Monday, May 4, 2015

X-Men: Deadly Genesis by Ed Brubaker

Marvel stopped publishing new X-Men stories in 1970. It had been a five-year long absence then, and Len Wein and Dave Cockrum wouldn't stand for it so they wrote what will be known as the definitive reboot issue entitled Giant-Size X-Men #1. Introducing Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Colossus for the first time as part of the new team for the X-Men, it was a spectacular gateway story that led to Chris Claremont's legendary sixteen-year run for The Uncanny X-Men starting with issue #94.

This monumental issue also addressed why the X-Men had been gone for five years. Apparently, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Havok, Lorna Dane, Angel and Iceman were sent to scout for a new mutant recruit in the remote island named Krakoa and were trapped there. Weirdly enough, Scott managed to escape and tell the Professor what has happened. Wasting no time as he left Scott to recover in the Xavier Mansion, Charles started going around countries to look for mutants that could aid in the rescue mission. And the rest is history where we get four additional characters who garnered respectively large fanbases as The Uncanny X-Men series went in the capable hands of Claremont, all thanks to Giant-Size.

For the 30th year celebration of this classic tale, Ed Brubaker wrote and published this piece. The covers for both Giant-Size and this one are comparable, with this latter one serving as an echo to the original story it was supposed to be based upon. But why is the cover for Brubaker's Deadly Genesis horrific? Why are our heroes portrayed as decomposing zombie corpses? Well, this is because X-Men: Deadly Genesis is more or less a RETCON of the events surrounding Giant-Size X-Men #1. But that in itself is actually misleading---Brubaker simply added a rather upsetting dark twist to what really happened during the rescue mission. It's a doozy.

And I'm going to spoil it here in my review.

First off, let's contextualize the continuity at this point. This was set after the major catastrophe mind-fuck that was House of M. Scarlet Witch loses her shit and attacks her fellow Avengers, killing Hawkeye. Meanwhile, her father Magneto just eloped with Charles Xavier in Genosha, both aiming to rebuild what was taken from the mutants there (told in Claremont's Excalibur III). Upon hearing the distressing news of his daughter's breakdown, he rescues her and therefore lets everyone in the world know that he is still alive (he had been officially declared deceased before; they had a burial and all that), including the Avengers who have been hunting him down. Charles was upset about this for obvious reasons. Their relationship was finally in a good place (they finally fucking agreed about something after twenty-something years of rivarly, for fuck's sake) and Erik did not have the common sense to keep it that way, exposing not only their clandestine arrangement (seriously, Xavier didn't even let the X-Men know he's running away with Erik) but also risking Genosha under potential threats coming from their enemies. 

In Brian Michael Bendis' House of M, Scarlet Witch remakes the world because she has reality-bending abilities that have become quite potent especially after she loses her sanity. Sooner or later, everyone in the Marvelverse (particularly the Avengers and the X-Men) recover their memories and confront her. Magneto was not pleased and almost kills her twin brother and his son Pietro. Pissed beyond fuck, Scarlet Witch punishes Magneto by declaring that the world will no longer have mutants and just like that she rewrote the x-gene out of near non-existence. The number of mutants all across the globe dwindled from thousands to a measly two hundred-plus. She has also rendered her own father stripped from his own electromagnetism. On the other hand, Charles Xavier is missing. The X-Men have to find him.

And this is where we find ourselves in Ed Brubaker's Deadly Genesis story.

Brubaker's Deadly Genesis is all kinds of awesome what-the-fuckery. A retcon story hasn't been this entertaining and mildly depressing as well as being pretty believable. Divided into six official chapters, the collection itself also has four special issues in between that discussed the origins of these certain young mutants (Petra, Suzanne, Darwin and Kid Vulcan) who will play significant roles in the climactic revelation later on in the story. In their frantic search for their beloved mentor, a strange surge of energy fucks up Emma and Kitty while they were using the Cerebra. As the two recover, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Havok have ghoulish visions from their past. 

Meanwhile, Cyclops, Wolverine and Rachel Summers (now Marvel Girl) go to their first lead in months concerning the professor's whereabouts. They encounter a new unnamed deadly foe who abducted Scott and Rachel and left Wolverine who goes to find Nightcrawler and Beast. The two have just received a message from Sean (Banshee) who wishes to meet with them, claiming he has uncovered a rather enigmatic video footage from the late Moira MacTaggert. They view the video and were surprised to find her talking shit about Xavier, saying that he was a bastard and that she should have never trusted him. On the other hand, Scott and Rachel try to figure out who has captured them, all the while said asshole starts brutally assaulting Rachel via telepathy, causing everyone in the X-Men connected to Rachel's consciousness to have visions yet again, particularly Scott who is beginning to put the pieces of a certain memory he couldn't understand why he even forgot.

The way the graphic novel collection was collected was clever; inserting the special four issues as breaks for every Deadly Genesis chapter has inevitably added to a reader's excitement as they eagerly want to know more about the mystery surrounding what Charles Xavier had done to earn MacTaggert's vehemence. These young mutants that readers have gotten to know fairly enough and sympathize with a bit in their respective special issue were not there to be fillers--it turns out that these lost and confused children were adopted by Moira MacTaggert, Charles' former fiancee and fellow geneticist. They have survived traumatic ordeals after their mutant powers started manifesting and MacTaggert was there to help them deal and harness their abilities under her care. So why is this discovery crucial all of a sudden? 

In the last issue, Scott and Rachel's captor finally revealed himself as Scott's long-lost younger brother Gabriel. The three of them lured Charles Xavier from hiding and it was revealed that he had also lost his mutant powers. He's now fully human. Still, Gabriel angrily forces the truth out of him with the help of Rachel's own telepathy. And the truth gets told:


Before the events in Giant-Size X-Men took place, the rescue team composed of Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, and Nightcrawler (plus Sunfire, Thunderbird and Banshee) were, in actuality, THE SECOND TEAM assembled to save the original X-Men in Krakoa. It turns out that Charles Xavier has pleaded his case to Moira first, asking permission to train and send these teenagers she had just taken under her wing. Moira was understandably reluctant and dismissive of the idea but she wanted the kids to make their own decision about the matter:

This scene was rather heartbreaking, actually, when they all answered the professor's request with a resounding YES. Of course, they'll be happy to help. They've idolized the X-Men. They're youngsters who have been terrified of themselves since they learned what they are and how the world would react to them, and now they are finally given a chance to fight for something--to fight for good and help their heroes get back home--so of course, they'll assist the professor. It's goddamn Professor X, founder of the X-Men, and that title alone means they can trust him. Gabriel himself wants to become a part of the X-Men next to his big brother Scott. Charles purposefully reveals this information later on to make sure that Gabriel is properly motivated for the mission, and the boy can't to save his brother and tell him they're family. 

For the first time, he could actually belong and be with family at last.

So Professor X trained the youngsters within a few days but through telepathic manipulation, he was able to make them believe that it had been a handful of months. Because of that deception, the teenagers were able to travel to Krakoa, fearless and ready to take on the challenge. Sadly, it proved too much for all of them. Suzanne got killed first and Petra managed to dug underground with her powers to shield them from other attacks. Next, Darwin, with his reactive mutation, absorbs everyone's powers and preserves them inside Gabriel who was the only one to physically survive the attack. This all happened after they have just rescued Scott and sent him flying back to the mansion using the Blackbird. He makes telepathic contact with the professor upon landing, and together they explored the events in the island and witnessed them all die there (that was what they were led to believe). Devastated of losing his brother so soon, Scott loses consciousness. Charles had to inform Moira about what happened. He then asserted that he is going to make Scott forget about the first team and leave him to recuperate as he went on to recruit the second team which we know from Giant-Size X-Men. Moira had no choice but to comply, probably in fear that Charles will wipe out her memories too. To make sure that the truth will come out someday, she proceeded to make a video, narrating the tragedy of what has happened, probably in hopes of redeeming herself from her own role in the events.

Like I said, this is WHAT THE FUCK at its finest moment. Contextualizing Claremont's Excalibur III: Charles and Erik have their second chance of a stable partnership in that series and they have grown so much together there, but then both Bendis' House of M and Brubaker's Deadly Genesis happened and also retracted all their character development from Excalibur III to reveal that their past mistakes have caught up with them at last. Erik could never become a good father to the twins and so Scarlet Witch condemned him by taking away his powers and making the rest of mutantkind suffer the same thing. On the other hand, Charles had knowingly lied about a crucial piece of history and betrayed Scott's trust and soiling the rest of his X-Men's perception of him as a mentor and surrogate father. I've always known Charles Xavier is naturally deceptive. He said so himself in Excalibur III that secrets come easy for him. And now I find it a rather poignant parallel that while Magneto lost his daughter Wanda's trust and gets punished by her for it, Scott in this story also punishes Xavier by banishing him from the mansion. Look at the devastation of that exchange between the two below:

Charles Xavier is no longer a mutant himself and therefore he has no place with the X-Men. This has to be the most extreme invalidation of his character--and quite frankly he deserves it, much like Erik did when Wanda stripped him away of his powers. These two men have skeletons in their closet that came out at the  darkest of opportune moments, and now they are paying the price of their actions, even Charles who only had good intentions to start with, but his actions along the way ultimately paved the way to his own personal hell which included losing the respect of his students and his place in their community. Nothing could be worse than this.


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