We all knew it was coming, right? Possibly by the first issue, someone was already taking bets on which character would bite the big one during Avengers vs. X-Men. After all, I think there's some sort of rule of thumb that after so many characters get involved in an event storyline, some of them have to be picked off so that the other get inspired by the loss and push on to victory. Or to make the point that these battles haven't been just tossing action figures in the dryer and watching them tumble for twelve issues.
Anyway, I didn't come here to be bitter, I came here to be rational, and rationally, the death in the event book makes sense as a classic comic storytelling maneuver. These last few months have been exciting in their philosophy and their theories on power and destiny, but haven't really knocked people's socks off in terms of summer blockbuster action. The penultimate issue is the best place for a big twist to take us into the last few moments, and the biggest twist is the odds-on favorite, death.
WARNING: We talk about who died in this week's Avengers vs. X-Men Round 11, so grab your copy and read along!
So who's it going to be? Will one of the X-Men Phoenix Five Two kill one of the Avengers like it sort of suggests by titling the books Avengers vs. X-Men? Nope, it looks like one side is turning on itself to create chaos and give Earth's Mightiest a fighting chance against the Cosmos's Fiery-est. Emma has been slowly losing her mind as of late, and it's easy to say that Scott Summers left rationality at the door with Schism. To off one or the other would make sense, but still not be enough to really get that twist ending good and in there. If this really is going to be one side fighting itself, what better contrast is there between how far the X-Men have come and the man who started it all? Only one man symbolizes the X-Men more than Scott Summers: Charles Xavier has to die.
Keeping our rational hats on and stepping far away from the morass of tropes that is character death in comics, let alone the Death of Charles Xavier in comics, let's really go with this idea. Charles Xavier is dead, really quite sincerely dead.
Who is going to replace him?
Charles Xavier held a unique position in the Marvel Universe for quite some time; he wasn't an action hero or a team leader as much as he was a visionary. He didn't just want to fight villainy, he wanted to change the world. He had social goals that extended beyond himself and into generations to come. He wanted a better world and taught kids personally, providing a school and a home and a family for mutants, young and old. He had a Dream, a big metaphor for civil rights that was jazzed up with some mutant powers, but taught us a lot about ourselves and how we look at the world. Now that he's gone, who is left to take up his torch and light the way?
Scott Summers, Xavier's handpicked choice, is RIGHT OUT. After this, it's going to be a long time before we let him lead a lemonade stand, let alone mutantkind. In fact, it's kind of sad how few of the original five X-Men are ready to pick up where Xavier left off. Jean's dead, Warren's a blank slate, Bobby Drake hasn't given any indication he'd want to lead or take over such big shoes, and Hank McCoy has a lot of soul searching to do after AvX. He's a man divided after turning his back on his family only to see it all come to this. The smartest people always know enough to question their right to lead and I think Hank's still got some questioning to do.
Kitty Pryde is a hopeful; as headmistress of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, she's the default leader there because Wolverine has so much on his plate. She grew up in the heyday of the X-Men as family motif and has been their plucky little sister now grown up to run a school. She's responsible, reliable and a whole bunch of other -ibles, so she's great for administration, but can she be a visionary? She might have the heart to lead others and teach new mutants how she was taught, but there's still a bigger picture angle I don't think the character is ready for.
Storm fits the big picture very well. Having been with the X-Men since the All New era, her home as always been the team. Leadership gold, she's the second best leader of the X-Men of all time, debatably better than the man Xavier was preparing for the role since he was a teen. Part of it comes from being worshiped as a goddess, but part of it comes from her own nature, as she is a great and caring woman who can see the larger picture of humanity. She was a queen, and if royalty can't lead, who can? At the same time, she was a queen; recently divorced, pushing into a battle where her dear friends fell into madness, Ororo might need some "Me Time" and heal before taking up any mantle. AvX has hit her hard, and it's understandable if the character isn't ready to jump to the forefront of mutantkind.
Magneto is always ready to jump to the forefront of mutantkind, and I'm pretty sure this is the guy to bet on in the coming months. If anyone is going to be a visionary leader and to dream of a new tomorrow, it's Erik Lensherr. He's technically been in Xavier's shoes before, during the New Mutants' early years, he's created a Brotherhood of evil sorts, but hasn't been really "evil" himself in quite some time. Again, leaving tropes and common writing pitfalls aside, he's sort of retired from villainy at this point and even had a little public relations work done. He's been quietly beaming at all the work Cyclops has done with Utopia and probably doing a few laps of the "I Told You So" dance around the island. But now, in the aftermath of whatever AvX brings, it's a logical step to see Erik Lensherr step up to promote mutant rights. In touching memorial to his friend, maybe he'll work toward Xavier's Dream for once and really give it the ol' college try. But can he truly devote himself to a inferior species? Xavier believed that humans and mutant could live together in peace and perhaps, in the midst of their residency in San Fransisco, that could have been made a reality. Now, once mutants have been seen to be omnipotent lords and masters of cosmic power, it's going to be a hard sell to tell humanity they should let a mutant move in next door. Magneto is not going to be a put out the fires kind of guy in this situation, but he's the best chance we have at finding Xavier's Dream.
Since Deadly Genesis, Charles Xavier has been a ghost in the movement he helped found. I'm not even sure he was mourned when Bishop shot and "killed" him in Messiah Complex. Xavier took a back seat, showing up when a view point needed a little gravitas only to be shut down, shot up or shut up. He knew his kids had grown up and moved out, like all children do. Perhaps he could finally spend time with his son (when his son wasn't creating alternate realities to be loved in). His children of the atom needed time to grow up, move out and make mistakes on their own. He became a hands off dad.
And look where that got them.
We need Xavier's Dream. I know Brian Michael Bendis said Xavier had become an anachronism and that, "He was this thing that was just floating around the X-books, with not the same amount of gravitas that he once had." But just because his original students are grown, Xavier's goals of a better tomorrow and a unified people aren't out of style. Especially now, in the wake of whatever horrible end the Phoenix Force is going to bring to our heroes, the idea that we can work together, that there is redemption and we all just should be excellent to each other will be important. I can't stress how important unity is because I'm pretty sure the whole damned world saw Avengers fighting X-Men and that's not going to be forgotten overnight.
Utopia is anything but. Mutants and humans need someone after AvX who is going to look out for all of them and try and unite them toward a brighter future. A dream where people live in peace despite their differences. We need a mentor to teach the next generation, a visionary to see a better day, and a leader, not of a team but of a movement and a people. We need peace and after all this countless war, I think the X-Men deserve a chance at that peace.