Friday, November 2, 2012

Check Your Rap Sheet At The Door

There was a vicious circle that took shape in an issue of Avengers: The Children's Crusade that, frankly, had been a long time coming--a long time coming. After months of dealing with the aftermath of her actions, an opportunity arose to deal with the Scarlet Witch, who's finally confronted by the Avengers and the X-Men. Wanda had been rendered powerless--and Cyclops, who seems to have adopted a kill-or-be-killed attitude while I wasn't looking (with a particular mad-on against Wanda, who de-powered most of the world's mutants), wanted to take her into custody and bring her to justice.

But the Young Avengers feared that, for Cyclops, "justice" has deadly connotations. So Wiccan, who wants forgiveness for Wanda, interceded and pointed out a few things to ol' One-Eye:

If you think back a bit, the X-Men's "mission," for lack of a better word, was much different (and less complicated) than it's become since Charles Xavier ceased being their guiding influence. When Cyclops and the original X-Men were students, the team's mission was two-fold: locate any mutants who surfaced or otherwise required intervention, and foil the plans of evil mutants. Xavier's school didn't function as a safe harbor for mutant criminals, nor did the X-Men induct mutants like Unus or the Blob into its ranks. And that status quo was relatively easy to maintain, given that the X-Men rarely changed its lineup at all, and only temporarily when it did (e.g., the brief addition of Cal Rankin, the Mimic; and later, Havok and Lorna Dane).

But the line began to blur when Rogue, up to now a criminal with Mystique's Brotherhood of Mutants (to say nothing of her actions in a near-fatal attack on and violation of Carol Danvers), arrived and asked for sanctuary at the school. This initiated a noticeably hard tack in a different direction for the team, with writer Chris Claremont--as if sensing the complications that might arise down the road--seemingly attempting to set a precedent that would justify this kind of thing in the future. And just for good measure, he initially had the team offer heavy resistance to Rogue's arrival, particularly after Carol weighed in:

Once all the objections were made, it was of course Xavier whom Claremont would use to not only put this change into perspective for the team, but also to make a strong statement to readership that effectively severed this new team of X-Men from any expectations of their mission statement from this point on:

No talk of turning Rogue in to the authorities for her crimes. No talk of the law. The situation instead is settled on a personal level, with no consequences other than bruised feelings. Magneto was once put on trial before an international court in Paris, but a pitched battle between the X-Men and the forces of Fenris separated him from the proceedings and prevented the trial's culmination--again, justice sidestepped, with the blessing of the X-Men.

All of which makes the point Cyclops makes at the scene with Wanda almost sound like a joke to any reader who remembers the look-the-other-way practice of a team that once counted the Juggernaut as one of its members:

Why not, Cyclops? It's nothing you haven't done before. Hey, remember that time when you fought against justice being exacted against your old girlfriend when she not only destroyed a spaceship, killing its entire crew--but also destroyed a star and caused the deaths of over five billion people? Justice, shmustice, right?

The questions Wiccan raises above are valid ones, to be sure. As usual, though, the answers aren't forthcoming--swerved around again by a crisis, in this case a battle with Dr. Doom. Who knows, perhaps Doom will one day join the ranks of the X-Men, or the Fantastic Four. What's to prevent it? In the world of comic books, it appears that when push comes to shove, redemption trumps justice. How ironic, then, that we still pick up comics on the premise that the heroes are fighting for justice--the very thing that, within their own ranks, is a matter all too often suspended.

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