|Presenting: The early front-runner for the|
most controversial comic of 2013
I'm not really planning to talk about this issue. For one thing, Joe Hughes and Andrew Wheeler have already covered it definitively at Comic Alliance. For two, I'm a straight white male; I don't exactly have anything to add here. It's more about the fact that some seem to fear this damages the metaphor for mutants representing minority struggles.
The trouble is, I think Marvel broke that metaphor a while ago, with this just being the latest hit an already bleeding concept has had to endure.
Not too long after Grant Morrisons New X-Men - a personal favorite of mine - Marvel put out House of M. This, I think, was ground zero. Almost immediately after the "No More Mutants" proclamation, the X-Men shifted to a different mission statement. They were now the endangered species. Survival was the concept at the heart of the team. The X-Men began to resemble an army, not a group of people unfairly prosecuted for their differences.
Ed Brubaker sort of got the ball rolling when he disgraced Xavier in Deadly Genesis, which led to the character losing any influence on the team and losing his purpose. This is important because his entire deal was that he was for peace and acceptance. He was the figure offering a better way, even if it was harder. Now, he was off the team, with many mutants disillusioned regarding him and his message*. It didn't stop there, with most of the questionable moments centering around Cyclops.
The school was trashed again, only this time the X-Men left instead of rebuilding. Education is essentially the root of fixing the problems of the world, but now the X-Men weren't teaching much of anything beyond combat. When someone he doesn't like comes into power and causes problems, Cyclops packs his people up, herds them on an island made of Asteroid M just off the coast of San Francisco and declares them their own nation. The idea of the teenage X-Men being child soldiers is pretty apparent**. Cyclops puts a kill team together to take out the people who could cause mutants the most damage. After a split with half the X-Men, Cyclops named his group the Extinction Team and decides to send the world an ultimatum essentially saying they weren't going to put up with their BS and that they would retaliate if someone even looked at them cross.
Then there's that whole thing about Cyclops being willing to gamble with the planets life over whether a giant fire phoenix will revive the mutant population - even after they know it nuked a planet on its way to Earth - but, uh, that one might not have any implications beyond the fact that Cyclops is kind of a dick.
In fairness, it's not a straight one to one comparison to real life. The X-Men have never been a one to one comparison to any minority group. It's very easy to do great stories without using the racial metaphor at all. But it's a concept embedded in the franchise, meaning that when Marvel greenlit all this, they essentially had the stand-in for minority struggles engage in all of those very questionable acts.
You can see how this might be a problem.
Marvel obviously wants to go back to the well, now that the "endangered species" era is effectively over. Trouble is, how do you really come back from that? I mean, sure, you can do whatever you want in fiction, but how does it work after all that, save a continuity reboot?
But try they will, only trouble being that now we've got a real problem in the dynamic. Cyclops and his group have, to be frank, become a representation of extremists. Even if you think that, in light of Marvel continuity, enough is enough and agree with their position, they are definitely not the good guys here. That leaves Uncanny Avengers to be the other side of the coin. But that is now out the window as well.
So, where's the middle ground here? Cyclops is obviously wrong. People have made it clear Havok is wrong, intentions aside. Not a good situation to have.
Can it be salvaged? Sure. The right writer could theoretically put the house back in order. But the franchise has spent close to ten years slowly breaking the metaphor. It will take a lot of work and even then I'm not sure it can ever be completely fixed. I guess only time will tell.
* And now he's dead - killed by Cyclops - because Marvel couldn't find something to do with the guy who taught peace and understanding.
** Marvel was at least aware of this one; it was central to Schism, where the X-Men split into two groups over it.