Friday, June 29, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 13 (Wolverine and the X-Men #12 and X-Men: Legacy #269)

First, go read Tim O'Neil's post on Avengers vs. X-Men and notice that his take isn't too far away from mine. His perspective, though, is a little different and it's interesting that, despite that, we both come to very similar conclusions about the event. The only big difference is his praise of AVX: VS, but, honestly, my approach to that title is purposefully different from the one most people would take. His post is a good read.

One of the things he spends a lot of time focusing on is the idea that the X-Men are the villains of Avengers vs. X-Men. For the first act, Marvel did its best to undercut this by trying to turn the Avengers into facists and racists. It went a little further than the X-Men simply saying they were -- the debate within the Avengers of those ideas, every mutant siding with Cyclops and turning on Wolverine, the lack of tie-ins showing the Avengers' perspectives, and a few other things all happened to make the X-Men more of 'perspective' characters and underdogs. From an objective standpoint, they were clearly the misguided bad guys (some might say batshit insane cult), but, through the way that the story was told, that objectivity was clouded enough so that it wasn't a simple case of right (Avengers) vs. wrong (X-Men).

But, that stage of the story has passed and, now, we can clearly see that the X-Men are the bad guys once again. The power balance has shifted with the Phoenix Force inhabiting Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magick, and Cyclops asserting that there will be "No more Avengers." The X-Men are the dominant force and the Avengers are the underdog group on the run. This is meant to be a shift in the dynamics of the story, but it's a false shift, because the Avengers were always the good guys. The X-Men were never the persecuted minority in this story, because them being mutants were never a motivating factor for the Avengers -- hell, it didn't factor into it at all. It was the X-Men that made it about mutants vs. the world. And it's still about that. They haven't made the world better for mutantkind (and wasn't that what they thought the Phoenix would do?) by 'resurrecting' the race. They've tried to make the world better and, when questioned, decided that it could be because the Avengers (Wolverine included) hate mutants, not because every time someone with incredible powers try to remake the world, they always prove themselves corrupt and unworthy of those powers (aka something that the X-Men have encountered many times).

Last week, I bemoaned this obvious storytelling path as lazy and obvious and this week's Avengers vs. X-Men tie-ins only proved me right. X-Men: Legacy #269 is nothing but a big "THE PHOENIX FIVE ARE CORRUPT!" sign with a 'Yeah, Rogue is an awful person' lead-in. Rogue's mutant powers are hard to portray in a heroic fashion, because they're not powers that do something 'good.' They can be used in very specific situations to accomplish positive things, but, most of the time, they're used to violate people in a horrible, cruel, unforgivable way. One of Rogue's earliest victims was Ms. Marvel and, here, she tries to use her powers on Ms. Marvel again. This happens only a couple of issues after she did the same to She-Hulk, Falcon, and Moon Knight. Basically, her powers are to mindrape people and we're supposed to pretend that it's okay, because... um, she is a good person?

Rogue's use of her powers in these conflicts illustrates how far gone the X-Men are and also just how far gone superhumans in this world are. Most people probably don't even blink an eye at her trying to steal someone's entire being anymore, even when she's fighting other heroes. Why? Because, ever since Civil War, the entire direction of the Marvel Universe has been to undercut the idea that any of these characters are moral beings (aside from Captain America, perhaps, who has become the patron saint of Always Right). It's just perspective, just point of views, no right, no wrong -- just beat the shit out of anyone who disagrees. Civil War began that when a disagreement over how superhumans function in the United States had people go from best friends to trying to kill one another. No discussion, no attempt at reasoning, just zero to scorched Earth. And it's never stopped. Every big event from that point on has been designed to break down the heroes more and more, put them in positions where their actions and image don't clearly differentiate them from the so-called bad guys.

After all, there's a segment of people who probably still think that the X-Men are good guys here. That they have a point. It's not helped by Marvel crafting a story that lends some credibility to their perspective when none should be there. This is a story where a giant cosmic fire bird somehow cares about mutants on Earth because they're oh so special to 'cosmic balance,' but thinks nothing of destroying every planet in its path, thereby fucking with any notion of 'cosmic balance.' How does that make sense? It's part the usual 'Earth-centric' storytelling you find in anything that takes place in a universe that goes beyond this shitty little mudball we're on (because humans are sooooooooooooooooooo special compared to every other lifeform) and part giving credence to the idea a crazy cult has about a cosmic fire bird coming out of the sky to save them.

That is the Marvel universe as it stands now. So, of course, Rogue trying to steal the very essence of Carol Danvers again doesn't stand out. Why would it? But, make no mistake, this character is a villain and a bad person. The last time she touched Carol Danvers, she stole her powers and her memories -- she killed her, leaving a blank human shell alive that, eventually, became a person again. She tries to do the same again and, yet, we're supposed to be put off by Magick bringing a portion of Limbo to Earth to act as a prison for superhumans? That is the sign that the 'Phoenix Five' are corrupt and it's Rogue, paradigm of morality, that's shocked by it. Really.


Nice to see Bleeding Cool finally join the party of pointing out the inconsistencies in Avengers vs. X-Men.

Next week: Avengers vs. X-Men #7 and Uncanny X-Men #15.