by Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
“Good vs Evil” implies that there are two sides — two warring factions — battling for the fate of the world. It’s a compelling image: a battlefield with good guys on one side and bad guys on the other. Good and evil are separate forces, and in our imaginations, represented by two different groups of people. While Charles Soule and Gerardo Sandoval’s Astonishing X-Men 12 still gives the reader avatars of light and darkness in the forms of X and The Night King, the armies fighting for each side are made up of all the same players. Old Man Logan is both a reformed ally-murderer and an irredeemable death machine; good and evil waging war within one mind.
Sandoval relishes the opportunity to show the X-Men at their absolute lowest. All of their psychological wounds are self-inflicted, resultant from self-doubt or a sense of low self-worth, and Sandoval establishes a devastating visual vocabulary to illustrate this. Before we even get a credits page, Logan takes the iconic Wolverine-suicide pose and snikts his claws through his chest.
Sandoval leans into the religiosity of this moment, dropping the character to his knees, and turning his face skyward, as though in prayer. All of the characters get page-dominating moments like this: Warren tears into the upper atmosphere, Cable slumps into a fatalistic ennui, Rogue and Mystique meld their mutual lack of identity into one screaming mess. It’s dark, chaotic stuff.
Which means it can only be thwarted by light, orderly stuff. That means the return of X… or the re-re-re-return of Charles Xavier… sort of. Look, the recap page makes light of Xavier dying and coming back, so it’s not like we’re supposed to treat any of his deaths or resurrections that seriously. And even once it’s done, X blows off Psyclocke’s very reasonable “how are you alive?” question, but a short “Later, Betsy.” Dismissive condescension notwithstanding, how do you not celebrate a man pushing the lobes of his cracked-out head back together again?
Hell yes, the X-Men do not give up.
Okay, question time! Since X restores everyone’s confidence in themselves (and you, Scarecrow, you had a brain the whole time!) before blanking their memories, how much of this “really happened”? Outside of a tattered shirt, Logan seems none the worse for wear after stabbing himself in the chest, and the man who might sorta be Xavier goes into hiding. Is he a character, or simply the spirit of the X-Men? He and Pyslocke win the day because they tap into a network of new psychics in the Marvel Universe, but is that really the will of a living man, or the persistent legacy of a teacher who died years ago? We’re talking about a psychic-heavy X-Men story in the Morrison tradition, so the line between inspiration and an inspiring figure may be intentionally blurred here. Whatever the case, the issue ends with six mutants finding new purpose in life — whoever caused that is indeed a force of good triumphing over evil.
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