Ethan: When moderately intelligent villains start going about business of realizing their aims, one of the early practical considerations is that of personnel. If you want to take over the world, or bend its orbit into the sun, or just make a whole lot of money, you’re gonna need some other people to help you get there. You can solve this problem in a few different ways: one common one is to just shell out the cash, but you tend to get an army of dim thugs that way. Another way is to come up with an idea that has the twin benefits of both supporting your own aims while striking a chord in the hearts and minds of your potential followers/muscle. In Uncanny X-Men #10, we start to receive signals that Scott is in danger of following in the footsteps of the bad guys he used to square off against, and I don’t even think he knows he’s doing it.
At the New Xavier School for the Gifted, Scott’s trying to get his new class up to speed on combat. In the course of some rough-and-tumble hand-to-hand training with Magick, Tempus panics and uses her time-warping powers in a new way, trapping Magick and shifting her a minute into the future. While her teammates try to figure out what this means, Magneto has taken the X-Jet to go meet with Director Hill. Hill is fed-up with Magneto’s uncertain loyalties and is making it clear to him that he’s being pushed onto the back-burner — Hill assigns Dazzler as his contact and states that he either has to cough up some actionable intel or warm the bench. We then cut to a pro-mutant demonstration, where Scott’s team makes a surprise appearance to thank the crowd for their support, just in time for a Sentinel to arrive on the scene to take them out.
In the post about issue #9, Drew made some points about how identity could be defined as the story you tell yourself, about yourself. This issue carried that concept forward, especially with respect to Scott. Ever since he started making the sign of the X with his forearms in front of security cameras and dubbed his merry band of mutants the reincarnated Xavier School, I’ve been trying to figure him out. He’s changed in a few major ways: he killed his mentor, he lost control of his powers, and he shifted his operating strategy from one of co-existence to one of resistance. Even in the midst of these changes, though, some things have stayed the same: he’s bearing Xavier’s standard of searching out troubled youth to protect and train them, and he’s doing so with an unchanged single-mindedness. While everyone else is questioning his motives and his methods, he’s plodding forward. He might have moments of doubt, but he’s got the same kind of momentum he had back in the days when Professor X was alive and calling the shots. In fact, if it’s possible, he is leaning on the Professor’s mission now more than before:
What this all says to me is that Scott is trapped. The events that led up to the killing/murder of Charles Xavier would have stopped a lot of people cold. The fact that Scott’s the one that did the killing would seem to make his present self-confidence even more absurd. So the simple fact that Scott is pressing forward with his own school — again, even naming the thing after Xavier — to me, says that Scott is in some pretty deep denial. Not about what he did, but about who he is.
After all, Scott’s the fearless leader, the one who always believed in Xavier’s dream more fiercely than the others, the one that insisted on taking the higher road when other, unnamed, adamantium-clawed team members wanted to cut to the chase. Scott’s narrative for himself is that he always powers through, he leads the team, he keeps the family together.
Scott’s buy-in to his own story is so complete that he’s managed to draw several others along in his wake — the teachers and students of his new school. Some of this is just sheer momentum, or the desire to let someone else be the leader and make the hard decisions. At the same time, he’s also done some shrewd recruiting, more through subconscious self-preservation and coincidence than any deliberate choice. As an example, check out Magick’s justification for the bloody knuckles style of training that’s going on. Her delivery of this line was interrupted by that time-bubble-travel business I mentioned, so I missed it the first time — I’ve rejoined the two panels below to reflect her own subjective frame of reference so that you can se it as a complete thought:
For Scott, they’re training because 1) that’s what you do when you have a school of mutants, and 2) their recent combat encounters have proven that they’re not ready to do what he thinks needs doing. For Magick, however, they are training because they are weak when they must be strong, and they are training without pulled punches because that’s how it was for her — “it’s how all of us were trained.” She found her identity and survival slugging it out with demons in limbo — why should it be easier for her students? Emma’s the same story — she’s sliding in and around this new mutant resistence in an attempt to back a winner and find some security for herself, just like her days with the Hellfire Club. Magneto is doing something similar, but playing a much bigger game, dragging players like S.H.I.E.L.D. into the fray. Scott might be the speedboat out front, driving the events we’re witnessing, but the wake he’s whipping up behind him is pulling people into his path more out of convenience and familiarity than out of the kind of shared ideology and passion for cultural change that Professor X embodied and directed. Despite their current tensions, I’m seeing a whole lot more in common between Scott and Magneto than with the late professor.
Drew, I know I pretty much hijacked your statements about self-narratives, but do you agree with the way I’m saying that applied to Scott? Is he just living through the same kind of organizational growing pains Xavier likely lived through back in the early days, or is Scott falling into the classic role of oblilvious narcissist bad guy?
Drew: It’s interesting — to us, to S.H.I.E.L.D., and even to the mutants at the Jean Grey School, Scott Summers killed his mentor, then immediately abandoned the philosophies of that mentor. It looks, from the outside, that Scott has given up on anything Charles Xavier stood for, which is why I think it’s so important to ask ourselves how Scott sees his actions. Perhaps, in the wake of Xavier’s death (or even because of it), Scott lost faith in the non-violent methods he preached. The obvious analogue to Xavier and Magnetos philosophies, to me, has always been Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X., and Scott’s actions here specifically recall the rioting that broke out after MLK’s assassination. For many, it may have been an emotional reaction, but for others, it was a conscious rejection of the non-violence Dr. King had always preached. The time for turning the other cheek was over.
My working understanding had been that this is exactly what Scott had experienced (though with the weird wrinkle of having killed Xavier himself) — he had simply lost faith in (or patience with) Xavier’s philosophy. That makes his closing speech — which is all the more poignant, with its mentioning of Xavier’s “dream” on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — a bit of a surprise. Had he not given up on Xavier’s dream, after all? Then what has he been doing all this time? Is his only disagreement with the other X-Men over whether or not he should be in jail?
Actually, I get the impression that he had given up on Xavier’s dream until he saw the rally. Both Warren and Magneto need to remind him how historic this moment is, and he seems to struggle through his speech after mentioning Xavier’s dream. It could just be read as misty eyes at the mention of his lost mentor, or guilt over killing him, but I choose to read those pauses as Scott coming to realize that he may have strayed from Xavier’s ideals, just when they seem within his grasp.
But are they?
Artist Frazer Irving reuses the same crowd images over and over again throughout that sequence. Here are two non-adjacent panels made adjacent for comparison.
That could just be a time-saving technique, but it becomes so obvious by the third time he reuses a panel, I can’t help but assume that he meant for us to notice. In that case, I see the reuse of images as a subtle hint that this crowd isn’t real, after all, but is some kind of hologram meant to bait the Uncanny X-Men out of hiding. That kind of baiting could explain why the sentinels were able to seemingly predict Scott’s movements — they knew where he would be going before he did. Of course, that would require that whoever is behind this knew about the new mutants before Scott did (or is maybe even creating them), which hints at a much bigger villain than some generic sentinels would suggest.
I suppose we’ll have to wait for resolution about whether there was ever a rally in Ann Arbor, but in the meantime, it really only matters that it was real to Scott. He was forced to confront the legacy of Charles Xavier in a way that disrupted the story he’d been telling himself about himself. I’m not sure if allowing his ego to divorce that story from reality makes him a “bad guy” so much as it makes him an asshole, but he’s certainly at a crossroads now. I only hope this sentinel attack doesn’t keep that lesson from sinking in.
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?