Friday, March 6, 2015

X-Men: Excalibur III by Chris Claremont issue #2

Charles Xavier and Erik (Magnus) Lehnsherr never had what any of us might call a 'conventional' relationship. Their mutual understanding from the beginning becomes a rather complicated rivalry in the next decades to follow where they constantly find themselves fighting on the opposite sides of a war neither of them would compromise for--not even for the sake of salvaging their friendship. It seemed at first--from the moment they realized they were both mutants--that their first meeting was destined to happen; only to ultimately lose each other in the long run once it became clear that their ideologies would keep on clashing when it came to establishing and fighting for mutant rights.

That was the deal breaker that prevented them from joining their forces and building a future.

"The first time I ever met an adult mutant was like being hit by a thunderbolt; far more powerful than being in love."

I personally love the origin of their first meeting that was established in X-Men: First Class where Charles jumps from a ship without a second thought just so he can rescue this complete stranger, Erik, who was basically drowning himself while magnetically holding onto a submarine. Charles man-handles him and gets them to the surface of the ocean by communicating telepathically with Erik to just chill the fuck out and let go. Erik, frightened by the sudden mental link between them, was wary of him but Charles assures him that he's a fellow mutant and that they should totes become BFFs. Still shaken, Erik voices out that he thought he was alone and Charles disagrees and says otherwise. Henceforth, a beautiful relationship flourished between these two, a relationship steeped in unintentional subtext and tons of bromantic tear-jerker scenes for the rest of the film. IT WAS BREATHTAKING.

I can seriously write an entire hardcover opus for the First Class versions of Charles and Erik (I may or may not be writing that now as I type this review) but instead I'll just leave you with this GIF image about a particularly stirring scene that speaks volumes of just how incredibly strong their connection was in the duration of that movie. You can tell by the way they look at each other that theirs is one so cosmic and undeniable. Srsly, JUST LOOK AT THESE EYE-FUCKING DORKS!

"There's so much more to you than you know" plus teary blue eyes to match the sincerity
The comics, however, had a different story which is less shippy but nonetheless just as tragic. Ths is how it originally went down:

When Charles Xavier decided to work for a clinic for traumatized Holocaust victims in Haifa, Israel, he meets a man there going by the name of Magnus who was also a Holocaust survivor and a volunteer in the clinic. They became fast friends, but both are unaware at that point that they both secretly have mutations. In a memorable scene, it was depicted that they would have lengthy debates hypothesizing 'what will happen if humanity is faced with a new super-powered race of humans'. HYPOTHETICALLY is the key word here, as each one tries to gauge the ideology of the other. Charles was optimistic about the humans in general being able to accept this new race, but Magnus fervently disagreed. He had awful experiences in the Holocaust himself which was why he was so firm in the belief that "humanity will ultimately oppress the new race of humans as they have done with other minorities". There was nothing hypothetical about that testament. The two friends eventually reveal their powers to one another when a bunch of Nazis kidnapped a catatonic patient (and Charles' girlfriend) named Gabrielle whatserface. Magnus attempts to kill the leader of that group but Charles stops him. That was when the friends realized that that their views on mutant-human relations are fundamentally incompatible, so Magnus leaves, taking some Nazi gold while he was at it. Charles, meanwhile stays in Israel for some time. He does break up with Gabrielle later on, but neither of them knew that he got her knocked up. That child will grow up to become the mutant Legion. ANYWAY, enough backstory. Let's talk Excalibur.

Last issue, we saw Charles by himself in Genosha, trying to pull a heavy granite coffin while still in a wheelchair AND WHILE ALSO hallucinating his ex-fiancée Moira MacTaggert. He met teenage mutants Wicked and Freakshow during a lame confrontation with Unus the Untouchable jerkwad. After the kids helped Charles carry the coffin to some abandoned housing, they leave just in time when a familiar face showed up--it was no other than Erik who had been presumed dead by the rest of the world. It explains so much why Charles left the X-Men in New York and why it had to be a secret. Basically, the two of them had ELOPED. There's really no way at looking at it but that, okay? Erik had faked his own death and the first thing he ever does once he did come back was to set up a clandestine meeting with Charles who just up and left the X-Men without even a note explaining where he was going and who he was going to be with. As I mentioned in the previous issue, this is bound to happen sooner or later. After decades of being public enemies, Charles and Erik have grown tired and weary of pretending to hate each other and stand the idea of being apart so now they finally said "fuck it" and got together for an overdue reunion.

To stay united together, they picked the one place in earth where there is so much meaningful history for either of them; it's a piece of wasteland that mutants used to consider a haven of safety and community. Their long-term goal at this moment is to restore that to its former glory. Now that has to be the most noble idea of a honeymoon activity, if you ask me. Of course it's going to be a major cataclysmic project that affects the future and place of mutantkind which will eventually get them together once more. Its freaking perfect. It's soooo Cherik. What I'm trying to say is that GENOSHA WAS ESSENTIALLY CHARLES AND ERIK'S PARIS.

The second issue of Excalibur III is entitled With A Little Help From My Friends gives us the opportunity to read a lengthy heart-to-heart discussion between Charles and Erik. After I got over the fact that Erik is indeed sporting the world's dorkiest orange sweater, I was able to focus on the direction of their conversation with much ease. And by god, it was an immediate, intimate, and decisive full disclosure of what happened during Erik's 'death'. Charles explained, there was an impostor who started taking over the role of Magneto during such a time and he has committed awful things that would make even Erik himself cringe. The worst and biggest affront of it all has to be this depressing shit:

That was pretty grim. And Erik readily comforts Charles and touches him tentatively but then Charles ruins the mood by adding a few more terrible trivia regarding the Magneto imposter and how the world reacted---which is not good:

The irony is not lost to me that Erik almost lost his shit during this scene. I don't think he was really offended that the human race would think him capable of mass genocide. Magneto has always been a staunch believer in mutant superiority. He would kill factions of humans who would harm his own kind if need be. No, what did set his alarm off was the possibility that Charles agrees with the humans; that his old friend might possess a low opinion of him regarding the crimes he is willing to commit for mutantkind. You could tell Erik believes that no matter how the world might think he's rotten, it's something he can live with so long as the one person he trusted and cared about still knew him better than the rest; and knew him in such a way where he would not even dare think Erik would be as heartless and cruel. Charles was the one person who always believed he was capable of goodness and light no matter how many times Erik himself disproved that otherwise. To suddenly find out that Charles may have changed a perspective he had treasured about Erik for so long was just so devastating for Erik himself. And Charles' casual comment about Magneto's murderous reputation like he it was an indisputable fact was a dick move, honestly. Of course Erik is going to lose his shit about that. While Magneto is about to destroy their honeymoon suite house, Charles then calmly corrects himself and says that "Yo, of course I'm on your side, Erik. I know you, bro." Charles is sometimes a passive-aggressive twat.
We all know what he's talking about. Really, Charles? Why would you bring that up?
Another believable translation about that last panel is: "We're on our honeymoon, Charles. Why the hell would you mention your bitch-ex? You know I still hate her because she tried to experiment on me when I was turned back into a baby but mostly I hate her because she was your ex." Charles probably shouldn't mention the fact that he's been hallucinating Moira in the skimpiest clothes, and she serves as his conscience. Yeah, better shut up about that, Chuck. You know how Erik can be so possessive.
Anyway, Erik stalks off to pick up canned goods so he can prepare their dinner. Meanwhile, Charles takes out a bottle of wine for them to drink. It's so lovely because they are totally acting like an old married couple, bickering about stuff and then making up a good five seconds later so they can have a warm meal afterwards. A warm meal in a balcony overlooking the pink sky during a sunset at that!
"Reading my mind are you?" "Reading your body." BOLD AND ITALICIZED. Claremont is having fun with this. Well, so am I. Going straight for deserts now, aren't we, Charley? This intended Freudian slips really make me giddy like a love-sick school-girl. But onto more serious matters:

I'm so deliriously happy that Erik has opened to Charles so readily in just a span of pages for this second issue. To reveal his vulnerability (his hopes and insecurities) like this just shows how far Erik has fallen and how much he intends to pick himself up and change for the better and with the help of the one person who will never fail him. "The past cannot be changed" is true, and that much applies to their relationship as well. Long ago when they have chosen sides, it was also by fighting against each other. There is an ocean of violence between them since and now it's time to do things differently--to establish a new mutant community in Genosha together--and that's the whole reason why they're there now. Look, I know I kept joking about them running away to elope because they're so in love since I started reviewing this series, but you know what? WHY CAN'T IT BE BOTH ANYWAY? Why can't Charles and Erik be in love all this time so they eloped AND also choose Genosha to start a future together because it's the place that they know they can restore and protect because its citizens need two outstanding leaders to whip it back into shape? These two men have shared a connection that continued to exist even in their darkest moments. Their trust and intuitive understanding of one another's faults and desires had made them seek each other throughout the years even when it is impossible to work out a compromise where their separate ideals can benefit from. And after decades of trials and errors, they finally arrived in the same page. How can you not be moved to tears as I am, you cold-hearted non-shipper?!
Anyway, a timely interruption happens in the form of Callisto who scolds Charley for being so reckless and running away with his sweetheart.
"Have you considered what will happen if they find you two together?"
Translation: "Oh lord, you guys have the most unhealthy and confusing relationship in the history of ever. You broke up a long time ago and have spent the last two decades or so since trying to get back together but failing over and over again. What makes this any different?"
Translation: "JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, I know I've been an asshole in the last two decades or so but I'm now trying to do right by Charles here, don't you see? Can't you all just let us get married in peace? We'll tell Charles' children later, okay? Just let me first fix this relationship and then I can atone for all the shitty things I've done later on. I promise!"
Callisto does eventually let up especially when Wicked (who is weirdly attached now to Charles) tries to help out again and attacks her. Freakshow shows up too and he got protective of Wicked and threatened to hurt Callisto but instead ended up puking Unus the Untouchable. Unus jerkward was previously swallowed whole in the last issue and I thought the hilarity of that couldn't be topped but I WAS DEAD WRONG. Seeing him covered in sick and shivering in embarrassment and fury is FUNNIER. Everyone from Charles and Erik to Callisto and Wicked stare at him in amusement, holding back the forceful laughter that is dying to escape from their lips. Unus runs off and plots to take his vengeance. Fuck you, Unus. Anyway, Callisto finally concedes and agrees to help out even if she doesn't trust Erik fully--as long as Charles does, she might as well keep him safe in case Erik is lying. Wicked and Freakshow join in mostly because they're kids with nothing left to do and having three fine adults taking charge must be something they have never seen before and now wish to become a part of. I'm curious about these two new characters and I want to find out more about them and their roles for this series.
Stay tuned for more CHERIK. It's gonna get so much more fun now!

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