Monday, January 28, 2013

Check It Out

Over the weekend, in case you missed it, I participated in Chad Nevett's Blogothon 2013, for the purpose of raising money for the Hero Initiative. Last count Nevett had already raised over $1000 - I really can't think of a more worthy cause if you are now or have ever been a comics fan. He's still accepting donations for the next day or so to catch up with any stragglers who may have missed it over the weekend, so think about it, hey?

Anyway, for the Blogothon I contributed a piece on why Cyclops was wrong in Avengers vs. X-Men. It's something I've been wanting to write for a while now because I've seen the idea repeated in a number of contexts that Cyclops "won" AvX, which strikes me as - shall we say - a severe misreading of the story, but also somewhat reflective of the ways in which Marvel has thoroughly mutilated the once-beloved X-Men franchise in recent years. It should go without saying that it's an extremely nerdy essay, the kind of thing I struggled with wanting to write but, well, not wanting to put a couple hours' work into something so hopelessly, heroically pointless. But since Nevett was someone who I had seen publicly declaiming Cyclops' victory on Twitter this seemed like the perfect opportunity for some good old fashioned nerd rage. You know, nerdity for a good cause. You can read his introduction to the topic here, my essay here, and Nevett's reply here.

Nevett actually partially concedes the point to me, which I appreciate, even if I think he (like many people, I find) are really underselling the fact that the Avengers really were justified in being aggressively skeptical of the Phoenix-possessed X-Men in the second half of the story. To Marvel's credit, they weren't particularly ambiguous about the fact that the "Phoenix Five" pretty much lost their collective minds the moment they gained nigh-infinite power. Maybe I've just read too many comic books that I find the logic of "absolute Godlike power corrupts absolutely" irresistible in its inevitability, but I really don't think you need the wisdom of Captain America to see that there was really no way five people with the power of gods vowing to upend the planet's status quo could turn out for the best. It's basically the same plot as Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #11, the only difference being that Doctor Doom actually seemed more benevolent after he stole the Beyonder's power. He didn't build a hell-prison in which to fling his enemies without trial.

Anyway, the one thing I screwed up with the essay is that I included a number of pictures which, duh, I didn't format correctly for Nevett's blog. So, if you want to go back and try to make sense of my chicken scratchings with the proper illustrations for context, here they are:


moose n squirrel said...

We've been down this road before, Tim, but you're just plain wrong on this one - and viewing things too mechanically on the whole "mutants as a species" thing. Being a different species doesn't mean you don't have rights - the Vision clearly isn't human, but just as clearly deserves rights as a sentient being, as does the (also non-human) Silver Surfer, as do the Atlanteans, the Inhumans, the Kree, the Skrull, etc. The list of sci-fi and fantasy characters who wouldn't qualify as strictly "human" but would deserve to be recognized as persons and protected as such under law is a long one: think of Spock and Data, E.T., Frodo and Sam, etc. I'd hate to think you'd be okay with the denizens of Marvel Earth rounding them up into camps just because they don't have the proper set of DNA. And so it is with mutants: Cyclops has every right to fight to preserve his species in the wake of a series of genocidal threats to its existence.

Timothy O'Neil said...

Well, if we've done this dance before, you know that's a particularly ungenerous reading of what I said. It's not that if they aren't human they should be rounded up and put in camps, but that they *are* human already. And if the term "human" is too anthropocentric for you, well, you can just say "living sentient beings" or whatever, to grab whichever stray Zenn-Lavians or Inhumans or synthezoids happen to be hanging around. Human rights are a tricky and hard-to-pin Enlightenment concept that is never quite so easy to defend in practice as it is to air on a piece of paper, but in this case I think the argument isn't that if they aren't technically human they don't deserve human rights, but that any branch of the human family tree has a right to put its own interests above any other, to the point of courting planet-wide destruction on a hunch.

The larger point is that fighting so hard for new mutants without giving two seconds' thought to the fact that there are a lot of people who would legitimately suffer if new mutants started popping up again. That' not something that any of the characters ever acknowledged.

Mords Jay said...

Frankly, the X-men have never had an in-universe logical moral or ethical leg to stand on. They believe in peace, equality and civil rights for everyone; yet live in self-imposed Apartheid conditions at the Xavier/Grey School/Utopia/Muir island. How many non-mutants have EVER been allowed to join? Captain Britain? Moira MacTaggart? aaaaand -? Their sole (again, in-universe) aim is basically self-policing (self-loathing), and have almost no discernable engagement with the larger human population.

At least Cap, Iron Man, etc believe in REAL equality - Wanda, Pietro, Hank, Firestar, Justice, Namor (a cheat IMHO, but still), Falcon (an even bigger cheat, "but still") are all allowed to join the main team.

All the above said: Whilst his motivation may have thusfar been all over the place, this is the most interesting Scott has been since, well, Inferno. The story that there might be a younger, more credible mutant taking the 'Magneto' role - and being Xaviers chosen protege, no less - is a damn good idea. It never 'took' with Exodus, or Fabian Cortez, or *etc etc*. But with Scott? And having Magneto acting as the whisper in his ear? Intriguing...
It may well ruin Scott for a few years as the X-Men's 'natural' leader; but I would argue that the story potential upside way outweighs any negatives.

Timothy O'Neil said...

Oh man you want blood on the floor don't start the whole "Falcon is a mutant" thing again.