Saturday, November 10, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 30 (AVX: Consequences #5)

In Avengers vs. X-Men #1, Cyclops took a stand against Captain America based on his belief that the Phoenix coming to Earth would result in the rebirth of the mutant race. He was right. But, when he spoke of the mutant race, what Marvel was really saying through the character was that the coming of the Phoenix (aka Avengers vs. X-Men) would result in the rebith of the X-Men. Having come to the end of this entire event with this week's AVX: Consequences, that's what has happened: the X-Men have been reborn.

When House of M featured the Scarlet Witch proclaiming "No more mutants" and almost wiping out the mutant population, what really happened was that an Avenger made the ascension of the Avengers to Marvel's top franchise official, going so far as to decimate the former top franchise, the X-Men. Under the guise of returning the X-Men to the concept's roots by making mutants again a minority so outnumbered that they are practically extinct, what really happened was that the X-Men franchise was shunted to the side, lost in a sea of stories that were more about how few mutants there are than about exciting action. While the concept of the X-Men fighting for a world that fear and hates them was always the root of the franchise, it was also something that could slip away in the background much of the time, allowing the characters to get lost in superheroics and soap opera. However, once the mutant population was lowered to less than 200 members, the story was just about the fact that mutants are almost extinct and the two issues that come with that: keeping every mutant alive no matter what and ensuring that more mutants are born. Now, you can get a decent amount of stories out of those two ideas. Hell, it would have made for an interesting single title among many X-books. But, it was the dominating focus of the entire line, splintered through different approaches. And, well, it killed the X-Men to a degree. Change is bad, right?

Schism was the first step in rectifying the situation. Cyclops, the poster boy of the new status quo, was challenge by Wolverine over his leadership choices, wanting to return to the X-Men's older ways. In the end, Cyclops embraced the role of leader of a near-extinct people going so far as to rename the X-Men his 'Extinction Team,' while Wolverine returned to Westchester and opened a school for mutants. It was a return, but the issue of the low number of mutants still loomed heavily over the franchise -- and Cyclops and his group were still 'heroes' in the recent X-Men mould. The return to the old ways was partially complete.

Avengers vs. X-Men accomplished two things: it returned the mutant population to non-endangered levels and it pushed Cyclops fully into the role of Magneto to Wolverine's Professor X. I speculated last week that that was what we would see in the final issue of AVX: Consequences and I was right. Now, make no mistake, that doesn't mean that Cyclops will be a copy of Magneto any more than it means that Wolverine is a copy of Professor X. I don't foresee Cyclops doing actively villainous things the way Magneto would. Often, Magneto fell into the role of 'typical bad guy' instead of 'mutant revolutionary,' which is where Cyclops seems more poised to fall. He's the alternate to Wolverine's school. Not necessarily divided along the old Xavier/Magneto ideological lines of 'peaceful co-existence vs. mutant domination.' It would probably make more sense for Cyclops to simply fight for mutants, no matter what. That means he'll do both 'heroic' and 'villainous' things depending on your perspective. We saw that a bit in AVX: Consequences #5 when he has Danger mark the warden of the prison with a giant X on his face. The mutant race is reborn and Cyclops is going to make sure it survives its new infancy, grows up, and thrives. It's not so much anti-human as Magneto often was, but pro-mutant.

But, really, it's a return to the old X-Men helmed by the man that made the Avengers the dominant franchise. That was the goal of Avengers vs. X-Men and it has a good chance of working. The pieces have been returned to familiar positions. It's a new status quo that's really just the old status quo. When Marvel said that this was the culmination of the stories the company has been telling since House of M (even Avengers Disassembled really), they weren't lying.

It's our childhoods reborn.

[Next: I have two final posts to write. A wrap-up/overview post that will probably say everything I've said many times once again and a reading order post. Those should be coming in the next couple of weeks.]