Sep 18, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 206: Factor-X #4, June 1995

Things really are coming to a head in the AoA. And as they do, we're seeing more and more glimpses of the original versions of these seminal characters shining through. It's an interesting metatextual moment, yet another one to emerge from Factor X, as the closer we come to a return to the "actual" timeline, the closer we come to seeing the "actual" versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, etc. But what does this mean for the characters for whom this doesn't happen?

Life under Apocalypse corrupts these characters in much the same way that life under Xavier...purifies them, I suppose. What becomes fascinating to note is which characters become fully corrupted, and whether or not that says anything about the purified version that exists in the regular continuity. I've suggested in some of my earlier posts that the AoA actually crystallizes better versions of some of these characters, that individuals who, in the prime timeline are corrupt have that corruption reversed somehow by existing in the shadow of Apocalypse. But then we have Havok and the Beast. Alex Summers, as I've also previously mentioned, has never been the most stable or likable of characters, so his corruption doesn't come as too much of a surprise to me. The feud with his brother has always simmered just below the surface, and for it to become a fundamental aspect of his character was really just a matter of environment. Hank McCoy, on the other hand, has proven for the last 40 or so years to be one of the most morally upright and genuinely good characters in the Marvel U, so why, in this iteration of reality, does this aspect of his character disappear completely? In all my years of having read the Beast, I've never had the sense that somewhere beneath the surface lurked a diabolical geneticist with no regard for life of any kind, not in the same way that the insanity of fraternal jealousy has always lurked beneath the surface of Havok. Perhaps that's why the Dark Beast (as he comes to be known when he somehow finds his way into the regular continuity) has never really sat well with me. With the vast majority of the other characters, the change we see in the Age of Apocalypse is an amplification of minor traits that have at least been marginally visible in the regular continuity. Aside, perhaps, from the version of Hank McCoy we've seen in New Avengers, I'd argue that there has never been even a hint of this kind of cruelty and misanthropy in any of his other appearances. And even in New Avengers, he's clinical and scientific for the purpose of saving the human race, and in the end can't even bring himself to take the course of action that inevitably occurs.

(Sorry, I know that was vague, but if you haven't read Hickman's Avengers/New Avengers run leading up to Secret Wars, I am thoroughly loathe to spoil it for you.)

There are 5 full issues left in the crossover (though I may cheat a bit and read the X-Men: Prime special that is meant to reintroduce the prime universe). It's strange, because there's a part of me that feels no suspense whatsoever. Of course we're going to return to the mainstream Marvel U. That was never a question. I think the suspense comes from the fact that we've had the opportunity to grow attached to these different iterations of the characters, and, right now, it seems that none of them will survive the end of the crossover. Indeed, for the regular Marvel U to return, all of them have to cease to exist. And that's sad. But, ever onward, I'll see you tomorrow.

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