact that the Phoenix killed the ENTIRE POPULATION of at least 5 worlds on its way to earth. He didn’t care so long as he had his precious mutant miracle.
As for his claims that Cap and the Avengers “hadn’t been there” for mutants, we’ll ignore for a moment how many mutants were already on the Avengers. Virtually every act the Xmen have been involved with they either a.) kept on the down low…Avengers can’t help with a problem they don’t KNOW about. or B.) the Avengers DID show up to help, but were prevented from assisting. Bastion’s siege on Utopia (which the avengers LET them keep until the Phoenix problem occured) is a prime example. Everyone seems to forget the nigh-impenetrable forcefield keeping the mutants In was keeping everyone else OUT. They SHOWED the avengers there trying to figure out what he hell was going on. Isolating all the mutants in one place and fostering the “them vs us” mentality was CYCLOPS’s idea, not the avengers.

And as for the “solution” and the dispersal of the Phoenix to create “new mutants”….as far as I can tell, the actual mutants (which if you’ll study your marvel history, are the result of the Celestials messing around with human genetic code, NOT a natural mutation) were not repowered. The Phoenix strain has created a NEW type of mutant, not brought the old strain back. And nevermind the poor saps who were perfectly normal and will almost certianly (at least in part) recieve crappy mutations they DIDN”T want. Or has everyone forgotten all the past xmen stories involving mutants that got the short end of the stick?

Any way you cut it, Cyclops was WRONG.

Somehow the end of the series has made me admire Scott more; that hearing him being imprisoned -a prison made specifically for him at that!- makes me want to buy a visor like his. Tom Bacon’s last paragraph above really hits home for me. Scott, as if knowing that he hasn’t been the popular guy to the general comic book readers, has acknowledged his shortcomings and the consequences that may come from them, but still chooses to take a stand and move forward, instead of just locking himself away from the rest of the world. I guess that’s why I didn’t like Wolverine in the 90′s; he himself makes compromises and washes his hands with his usual, “I’m just a man,” speech. Cyke on the other hand, has accepted the consequences of his actions. I hope very good writers will build up from this and not turn him into a lame villain.

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