By WhitOro Comments
Another exercise in creativity. Adjectiveless
X-Men that is.
My concept from the team comes from a question: what do the X-Men represent? They’re the outcasts, the one that want to make the world a better place, the ones that want to find a way for humans and mutants to live in peace, without prejudices and hatred. But something like that can’t be obtained by simply defending mutants. It’s important to form a dialogue with the human, a relationship. Forming the team my first thought was how human’s media would react to it, how the world population would have seen it. What the X-Men always tried to accomplish was protect mutants from a world that fears them, but prejudice can be eradicated only if you work on the entirety of the world and not only a small ethnic group. A team of X-Men must deal with mutant-human relationships and actively work to make the Planet a better place to live in.
The Major Players
Hope Summers: the true leader of this incarnation of the group and the main protagonist. The mutant messiah should have more mass media exposure in the Marvel Universe. While still working with her own team, the five lights, trying to find newly activated mutants, she starts another group of X-Men to persecute her second mission, that is be the messiah, create a world of peace. She has to show to the planet that the saviors of mutants can also be the savior of all humanity (follows in Hope the Icon).
Magneto: field leader, always on the front line. He symbolizes redemption: one of the world former greatest villains, now working for the benefit of humankind. It sends a powerful message: the mutants while they could cause problems, they’re still ready to atone for them. He has the experience, the powers and the charisma to make a group work.
Tom Skylark & Rover: from Grant Morrison’s Here Comes Tomorrow. In Morrison final team of X-Men everyone has a place: mutants, humans, cyborgs. Having a team exclusively composed of mutants sends to the general public the wrong message: division, inequality, fear of the strange. Seeing a normal human with no actual superpowers actively working with the X-Men helps breaking barriers of intolerance. Rover the Sentinel is another symbol of hope for the mutants, a weapon created by fear to destroy them turned into a tool of justice. Skylark is brash, caustic, from a dark future that made him hard and violent.
James Rhodes as the War Machine: with the Iron Man 2.0 suit but his original name, Rhodes has a similar role to Skylark, as the human member. But he’s also a more “famous” a veteran hero coming from teams like the Avengers. Is a publicity stunt for the world, a big name joining the mutant cause. Also, you always see Avengers stealing X-Men, so a little pay-off should be granted.
Gambit: an important mutant that I desire to use to upgrade his powers and bring back some forgotten parts of his history (explained better soon). Subsequent members of this team would include Northstar, Jubilee, Pixie, Magma, Polaris, Colossus, Dazzler, and Dust. The overall cast should be fluid, and I tend to focus on the female members since superhero teams usually a more male based core.
Back to Morrison and Austen
Is my desire to reintroduce concepts from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. The already mentioned Tom Skylark is the most important example, but two others being far more important: Sublime and the Kick.(NOTE: The Sublime Corporation has been reintroduced recently in the X-Men during Fraction tenure, but I didn’t follow it. While the group seems to still working, the actual entity is nowhere to be seen.)
*Sublime is a sentient bacteria that can infect and type of being except for Mutants, that are the only race that can resist his influence. He created Kick, a concentrated version of himself sold as a “drug for mutants” that enhances their powers but only ends up making them prey for the bacteria. The existence of a Mutant Messiah forces me to put her against one mutantkind greatest enemy, a force of nature that you can’t reason with and only wants being on top of the food chain and control every living thing, and exterminate what little is left of his natural enemy.
Kick starts spreading again, thanks to South-American drug cartels who supplied by a mysterious source starts to distribute it again, for free, but to the “human” consumers. On humans, Kick has a weird effect. While they retain parts of their personality, the addicted to the drug start to form a hive-mind that follows Sublime will, turning them into an army of sleeper agents. Better yet, Mutants discovered that Kick was a Sublime’s compound only in the faraway future. Nobody in the X-Men yet realizes the truth behind the drug and the real devastation it can bring.
But Morrison’s is not the only one I would take leads from. On no, Chuck Austen’s work is a gold mine. Yes I went there, sue me! I love those stories from a pure “so bad is good” point of view. Chuck Austen’s run ended with a few cliffhanger that have been pretty much completely ignored from following writers (“thank God” I’m sure some of you are saying). But some the idea and characters he introduced have the potential to become great if used in the right way. I concentrate on three:
*Gambit’s Secondary Mutation: at the beginning of X-Men #163, a blind Gambit looks at one of his cards and sees the cliffhanger from issue #162. From there, for a brief period of time, the Cajun mutant had the power to see images of the future in his cards. That’s a great idea, why it hasn’t stick? Rather than actual photos from the future, I’d make Gambit able to see objects, drawings, symbols, all things that must be interpreted, visions, cryptic imagery, needed to build up mystery and suspects. Gambit would train himself in bringing back this ability and with the help of Hope powers use it at his full potential.
*Azazel: X-Men - First Class showed that this character can be used for good. Last time we saw him he was laughing while getting sucked in a teleportation vortex created by Abyss powers, and we never saw him again. To me, he spent years plotting his return, trapped into another dimension, patiently waiting the time to extract revenge while forming a new army and a new set of crazy satanic followers on Earth. Even more so than Sublime, Azazel makes for a great counterpoint to Hope. She’s the Messiah while he’s the mutant Devil, the savior against the damned in an epic confrontation.
*Carter Ghazikhanian: last issue of Chuck Austen’s X-Men ended in a cliffhanger never explained and never brought back since 2005. The young psychic kid Carter driving off the Mansion with his mother, talking with a invisible being while smiling like a child molester. That’s so good! A big unutilized villain right there! Austen’s original idea was to make the spirit talking with him Cassandra Nova, but that wouldn’t work now of course. I would make Carter reappear, as an Omega-level mutant, aged far more than he actually should (now in his mid 20), his mother mysteriously disappeared. The spirit who talks with him is maybe a dark and powerful entity, maybe only his own imagination, maybe another personality who managed to obtain a true spiritual form. Either way, he’s now completely insane. He thinks he should be the true savior of the mutant world thanks for superior psychic powers, and since Hope arrival he spent years training with his powers, to upgrade them. He walked Earth, spending time slaughtering both lesser mutants as well as human-supremacists. He also developed the ability to hide himself from Cerebra and other telepath, using his powers to become an invisible entity, able to move from place to place without being detected.
But building up villains is not enough: you need a hero stronger than ever.
Hope the Icon
During his run, Morrison turned Magneto in a cultural phenomenon, a figure on par with Che Guevara. The same I want to do with Hope, as a positive symbol, a pop culture icon complete with a t-shirt that starts spreading through the USA and then the world. To make her mission know, Hope doesn’t put on a mask, a secret identity, nor she refuses questions and avoids confrontations: she put herself under the spotlight, going to talk-shows, making public statements at rallies. She doesn’t save the world while staying quiet in the shadow, she lets the people know what she have done together with her team, using every single media, from television to the internet. She sparks controversy every time she can, and directly challenges the status-quo, the authorities and even the other superheroes, entering in conflict with the Avengers.
“Magneto was right” is the phrase created by Morrison. “I have Hope” is the one of this story.
This obviously, can also work at her disadvantage as Hope is not perfect. She can make errors, she can say stupid things, something that the press and the governments would brutally use against her, in a plan to take her out. Also a more extremist part of Hope’s followers distorts her ideals of world peace, becoming a violent anarchic group that fights the institutions while shouting her name, with kidnappings and terrorist attacks that she and her team have to deal with. Hope gets tired and frustrated about the accumulating pressure and the obstacles, becoming less patient and focused, starting to doubt herself and her actual role. If only there was something that could help her regain strength, enhance her powers, something that could alleviate the pain and make things easier…
Villains: less Mutants, more worldwide threats
Joss Whedon was closing his first issue of Astonishing X-Men with these words:
“Time to make nice with the public, eh, Summers?” “We have to do more than that, Logan.We have to astonish them.”
The idea was that to convince the public that the mutants weren’t a threat and actually show the people of the world what a group of superheroic homo superiors could have done for them…Well, while the book was very good, this idea never amount to anything. The X-Men had done nothing but fight aliens (off world mind you), themselves and the psychotic AI of their own danger room. They haven’t confronted anything that the general public could really see or care about, and that’s what must change. The X-Men must fight to make the world better in plain sight, and this starts from a writer point of view by reducing the actual number of mutant villains they have to confront.
No matter what the X-Men do, they’ll never surpass the stigma of monsters if what they’re fighting is another insane member of their own race. There’s always Uncanny X-Men to put them against other mutants, and it helps give each book is own different voice.
Under me, Hope’s X-Men will be fighting Earth’s enemies, not Mutant’s enemies. Terrorist organizations, HYDRA and AIM, weapon dealers, drug cartels, all of them together with more superheroic foes that threaten cities and civilians, like monsters, giant robots, dinosaurs,super-powered rogues. Not only that, I see this team in an Authority type of scenario, acting like a global police to help all the oppressed, stopping genocides, ethnic policies, overthrowing dictatorships, trying to morph the world in a true positive Utopia, but without being fascistic about it. Of course, while the everyday people will start to grow attached to this group, politicians and leaders will start to fear them, spreading more hate that the group will have to deal with.
Plus, a constant effort to help populations in need, hit by natural catastrophes. With powers like his, Magneto should be 7 days a week clearing rumbles from disasters zones just to repay the amount of damage he did in the past.
I would only use five villains from the X-Men rogue gallery: Carter, Azazel, Sublime and...
Magneto The Second
A character that pretty much is the version of Erik you get when either Morrison or Mark Millar is writing him, a psychopathic power-hungry racist, a counterpart for the original character new heroism. He’s everything Magneto was on steroid, every single defect and fault turned up by eleven. At the same time it lacks the charisma of the original, being an obnoxious, paranoid, arrogant fool that underestimates every single opponent he faces, constantly talking trash and insulting his enemies, an immature jerk that makes bad jokes and things of himself as the greatest bad guy in history, a parody of big schemers and mary-suish baddies in general, those kind of villains that their own creators hype as the next best thing but lack anything that can make them truly memorable.
A deconstruction of Erik past villainy, the Second is an amoral big bully that forces the master of magnetism to face his own faults and ways, like if all his crimes took a physical form just to taunt him.
The super-sentinel survived his destruction at the end of Second Coming by transferring his memory into a backup body. Problem is, during their confrontation, Hope released such an extraordinaire amount of energy that Bastion almost didn’t make it, loosing on the translocation most of his raw power. He had to rebuild himself to scratch, but that wasn’t the worst part: during their battle Hope Summers made him first prove hate, then pleasure, and then fear. While he was always able to prove some sort of emotions, the confrontation with the messiah was the first instance in his life in which he was afraid.
To metabolize this feelings and stop being scared of Hope powers, Bastion reprogrammed himself in a way that allows him to prove deeper emotions on a human-level. With this new program he’s becomes less of sentinel in human body and more a human with the powers of a sentinel, something that allows him to grow out of his original agenda and change his targets. Instead of the extermination of the mutant race, his primary target becomes Hope, as he develops an unhealthy obsession with her. Rather than just destroy her, he wants to make her prove the same fear she made him feel during his “almost-death”. With this, the character becomes a little more complex, an enemy more personal to Hope. Of villains whose only purpose is shouting “Mutants sucks-kill them all” the X-Men will never ran out. I think we can leave Bastion a little room to grow out of the cliché.
First Arc Set-Up
Hope and her team are informed that a new mutant activated his powers and they take off, but he’s no new mutant. He’s Carter Ghazikhanian, who used his powers to make himself visible again to the other mutants to lure the Messiah in trap. He manages to kidnap Hope and plans to kill her in public and proclaim himself New Savior of the mutant race.
In the meantime, at Utopia, Skylark appears from the future with a big message: If not stopped, a mysterious mutant will conquer the world and billions of people will die during his takeover. Magneto forms a first team to stop this situation from getting any worse, convinced that Carter is the mutant in question.
By the end of the first arc, the team shifts members. Hope is the one coming up with the idea of a group focused on saving all the world, and not just mutants. They start recruit people when arc two kicks in.
Bishop Return and Redemption
I’ve seen a lot of people hating Hope Summers. The problem doesn’t seem to come from the character itself, but to the changes it brought to other loved character, name in question, Bishop. How to blame them? The guy was a hero, and he turned into bloodthirsty infant-killer with no rhyme or reason just for a cheap plot-twist and so that Messiah Complex could have another villain. God knows, Mister Sinister, the Marauders, the Purifiers, Lady Deathstrike, the Reavers and the Predator X weren’t enough!
The character was a great piece of history of the X-Men he deserves a better treatment.
With Skylark arrival in the story yet another different post-apocalyptic future is created, something that introduces a more expanded version of the timeline. Nothing is really written in the course of history, and every single action cause something different. There’s always an alternative, millions of possible futures, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Bishop manages to come back to our present time, and he soon realizes that his killing mission is futile and that is moment of insanity led him to lose everything he build up in the present. In the end, every single world has his own course, and the presence of Hope Summers doesn’t necessarily means that the world is doomed to become the one he grew up into. He actually saves her life and becomes another guardian angel, another father looking after her from the distance, as a way to atone for the harm he brought to her and to try to get reaccepted in the X-Men world.
And that’s it.
Create a team of X-Men made from mutants and humans alike, that works on global scale to help the all of humanity and turn Hope into a central piece of her world.
Let’s just hope that X-Men vs. Avengers writers don’t turn the poor girl evil or kill her off just so they can justify their “big event”. That would be as cheap as turning Bishop into a maniac.
Next week, I’ll jump to DC: Suicide Squad.