Tomorrow, Marvel publishes the final issue of Avengers Vs X-Men #12 in which Dark Phoenix Cyclops will probably be defeated by the Avengers and the flipped-X-Men. Cyclops will be captured and prepared for some kind of lobotomy and things will all go back to normal. Ish.
I’m waiting for the What If–? version though. What if the Avengers had just sucked it up and let the Phoenix Five get on with it. To have remade the world into a paradise, dealt with violent conflict through negotiation, helped everyone achieve their natural desires to a level of contentment, fascination and delight with life, and made the world a better place.
But no, Captain America had to fight for freedom, to go hunt his white whale. And in doing so, destroying Utopia and turning the Phoenix Five into monsters. Which they certainly were, their acts against the Avengers and those who opposed them were monstrous – but always as a result of super hero opposition. The Phoenix Force didn’t so much corrupt the Five as the Avengers did. It’s always been this way, with Jean Grey it was Mastermind and the Hellfire Club. With Rachel it was… the Hellfire Club. With the Phoenix Five it was The Illuminati. Of course this has often been the way with many a dictator – blame can often be shared around.
There are current real world parallels to these kind of philosphical questions. Today, I see those protesting against tax-funded universal healthcare because it takes away freedom to spend their money how they choose, despite also delivering increased health to all, irrespective of income, for less. I see the legacy of those invaded other lands and peoples, destroying cultures, enslaving them but also raising their standards of living. A world that cries for freedom of the press, until the press takes photographs of a topless princess or listens in on someone else’s phonecall. People obsessed with security on flights, in trains, in playgrounds on street corners, that the very idea of risk is being removed.
To date, Avengers Vs X-Men hasn’t really addressed or found parallels with these issues, preferring instead to see the Phoenix Five corrupted, into a black and white, good vs evil fight, without addressing the cause of that corruption, or the more philosophical differences between the alternatives of security and liberty, something that even the likes of the polemical V For Vendetta and Civil War found some nuance within.
There is also here, a real battle, not so much with competing ideologies, but a battle between ideology and pragmatism. The Avengers position is ideological, that of freedom, of self-determination, that the status quo must be maintained. The X-Men is strangely more pragmatic, they have the power, there are things that need to be done. And they can make the world a better place – why wouldn’t they?
But Avengers Vs X-Men hasn’t really tackled these issues in, say, the gusto that Marvelman did. At the end of Alan Moore’s run on the book, the world has been remade into a paradise, but it’s one that Mike Moran’s wife won’t participate in, she won’t become a god-like deity like him and he just can’t understand why.
It’s a far more meaningful approach that finding a new way to take down the bad guy.
Oh and the AR on the AVX #12 cover is working. It’s quite cool…