Sunday, September 16, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 23 (Avengers vs. X-Men #11, New Avengers #30, Uncanny X-Men #18, and Wolverine and the X-Men #16)

Scott Summers is the last sane man. The last true believer. It's all a matter of perspective. He's touched the hand of god and had his faith rewarded with more power than he ever imagined. He can remake the world, he can save his race... and all he sees are the weak, the tempted, the jealous, wrongheaded, so-called heroes that see it as their mission to preserve the status quo, to maintain the rule of humanity, to wallow in endless conflict, death, and misery. He sees his 'father' proclaim his love for everything and everyone before deciding that the ability to make that love manifest is 'too big' and 'shames' him. And it's understandable why they would suspect those with the power of the Phoenix, because the others were corrupt and brought low by the power. It was too much for them. Not for Scott Summers, though. He was never corrupted. He stayed the course, maintained the path... no matter what. The rest embraced the destructive side of the Phoenix in the most cliched and obvious ways. They sought to destroy things literally. Scott simply seeks to destroy the ideas and practices that drove his people so close to extinction. He's greeted by betrayal and scorn. So were all true saviours and prophets. So were all who could truly change the world for the better. The test of Scott's faith is remarkable and he never strays. His focus is always on a specific endpoint and it's only when everyone abandons him that he truly looks like the bad guy, the villain. But, of course, he's not. He's the saviour of mutantkind, of the entire planet. The man driven to do so much good, surrounded by such weak and fallen individuals, that he can't help but appear evil. His actions are defensive until he cannot simply react anymore. Beaten down and persecuted, he did what any true hero does: he musters his strength, redoubles his effort, and overcomes the odds. You see Dark Phoenix, I see Scott Summers, the mutant son of god refusing to be sacrificed for the sins of the world.


That perspective on Avengers vs. X-Men #11 is part exercise in amusing myself and part a reading of the comic that makes far more sense to me than it probably should. Honestly, I've yet to see Scott doing anything villainous or corrupt. He's insane, no doubt -- a true zealot. But, that zealotry has also kept him from succumbing to the same flaws as the others. In Avengers vs. X-Men #11, he doesn't do anything 'bad' until he's pushed so far that it seems justified to take the remaining Phoenix power from someone who has admitted to corruption (Uncanny X-Men #18 lays it out quite a bit) and lash out at someone trying to literally shut down his brain. I don't know... he seems like the hero of the story at this point to me somehow.


The death of Professor Xavier is done in a pisspoor fashion. It's not clear that he's dead. Emma looks worse off than Xavier. Had there not been a newspaper story about Xavier's death, I don't think many would have assumed he's dead. It's like someone at Marvel read this issue and went "Oh shit... we better spoil this so people actually understand that it happened!"


New Avengers #30 isn't a great issue, but the Luke Cage stuff is fantastic work by Brian Michael Bendis. Another step in this large story he's told with this character where he's grown so much. His internal conflict during Avengers vs. X-Men has mostly sat under the surface -- introduced at the beginning and resolved here. It's basically the endpoint that most superheroes would face: giving it up for his family. It's the place where Spider-Man ends. Where you realise that "With great power comes great responsibility" applies to more than superpowers. It applies to the choices you make, the relationships you foster, and the power you have to create life and the responsibility that comes with it. I won't be surprised if Bendis has Luke Cage 'rejoin' the Avengers in his final stories in those books, but I hope he doesn't.


We're almost at the end of this story and I'm not exactly expecting a lot from the final issue of Avengers vs. X-Men based on issue 11. The fall of Scott Summers no doubt. The continued depiction of heroes as thugs. Tonight, I saw Captured Ghosts, the Sequart documentary on Warren Ellis (and enjoyed it quite a bit) and, when they got to talking about The Authority, I realised just how much damage Ellis's tenure on that comic has done to superhero comics (through no fault of his own). He spoke of how the Authority was a team made up of bad people who just happened to be fighting against worse people. They seemed like the heroes because they were the lesser of two evils. They still killed large numbers of people, destroyed cities, and did awful things.

And they became the new standard for superheroes.

My biggest problem with Avengers vs. X-Men is how awful these characters all come off. How quick they are to use violence, how quick they are to sink to the lowest forms of paranoia and hatred and idiocy when confronted by a friend who has a different opinion. I mean, come on, there shouldn't even be a story here! Captain America should have arrived at Utopia, explained his reservations about Hope and the Phoenix, and Cyclops should have listened and said, "Well, how about we take Hope into space to meet the Phoenix before it reaches Earth in case something goes wrong? And, if something does, then the combined Avengers and X-Men will be there to stop it before the planet is placed in danger." And then the heroes go do the logical thing that any child over the age of six could have thought of. And that's a story with potential for drama and adventure and excitement that doesn't make the 'heroes' look like fucking assholes. Because they have to simply hit things until they don't move.


Scott Summers is an evil motherfucker. But he still seems like the most sane one of the bunch right now to me. And that's fucked.

Next week: Avengers #30.