We at Von’s have been loving both X-Men: Schism and the Regenesis line of books that have come out of it. The reason we love it so much is not the quality of the story; though Jason Aaaron, Kieron Gillen, and the various writers and artists who have followed their lead have so far been providing us with some great scripts and lovely art. No, the reason we love Schism and Regenesis is that these stories have sparked debates among X-Men fans, including Von’s employees. Usually these debates end up being pitched verbal battles between the Cyclops and Wolverine camps.
Unlike most of my co-workers, and quite a few fans and industry pros, I find myself solidly behind the Blue team and Cyclops’s camp of realists. Today I will tell you why and in a future post I hope one of my counterparts will present the alternate view. Be warned, however, from here on out spoilers are on.
When Schism started we were not entirely sure what the conflict that would split the X-Men was. They had been going through a period of unprecedented unity. We wondered, specifically, what would destroy the working relationship and friendship that Logan and Scott had developed after decades of conflict. The answer came in Schism #3 when the Hellfire Club’s attack on the Mutant History Museum had incapacitated the adult X-Men, and Oya, a member of Generation Hope, was forced to kill close to a dozen men in order to save the X-Men and hundreds of bystanders.
Because neither Scott nor Logan would be able to reach the Museum in time to stop the Hellfire Club, Cyclops gave Oya the go-ahead to do what she felt she needed to do. Things escalated later when a super sentinel was approaching Utopia and Cyclops was left without any active X-Men teams to fight it. All of his adult X-Men were either returning from missions or unconscious. At the last moment a group of young mutants comprised of the cast of the New X-Men series and the members of Hope’s Lights volunteered to fight the sentinel in defense of their home.
Cyclops accepted their aid while Logan was indignant. Wolverine revealed he had thousands of pounds of plastic explosive hidden throughout Utopia and he was going to use it to force the kids to retreat and make Cyclops issue an evacuation order. Once that was done he would blow the island and the sentinel to bits, ending the conflict and Utopia both. The conflict came to blows between Cyclops and Wolverine and before he could detonate the island, the young mutants returned and with the aid of Scott and Logan defeated the Sentinel.
In the end, the conflict was too great for any form of compromise and Logan left for Westchester to start a new mutant school while Scott stayed on Utopia seeking to safeguard the mutant race more generally. At the core of the conflict was the idea that the children should have been protected, that they should not have been asked to defend Utopia. Logan tells Scott that they went off the rails at some point, asking kids to fight their battles. Truly, this went against everything the X-Men had ever done.
Have you read X-Men #1? The one from 1963, I mean. The first issue of the series that would be retitled Uncanny X-Men. Well, if you haven’t, here’s what happens: Charles Xavier, patron saint of the open hand approach, sends a group of teenagers to trespass into a military base to fight an Omega level mutant over some nuclear warheads. How about X-Men #4? Where those same teenagers are sent into a foreign nation in order to topple the regime Magneto and the Brotherhood had set up on that island?
These X-Men did eventually grow up. And never was a young mutant ever asked to fight for the dream ever again, though. Well, except for Kitty Pride.
And the New Mutants.
And the X-Terminators.
And Generation X.
And the New X-Men.
And the Young X-Men.
And Generation Hope before Schism.
But hey, none of them ever died! Actually, yes they did. Sometimes by the busload.
Still, that was different, right? Logan was busy with stuff. And it was before he killed his illegitimate children.
Jason Aaron did a brilliant thing by providing a subtext for Logan’s position in Schism in the Wolverine solo book. Logan, after being sent to hell and possessed by a demon, went to take his revenge on the group responsible, the Red Right Hand. In order to get to this group he had to go through their hired muscle, the Mongrels. The full extent of the Red Right Hand’s revenge on Wolverine was not known until he had killed the last of the Mongrels and entered the inner sanctum to find the parent group had committed suicide. Once there he learned that the Mongrels were made up of the illegitimate children he had sired over decades of wandering the world. As revenge for Logan having killed their loved ones, the Red Right Hand made him kill his own children.
So, Logan is doing it for the children. As he said in a recent issue of Wolverine “I’m not gonna lose any more kids.” Case closed, he wins the argument and the internet, right?
My friends, I am going to go ahead and make the argument that by doing what he has done, Logan is actually ensuring that these kids will be less safe. I am also going to go ahead and argue that the conflict was manufactured in such a way that it makes Logan seem like an idealist when all he is doing is sticking his head in the sand. That and avoiding personal responsibility, actually.
What do I mean? Well, here’s my question. Where was Wolverine during the attack on the Mutant History Museum?
Well, he was doing what makes Wolverine cool, right? He was brooding. He had skulked off to a bar to drink and be the awesome rebel who chafes under authority.
Great. Except he did it at a time of crisis. While the X-Men were dealing with countries all over the world arming themselves with the same machines of genocide that have killed millions of their own people, Logan went off for a brew. All this because Cyclops did not automatically turn Quentin Quire over to Steve Rogers.
I can see why this would anger Logan, sure, but I would argue Cyclops made the right choice (more on that in a bit). My point, for the moment, is that Logan does not have a leg to stand on in regards to what happened at the museum when he assigns all the blame to Scott. Did Cyclops give Oya the authorization to attack the Hellfire Club? Yes. He will have to live with that, and we have been shown that it weighs heavily on his conscience. Should Logan have been there to help protect her instead of sulking? Yes. And it is problematic he seems to be getting a pass on that.
The choice of Oya as the student who had to take lives is also problematic. Logan throws it in Scott’s face that a kid became a mass killer and it was not bothering her nearly as much as it should. This gets assigned to what the X-Men have become, that she believes she needs to be a monster to be an X-Man. The problem here, is that Oya is a character who was raised in an environment in which she was constantly told she was a monster. Had it been any other young mutant, things would have been different, but the fact she believed herself damned to begin with doesn’t invalidate mutant nationalism as an approach, it shows how essential it is.
A school where she can learn that she is not a monster really is the best place for Oya, but there was no need to divide mutantkind’s strength in order to create such a place. Nor did Cyclops demand that. He, in fact, offered to open Utopia up for elections, to put up his views against Wolverine’s and let the people decide in the final issue of Schism. A compromise could have been reached, but Logan decided the only thing to do was to return to Westchester and start a school with a passive-aggressive name where the kids would be safe.
But they won’t be.
For one thing, it would make for some boring X-Men stories, but let’s take this from a perspective of living in-world.
How many times has the mansion at Westchester been blown up, leveled, or otherwise destroyed? How often was it attacked by aliens, evil mutants, anti-mutant forces, or sentinels? Or how about that time it got targeted as a mutant-organ farm by posers wanting superpowers?
My point here is not that Utopia hasn’t gotten attacked or won’t get attacked, but rather that the X-Men do not live in a world that will let them stick their heads in the sand and pretend that the Jean Grey school is just another prep school. They will get attacked, but instead of a full complement of X-Men there to defend them, they will only have half the available forces.
If the Jean Grey School survives it will be because of Utopia.
In the final issue of Schism Scott tells Logan that he and his X-Men will be there in Utopia, protecting a world that fears and hates them, including the Westchester school. In the open letter to humanity released by Scott, included in the back-matter to Uncanny X-Men #1, he makes it clear that the Jean Grey School is also under Utopia’s protection. Most importantly, Utopia will be there to draw the fire from the big threats.
Why has X-Factor been able to operate in Manhattan without as much attention from anti-mutant groups? It is because X-Factor are the small fish that won’t be worth going after until the big fish is caught. All mutants have a target on their heads, but the existence of Utopia provides a bigger target that keeps most of the hate focused one place. Dangerous? Yes, but it is only step one in a plan to deal with the systemic problems that plague mutants.
Let’s get back to Schism and some of the decisions that Scott Summers made during the miniseries. This all started off with Scott and Logan attending a disarmament conference in Switzerland and asking that the international community face up to the fact that most of the nations in attendance owned the weapons of genocide we so lovingly call sentinels. What Scott was doing here was attempting to get the human heads of state of the world to acknowledge the way in which violence against mutants has been institutionalized by the governments of the world. Participation in this conference was not simply about the elimination of sentinels from the world, but about getting the nations of the world to engage Utopia on a diplomatic level that would have led to the sort of institutional protections that might have actually changed the treatment of mutants by humans.
And along came Quentin Quire and his juvenile prank.
Things began to get tense between Scott and Logan when Quire arrived in Utopia seeking asylum and Scott decided not to inform Steve Rogers of this fact or turn Quire in. This decision incensed Logan, but from a standpoint of international law Scott was absolutely right in what he did. Simply put, Steve Rogers had no jurisdiction regarding this event.
Steve Rogers is currently in charge of American national security. Quire’s psychic attack on the conference did not take place on American soil and no American citizens were targeted. The United States, you will remember, had not deigned to send a representative to discuss the existence of weapons first created and implemented by the U.S. government. Steve Rogers, then, had no jurisdiction in this event at all. If Scott was to have turned in Quire it would have been to Robert “Rebel” Ralston, the new head of the UN peacekeeping force which debuted at the end of Secret Warriors.
But why should he?
The truth of the matter is that those nations refused to engage Utopia diplomatically, having barely allowed Scott and Logan to walk into the conference. If the nations of the world refuse to even recognize Utopia as a sovereign nation, with all the protections then accorded to its citizens by international law, then why should Scott hand over a mutant (even one as obnoxious as Quentin Quire) to an international lynch mob? If these nations had deigned to establish bilateral or multilateral extradition agreements with the mutant nation, then Scott could have turned Quire in in good faith. The flipside of that, of course, is that people who committed crimes against Utopia or against mutants would be extradited to Utopia. And no one is willing to do that, because until Cyclops gets the international community to recognize Utopia there won’t be any systemic change.
Scott and Logan have seen enough nightmare futures and parallel realities to know what happens when mutants are hunted and annihilated. Hell, they have seen it in their own world.
The X-Men live in a world in which the mutant hunting machines created by humans annihilated 16 million mutants and no one batted an eyelash. They live in a world in which a mutant concentration camp large enough to oversee the extermination of 6,000 mutants could be constructed in Canada by the Weapon X program. Where the democratic government of the west are complicit in genocide programs they won’t acknowledge and autocratic governments act in exactly the same way, but are simply more brazen about it.
My problem with Logan’s position in Schism is simply this: he is arguing from a position of privilege that ill fits the world he lives in. It makes perfect sense to want to shield the kids from harm, but what Logan is doing is putting the kids in the line of fire without training and telling them that they can put their trust in human governments. The same human governments who funded and gave shelter to the Weapon Plus program, who allowed mutant concentration camps to be built in their territories, and in the case of the U.S. government, the government that put Norman Osborn in charge of national security.
But, Mauricio, aren’t things better now that Steve Rogers is head of national security?
Sure! Steve Rogers is a great guy and he is an ally to the X-Men, but he is just one man. He is one administrator in a line of administrators.
But wasn’t Norman Osborn just another administrator?
Yes, but the problem is that it is not one person alone that makes or solves the problem, it is systemic. If you look at the problem from an institutional standpoint, the problem lies in the fact that there are not institutional protections that prevent mutants from having to live at the mercy of whatever individual is in charge of national security in a given week. Until those institutional protections are in place, why should Utopia make concessions to governments that will not even recognize its nationhood, or, in some cases, recognize any form of human rights for its citizens?
What Logan’s position boils down to is that mutants should play by human rules without being recognized as human. That eventually, they will be recognized. They will be seen as valuable and accepted. Question is, when?
In Marvel Universe time the X-Men have been fighting for integration of humans and mutants somewhere between 10-15 years. And they have not managed to actually bring about any significant change. Logan’s position is that mutants should continue to wait. But to quote Martin Luther King Jr., “this ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.'”
Maybe Logan has been an Avenger for too long.
You know what bothered me about Wolverine and the X-Men #1? The fact that Jason Aaron spent the entire issue making the X-Men jump through increasingly wacky hoops as they try to get two education officials to give them permission to run the school. But so what? Don’t all schools go through this? Yes, they do, but most other schools won’t have to deal with the prejudices of the human administrators who oversee the school.
But hey, Logan just wants to go it like a regular person, right? No, otherwise he and Kitty would not have played the Avenger card in the issue. The point, then, is that Wolverine has a perspective on the system that comes from his position of privilege as an Avenger. Where once he was leery of a system that essentially enslaved him and turned him into a weapon, now he thinks things are just fine because his buddy Steve gave him an Avengers ID card.
Good for him! But what about the mutants who are not Avengers? Things are a bit more problematic for them, aren’t they? And what happens when Steve Rogers steps down from his current role? Wolverine is arguing from a position of privilege that he seems to see as the new norm, but its not.
Hey, you know that old comic book axiom that says that in the 1960s Charles Xavier was MLK while Magneto was Malcolm X? Yeah, that’s an ahistorical perspective that has been imposed by readers and writers who came later. Go back to the original X-Men stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and view them from the Cold War perspective that inundates Lees work in this period and you will clearly see that Xavier was meant to be John F. Kennedy and Magneto was a stand in for your average evil Communist. Magneto was not the “by any means necessary,” mutant nationalism guy; he was the stock bad guy.
But more important than who Magneto was or wasn’t is the implications that come with Xavier being JFK. Much has been written on the idealism that came along with Camelot and the 1960s, but historians have pointed to two institutions created or expanded during the Kennedy administration that were meant to harness the idealism and energy of young Americans in order to win the Cold War: the Green Berets and the Peace Corps. The idea for the former is that young Americans could make the most elite fighting force in the world, capable of defeating the best that communist regimes could muster. The idea behind the latter is that young Americans could make life better for people around the world and change conceptions of the United States, serving as a key weapon in the Cold War.
Combine both of these institutions and add mutant powers and you have the X-Men. The X-Men have long been about harnessing the power of youth to create a better world, to institute real change. Above all Charles Xavier wanted to make a better world for both humans and mutants.
And this is exactly what Scott Summers is trying to do.
While Logan and the Hug Squad may be operating out of the old school grounds, the faction that captures the original spirit of the X-Men is the one in Utopia. Cyclops and his X-Men are extending a helping hand to the human world. They will protect humanity and make their lives better, but they refuse to be victims ever again. They continue to be the Peace Corps, but the difference is that now they are not pretending that they are not also the Green Berets.
As for Logan? He is an old man who is afraid of creating a future that is different from the past and who refuses to recognize the present. He will continue to run his X-Force hit squad and hope that will be enough to protect mutantkind. And he will preach integration… by sequestering himself and his faction in a secluded private school in upstate New York.
What Marvel has done is to split two of the traditional X-Men functions: global crusaders and school for your mutants. The problem is that is has made the job for the group seeking to make a lasting change harder and it has created a school that seeks to protect children from a world they are already too well aware of.
Cyclops’s strategy is dangerous, but risk comes with anything worth doing. As Scott himself put it in the final issue of the first volume of Uncanny X-Men, “Sinking into [nostalgia] is a luxury, and a defeatist luxury at that. We’re more than our pasts.” No one could blame the X-Men who followed Logan to Westchester for longing for a past they see as better. Now, simply, they need to stay out of the way of those who haven’t given up on tomorrow for an idealized yesterday.
Just ask yourselves honestly, my friends, would you go lock yourselves up in a remote mansion hoping for the world to change or would you say “We will not be victims again, we will make a new world” to those what would see you dead before accepting you?
I have my answer. What’s yours?