Examining New X-Men Pt 9-2
by Travis Hedge Coke
For all her millionaire status, that Frost is a millionaire but Shaw, and, then, Xavier are billionaires makes all the difference. That both try, in comics outside of New X-Men, to shame her, by framing her as the rich one, is a believable tactic and informs how we should approach all three of them within New X-Men.
Much or Xavier’s success and failing as an educator and social crusader is that he attempts to provide a rarified, elite private school preparatory program for mutants without understanding their backgrounds.
Early in New X-Men, Xavier dealt with Beast’s parents being bigots by simply making them forget their son existed. As an orphan with an abusive step-father and an extreme oedipal hang up, that probably seems pretty measured. He did not ask the emotional teenager raised in a two-parent household and now distanced from them at boarding school.
There are reasons, in real life, that civil rights leaders have never been billionaires.
In New X-Men, we see Xavier alter the minds of hijackers and police with disregard to the politics of their communities and nation. He balks at Fantomex and EVA offering to sell information rather than give it away. With multiple millionaires on his teaching staff, in what seem to be unpaid positions outside of room and board, in the Uncanny X-Men run concurrent to Morrison’s New X-Men, Xavier presses yet another millionaire, a retired sports icon, to move to the United States and teach his teenaged students, because clearly as a globally branded celebrity and former olympian, he has plenty of time to daily explain economics to fourteen years olds who have the option to show up or walk out of class whenever they please.
Setting up offices around the world with support staffs and rescue worker superhero squads advances developments like “the British X-Men, Excalibur” (who were often mostly American with a German or two). X-Corp was a long time coming and a fictional example of heartfelt corporate outreach.
None of the X-Men serving on the X-Corp teams that we see are local to where they are based, unlike our home team, all of whom except for Wolverine are United States native-born citizens. No effort is made, that we can see, to understand local culture or politics, outside of getting drunk and vomiting over landmarks and passersby.
Magneto criticizes Dust’s religious faith as counter to a “species loyalty” he clearly prizes, but nothing confirms her choice in those terms, and his frame is dishonest, since what he means is a species supremacy.
None of the X-Men express any concern with Shi’ar religious terminology, from the touching-God heightened empathy called, “the Phoenix,” to the qlippothic mummudrai. These are presented, unlike proselytizing efforts, as not spiritual truths, but spiritual descriptions, and therein may lie a difference.
Perhaps ironically, the hyper-Christian iconography used to trap Charles Xavier in a psychic prison both plays to his own messianic tendencies and as a parody of the over-Christianizing of superheroes created by Jews, most often seen in making Superman as much of a Jesus riff as possible, something Morrison would, post-New X-Men, counter with a specifically Moses-esque (and Appolonian) Superman, complete with basket in the river/rocket from Krypton.
It is impossible, in anglophone comics, to fully be freed from a Christian atmosphere, and an agnostic comic, New X-Men makes no effort to.
There are a plethora of angel-themed characters, from Angel Salvadore and the X-Man, Archangel (whom the birdlike but unangelic Beak says is a “totally different thing?”), to some of the Proud People and Crawlers, none of which lean to judaic forms of angel visualization.
While the X stamp is a form of cross, too, New X-Men presents crucifixions, crucifix jewelry, variations on the red cross, and both Xorn and Phoenix demonstrate variants on biblical and apocryphal anecdotes of Jesus, including Xorn making an unliving bird fly (The Infancy Gospel of Thomas).
The individual chapters of the arc Assault on Weapon Plus include, The World; The Flesh; The Devil, a phrase common to Christian theory and mysticism. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are the three deceits that urge us to sin, and inverse of the Holy Trinity.
The Flesh includes *bizarrely* intimate hand to hand combat that, in context, becomes a shorthand for sex.
The Devil takes place in a labyrinthine hall of mirrors and misinformation, as five superheroes who don’t want to be soldiers anymore traverse a satellite designed to bemuse and bewilder them with guilt and conflicts.
To read Assault on Weapon Plus without taking in its resonances with Christianity would deprive the reader of much of its larger points, and how the seductiveness of lies and the cruelty of deception hold a cosmogonic and political place as well as one personal to each of us.
The “mutant metaphor” is both lynchpin and the executioner’s blade. X-Men, as a property, has seen mutants used as stand-ins for real world minorities, real world ethnicities, sexualities, classes and genders. X-Men has seen the mutant proxy status used to conflate real world categories of people, which at its most positive allows many kinds of person see themselves in the characters, and at its worst, results in people from varied backgrounds feeling slighted all at once.
A 2019 comics storyline saw an ostensibly cis, white woman as a stand-in for both trans women assaulted under predatory “trans panic” tactics and Black people unfairly predated on by police and white Americans who elect themselves as temporary police.
The X-Men movies, especially the first two theatrical films, were warmly embraced for making the mutant metaphor one for queerness, although maybe more specifically, for white male homosexuality, while producing casts and prominence imbalances which reinforced a very white face to the X-Men, in contradiction to decades of efforts in diversifying X-casts ethnically and racially.
With New X-Men, Grant Morrison traditionally told the curious that their X-Men was a stand in for youth and youth culture, while also attempting to address outside-the-heteronormative demographics, like non-straight sexualities and non-white ethnicities.
It is amazing to see the mutant neighborhood in New York City, and to see mutant bands and mutant designers, mutants on t-shirts not for non-mutants, but for mutants to wear. The sense of community was never stronger in an X-Men ongoing run as it is in New X-Men.
There is wonderful strength in none of the mutants having to represent their ethnicity, their nationality, their sexuality or culture or gender, in the way many previous, and too many later comics would use. Beak is not the boy or the Dutch one. Angel is not the girl or the American. This falls apart hard in Dust, who is unallowed to be anything but.
The queer content of New X-Men is often unspecific, carefully couched, or fantastically presented. It is there, it is only not as open and obvious as we know it could be.
The non-white characters in New X-Men are frequently tertiary and the most prominent non-white character ends up revealed as a white-read German Jewish man pretending to be Chinese. In another scene, multiple staff of a Chinese prison are revealed to be homunculi formed from dandruff or toenails.
Ao Jun, an actual Chinese mutant who may have the most dialogue of any Asian character bar one, has almost no dialogue, except to tell us, and a human he is doing business with, that his fantasy is, “To have two white girls wrestle in crude oil until they suffocate.”
While we have covered, in Examining New X-Men, how these notions are in tension throughout the comic, the explicit addressing of these identities falls short more than it succeeds.
Robots. Termites. Mutants. Humans. Bacteria. Nervous systems. Thoughts. Spirits. Diamonds. Aliens. New X-Men wants them all the be not only alive and autonomous, but intelligent, conversive, and contributing.
The desire to anthropomorphize, to enliven with a sense of autonomous being and self-aware comprehension exists extant from New X-Men, with the galactic wars and demon wars of the Chris Claremont era, mutant housecats in X-Men Unlimited, and telepathy working on advanced computers as far back as Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.
One out of twenty-five Sentinel robots scene on-panel has probably developed self-awareness, starting at the latest with a 1974 Avengers comic and continuing through Wolverine #73, and various Sentinels who befriend young children and May be more anthropomorphized than aware, depending on the audiences’ understanding.
In a thousand page story concerned so much with resurrection, biology, and the limits of awareness and personhood, a functional comprehension comparable the individual reading the comic, can of course only be hinted at. There is no actual measure for human-level self-awareness and intelligence. Added to which, these are fictional characters illustrated by lines and color, dialogue balloons and narrative inference.
EVA appears to be an autonomous physical, intelligent life form, described as a machine intelligence, capable of bonding with an organic partner on an incredibly intimate level, is also literally Fantomex’s nervous system. He treats her, depending on who is witnessing, as a pet, a sister, service animal, child, lover, business partner, or boss.
Your nervous system is part of you. We understand that implicitly, and if the matter is brought to rumination, explicitly. If your nervous system or your skeleton, skin, your head or your hands, where to leave the rest of your body, even acting and communicating autonomously, the general inclination would be to still consider them a part of your body.
Yet, the human body grows and fosters bacteria, viruses, mitochondria, even arachnids, as a kind of mobile farm, without most of these being considered part of our bodies, part of *us.*
Humans, like all animals, grow younger humans inside them, and release them into the world.
We have no perfect, human way to deal with EVA or Fantomex’s autonomy. But, we have no great luck with adult and child autonomy, or that of conjoined twins.
The physical bodies of both Ernst and No Girl are complex mechanical prostheses, the latter built by U-Men and refined by Quentin Quire, and the former repurposed from an alien shape shifter identified as having minimal intelligence aside from bigotry and mimicry
Together, Ernst and No Girl share an intimate bonding, and combine machine life and organic life in ways dissimilar and comparable to EVA and Fantomex, Rover and I, and, of we remove the machine aspect for “other,” the possession of Cyclops by En Sabah Nur prior to New X-Men, Jean Grey housing the Phoenix, Cassandra Nova’s possession of Charles Xavier, and Sublime inside humans and any mutant who has tried kick.
Ultimately, in the cosmogony of New X-Men, we are all psychic/spiritual existences, who may have a body, or a succession of bodies.
Only, “150 years from today,” Africa is home to giant, intelligent termites, called termids, who have a colony known as the Multitude, and an ambassador from the X-Men, Bumbleboy, liaising. Jean Grey, misled and damaged, murders the Multitude and the ambassador, but assures him he will experience post-death, and that he was, “always here, waiting for yourself to arrive.”
New X-Men deliberately puts before its audience a range of model societies, from the failed oligarchy of pre-revolution Genosha, an island nation in which humans had enslaved mutants, to the failed democracy of the United States, which devolves in crisis to a room of sweating men with their finger on a button of “assured” mutual destruction.
The Xavier school, community, and creed are given a quiet and progressive socialist restructuring, increasingly hampered by the perpetuation of outmoded prep school strictures.
It is even fathomable that why the community does not continue to expand individual and group rights as Xavier and Grey wished, is that the run ends with Cyclops and Emma Frost accepting the headmaster position, both of whom have, in New X-Men, turned up their nose at the equalizing of all mutants, old or young.
Genosha grows into a makeshift utopian hope, under Magneto’s government, but when New X-Men begins, that utopia has been on the verge of full demagoguery, full fascism, since Magneto took power by threatening a global mass murder if he did not get his way.
Magneto represents – be it tragically or angrily – a well-meant and determined fascism. His Brotherhood is not a collective, but a panoptic band under a strong fist.
When Quentin and his gang unintentionally mirror the U-Men, it is because both embrace laissez-faire capitalism in predatory and cannibalistic hierarchical fashions.
The U-Men culture of putting a monetary and quantifiable value to lives, to limbs, to effort and existence, which can be purchased, exchanged, or stolen with only the market value deciding consequence or condemnation is a grotesque demonstration of late stage capitalism in biological and social components.
The theological aristocracy of the Shi’ar Empire is expansive, often agreeable, because our relation, and the X-Men’s is at a great distance and often only with royals and the elites of their courts. Charles Xavier is married to their empress (before it is dissolved). The spiritual advisor to the empress has counseled Cyclops and advised on the Phoenix.
The eternal enemy, Sublime, is similarly agreeable to us, for reasons that such narratives play well in religion, in entertainment. That there is a devil inside us, seeing all we do, pushing us to sin and greed to keep us limited and predictable.
Sublime is the monarchy of God. Or, a false God.
Examining New X-Men Pt. 9: System Dynamics
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