Saturday, August 25, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 21 (Uncanny X-Men #17)

"Did I just read a comic where the X-Men commit genocide?"

It's not too often that you think that upon finishing the latest issue of Uncanny X-Men -- in fact, I don't think anyone has ever thought that before -- but here we are. The comic ends with Cyclops saying "The war is over. Sinister's species is done. The world is safe. And entirely ours." The X-Men apparently murdered an entire species to make it possible for their kind to take over the world and promote their own race-based agenda. That's pretty fucked up. That's incredibly fucked up.

I've been trying to think this through for the past couple of days. Obviously, we're meant to see their actions as extreme. They murdered an entire species. Let us never lose sight of that as we walk our way through the various justifications that can be offered. After all, this was basically a species of one -- and Sinister had intentions that seemed directed towards genocide of his own, possibly. He seeked to perfect himself genetically and create a world based around that. He threatened the X-Men and the world many times in the past and even schemed to harness the power of the Phoenix towards that end. But, the X-Men hunted him and his people down and killed them all. It's a little difficult to rationalise that away.

After all, what kind of species this was doesn't matter. That it was a hivemind society created through science doesn't mean a thing. That just means that the Sinisters were different than what we're accustomed to, not that they're better or worse -- more or less worthy of life or not being wiped out entirely.

Yet, it's easy to say that, because, in our world, we've never encountered a race like this. A hivemind devoted to a single purpose that acts directly against our interests with no hope of negotiation or reasoning. In many ways, the Sinisters are a variation on the Borg before they were overused and neutered. Sinister and his people would just keep coming, endlessly. Wiping them out was the only viable option in that line of thinking. It's a large scale version of the debate about heroes killing, except with one murderous villain turned into an entire species -- a race unto himself. If Sinister was one man, would we necessarily balk at the X-Men killing him? How does that change if that one man duplicates himself on a large scale? Is that really a different race or simply a bunch of photocopies? Is there a difference? Hell, whether a single being or a million, isn't something unique and differently genetically, like Sinister, a race? But... I don't think if Sinister were just a single man, we'd consider his murder genocide despite the reality (an entire race wiped out) being the same.

I guess there's also the problem in comics that we're not certain that the entire race is dead, or that Sinister won't return at some point. However, I'm not sure that actually matters. Cyclops's perception that he's killed the entire species is the same whether or not he's actually accomplished that goal. In his mind, he's murdered them all. Is that, for our purposes, any different from his committing genocide? (Assuming that genocide only counts when you kill an entire race, which isn't accurate at all.) What we're really interested in is the idea that Cyclops and the X-Men could do such an act, making their perception the only reality that matters. But, that idea that their perception is false, that Sinister will survive and return somehow, lessens the impact of what these characters have done. It would have almost been more effective for there to be some remote island filled with the sole survivors of a doomed planet and the X-Men wipe them out to show us how far they've fallen, that they'd kill the remaining members of that race. Because Sinister matters, he can't be dead for good -- so did genocide happen or not?

I know, I'm asking a lot of questions. That's partly my style and partly never reading a comic where the protagonists take it upon themselves to do something like this. Kill a small group of bad guys? Sure. Kill an entire race? No.

Except for maybe the Skrulls. I'd forgotten all about them.

And the Asgardians over in The Ultimates #2, slaughtered by the Children of Tomorrow, who, while villains, were also presented in a somewhat sympathetic/relatable light.


That's really fucked up.

Genocide as storytelling device. Good job there, Marvel.

Next: AVX: VS #5 and Wolverine and the X-Men #15.