Taylor: While comics readers know it not to be true, there is a stigma that hero worship is something juvenile. Why this stigma persists I can’t say — after all, we have grown men who wear the jerseys of their sports heroes on a weekly basis. Why superhero worship is considered nerdy in comparison to these other idols, I don’t know. Still, it says something about people that we love to have heroes, even after we’ve reached an age where we like to think we don’t need them anymore. But the weird thing about heroes is that they seldom live up to our conception of them. We seem to never outgrow this aspect of hero worship, and as Scott Summers learns in Uncanny X-Men 25, this can be a bitter pill to swallow.
She-Hulk has arrived at the Jean Grey school to detail the last testaments of Xavier’s will. This is an odd occasion, as we finally have all of our favorite X-Men in the same place — not fighting — for the first time in what seems like forever. While the peace holds for a little while, things don’t stay tranquil for long, as Xavier’s will reveals that he married Mystique and that he suppressed the mutant ability of a powerful young child named Matthew. This obviously upsets the X-Men and Cyclops most of all, who takes his frustrations out on a wise-cracking Ice Man. After things settle down, the team learns that they can only hear the rest of will once they have checked up on Matthew, now that Xavier is gone.
It’s hard not to feel Scott in this issue. His relationship with Professor X is complicated to say the least — after all, how often do you accidentally kill the man you claim to love? Scott has always fashioned himself after Xavier, if not in action then at least in thought. However, the revelation that Xavier compromised his values hits Scott hard.
Like many of us, Scott had a hero. The only difference is that Scott’s hero was a legitimate superhero. Learning that such a person, especially one who’s very identify is built on ideals, compromised his beliefs upsets Scott. It’s another thorn in his side and yet another way the Marvel Universe has proven it loves to shit on Scott Summers. It’s interesting to consider where Scott goes from here. He had been casting himself as some sort of new-age Xavier, carrying on in the footsteps which few seemed eager to follow. Now, it seems unlikely he’ll continue in such a manner, but where does that leave him and his school? How can a leader lead when he doubts himself to the his most grounded beliefs?
As much as I find the idea of tearing down the legacy of Charles Xavier entertaining, there’s something about this plot which feels a little worn. Matthew, the super powered mutant to end all mutants, is someone who Xavier can’t control, and that fact bothers me.
It reminds me far too much of the saga of Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force. Like Jean, Matthew possesses an awesome power that destroy everything in its path. Like Jean, a large dose of emotion seems to trigger events which cause Matthew to hurt those around him. Also like Jean, Matthew wishes that the power he has wasn’t in his hands. These are all issues that have been addressed many times in the X-Men franchise and I fail to see why they need to be addressed once again and with a new character. It also seems like a large departure from Xavier’s character for him to suddenly decide to suppress a mutant’s ability. He goes immediately from discovering Matthew to “lobotomizing” him in the matter of a a few hours. The Xavier we all know wouldn’t do such a thing, so seeing him act in such a way is confusing.
However, perhaps that’s what Brian Michael Bendis is going for. He wants us to see Xavier in a completely different light so we feel about him the same way Scott does. Still, I could like to have a little more explanation of why Xavier acted the way he did then just “this mutant is too dangerous to live.” Do you agree with me Drew? Is Bendis reaching by making Xavier act to brazenly? If not, do you think Xavier’s actions are justified?
Drew: I definitely think its unfortunate that Bendis’ first crack at writing Charles Xavier since Avengers Vs. X-Men has to double as Xavier’s deepest, darkest secret. It’s almost a necessity that such a secret would be out-of-character (you can’t get this kind of reaction with something everyone saw coming), but that means Xavier’s appearance here doesn’t end up feeling very much like Professor X.
All things considered, I think Bendis wears this rather well. Xavier’s actions stem entirely from compassion, even if they are disturbing. Xavier explains that he was only driven to these extreme actions do to the threat posed by the Matthew — to the people around him, to all of mutant kind, and to the kid himself. Bendis even goes so far as to loop back around to get Matthew’s consent once he’s old enough to understand what he’d been through. Honestly, I don’t see this as all that morally ambiguous. I mean, what else could he do? Ultimately, are the memory-suppressing and power-dampening blocks he put up to protect this kid any different from those he might use to subdue an enemy or calm down a scared ally?
Scott’s objections — that this power-dampening violates Xavier’s mission to teach mutants to use their abilities — seem to miss a very basic point about the X-Men: they’re people first, and things with powers second. Matthew needed to be stopped, contained, and neutralized, or he would kill everyone who came across him, and Xavier did so in a way that allowed him to continue to live his life like a normal person. Objecting to that because it keeps him from his special mutant powers is so dumb that even Matthew — a stupid kid — is able to see how much better off he is without those powers. I don’t think it’s hypocritical at all to advocate for rights while also agreeing that not everyone wants — or even should have access — to those rights. That does set up Xavier as a kind of judge, jury, and executioner, but as Taylor pointed out: he’s a superhero. Making these difficult, unilateral decisions comes with the territory, and I think Scott should understand that.
That said, it is kind of weird that Xavier just swept this kid under the rug. Like, why not keep him close? An alienated orphan would be a pretty logical addition to the Xavier school, even if everyone thought he wasn’t a mutant. Like, Xavier didn’t need to pretend to be a kid in order to befriend Matthew — he could have sent in an actual mutant kid in order to recruit him, all while putting the same blocks in place. It just seems easier to keep an eye on him if he’s nearby than to check on him “every day” via Cerebro. Oh, and then his heirs might have had a better handle on keeping an eye on this person whenever Xavier died, since this plan obviously didn’t unfold quick enough.
But enough about Xavier! I was actually most intrigued by young Matthew’s apparent fascination with the Marvel’s superheroes. I mean, just check out his way cool action figures:
Dude’s got Spider-Man, Hulk, Thing, and even some deeper cuts like the Devil Dinosaure and Fin Fang Foom. It’s obviously the world he chooses to get lost in, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s through his imagination with these characters that he experiences the intense destructive emotions Taylor mentioned. Intriguingly, when Xavier imagines what Matthew’s future might look like if his powers were left unchecked, those toys are replaced with the actual superheroes (which you can see in the last image Taylor posted). Matthew feels an awful lot like a creator surrogate — an overgrown kid tasked with putting his favorite superheroes to the test — but that makes me even more confused about how we’re supposed to take Xavier’s actions. If Matthew is Bendis (or even Bachalo), what does that make Xavier? A long-suffering editor who heretofore curbed Bendis’ worst tendencies? I have my theories, but they’re not much more at this point.
It sounds like I was a little happier with this issue than you were Taylor. Still, I think your criticisms about Matthew being yet another unstoppable destructive force are totally grounded. I’m with you on being fatigued at seeing the X-Men face off against yet another MOST POWERFUL MUTANT EVER. That’s pretty basic superhero stakes fatigue, which I generally think Bendis is much better at than this issue suggests. Here’s hoping he takes it someplace neither of us are expecting.
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