It's taken me a long time to invest myself into an X-Men event. It's not that I don't care for the characters. Because I do. It's not that I haven't liked the writers who are involved with the events. Because, for the most part, I have. It's just that it so often feels like "Here comes the big scary bad guy who is bigger and scarier than the last bad guy from the last event! RUN!" and then there is a big fight and the X-Men prove, once again, that when you back a group of closely knit genetic freaks into a corner that they find a way to make even the biggest and scariest bad guy regret it ... and then next summer they do it again.
The thing about Schism, the big X-Men event for this year, is that it feels like they've finally understood that big scary bad guys are certainly big and are often scary ... but what makes an X-Men event exciting is when the stitches between the closely knit band of genetic freaks starts to fray because of interpersonal issues. For example the thing that made Inferno cool wasn't that Demons found a way to establish a beachhead on Earth and cause all kinds of chaos, it was that it was all spurned by a jilted Madelyne Pryor after she learned that Scott and Jean had reunited.
When I learned that Jason Aaron was going to be writing Schism and that it would serve as the culmination of the last several years of storylines involving, basically, the forced unity of all of Earth's mutants in order to survive after having their numbers devestated by the M-Day event, I was thrilled. Aaron was the right kind of cat to pen a story that dealt with more than just a big scary bad guy. He clearly saw that there was the potential for a growing divide between two of the most prominent mutants in the world, Cyclops and Wolverine ... and for once it wasn't over a woman.
For years readers and critics have correlated the philosophy of Professor Xavier with that of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the philosophy of Magneto with that of Malcolm X. As time has gone on and writers have seen fit those two have gone from being the forefront of mutant conflict and have transitioned to being elder statesmen of a sort. Since that transition Scott Summers has become the leader of Mutant kind. Either standing against the actions of evil mutants against society, or against the actions of humans against the whole of mutant kind.
Gone are the days of hoping for equal civil rights for Mutantkind, now they strive for survival. So also gone is the position of Civil Rights Leader, Scott Summers has been forced to become more of a Battlefield General/Political Tactician. Gone are the days when being a mutant meant being part of a growing population the world over. Gone are the days when convincing humankind that mutantkind could live beside it in peace. Once M-Day occurred humankind saw an opportunity, to finally rid itself of the now miniscule mutant population, because stomping out a culture when it is on the rise is difficult, but when it is on the decline it's very easy to make it a scapegoat. And it always seems that when someone wants to make a point about safety in America or elsewhere in the world that the Mutants are used as a catalyst for their agenda.
The events of Schism have been no different, as we have seen the head of the newly revitalized Hellfire Club, Kade Kilgore, the son of a recently deceased defense magnate (recently deceased because Kade found him to be of no use), wants the world to understand the value of his company and to forward his own agenda by proving the uselessness of the currently available stock of Sentinels that were in various states of disrepair the world over. His position at the head of the table of the newly rejuvenated Hellfire Club is dependent upon his being able to prove to the world that the defense technology available from Kilgore Arms is better than the antiquated Sentinel Tech that Bolivar Trask built so many years ago.
Meanwhile what he has managed to do is drive a wedge into an ever weakening relationship between Wolverine and Cyclops. And that is what Schism is about. The growing divide between the philosophical standpoints and tactical approaches between two old friends who have never been good friends. About the splintering of a dwindling population between two ideologies. About proving that the world of mutantkind is no longer about believing in Charles Xavier or Magneto ... but that there is another axis to worry about beyond "acceptance by humankind". It's no longer about establish peaceful relations or go to war ... it's about survival ... and last I checked most people, nerds included, understand that splitting the party is probably not the best way to ensure survival ... but we'll see how it goes.
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