Monday, 18 February 2013

X-Factor #32-34: Hodge Podge

X-Factor #32 is essentially a throwaway. Against a backdrop of mutant registration being implemented, the kids protest about the idea they will be sent to summer school; and X-Factor are attacked by a bunch of random aliens pretending to be the Avengers for no readily apparent reason. I accuse it of being a fill-in.

#33 sees things progress. The Alliance of Evil break out of jail to prove the point that mutant registration is, regardless of whether or not it is a good idea, effectively unimplementable.

I think I've put my finger on what my colleague SpaceSquid calls the Kelly problem. The problem is: mutants as presented in the Marvel universe really are dangerous. Terrifyingly so. Yes, there are plenty of harmless ones, and many mean well, but, to repurpose a phrase from elsewhere, intent is not magic. If we just look at the kids in X-Factor: Rusty almost burned a woman to death accidentally; Boom-Boom is ridiculously irresponsible and it's a miracle she hasn't killed anyone yet; and Rictor destroyed a whole city when he first manifested! No wonder people are scared.

The Registration Acts aren't just based out of prejudice, but out of a legitimate concern for the welfare of humans, and a worry about excess power in hands of people who might not be trustworthy. But any challenge to this order of things is held by those who have that power to be in contravention of their natural rights.

In other words, this is a metaphor for gun control. Mixed in with the other political stuff has been a pro-second amendment tone bubbling away there, for years now. And it's one that us Britishers are probably not going to be sympthetic towards. Kelly, Gyrich and Cooper have been using pro-gun control arguments - perfectly sensible ones in my view - that the books have been failing to deconstruct properly because they are simply taking the NRA party line - a massive defensiveness of the status quo, regardless of how much sense that makes. They do not engage in self-examination. Of course the Kelly-Gyrich-Cooper's program is nonsense, too: but that's because it's a strawman. Xavier could have gone to them at any point with a proposal to meet their legitimate concerns. He chose not to.

Anyway. Other things. X-Factor #3 regressed Beast to his 1960s form, you'll remember. Recent issues of X-Factor have taken him back even further, to before X-Men #3, when he was a dumb brute. Both of these things are reversed here, as we reach the classical form of Hank McCoy: smart and blue and furry. Both these things are an essential part of his character now, and one can't have the brain without the beast (and anyway, they're out now so it doesn't matter so much). Or, to put it another way: having Hank McCoy not be blue is stupid.

Our restored Beast signs the Registration Form, under protest, under his birth name (the series here tacitly admitting that he's been out since he was in the Avengers, at least). Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Iceman fill in the forms, but use only their mutant names. Rusty Collins, who's still wanted, refuses, but agrees to hand himself in to the Navy to stand trial. The rest of the kids are too young to register (making somewhat of a mockery of the entire rationale for the system, but there you go).

Issue #34 concentrates on Warren's quest to find Candy Southern, who has been kidnapped by Cameron Hodge. The Warren/Cameron confrontation has been long-awaited, but I don't think it gets the weight it deserved. Candy ends up dead, which is a shame. She deserved better than just being fridged, she'd barely appeared in the series since she dumped Warren, and she was entirely in the right on that occasion.


  1. The Registration Acts aren't just based out of prejudice, but out of a legitimate concern for the welfare of humans, and a worry about excess power in hands of people who might not be trustworthy.

    Where the writers stack the decks in the favor of the mutants is "Days of Future Past" and its ilk.

    While on the surface, the government's reactions to mutants are arguably well reasoned and well intentioned, we (the readers of this fictional universe) and some of the characters within it know that stuff like the Mutant Registration Act is just a precursor to the events of "Days of Future Past", or a return to the genocides of Magneto's past.

    Thus we're automatically inclined to root against the government, even though, realistically, they aren't asking all that much (it also doesn't help that, well-intentioned he may be, Gyrich is kinda an asshat and always has been. Val Cooper makes a far more likeable and pragmatic government representative).

    (In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the recently-discussed issue of how many TV watchers have a rabid dislike of many protagonists' wives on shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The wives aren't doing anything all that unreasonable, but because they're getting in the way of our protagonists, we're inclined to dislike them).

    The other place the "mutant control as gun control" metaphor falls apart is that mutants can't put away their guns, even if they wanted to/were ordered to by law. Which is where the "mutants as persecuted minority" metaphor comes into play, but of course, in the real world, persecuted minorities don't have the ability to read thoughts or destroy cities.

    What's my point? I have no clue. That metaphors aren't perfect?

  2. Mutant Registration as metaphor for gun control is a very interesting angle. Looks like a sequel to the Kelly Problem post is in order.