Today, Shelby and Mikyzptlk are discussing All-New X-Men 12, originally released June 5th, 2013.
Shelby: Making a mistake is a simple matter. Whether it’s your fault or not, when you make a mistake you acknowledge the error, fix it as best you can, and apologize. Provided you’re not a total asshole, of course. Nothing is ever so simple in ComicBookWorldLand, though; when you can be suddenly possessed by some sort of malevolent cosmic entity, that adds a lot of layers to the idea of mistakes and culpability. Things can get really complicated really quickly, and if there’s anyone who isn’t going to understand a nuanced situation, it’s going to be a bunch of teenagers.
The confrontation between The Avengers and the X-Men affords Havok a chance to meet his older-but-currently-younger brother Cyclops. While they play the weirdest game of catch-up ever and Wolverine and Cap bicker, Jean accidentally reads Scarlet Witch’s mind and learns about the Decimation. Jean loses it, lashing out at all the Avengers and screaming that Wanda had killed all the mutants, just when they were starting to make something of themselves. All the adults try to explain that it wasn’t so simple as that, that Wanda wasn’t in her right mind when she depowered nearly every mutant, but the kids aren’t buying it. Cap tells Logan about the team of original X-Men going on an international robbery spree, and each group goes their own way to solve the problem. And speaking of international robbery spree, Lady Mastermind is beginning to suspect Mystique has more up her sleeves than simple greed.
Last month we complained about Brian Michael Bendis spinning his wheels and not advancing the story at all. While I think that was a brief hiccup in the forward motion of the plot, I want to talk about Wanda. I gleaned most of my info here from Wikipedia, so if I’m totally off-base, please let me know. She spent a large chunk of her history with some sort of mysterious cosmic entity inside her, making both her and her powers pretty unstable. She ended up depowering something like 90% of all the mutants, effectively killing them.
All the adults tell Jean to cool it, that she doesn’t understand the circumstances and that it’s not right for her to hang out in people’s heads without their permission. It’s all true, but it doesn’t stop the rest of the kids wondering how it was that a woman they only knew as an enemy, who would apparently do terrible things to mutant-kind, could end up a member of the most respected good-guy team out there. And you know what? They aren’t totally wrong. Old Evil Scott may have killed Xavier and started a war with the Avengers, but he was under an outside influence just like Wanda was; why is he vilified and she lauded? Is it just because she is tormented by her choices, whereas Scott feels he did the right thing? Is it because Wanda helped jumpstart mutant-kind again after Scott and the Phoenix force parted ways?
I love what Bendis is doing here. Scott’s group is a lot like a fundamentalist Muslim group. They target youths for the same reason any cult group does; their minds are very impressionable, and they have a more black/white mentality. By presenting the X-Kids with Wanda, who has arguably done more damage to mutant-kind and is still given a position of honor and authority, Bendis is planting a seed of doubt. As they see it, a mutant nearly destroyed her own kind, and was then rewarded for it by getting to work with a team that has traditionally not involved mutants. If all the kids are convinced that it’s Scott who has the right of it and not the faculty of the Jean Grey School, it could have debilitating effects on the timeline. Imagine the original X-Men team, converted to the belief that violence is the way to achieve peace and freedom for mutant-kind. They go back to their own time with that belief and tell the world they will fight back if threatened. The world, in turn, sees that as a threat, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of humans and mutants as enemies. Beast brought the kids to their future so Young Scott could convince Old Scott that revolution is not the way to peace. Instead, Old Scott may end up converting his younger self to his radical way of thinking, making his revolution so effective it spans timelines.
Stuart Immonen’s work shines as usual this issue. He perfectly captures Jean’s anguish and horror at the knowledge of what Wanda would do, just as he captures Wanda’s sorrow and regret over her actions.
The scene is lit only by the lights of the grounded jet and Jean’s psionic powers. The drama is high, the tension is high, and it’s just plain beautiful. The whole confrontation is lit with those handful of lights, swathing all the players in heavy, high-contrast shadow. It adds a lot of dramatic weight to the scene, which is appropriate considering this may be the point that turns the tides in Old Scott’s favor. What do you think, Mikyzptlk? Is there a chance the X-Kids could be radicalized by their own crappy futures and join the revolution instead of helping stop it?
Mikyzptlk: Oh, for sure. One of the most interesting things about Bendis’ two X-Men camps is that neither group is necessarily “wrong.” In RealWorldLand, things are a tad bit more complicated than the absolutes of right and wrong, which I definitely think is a big part of where Bendis is coming from. When the original X-Men first came to the present, they arrived knowing that their mission was to stray the “evil” Cyclops from his path of…evilness. The information the X-Kids had of the future existed in a fragile bubble that popped almost immediately once they actually started to see the intricacies of the present day mutants. With every new bit of information the kids learn, their opinions of the present day situation become more refined. This is making the decisions they make that much harder, and it might just change a few more allegiances before all is said and done.
Shelby, since you’ve already given us a fine examination of the complexity that Bendis is giving us, I’d like to talk about the thing I loved most about this issue. That being, the Summers brothers. The cover of this issue presents a Young Cyclops vs. Havok battle. This is entirely misleading, but I’m totally glad that it is as what we get inside the comic is way more satisfying than any mutant battle could ever hope to be.
Besides the fact that it exists, I don’t actually know all that much about the relationship between Cyclops and Havok, and, I only say this to illustrate my eventual point, I’ve never particularly cared about finding out much about them either. However, perhaps because I’m an older brother, or perhaps because the scenes these two characters share are so damned emotional, their scenes together hit home. I simply LOVED everything about their interactions together. It was first fraught with tension, but with a simple embrace, the tension melted away. They aren’t mutants, they aren’t X-Men or Avengers, they are simply, beautifully, brothers. With all of the things that are constantly going horribly wrong in the X-Universe, scenes like this are refreshing. It reminds everyone, characters and readers, what these people are fighting for. That said, I think the interactions between Scott and Alex accomplish something else. Take a look at the following scene and I’ll explain what I mean.
Beast’s decision to bring the X-Kids to the present may or may not be the worst decision anyone has ever made in the history of the X-Men. Pretty much all of the X-Kids have been mortified in one way or the other to learn of their destinies, and if what Shelby theorizes comes to pass, the X-Kids could grow up to be warmongers that doom the fate of both mutants and humanity. Young Scott, arguably, takes the brunt of these revelations in learning all that he’ll be responsible for one day. His young ego has been kicked around quite a bit since his journey to the present and it seems the he’s mostly been influenced by Mystique, which cannot be a good thing. However, for the first time, Young Scott sees that it’s not all bad in the future, in that his brother not only turns out alright, but that he’s an Avenger to boot!
I’m not sure what Young Scott is going to do with this information, but I’ll bet it’ll be a big influence on the kid, just as Mystique’s words were an influence to him in a different way. Which brings us back to where Bendis is coming from, there is no “right and wrong” or “black and white.” Absolutes are a thing of the past, and the All-New X-Men are going to have some tough, complex decisions ahead of them. You better believe I’ll be tuning in each month to find out exactly what they are.
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