Today, Drew and Shelby. are discussing All-New X-Men 10, originally released April 3rd, 2013.
Drew: They say that history is written by the victors. Generally, we mean that in a societal sense: the winners of wars paint their cause in a favorable light, which is why successful overthrows of the government are called “revolutions,” while failures are called “civil wars.” But what if we applied the phrase personally? Our lives are made up of decisions and compromises, which we tell ourselves were the right ones. This is easy enough to do, since we can always paint the opposing choice as naiveté or ignorance — sure, being a fireman seemed like a cool idea when I was six, but I realized it really wasn’t what I was interested in as I grew older — but does that mean it’s always right? This is hard to know because of the one-sided relationship we have with the past — we may know the mindsets of our past selves, but those past selves can’t know the circumstances that lead to where we are now. All-New X-Men has reveled in the idea of a dialogue with the past, forcing its characters to defend their actions in ways that they never would otherwise. Issue 10 brings this dialogue to a head, as Old, Evil Scott (as we’ve taken to calling him here) provides a measured response to Young Scott’s impassioned “how could you?”
The issue opens with OE Scott and crew arriving at the Jean Grey School, issuing an open invitation to the New Xavier School. In defending his actions, OE Scott mentions the Phoenix Force, revealing that his actions may not have been as black and white as Hank let on. Either way, this galvanizes Young Scott’s will to stay, allowing him to succinctly deliver the thesis of this series:
Young Scott wasn’t present for that first chance, but he knows it didn’t work. He hasn’t had to make and live with the choices OE Scott has, so he can afford to be an idealist, even in the face of OE Scott’s present.
That’s a sentiment Marvel knows all to well. The X-Men have always been idealistic, and many fans have found recent events straying from that idealism. Of course, comics have a much more complicated relationship with their pasts, since anyone can read back issues at any time, but one thing that will always be true is that comics fans hate takesies backsies. As in real life, there are no second chances in comics — what’s done is done. Surely, then, creators have regrets, maybe wishing to undo things they or their predecessors have done. I’m not sure if writer Brian Michael Bendis wants to get the X-Men back to where they were before A vs. X, but at the very least, he wanted a chance to write the classic X-Men lineup. I’m not yet sure what the scale of this second chance is, but it’s a theme that resonates throughout this title.
Meanwhile, Mystique, Sabertooth, and Mastermind are making good on their plan to get filthy rich, violently knocking over armored cars and banks. Maria Hill reaches out to the X-Men to see if they have any information, and to suggest that they take care of this themselves.
There’s a palpable tension to this scene, suggesting that in spite of what may be going on in Uncanny Avengers, there is still a deep-seated distrust of mutants. That’s exactly the tension OE Scott uses to justify shoring up his army.
Actually, for all of his lack of tact (calling it the New Xavier School really is in poor taste), OE Scott makes a pretty compelling case. He suspects that a war is coming, and he simply wants to make sure the mutants are prepared to defend themselves. The X-Men may be upset at the murder of Charles Xavier, but they may also be living in ignorance of the world’s attitude towards mutants. As Hank explained to Warren in issue 9, the mutant-friendly oasis of the Jean Grey School may lull its inhabitants into a false sense of security. Perhaps the X-Men have lost sight of this.
The strength of OE Scott’s argument is exactly what makes the issue’s cliffhanger so effective — somebody agrees to join the New Xavier School, but we don’t know who. I’m inclined to think it might be Warren, who hasn’t been thrilled about being here (and just received that speech from Hank), but it could just as easily be Young Hank, or even Jean, who might try to use her telepathy to act as a covert double-agent. What do you think, Shelby? Has OE Scott won somebody over with his arguments, or is somebody hoping to sneak one past a malfunctioning Emma Frost?
Shelby: Patrick: Unfortunately, Shelby’s gone off and joined the New Xavier School for Comic Book Criticism, so I’m going to be filling in for her today. When I first read the end of this issue, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind: that’s Jean Grey volunteering to go with OE Scott. I think her frustration at not being able to read any of their minds, coupled with her and Scott’s shared history/future with the Phoenix force, makes her the most compelling choice. I am also 100% certain that she didn’t tell her professors she was going to make this choice, and I’m not even sure that she’s planning on being a double-agent. Jean pointedly doesn’t have a particularly strong mentor in this time, and as much as Kitty and Wolverine have a lot of affection for her, she’s still sort of an alien that no one understands. Remember how many times Kitty has had to talk Jean through those little fits of mind-reading-overload? Or how she keeps being told not to use her mutant power by her professors. She stayed in the present to make a difference, maybe she believes she can do that at OE Scott’s side.
I like that, in the midst of this battle of ideologies, there’s still a group of mutants that are just definitively up to no good. Mystique, Mastermind and Sabertooth represent and unqualified danger to basically everyone – humans and mutants alike. There’s so much moral ambiguity everywhere else in this series that it’s sorta nice to see a group literally robbing banks and murdering people. Got it: those are our bad guys. It’s also super interesting that Mastermind summons the illusions of the old X-Men (and also Wolverine) to storm the bank. Why are they using versions of those characters that should be sorta confusing to the general populace? I mean, right? The last thing humans need to know is that mutants are traveling through time.
It’s a specific choice that Mastermind made, and you don’t need to extrapolate too much further to see the connection to Beast’s actions bringing them up from the past in the first place. There’s some kind of power in the young, idealized versions of these characters, power that — as Drew suggested — might have been lost in the last in the years and comics since. The emotional reaction Mastermind is trying to elicit is fear, but it’s an emotional reaction nonetheless. There’s a second at the beginning of this issue where you have to re-orient yourself, and process what you’re seeing. Like the Danger Room psyche-out from last issue, it’s not that hard to get out in front of this one, but there’s no denying that seeing the original X-Men in this context has a certain emotional power over the reader. Stuart Immonen takes special care to pose the three mutants that are actually causing this carnage in the most villainous way possible, as if to chide them for using these characters’ likenesses in this way.
The idea that All-New X-Men might be so much about second chances that it is, in itself, a second chance to tell X-Men stories with these characters is fascinating to me. It’s actually sorta cool to reflect on how gradually long-running X-Men mythology has been dolled out over the course of this series. Just about ever time I talk about one of these issues, I usually have to mention “oh, I didn’t know anything about _____.” Last time, it was Lady Mastermind, but this week, we’re introduced to the front lawn of the school – an enormous mutant by the name of Krakoa.
That must have been an awful power to manifest itself during his teen years. I assume that Krakoa has been around for years and years, but I’ve never heard of the dude. This series manages to introduce him here in a fairly active role, possibly for use later, but maybe just so we know a little bit more about the X-Men world. Same goes with the Stepford Sisters (which is hilarious, by the way) and Quinten Quire (who I’d only know otherwise from that A+X issue he was in), who are all named, described briefly by other characters, and given an opportunity to act in character. The scope of Bendis’ story seems to envelop the past and present of all the X-Men, not just those five magical X-Men we all relate to automatically.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?