Friday, July 06, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 14 (Avengers vs. X-Men #7 and Uncanny X-Men #15)

That didn't take too long, did it?

In my discussion of Avengers vs. X-Men #6, I laid out how things would be for the 'Phoenix Five' as they went from saviours to corrupt in fairly short order and, well, here we are. They speak in terms of mutants/everyone else, have labelled the Avengers a terrorist organisation, and seem ready to execute the Scarlet Witch on sight for crimes against mutants -- she's called the "murderer of the mutant race" by Emma Frost. They have the power and they have an agenda and, combined, those two things mean abrupt, possibly immoral actions, especially given who comprise the Phoenix Five.

1. Emma Frost -- Former villain, noted for her snobbish behaviour and general sense of superiority.

2. Namor -- Ruler of Atlantis, physical embodiment of arrogance, and has a long history of acting without his brain forming a single thought beyond the words "Imperius Rex!"

3. Magik -- Formerly without a soul, not much changed since regaining it, and makes her home in Limbo.

4. Colossus -- Avatar of Cyttorak, a demonic being that demands destruction and whose influence Colussus struggles to contain in every confrontation.

5. Cyclops -- Leader of the X-Men and whose belief in the Phoenix and its seeming choice for host, Hope, is practically religious in fervor.

This is a group that is guaranteed to go too far in pursuit of its agenda. You'd be hard-pressed to find five characters in the Marvel Universe that could make up a balanced and even-tempered substitute for these five, but the selection of the hosts in this case clearly point towards a quick rise and obvious, unavoidable fall. They're already scheming behind one another's backs and presuming that they are superior to anyone who doesn't agree with them, even their fellow Phoenix co-hosts.

Except for Cyclops, their leader.

Reading both Avengers vs. X-Men #7 and Uncanny X-Men #15 this week, it was fairly obvious that Cyclops is different from the other four in that his obvious character flaw to date actually makes him less likely to grow corrupt. Maybe it's the way that Matt Fraction and Kieron Gillen specifically are writing the character, but it seems like his faith in the Phoenix and Hope, his dedication to the vision of a better world for both humans and mutants is keeping him calm and centred. While the other four march towards the fall (Colossus not as much, but that's only because he hasn't been shown as much, I think), he's the one pulling them back, championing the righteousness of their cause and pointing out that, with the power they have, they can afford patience and to use persuasion rather than violence when possible. He may want the Avengers captured and taken off the board, but he knows that they're people doing what they think is right. He is on a holy mission and he doesn't hate those that oppose him, he pities them and their lack of faith. He wants to save them!  They are sinners waiting to be saved!

It's a very clever bit of character work given how, up until now, Cyclops's zealotry has made him stand out as the 'worst' of the X-Men. He pushed them into this fight with the Avengers and refused to seek a compromise. That zealotry and faith, when greeted with the knowledge that he was right (for now) has tempered him, given him confidence and placed him in a position where he's comfortable. In his mind, he's won and he doesn't need to fight anymore. When he calls for patience and mercy despite the protests of the others, he seems like the Cyclops of old in many ways.

His shift over the past few years towards a hard-lined zealot, more Magneto's successor than Xavier's, has annoyed a lot of people. They didn't think it was the 'real Cyclops' and that the writers were 'getting it wrong.' But, it's almost like the Phoenix brings out the true, basic nature of these characters. For most of them, that's not necessarily a good thing -- for Cyclops, he's the leader of the mutant race that he was meant to be. Not a paranoid, insecure ruler like Namor thinks he should be, but a confident leader that recognises where he is and knows that being in power doesn't mean crushing everything because you can.

If anything will make the character standing side-by-side with Captain America when this is all over, it's how he's portrayed in these two comics this week.

Next week: AVX: VS #4, New Avengers #28, and Wolverine and the X-Men #13.