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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Northstar's Big Gay Wedding vs. Cyclops' Big Dumb Utopia



(First of all, I apologize for not doing more blogging here, and want to make clear that my readers here are indeed an important priority for me. So here's more content for those interested in what I think, which miraculously includes at least a few.)

Two important Marvel comics released this week. The first one was Astonishing X-Men #51, where Jean-Paul Baubier (a.k.a former Alpha Flighter and current X-Man Northstar) and his boyfriend Kyle Jinadu married in the state of New York. The other one was Avengers vs. X-Men #6, where Cyclops and four other X-Men claimed the power of the Phoenix for themselves, and used it to transform the world into a  Mutant-run Panopticon with free food, water, and energy for all- provided nobody steps out of line.

And Northstar did much more for mutant kind and the world than Cyclops did.

Scott Summers' "Pax Utopia" (as he calls it) is the kind of quick, shallow fix that characterizes almost all fictional paradises, and creates a standard that reality can't possibly reach. With the power of the Phoenix, his X-Men have created a world where nobody wants for anything, except for freedom from his reign. In the best case scenario, living in Scott's world means you're living in a sterile but pleasant bubble a la Adolus Huxley's Brave New World, where you don't need to worry about anything because you can just get a drug for any potential pains. In the worst case scenario, it's a pervasive prison where your telepathic mutant overlords can make your disappear for even a wrong thought. This is a perversion of what Charles Xavier dreamed, because instead of appealing to the human race's logic and compassion, Scott has just scared them into submission. Then again, that was his goal with the Extinction Team at the beginning of the new Uncanny X-Men series.

Northstar, on the other hand, acted on a much smaller and more personal level-- he married his boyfriend. He even did it in the state of New York, which already allows gay marriages (as a page in the back of the comic so helpfully illustrates). But Jean-Paul and Kyle did so in front of a crowd of seemingly hundreds, human and mutant, and with members of both teams of X-Men (at Wolverine's school and Cyclops' Bay Area banana republic). This isn't just a gay marriage, but an inter-species one, and even an inter-racial one (since Jean-Paul is white and Kyle is black, though the stigma of mixed-race marriage has lessened by comparison). Jean-Paul and Kyle fell in love with each other not despite their differences, but because of them; even the difficulties of marrying an X-Man constantly chased by super-villains wasn't enough to deter Kyle.

If progress doesn't happen by choice, it's not progress. Cyclops may try to save the world, but he's long since lost interest in engaging with it. He almost never takes off his X-Men costume, he does everything as the self-appointed Leader of The Mutant Race, and he speaks of defending lofty ideals over actual people. He can't make peace with the humans because he doesn't care about them, and the gifts he offers homo sapiens in Avengers vs. X-Men 6 come at the price of making the species into mutant kind's pampered pets. The Big Gay Mutant Wedding was a much greater victory for Xavier's cause because it was a literal union between human and mutant. And better have progress start with one couple choosing love past boundaries than making humanity into seven billion well-fed slaves of mutant masters.

5 comments:

  1. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-ManJune 21, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    The only issue I have with this interpretation is that there's a long precedent of human-mutant marriages in Marvel, none of which have been portrayed as being especially controversial. For all the discrimination mutants seem to selectively receive, inter-species marriage (including people marrying aliens, robots, energy beings, and other lifeforms far more different from humanity than mutants are) seems strangely well-accepted. In fact, I'm hard pressed to think of a single story where anyone was opposed to the union of a human and a mutant, or where a human was discriminated against for having a mutant partner (or vice-versa). To my knowledge, the issue's never even been touched. I understand that on some level this is supposed to be a metaphor*, but even IN-UNIVERSE it seems like the most exceptional thing about Northstar's wedding is that he's marrying another man.

    I do agree 100% that Cyclops is acting like a tyrannical hypocrite, though. Isn't this the exact kind of thing that the heroes are usually trying to stop Doctor Doom from accomplishing?

    *It occurs to me that the X-Men franchise's biggest strength-- and at the same time, its biggest flaw-- is how incredibly broad the central metaphor is. Mutants, as a whole or individually, are simultaneously compared to racial minorities, ethnic/cultural groups, religious minorities, LGBT individuals, differntly-abled people, social outcasts, the extremely poor, the extremely rich, and even groups as vast as women, youth, and the elderly. When written well, it makes X-Men an incredibly complex yet easily accessible narrative about discrimination, tolerance, and understanding in all levels of society. When written poorly, it makes for an incredibly clumsy, haphazard, and ham-fisted metaphor prone to unfortunate implications.

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  2. While I agree with your assessment of the current events of AvX, I found this issue to be the first issue that was actually entertaining, simply because, as with all utopias, things will inevitably fall apart, and he and his followers will be forced to either spiral further into this crazy, oppressive delusion, thereby essentially filling the void left by Magneto's recent heroic turn (which seems less likely), or to see how untenable their goals were, and how radical their pursuit of them has become. Either way, it seems like there's great potential here, assuming the writers and editors are willing to seize the opportunity.

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  3. Yeah, mutant politics don't line up well with real-world politics. I can understand some of the male X-Men being weirded out by a man marrying another man (though they thankfully admit it's just silly cultural conditioning), but this is a world where a mutant has married a robot and had his imaginary children. It's one of those things where it's best not to scrutinize it too much.

    And I'm sorry if i didn't make it clear that I actually enjoyed AvX, I just thought that it further illustrated Cyclops' descent. All that's left for him to do is to cross the line all the way into Complete Monster territory, which at this point would sweeten his inevitable comeuppance. Of course, there's probably going to be an out for this, potentially making AvX a big reset button in the same way Shadowland was for Daredevil.

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  4. I guess I thought you were meaning you didn't like it based on Cyke's characterization, though I'm not sure what I was basing that on in hindsight.

    What have your thoughts been on AvX as a whole thus far? This was literally the first issue since the prologue issue that I've liked. I'm not sure why I didn't drop it.

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  5. I liked the first issue, with it being clear that Cyclops was going to be portrayed as completely off his rocker, as opposed to just dancing around the issue while keeping up the pretense that he was still a hero (much like they did during Civil War with Iron Man). Then it just devolved into hero vs. hero nonsense, especially in the tie-ins. But the Phoenix Five has brought back my interest, especially since Coipel is drawing (no disrespect to John Romita Jr., but he's been drawing at least two Marvel books a month for decades on end. Seeing Coipel draw is more of a rare treat).

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