By HexThis 19 Comments
1. She's Politically Motivated
Mystique's grand entrance into the X-titles was this....
It was Mystique's first statement as the leader of the new Brotherhood, she presented herself as a crusader of mutant rights, not as a meddling mother or chief of a network of villains and criminals. That was the premise her character operated on for quite some time, she was very much like Magneto in that sense who, by contrast, is more consistently given complex morality and deeper motivations. Her assassination attempt on Senator Kelly (depicted above) was in response to Project Wideawake which was the first motion to enlist the aid of sentinels to track down and kill mutants. Of course, her methods are entirely unethical but there's an arguable case to be made for her motivation. Mystique truly believed that by killing Senator Kelly she would be saving the lives of millions mutants. This would inform most of her tactics for years to come like the assassination of her anti-mutant activist son Graydon Creed or her attempt at exploding the Bell Fourche Dam over a sentinel plant. Her killing of Moira McTaggert was collateral from a plan to create a human strain because Destiny's prophecies implied that she would be instrumental in saving the mutants from the Legacy Virus (which it did, albeit unintentionally and at a great cost).
In X-men: Days of Future Past (the movie), it's Bolivar Trask Mystique wants to kill as Senator Kelly was already depicted in the first X-men movie at a different time. But the complexity of her dissent into villainy was given an emotional and political brevity we really haven't seen in a very long time with the character of Mystique. This new, embittered Mystique seems to only be fixated on meddling with Rogue or pissing off the X-men or brutalizing Wolverine whereas the mutant cause was previously one that defined and laid out the groundwork for her role in the X-titles. It set into motion some very interesting storylines to see that Mystique, like Magneto or Xavier, considered herself an activist or crusader not as a 1 note villain and certainly not as a professor of villainy for the Hellfire Club like she is now. Palm, meet my good friend Face.
2. She's Not a Complete Monster
There's a part in the movie where Raven says "I have compassion….just not for Trask" which quite simply articulates Mystique’s sense of morality. The difference between Mystique and the X-men is that her reservations and sense of compassion stops where injustice starts. She doesn't view enemies as being encompassed by her sense of fairness and diplomacy, she sees them as threats that must be eliminated at all costs. Obviously that can go wrong like when Destiny had a vision of Ms. Marvel doing harm to Rogue, Mystique resolved to murder Ms. Marvel’s innocent boyfriend. Not very heroic or even justifiable but she had at least a somewhat vaguely understandable reason. Nowadays she’ll do something like murder an innocent woman in the middle-east while masquerading as Logan in order to turn a village against him and throw her off his trail. Not very consistent with Mystique, not very logical either seeing as how she doesn’t feel hesitation.
PS- While we’re on the subject of Mystique, how is it never acknowledged that Wolverine and Mystique previously had a rapport and mutual respect before Moira McTaggart’s death? If the events depicted in “Get Mystique” of their history of betrayal were true then why would he have trusted her in the years after?
3. She's Conflicted
The X-men titles are so distinguished and particularly broad to different readers because they’re a tad more mature and make an extra effort to be politically and socially relevant. A lot of characters such as Cyclops, Emma, Professor X, Rogue, and Magneto have been shown to have wrestled with their sense of morality in the fight for mutant rights. Their actions serve in the interest of a people and, as such, they are somewhat like politicians who will never have a 100% approval rating. Mystique should be no exception to this conflict of morality and she certainly wasn’t one in Days of Future Past. This was the basis on which Mystique’s relationship with the X-men developed as she had a profound obligation to both Rogue and Nightcrawler which often dissuaded her from viewing the as X-men entirely meaningless collateral.
For years, Mystique was in the Freedom Force which was a government-sanctioned team of mutants led by Val Cooper wherein she served as a condition of her pardon for past crimes. She also served with X-factor for quite some time under the same premise of doing good deeds while being on a presidential pardon Days of Future Past Mystique was similarly viewed as being someone who was worthy of the benefit of the doubt. There was something to be salvaged in Mystique that was evident in her misplaced sense of justice, a level of good intention that was sympathetic but with a reckless abandon that made her unpredictable.
4. She's Intelligent
One thing people forget about Mystique is that she’s freakin’ genius. Not a cartoon evil genius, a genius genius. She was able to infiltrate the pentagon on brains alone, she speaks 13 languages, and she’s an extremely resourceful and lightening-quick espionage agent and assassin. One thing I really appreciated about Mystique in Days of Future Past is that you got to see her speaking Vietnamese and French as well. And even before then, in X-men and X2, she was depicted as having been the only member of the group capable of operating the spillway mechanism in Stryker’s dam as well as being intelligent enough to fill Senator Kelly’s position for months and evade detection.
5. Somebody Apparently Read Into her History
It appears the screenwriter seems to have done a fair amount of research into Mystique’s character. The use of her genetic material to enhance the sentinel technology is very similar to an arc in Mystique’s wonderful solo series where she discovers a cosmetics company is using her genes to treat skin conditions and using mutants as test subjects. Her assassination plot against Trask is reminiscent of her plots against Senator Kelly and Graydon Creed with similar motivations. Her independence from Charles and Magneto is also something finally noted as she’s often depicted as being an accessory to one or at the complete mercy of another. These days, it’s more Sabretooth she’s an accessory to and Logan that she’s at the mercy of but she is still, nonetheless, she’s pretty much defined moreso by the people around her when, in actuality, she’s never been like that.
What can Marvel Do?
Well, Mystique’s got quite a tattered record right now. There’s the attempted purchase of Madripoor, the complete estrangement between Rogue and Nightcrawler, the betrayal of the X-men to save Rogue via Hope, the whole “Get Mystique” arc, the period of time she spent with Norman Osborn, the affair she had with Daken. There were brief periods wherein she was given a level of pathos like her saving of Wolverine in Nightcrawler’s honor after his death, her momentary and short-lived reunion with Nightcrawler but there’s no baseline of consistency in her character these days. She’s all over the place and often the subject of some extremely humiliating defeats like Wolverine killing her (and mortally stabbing her like A MILLION times after) as well as her bizarre interaction with Magneto that resulted in her being impaled once again. She’s gotten very silly, there’s no longer any humanity to her.
BUT there might be hope in an unlikely place. There was a “What If” series that depicted all of the Marvel universe heroes having gone down the worst path possible, resulting in complete and utter moral decay. It was called “Marvel Ruins” and Mystique’s brief appearance in it showed her dying on plane as a result of rapid shapeshifting, it’s explained that her constant shifts resulted in disassociative identity disorder and that she was supposed to have been taking medication to regulate her impulses. Now, I don’t know that there should be some psychiatric pharmaceuticals arc for Mystique but could it be possible that her “ever changing gray matter” that Charles describes as a natural defense against telepathy might be a good explanation for her inconsistent characterization. Maybe there could be some telepathic resolution to this if Mystique is somehow incapacitated to hamper her telepathic defenses and telepathically re-organized into stability? Food for thought.