The concept of whether man is born inherently good or inherently evil has been disputed and discussed for centuries by political scientists, philosophers and religious leaders; and it continues to be a subject that many cannot agree on. Is man born either good or evil, or are we simply a product of our own environment? Do we have free will? Can society and our surroundings shape the people we become, or are we bound by our genetics?
You're probably wondering what the heck the philosophy of morality has to do with comics, right? Well, I'm going to get to that. If you have been reading both WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN and UNCANNY X-FORCE then you may recall seeing a character named Genesis. Genesis has not only appeared in several issues (particularly recently), but he's been at the center of some of them too. He is also why I have been thinking so much about free will and how it pertains to him. So, who is Genesis?
During the Dark Angel Saga story arc in UNCANNY X-FORCE, the Clan Akkaba brought back Apocolypse in the form of a young child, and were grooming him to become the next Apocalypse. The X-Force team discovered this and made it their duty to stop the Clan Akkaba -- but the only way to achieve their goal was to ensure that the young boy did not grow up to become Apocalypse; even if that meant ending his life.== TEASER ==
The story ended with Fantomex shooting Genesis square between his eyes -- killing the boy instantly. Fantomex knew that the only way to prevent Apocalypse from returning was to destroy the boy when he had the chance. Even if he was still just a boy. Yet, whether he simply wanted to test a theory, or whether he did it because he felt some remorse at murdering what was still an innocent child; he decided to clone Genesis. He began raising the cloned child in a controlled, virtual environment where he could influence everything that happened to him. By controlling his environment and giving him a very different kind of life, would the boy with these same genes still eventually grow up to become the evil Apocalypse? Would the healthy, loving environment provided by Fantomex affect his free will? Would it influence him to become a good person, disproving the idea that his genetics predetermined whether or not he would grow up to be evil?
We've gotten some hints regarding the future of Genesis, but so far it doesn't look too promising for him. On more than one occasion more than one person has seen the boy's future; and although many would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, it's something that is easier said than done. In an issue of WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN, Deathlok was able to see into Genesis' future, and it seems no amount of work by Fantomex will change the boy's destiny -- there is still a huge chance he will eventually grow up to become Apocalypse. But why? Perhaps because Fantomex pulled the boy out of his virtual life too soon. In Uncanny X-Force #19 during the Dark Angel Saga, Warren had all but disappeared and had all but entirely succumbed to Apocalypse. Seeing that the X-Force were losing the fight, Fantomex pulls Genesis out of the virtual life he had created for him early in order to have him fight Archangel whose mind had been taken over by Apocalypse. Could the separation of the boy and the only family he has ever known be enough to trigger something in his mind? Could this loss have the power to cut him so deeply that it could lead him to becoming Apocalypse and turning on those around him?
Many psychologists say that social imprinting can mold an individual or animal, and that a person's morality is largely shaped by his or her parents. In fact, children often reflect the moral behavior of their parents -- and if Ma and Pa in Kansas are the only parents the boy has ever known, then wouldn't that act as a positive influence on Genesis? Wouldn't that mold him into becoming a good person?
Morality is largely shaped by parents. Children imitate their parents and gain their morality from the morality of their parents. If parents try to teach their child one thing, but do another, the child will more likely copy the actual behavior of its parents…people who behave according to their morals will have strong consciences and will feel bad even if their transgression is a minor one, while people with low morality can easily commit an atrocity and not feel bad. However, attitudes and behaviors change with experiences and disagreements with others. Morals also change when your behavior goes against them.
Whether or not the creative teams of these books are taking all of this into account remains to be seen, but it's certainly interesting to see them ddealing with interesting concepts like free will and whether we are really products of our environments. What do you think? Do you think Genesis will grow up to become Apocalypse, or do you think he still has a chance to be one of the "good guys"? Is there a comic that has made you really think? Which one?