By Steve Morris
Read no further until you pick up today’s issue of Avengers Vs X-Men, unless you want to be spoiled! Alternatively, pick up a newspaper today, because Marvel have plastered the death across America.
RIP Charles Xavier. Founder of the modern-day X-Men, based on an idea he stole from Wolverine while at University. Xavier was today revealed to be the fatality in Avengers Vs X-Men, after getting blasted face first by a fatal dose of melodrama in today’s issue #11, written by Brian Michael Bendis.
Charles Xavier has had a rocky life since the last time he was killed, all the way back in 2008 at the end of the Messiah Complex event. After initially appearing in Mike Carey’s run on X-Men Legacy, he was then thrown into prison by Norman Osborn, before hanging around with the New Mutants and reuniting with his half-crazy son, Legion. Aside from that, however, the character has been isolated from the rest of the X-Men, barely appearing whatsoever in any X-Men stories for the past two years.
This was mainly because ever since the mid-2000s, writers decided to turn the character from a determined, kindly leader for mutantkind into a slave-owning child murderer who used the X-Men to boost his own ego. Starting in Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men and running through books like Deadly Genesis, Uncanny X-Men and X-Men Legacy, Marvel chose to systematically destroy the image of the X-Men’s founder in to make the X-Men edgier. They did!
First it was revealed that the Danger Room, the training area for the X-Men, was actually a sentient piece of machinery which Xavier forced into servitude (Mike Carey later eased this, but Whedon’s initial story does paint Xavier as a slaver). Then came the reveal that Xavier sent Cyclops’ brother Vulcan to his death, along with several other young mutants. His hands grew dirtier each time he appeared, until he was summarily dismissed by the rest of the X-Men, who could no longer stand his hypocrisy. He was thrown out of the school.
Surveying the wreckage of modern-day Xavier, Carey decided it was time to put him down and give him a fresh start, which led to the character being shot and brought back to health — with amnesia. He was forced to look back on his mistakes, try to make amends, and then move on. Move on into limbo for a while, sure, but at least the character didn’t carry so much murderous baggage anymore. He had a cleaner slate. From then on Xavier appeared sporadically, such as when he tried to patronise Hope Summers in Kieron Gillen’s Generation Hope series, and was patronised right back:
Which, yes, does make it very strange that she is the one crying out “noooooo!” upon seeing him get killed. And in fact, it’s a surprise that Hope Summers still remains alive and well at all, really, given Marvel’s typical policy of disposing a female character in every one of their events for the last decade or so. Good work Hope.
Xavier’s prior appearances in AvX had been fleeting but ominous. His decision to side with the Avengers over the X-Men was somewhat strange, but then again the character has always had a blind spot when it comes to Jean Grey-related happenings. Probably because he was in love with her. From the start, it was fairly clear to readers that he was to be the sacrifice of the event.
In today’s report in the New York Daily News, Bendis explains that Xavier “would matter more in death”, which seems to tie in to the premise of the All-New X-Men series he’ll be writing later this year. In this book, the original students of Xavier are coming to the present, to be dismayed by all they see, and wonder where ol’ Baldy has gone. With Xavier dead, Bendis’ series has far more to play with then if he were still around.
Marvel are of course saying that this death will stick, which is likely going to be seen as an empty promise by fans. Interestingly enough though, the death does act as a mirror to a curious set of events over a decade ago, when writer Grant Morrison also believed a character would have more resonance in death than in life. That character was Magneto, who was killed off in the (divisive!) Planet X storyline. At the time, this was a defiant move to try and break the circular nature of comics, and showcase how important Magneto could become as a martyr.
Magneto was brought back to life later that year. Morrison left Marvel as a result of quarrels with editorial.
Avengers Vs X-Men still has one more issue left, in which everybody gets together to fight the giant monster. However, Xavier fans would be better off pointed towards the upcoming ‘Consequences’ miniseries written by Kieron Gillen, as well as Si Spurrier’s revamp of ‘X-Men Legacy’, if they want more exploration of the death.
Sweet Charles Xavier. Fans will always remember your tendency to race into trouble spine-first, your defiantly Claremontian homoerotic relationship with Magneto, and the fact you appear in the X-Men First Class movies so will probably come back to life when the sequel comes out. RIP for now, old friend.
See you in a year or so.