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Five Things I Think I Know: X-Men Schism Edition

Written by ElijahSnowFan on Monday, June 13 2011 and posted in Columns

ElijahSnowFan is back with another installment of Five Things I Think I Know, this time focusing on the upcoming X-Men: Schism storyline!

The Loooooooooonnnnnngggg Preamble

The easiest thing to do this week would be to continue to talk about DC's revamp, but not only does "5 Things" strive for balance in all aspects of life, storylines at other companies certainly deserve acknowledgement for what they are attempting to accomplish.

In other words, Faithful Reader, just when you think you know all the answers, "5 Things" changes the questions. For those of you who thought you were going to get a Justice Society of America examination this week, instead, it's all about..."X-Men: Schism."

OK. Fine. Stop rolling your eyes, people. Yes, it's yet another "status quo changer," and anyone who has read X-Men since the days of the Marauders wiping out Morlocks knows that Marvel has never been shy about dropping mutants into the blender and seeing what comes out. They're a resilient bunch; hell, Grant Morrison even gave them secondary mutations to help them cope with wanton death and destruction.

But "Schism" feels different...actually, it is different, and here's why:

Anyone who's done even basic reading of, and/or research into, this industry knows that storytelling was much different when Marvel introduced the X-Men and Magneto in 1963. The motivation of the villains was simpler, even if the scope was significant -- Magneto wanted to steal missiles in his first appearance, which is a basic example of "steal little, steal big." He ranted about Homo Superior, and he was thwarted by a group of kids, and he promised to return. For 1963, this is what you got -- and that's not all bad. Simpler times, simpler storylines. What would have taken decompression-era authors 24 issues to tell by showing what Magneto had for breakfast each morning, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby got done in one.

But what came much, much later was the fleshing out of Magneto and Charles Xavier, as storytelling and characterization became more intricate. That's not all bad, either. Readers got to see, in flashbacks and retrospectives, what I feel is one of the most complex relationships this industry has to offer: Xavier and Magneto's pursuit of a dream, from opposite perspectives.

Stan Lee has said that he does not think of Magneto as a villain, and it was clear that as Chris Claremont began to flesh out Magneto's character when he used him years later, neither did he. Reading Mike Carey and Matt Fraction's usage of him also indicates they find something more honorable, more noble, for lack of better words, in the character than in other "villains" like a Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom, who only do noble things when their own pursuits will benefit.

Why does that matter? Because it makes Magneto a "person." While everyone knows or has seen or read about people who are either real-life saints or horrific individuals capable of great evil, most of us realize one thing: Pretty much everybody else is a little bit of both, to various degrees. There's a lot of gray in life, a lot of moral ambiguity. Debates about methods used and roads not taken are held every day. It's there you find Magneto and Charles Xavier.

Mike Carey's early run on X-Men: Legacy was a tremendous examination of Xavier, helping him to catch up, so to speak, with the decades-long advances to Magneto's character. And Carey did extremely well with that. I can't emphasize that enough -- Charles Xavier has to be one of the most difficult characters in comics to write. You can't have him willingly acknowledge too often that he's an evil bastard for sending kids into battle like he did for years, because at the end of the day, Xavier is the good guy in all this.

It doesn't make him infallible, but because Magneto is a more visual and commanding character, it's easy to confuse that with the fact that Magneto did take the path of least resistance, the path of violence. You can acknowledge the reasons why, but you still have to admit that, as the "X-Men: First Class" trailer so hauntingly indicates, "killing will not bring you peace."

This is important because with "Schism," readers are being told that the impending split between Cyclops and Wolverine will be fundamental. It will be based on belief, not outcome. On a vision that is no longer shared.

Truthfully? It's time for this. Thinking back to all of the X-Men stories I've read, about all the Wolverine and Cyclops stories I've read, I believe this storyline is right. This storyline is where the X-Men should be right now, and where they should be going in the future.

Cyclops and Wolverine are two very different men, with very different backgrounds. The very actions they take, while possibly leading to the same outcome, would be different. Cyclops would be analytical. Wolverine would act on instinct. Cyclops would have a plan. Wolverine would choose direct confrontation.

When you have two people like that who, while traveling together, come to a fork in the road...it isn't a given they would take the same path. Much as how Xavier and Magneto did not, in flashback and retrospective. The difference now? We get to see this play out in real time with characters readers know well. Characters who haven't always got along, who, if the interviews and solicits are any indication, ain't going to be getting along anytime soon.

I'm excited for this storyline. Because it's time. Because both characters will likely believe they are right, and I think Marvel has enough skilled writers to make whatever choice that splits the X-Men a real choice, not a shallow and false one.

Soooooo, with that in mind, here are the "5 Things I Think I Know: X-Men: Schism Edition:"

5. Havok will choose Team Wolverine: So many stories have been told with so many of these characters that it will be hard to argue either way, because all of them have made morally ambiguous choices at one point or another. But the one who fascinates me most is Havok. If Marvel's X-Men office chooses to pay attention to what Havok became while leader of the Starjammers, you know a few things: He absolutely had no problem trying to kill Vulcan when it was apparent he was an evil bastard, and Alex Summers now also knows the desperation of war. Things like that change a person, and while Cyclops is his brother, Havok is no follower anymore. If the choice is ending a threat or neutralizing it, I can see Havok choosing Wolverine's path of ending it.

4. Storm, you're up: It hasn't been an easy path for Storm of late -- while she hasn't been marginalized, per se, it's fair to say that storylines haven't revolved around her as a dynamic leader and character in many years. Storm's not a killer -- at least, by nature she isn't -- and because of that, I'm not sure which way she'll go. But what I do think will happen is that this storyline will play out through her eyes, on some level, because next to Cyclops, she has led a team of X-Men the longest. You would expect her to assume the role of trusted lieutenant to whichever side she chooses. (Though for some reason, I think she goes with Team Wolverine, too.)

3. Take a seat, Magneto and Xavier: Marvel would be well-suited to have Magneto and Xavier not pick a side, mainly because if you do, you can't avoid their visions becoming part of this storyline. I'm not saying I want anybody killed or anything stupid like that. I simply would hope that a story mechanism is put in place that makes it so Magneto and Xavier are not front-and-center when this split comes, so readers can see how Cyclops and Wolverine handle things. I think, with how X-Men: Legacy has been set up, we might see that, and that would be good.

2. In this corner...!!!: Yeah, OK. I realize that hero vs. hero fights are a staple of this industry, so it's not like we haven't seen it before. But damn it, don't tell me you don't want to see some of the matchups that could shake out from an X-Men throwdown. Psylocke vs. Emma Frost. Storm vs. Iceman. New Mutants vs. New X-Men. All-New, All-Different vs. Original X-Men. This could be so much fun, for a period of time.

1. "And nothing will ever be the same!": Yeah, readers get that a lot. And then we get the return to the status quo, which isn't always bad. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say this: After Civil War, it was downright weird to see Steve Rogers and Tony Stark together. It was...weird. "Schism" will be good for that reason. Hey, not everyone loves each other in the real world. In the real world, there are people who you would just like to punch, even just one time. But you know that if you do, there are consequences, so most people just don't risk it. But what if you could? That is the potential of storytelling...it's not real. So you can show what happens, based on longstanding characterization.

I know that Marvel has shown Cyclops and Wolverine fighting before, and with the way comics are, they will show it again 20 years from now. But this time...I have a feeling this one's gonna get a little nastier over the short and intermediate term. Good storylines can come from this, and I, for one, will be waiting.

Written or Contributed by: ElijahSnowFan

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About the Author - Christian

Christian is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Christian is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.


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