Wednesday, October 10, 2012

No, Cyclops Wasn't "Right"

There's been a bit of a meme going around, one I've seen argued in a few different places: that in Avengers Vs. X-Men, "Cyclops was right, Captain America was wrong."

The paraphrased argument goes like this: "Cyclops was right that the Phoenix Force was coming to Earth to possess Hope and restore the mutant race; the Avengers screwed this up by causing the Phoenix Force to be split up into various members of the X-Men; those members did good works whilst waiting for Hope to be ready until the Avengers kidnapped Hope, and only then did they go off the deep end; and once Hope had the Phoenix Force, voila, it restored the mutants. Ipso facto, Cyclops was right, Cap was wrong, and if the Avengers hadn't interfered, this all could have happened right away and Professor X wouldn't have died and everyone would be eating buttered popcorn and listening to 80s New Wave music in a brilliant utopia. So, despite what the authors seemed to intend, Cyclops was the hero of the piece, and Cap the villain."

I've also seen more than one person suggest T-shirts be worn declaring "Cyclops was right" and "Cap was wrong."

Pardon my French, but what a load of fetid dingo's kidneys.

Not to necessarily defend AvX, because Uatu knows, that series was predictable, overlong, rife with poor storytelling and poor editorial coordination, based inexplicable attempts to link the Phoenix to K'un-L'un and chaos magic and gosh knows what else, the "power corrupts" moral was trite, and on the whole the story was generally unimpressive.

But to deconstruct its theme to "Cap was the villain" is something I cannot let stand unanswered, not when such a reading can only be supporting a very selective reading that leaves out the most salient facts.


A) The very first pages of AvX #1 give us this:

Secret Avengers #26 shares this moment with us:

And in AvX #4, Thor watches as yet another planet is eaten:

So let's be clear: saying "Cyclops was right" was saying that several planetary genocides are justified, as long as the Phoenix is heading to Earth to restore mutants. The death of billions--trillions?--of sentients is no problem, because Cyclops' race is more important than yours, or any other. As long as mutants don't "go extinct," well, other entire planets going extinct is collateral damage. Screw the rest of the universe!

Cyclops is "right" only if he's history's greatest monster.

B) And let's remember: Cap knew of at least two of these Alderaans, as we saw that they were witnessed by Avengers who would have tweeted their status to him. So against Cyclops' theory--which had absolutely zero evidence, zero precedent, and zero sense--Cap had to balance the CERTAINTY that the Phoenix was destroying every planet it came across. To say "Cap was wrong" is to say that Cap should have said, "Well, we'll just cross our fingers and pray Cyclops' delusional ideology is right and the Phoenix Force is not at all like what we saw 30 seconds ago."

Cyclops theory may have proven to be correct, but only in hindsight. I could say I know what the Powerball numbers will be tonight, and bet all the food and rent money on it. But even if I win, that doesn't mean I was "right"--I was a damn irresponsible fool who got lucky.

And anyone who didn't see the risks and say, "Cyclops, let's discuss this first" isn't fit to lead the Inferior Five, let alone the Avengers. If that says Cap was wrong, I don't wanna be right.

C) The Avengers didn't start the fight. Cyclops struck the first blow, and (as told in the pages of AvX #2) the X-Men immediately followed up by attacking the Helicarrier. The whole mess perhaps could have been avoided, but responsibility lies with Cyclops, not Cap.

D) Hope wasn't going along with Cyclops' plan. She fled BOTH the X-Men and Avengers, hiding from everyone. And once they got to the moon, she decided she couldn't handle it, and asked Wolverine to kill her lest she run amok, and she rejected the Force :

This was before Tony Stark "disrupted" the Phoenix Force, so it wasn't the Avengers' fault--Hope wasn't ready (and doubtless the consequences of the Phoenix possessing her at this point would have been at least as disastrous as what did happen...see more below).

And let's be clear--it wasn't that the Avengers interfered: Hope rejected the power, as Cyclops likes to taunt her with:

E) The narrative of the meme simply isn't true. The Avengers did not kidnap Hope, the "Phoenix Five" did.

As seen above, she rejected the Phoenix, and she wanted to stay with the Avengers. Cyclops said no.

Hope herself said she was a victim here--she doesn't think she was rescued:

She was their prisoner. And despite Scott's promises that she could leave when she wanted, the second she wanted to:

So, again, the Avengers did NOT kidnap Hope. She was a prisoner, chose to leave with them, and Cyclops used force to try and make her stay, and upturned the world trying to get her back.

F) And as for the "preparing her," "making her ready for the Phoenix," the Phoenix Five promised? That's exactly what they didn't do:

It was the Avengers her took her to K'un-L'un, and gave her the training necessary to master the Phoenix Force. If you think the ending of the series was right, it was 100% the Avengers doing, not Cyclops. The Phoenix Five imprisoned her, berated her, mocked her, and did nothing that they promised to do. If the Avengers hadn't taken her away from that, mutants would never have been restored.

G) When Hope finally did get the Phoenix Force, guess what?

She wasn't any different than when Cyclops et. al. had it. She has the power, she knows how to use it right, etc.

This is undoubtedly what would have happened had she gotten the power initially instead of the X-Douches: the EXACT same arc, "ooh, I've got the power, I'm gonna do good, ooh I'm the god, oh, I'm gonna squish you now." It would have turned out precisely the same.

Nope, it was only the intervention of the Scarlet Witch--which Scott so strenuously opposed--that enabled the happy ending:

You may interpret that last panel how you like, but it sure looks as if Hope couldn't have done what she did without Wanda's assistance, both emotionally, and perhaps with some of Wanda's power, too.

Regardless, if Scott had had his way, this could NOT have happened.

H) Even if you disagree with everything I've written, why blame Cap? Yes, he lead the Avengers. But he was hardly alone in his opinion. Wolverine was far more gung ho against Scott than Cap, and he drove events during the crisis just as much as Cap. Hank McCoy opposed Scott. T'Challa. Iron Man. Everyone in K'un-L'un. Wanda and Pietro. Charles Xavier, for heaven's sake.

To summarize it as "Cap was the villain" is ridiculously over-simplistic at best. Gratuitous Cap-bashing does a disservice to the story (as feeble as I thought it may have been). This wasn't Civil was a vast majority of the world's heroes (including many mutants) who feared Scott was going to destroy the world based on a foolish dream.

So if the Avengers hadn't intervened, Hope wouldn't have been able to master the power, and the world would likely be in just as much trouble as it was under the Phoenix Five--she was ready to be just as corrupted by absolute power. Even though Scott turned out to be right, he went about it the wrong way, didn't listen to anyone, and ignored the only steps that could have made his plan succeed. That's not the "hero" of the story, by any reasonable definition.



Anonymous said...

In that case, the obvious solution for the Avengers from would have been to assist in helping Hope out in controling the Phoenix, maybe even giving her up in space to prevent the chance of Earth's destruction. Instead, we have Cap basically saying they are taking Hope from Scott. And judging from Emma's telepathic input as well as having a helicarrier full of Avengers just in case, they would not take no for an answer. So Scott predictably blasts Cap off the island for this reason. If Scott had refused formerly said advice, then the Avengers would have been in the right. Sure Scott should have talked it out instead of optic blasting a pal of his, but it didn't look like that option would work. Plus, the Phoenix Five managed to transform the world without acting like tyrrants. This made the Avengers look like a bunch of assholes poking a bear by taking Hope. This predictably causes them to go off the deep end one by one. Basically, this event was stupid in the way this was handled. I fear that Cap and Scott may suffer the most, with Cyclops sliding over to villainry and Cap risking becoming what happened to Tony Stark in Civil War.

snell said...

They transformed the world "without acting like tyrants"? Perhaps you have a different interpretation of than I of their addressing the UN and declaring what is and isn't allowed anymore.

And once again, the Avengers DID NOT "take" Hope. She wanted to go, she chose to go with them. Cyclops was keeping her prisoner

Anonymous said...

The only thing the P5 told the UN not to do was to start wars. And with virtually all causes of war solved by then, I'm certain 99% of the population would agree to that, as long as they had the freedom. If the P5 acted as if they were going to impose their will as rulers or if the general population were against it, I would agree that it had to be stopped. But neither happens so the Avengers are put in the awkward position of rejecting a utopia with no consequences, making them lok like jerkwards.

And although she did initially run away from the X-Men in the beginning, she was also running away from the Avengers at this point. It was only when the Scarlet Witch talk convinced her otherwise that she agreed to cooperate. After the Avengers tried to kidnap her a second time against basically demigods, pushing them over the edge.

The crux of the argument is that while Cyke offered a reasonable yet risky plan in the beginning, Cap's plan would be to... kep Hope away from the Phoenix? This would habe either have the Phoenix incinerate Earth for no Hope or have Hope possessed at an unstable state since she would have been against being with the X-Men at the time, prompting her to go dark and incinerating the universe.

So basically, Cap's original plan would have resulted in doom. And he ultimately stole Scott's plan in the end, with some modifications. All of this could have been offered if Steve didn't act out like Captain Self-Righteous, believing that his hunces were right despite that the X-Men have far more experience with the Phoenix. And that's when the X-fans started to go nuts and disregard everything about the story, justified or not. This is what's pissing off so many people and believe that Cyke was right all along. Sure everyone was acting more belligerent than usual, but still...

In the end it is looking as if Cap will be to Tony as Cyke is with Cap when compared to Civil War. He may have won the battle, but it's hard pressed to root for him acting all smug like that. And since he led the Avengers, all the blame will go to him.

snell said...

Just because you agree with the goal doesn't mean they weren't tyrannical. Even Xavier said they were going too far. And as Superman IV taught us, you know the world wouldn't have stood by idly for "Pax Utopia," whether or not the Avengers acted. Because every misguided regime (ie Latveria) would not quietly go along and would "reject utopia." They would have been pushed over the edge anyway, as the whole moral of the enterprise is that only Hope was strong enough to resist corruption by the Phoenix Force.

Please reread AvX #6--the Avengers DID NOT try bring down the Utopia, they merely tried to free Hope.

Cyclops had NO plan in the beginning, just a delusional hope that everything would work out. The only training he gave Hope was physical fighting drills. He would have rejected K'un-L'un, too, had they come to him, and he would have rejected the Scarlet Witch.

To suggest Cap "stole" Scott's plan is to imply Scott had one, which he clearly did not. Scott's only plan was "Let the Phoenix take her and everything will be happiness and bunnies."

Cap DID come to talk. Phoenix was DESTROYING PLANETS and Scott refused to listen to a single word or discuss a thing. Scott was the one who was "Captain Self-Righteous."

And as I noted in the original post, the was, in the entire history of Marvel, ZERO precedent or evidence for Scott's view of what would happen when the Phoenix came to Earth. ZERO. To call Scott's plan "reasonable but risky" is 100% hindsight, completely unjustified by anything in the story.

Martin Gray said...

Excellent piece, Snell - you present the facts, and interpret them in an entirely reasonable way. I just don't understand how Anonymous (hello!) can read the comic in any other way - ruby quartz-tinted lenses?

Anonymous, please do tell us what the basis is for Cyclops' assertion that the Phoenix was coming, mutants would be reborn and the world WOULDN'T end? Even if we accept this new claim in the stories that the Phoenix Force sparks new life, we clearly see the existing populations wiped out. It's not risk, but certainty.

As for Cyclops 'training' Hope for the coming of the PF, that involved him beating her up and verbally abusing her. He's no great mentor. I do believe that the Phoenix Force corrupted him at the end, sparking a rampage of destruction, but he'd lost his perspective a good while before that.

notintheface said...

There's a hilarious googum Random Happenstance strip which makes exactly the same points you make, Snell, ending with Cap telling Logan 'Wow, you're right, he IS a tool." But I'm too tired to look for it right now. I agree with both of you.

Anonymous said...

First off, I want to confirm that I'm not either a particular X-fan or Avengers fan. I just like reading good stories and all. I like Captain America, believed he was right in Cuvil War and believed that the movie version nailed his personality to a T. I also believe that it is right to question Cyclops' increasingly isolationistic views for mutants. This caused Scism, which I believe Wolverine had a point in the matter.

Cyclops should have tried to be more friendly with the humans in San Francisco. If they did, then perhaps the Avengers would have trusted him more, but that's for another story.

You may be asking why Scott was putting so much trust in an underaged girl? Well, said girl was the daughter of Jean Grey, the original Phoenix and who was doing just fine before Mastermind manipulated her Not to mention Rachel Summers, a person who stil had the Phoenix Force in her in the beginning o the story. Cable himself told Scott Hope was the key before he died. All of this evidence had Scott to believe that only Hope could handle the Phoenix Force, and he was right in the end. Sure, there was a chance that Hope wasn't ready yet, and the comic indicated so, but Cap had no othher plan other than the one mentioned above which would have doomed the planet anyways

Another problem is the justification of influence, someting that would only harnish a slap in the wrist in the comic world. Even then, Scott looks to be the least deserving in jail. His only crime appears to be killing his own mentor, which doesn't hold any weight because Scott was turning dark at that point and the writers just couldn't make Xavier look significant anymore. There isn't any other thing that he can be tried for. Giving those people everything they could have wanted and being called evil is lime accusing Jesus of crimes when he attempts second coming. Stuff like this can be a bad thing when demonstrated properly, and yes it is likely the P5 would be more antagonistic no matter what due to not being the chosen one, but provoking them with no plan of taking the Phoenix Force was a horrible idea. It only made the P5 go mad faster then they would have before.

It just looked as if the Avengers were butting into the mutant's business with no knowledge as to how to stop it. Did they offer a reasonable alternative for the Phoenix Force in the beginning? No. Did they do any research as to how to put down the P5 knowing that an attack is likely to send them over the edge? No. Even Xavier himself should have known better than to antagonize Scott when he was the only one left in semi-control, risking the chance to go dark.

The Avengers messed up in trying to deal with the phoenix Force as much as the X-Men did and yet it looks as if they will get no blame for it, depicting Cyclops as the villain despite being under the influence and forgiving the Scarlet Witch, a woman that has done far worse by inadvertably killing tens of thousands of former mutants. All Scott did was to be provoked to kill his own mentor after creating a utopia with no catches. It may be implied that other people were killed, but it never shows up.

And this is my biggest problem. You have both sides going to war, causing all kinds of crap happen to civilians and yet we have absolutely no perspective on the average joes. Did causing world peace force me out of the job? Most likely, but it never shows uo. So we can only assume that they didn't care.

As I said, both sides acted antaginistically, but it made the Avengers and especially Cap look worse. Unlike the X-Men, who themselves only had a tint of justification in their actions, the Avengers had absolutely no reason to act so belligerent. The only reason they got away with it was because Scott stupidly blasted him instead of... you know... explaining why Cap's plan was a dumb idea.

Anonymous said...

I never had an interest in these books, but I can't help but be sorry for Cyke and Cap. Cyke haters will never live this moment down, adding this to an already long list of questional behavior. Only this time he's not entirely to blame. Meanwhile, Cap will be heckled by X-fans for years to come over this, taking over their beloved leader's role on questionable terms. Yeah he was way out of character over this, but to put Cyclops in jail for lesser crimes but to let the Scarlet Witch roam free is an hypocracy not even neutral fans like me will understand. Let's hope both characters recover over this as mutants couldn't have asked for a better positioning right now.

Martin Gray said...

'Butting into the Mutants' business ...' Er, if the whole world is threatened, it's everyone's business.

Hope's mother was a firefighter named Louise Spalding. Not Jean. regardless, how would Jean being her mother mean Hope could handle the PF - Jean hardly did a great job.

Noname said...

You know there are several people who say those aliens' deaths were actually good because they were "genetically flawed". Because of this they deserved to die in fiery chaos. This is from the X-men franchise. The one about how genetics aren't supposed to be important.