Aug 27, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 184: X-Calibre #3, May 1995

I'm going to take another tack today. Yesterday I'd noted that what Warren Ellis does isn't very nice. That's not to say it's not good. In many instances, it's brilliant. But, as a friend noted yesterday on Facebook, "I wouldn't be a Warren Ellis character for all the tea in China." (The caveat was also added that we'd both be Elijah Snow because....Elijah Fucking Snow.) Ellis's plots are often quite brutal, but it's a considered brutality, one that, though occasionally gratuitous, is never without reason.

However, over the course of the three issues of X-Calibre, Ellis has also handed us a lovely portrait of penance. Cain Marko, aka Juggernaut, has been a staple of the X-Men rogues gallery almost as long as Magneto. An unstoppable (literally) force of rage and chaos, he tramples opposition and takes what he wants. While Magneto's transformation in the wake of Xavier's death has been the primary focus of the AoA, Marko's transformation is no less interesting, and is in some ways more so. This issue features a lovely moment where he acknowledges the evil he has done, something that even the reformed Magneto is not given the chance to do in the crossover, as his evil never existed to begin with. Juggernaut, on the other hand, has repented his murderous ways, and now lives a devout life of peace, even to the point of causing himself an aneurysm when pushed to the point of potentially having to do violence (See? Never be and Ellis character!). Marko's transformation from murderer to monk is just the latest of a number of conundrums that the crossover poses, though it never really looks very deeply at what amounts to a universal ontological quandary: is the world better off without Charles Xavier?

The easy answer is no. The slaughter of millions by Apocalypse, the forcing of ostensibly good characters into the role of killers, the threat of nuclear destruction of the North American continent. How can any of these be considered a better world? On the other hand, we have Juggernaut. We have Magneto. We have Mystique. We have Rogue and Magneto's child. The tempered nobility of Scott Summers. One begins to have to ask the question of whether or not the resources of Magneto's resistance fighters would be better utilized in toppling Apocalypse's regime, rather that re-writing the timeline completely. What kind of world would come out of the crucible of the Apocalyptian crisis? It's an unfair, and morally suspect, question, of course, which is appropriate given the morally suspect nature of many of Ellis' stories. It's a situation in which it is virtually impossible to answer whether or not the costs outweigh the benefits. The death of millions versus the redemption of the few. But is it only the few? Does the potential exist in this alternate timeline for the redemption of everyone? And if so, what cost does one pay?

Oof. Heavy stuff for an early morning blog post. For the next few days we'll leave the X-Calibre crew to their devices, and follow Rogue's contingent of X-Men to Chicago, where they're trying to stop a culling. It'll be interesting to view a window on this world that is not solely dedicated to rewriting the timeline, but rather to stopping Apocalypse's machinations. See you tomorrow.

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