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Uncanny X-Men Reintroduces a Controversial Whedon-era Plotline

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Uncanny X-Men #1 by Ed Brisson, Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson, Mahmud Asrar, Rachelle Rosenberg and Joe Caramagna, on sale now!

Uncanny X-Men wouldn’t be a true X-Men series without a healthy dose of social commentary. Marvel's mutants have always been stand-ins for anyone who faces social prejudices, but the first issue in the massive relaunch of the flagship comic digs a little deeper into the consciousness of societal acceptance and how the general public views the notion of hindering progress. As longtime fans know, this is nothing new. In fact, similar themes and the idea of a “mutant cure” was introduced in Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s first story arc in their run on Astonishing X-Men, “Gifted.”

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In that story, a brilliant geneticist named Kavita Rao developed a serum (ominously called "Hope") designed to "cure" mutants of their abilities. Naturally, the X-Men don't take news of the serum's existence lightly, especially when they learn the more nefarious nature of it. Rao viewed the natural evolution of mutations in people as a form of genetic corruption, and for hundreds of mutants who saw their gifts as hindrances due to the adverse effect they've had on their lives, she was right... well, sort of. Desperation often brings out a breadth of poor decisions, no matter how enticing they may appear on a superficial level.

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Whedon and Cassaday's take on the whole situation was a position of promoting self-acceptance. In the world of the X-Men, mutation is the natural development of humanity and should be embraced as such. Now, one could argue destroying a reversal for mutation is taking agency and choice away from an entire group of people, which on some level it is, but the larger lesson was more about feeling comfortable in your own skin and using what some might see as a negative to your own advantage. After all, reverting an evolutionary leap forward just feels intrinsically wrong; it would be like taking a pill that turned you back into being quadrupedal.

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Uncanny X-Men #1 reintroduces a similar plot device, but instead of some sort of miracle drug to reverse mutations, there is now a vaccine to potentially stop powers from developing in the first place. Here, in front of city hall in Manhattan, the ever so slimy Ashton Allen spews his anti-mutant rhetoric to promote the benefits of the new vaccine under a false sense of moral superiority and feigned concern for the safety of children.

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It's all very textbook stuff in terms of X-Men problems, considering this sort of attitude toward mutants is nothing new. However, the idea of a vaccine that may or may not be mandatory to stem the births of new mutants is absolutely horrifying. Some might see a twisted parallel to the anti-vaxxer movement (quick PSA: please don't listen to celebrities. Vaccinate your children; no one likes polio) in terms of perceiving some sort of overreach by the government or the medical industry. But the thing is, this mutant vaccine isn't designed to prevent sickness; it's intended to hamper progress.

At the end of the day, that's what the X-Men have always been about. Sure there have been some hiccups along the way. We've gotten divergences into crazy space adventures and alien invasions and some not so well thought out cultural representations from time to time, but overall, the X-Men are the beacon of finding some sense of unity. An injection designed to stop that would only cause more problems as the ranks of mutants would thin (as if they aren't thin enough as it is), and the otherness that is projected upon them would grow, exponentially.

This mutant vaccine idea takes what Whedon and Cassaday presented and really cranks up the terror. Even if there were no nasty side effects, the sheer ugliness of taking away someone's gift before they're even born is simply sinister. There will be future generations of mutants from here on out. Wanda Maximoff blinking the powers of the vast majority of them from existence didn't stop them. The proposed mutant cure from "Gifted" didn't slow things down. Even the Legacy Virus and the Terrigen Mist couldn't push mutants to the brink of extinction. As Dr. Ian Malcolm once famously said, "Life, uh, finds a way."

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