Sunday, October 14, 2012

Post "AvX," is Cyclops more of an Angel than ever?

For better or worse, the biggest comics event of the year was "Avengers vs. X-Men." It was, frankly, everything dedicated comic fans know they are supposed to hate and yet they buy it anyway, simply because they want to see what will happen.

The premise of "AvX" is pretty straightforward. The Phoenix Force is the "Big Bad" of the series, and it's COMING TO EARTH!!!! The Avengers, Earth's Mightiest Heroes, are panicked. They recognize the Phoenix as a potentially planet-destroying threat and are desperate to keep it away. The X-Men, on the other hand, specifically Cyclops' uber-powerful Extinction Team (the most misunderstood of the misunderstood, and also the most dangerous), see the Phoenix as a chance to reignite the mutant gene that was snuffed out by former Avenger (and Extinction Team member Magneto's daughter) the Scarlet Witch. Plus, Cyclops has it on good authority (Cable, his son from the future) that Extinction Team member Hope is destined to host the Phoenix, and Cable typically knows what he's talking about.

The problem starts when Captain America decides to consult Wolverine about how to approach the Phoenix situation. Wolverine has just recently reopened the Xavier Institute (renamed the Jean Grey Institute) after a violent disagreement with Cyclops. There is a lot of bad blood between the two, and Wolverine is all-too-eager to tell Cap how irrational and militant Cyclops is now. It makes sense for Captain America to ask Wolverine for advice, considering Wolverine is doing double-time as headmaster of the Institute and as an Avenger, but he should have known to take it with a grain of salt. Instead, he decides to storm the X-Men's island headquarters and home, Utopia, and take Hope by force. Because, y'know, all they have to do is hide Hope somewhere where an omniscient being of psychic energy can't find her . . . riiiiiiight. Cyclops tells Cap to get off his lawn and this happens:


Now, thanks to Cyke's slammin'-hot telepathic girlfriend Emma Frost, the X-Men knew going into it that Cap wasn't going to take "no" for an answer, so skipping straight to the fisticuffs actually makes sense. The Avengers, however, see the X-Men as the aggressors and begin a full-scale invasion. Meanwhile, a separate team is sent into space in an attempt to stop the Phoenix from reaching Earth in the first place. Thor even throws his hammer at the massive energy-raptor, which is pretty hilarious, actually (did he really think that was going to work?). It doesn't work, so Tony Stark, in his infinite wisdom, creates a device that will absolutely, positively destroy the Phoenix.

That doesn't work, either.

This happens:

Yeah, great job, Tony. You and Wolverine could have just gone out drinking instead and this whole thing could have been avoided. But no. Excellent work, sir; now instead of ONE Phoenix host, who was actually meant to have it, we have five. Four of them, by the way, are dealing with some very serious personal demons that make them very bad choices to possess nigh-unlimited power. And then there's Cyclops, who actually handles it pretty well.

The Phoenix Five, as they're called, actually do great things with their power. They feed the hungry, abolish war, help the helpless, punish the guilty--all kinds of good stuff. But to the Avengers (and President Obama, oddly enough), it just doesn't seem kosher. After all, Wolverine tells them at every possible opportunity that Cyclops is a nutjob, and even though Rachel Grey did a pretty darn good job keeping the Phoenix under control, for some reason everyone assumes it's an uncontrollable force. So the Avengers keep antagonizing the Phoenix Five . . . pushing them, treating them like they're any other super-villains, and one by one, each starts to crack. Namor attacks Wakanda, causing unimaginable damage before the Avengers take him out. Colossus breaks stuff. Magik traps various Avengers in a hell dimension. Emma Frost mindwipes anybody who strikes her as particularly deserving of it. And Cyclops does nothing crazy at all, but he's still the one the Avengers (and many of Wolverine's "X-Men" at this point) see as the root of the problem. Professor Charles Xavier himself, too, is particularly disconcerted by Scott Summers' newfound power, and seems convinced that it will lead to no good. So he joins with the coalition of "X-Men" and Avengers and decides to put his former prize student down like a rabid dog.

The story culminates in the "shocking death" of Professor X at the hands of his first X-Man, Cyclops, who then turns into the Dark Phoenix and causes the excrement to hit the fan. Everybody is shocked. Cyclops is now, irrevocably, the villain fore'ermore. Take a look:

Hardcore, Cyke.
From there, Hope and the Scarlet Witch proceed to beat the Phoenix out of Scott and then declare, "No more Phoenix," dispersing the energy to restart the mutant population. So . . . yay. And yes, this is pretty much exactly what Cyclops' plan had been from the get-go, sooooo . . . instead of admitting he was right, the Avengers lock him away for his many "crimes," even fitting him with a ruby-quartz shock-helmet so he can't use his powers. And he deserves it for killing a defenseless Xavier--after all, it's not like Xavier stood any chance against the Phoenix . . . it was like shooting an unarmed man!

But wait . . . wasn't Xavier trying to completely mindwipe Scott? Hadn't he been goading him, prodding him, deriding him up to that point? He even snarls, "Down, boy!" at one point. Plus, Cyclops is under the corrupting influence of a cosmic entity. How is he entirely responsible for his actions? That "Get Out of Jail Free" card worked like a charm for Hal Jordan, so why shouldn't Scott Summers be similarly absolved? Wolverine has killed and killed again with no remorse whatsoever, and yet he's a staple of just about every team in the Marvel universe (if he joins the Fantastic Four, I'm giving up comics . . . but not really). Wanda Maximoff (the Scarlet Witch) nearly rendered mutants extinct, and killed countless mutants whose lives depended on their powers working (mutants who could fly, mutants who could breathe underwater, etc.). And yet she's a starring member of the new Uncanny Avengers series, which merges the Avengers with Wolverine's team of merry mutants.

The sheer commercialism of this comic would make Linus himself kick a beagle. 

The difference between Cyclops and every other character who has ever been put in such a position is that nobody likes Cyclops. Seriously. Many fans don't like him at all due to his straight-laced, conservative, by-the-books persona and even his fellow comic book characters think he's kind of a dick. Adding to the problem is the fact that Cyclops admitted multiple times that although he regrets killing Xavier, he doesn't regret his actions with the Extinction Team or the Phoenix Five because ultimately, his goal was met: more mutants.

The kicker is that even though Cyclops has been vilified (at least for now), even non-Cyclops fans feel that he was in the right throughout "AvX." He was the only member of the Phoenix Five who never flipped his sh!t, and he retained his humanity even to the point of removing Emma Frost's Phoenix powers when she threatened to destroy the earth on a whim (thank you, Kieron Gillen, for writing that excellent issue of Uncanny X-Men). Plus, his reaction when Beast tells him there are indeed new mutants is priceless.
"Get your filthy paws off me, you darn, dirty Beast!"
This whole "estranged son killing his father" motif seems awfully familiar, though. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 ended on pretty much the same note when a possessed Angel (calling himself "Twilight" because . . . ehhhh, why bother) broke Rupert Giles' neck. Does this look familiar?

Actually, Angel's had daddy issues since the 1700s.

This really unnecessary death did have the fortunate side effect of leading to Angel and Faith, which is one of the most enjoyable comics I've read in a while, and certainly the best comic in the Buffy-verse right now.

Angel is almost always penitent about something. He's a character driven by guilt and the hope of redemption. He had issues with his own father and he had issues with Giles (the whole "taking Buffy's virginity, turning evil and killing Giles' girlfriend" thing really lost him some brownie points), but he took that guilt upon his shoulders and he carried it, when he could easily have blamed it all on the demon inside him. And Angel and Faith is all about him redeeming himself in the only way he knows how: trying to resurrect Giles by any means necessary. It's a fool's quest, but Angel's a passionate fool, and passion has a way of making things work.

Passion is also why Angel is in this situation in the first place. Like Cyclops, he embraced the opportunity to take on incredible power in an attempt to make the world a better place, knowing from the start he'd have to make some serious choices and do some questionable things. The power he possessed had to be sacrificed by Buffy just as Hope and the Scarlet Witch sacrificed the Phoenix Force, for better or worse. And while under the influence of that power, he killed a man who was very much a father to him.  

Again, Angel, unlike Cyclops, is a character beloved by most Whedonites and the characters in his universe. This cuts him more slack with fans, but it doesn't make what he did to Giles any less horrifying. In fact, it's worse than what Cyclops did because Giles was not a threat to him. Cyclops acted in self-defense--he overacted, certainly, but his mind was at stake. Nevertheless, although he's playing it cool in his prison setting for the time being, Cyclops is definitely going to take his actions to heart. It's unlikely that he'll be trying to resurrect Xavier anytime soon (the Red Skull having Xavier's brain might be a problem anyway), but Xavier's death will definitely weigh heavily in his mind. And, frankly, it will make him even more fascinating as a hero, just as Giles' death has pushed Angel to new heights and lows alike. Being Cyclops, his outward attitude will likely be, "I don't give a fig--I was right and it all worked out," but that's because he's a lot like Christopher Nolan's version of Batman; he's willing to be seen as the villain if it means accomplishing the greater good. And that's what makes him awesome. 

On the subject of resurrection, if one reads the "AvX" tie-in Uncanny X-Men #18, it is shown that Cyclops very well may have brutally killed and immediately resurrected Beast at one point in the final battle. Sooooo . . . there's a very real chance that, had the Avengers not gone in guns a'blazin' and whatnot, either Xavier would not even have been killed or, alternatively, Cyclops could have resurrected him on the spot. Shoot, Hope could easily have done the same thing, but she didn't. Comic characters are silly, I'm afraid.

No comments:

Post a Comment