Very minor spoilers follow about Uncanny X-Men.
Remarking on the previous X-Men post, commenter Sean Anderson made the insightful point that under Cyclops' lead, Utopia is a pretty clear stand-in for Israel. Cyclops hasn't made up his mind about whether Utopia is the fulfillment of Mutant aspirations (an equal, independent state for Mutantkind, where Mutants are an unpersecuted majority) or a platform to fulfill those aspirations (an independent state that protects Mutant non-citizens worldwide). Gershom Gorenberg would understand.
The parallel has its limits. No Israeli leader has ever been as dictatorial as Cyclops. Utopia has no democratic structures. Its leadership organization is an outgrowth of the X-Men's chain of command. It's a military dictatorship. And also one that exists in the San Francisco Bay. It's fertile soil for cultivating narratives. Let's explore some.
1. Uncanny X-Men: The Anti-Extinction Agenda. In this arc, the announcement of the Extinction Team is watched warily by Mack Bratton, the liberal California State Treasurer who's mounting a flailing campaign for governor. Bratton is no opponent of Mutantkind. In fact, his Marin County community has welcomed Utopia. Now, however, Utopia has declared itself to have a superhuman deterrent, which seems uneasily like a veiled threat (and Marin homeowners don't exactly appreciate what that does to their property values, especially in this economy).
Bratton tells his staff he wants to do the right thing: "Have a frank discussion about what it means to have a potentially hostile independent nation of super-beings less than five miles away from San Francisco." It electrifies the media and the voters, as do all issues that lurk in plain sight, waiting for a political leader to address it.
Bratton skirts -- and exploits -- a delicate balance. His liberal base hears "frank discussion" as code for long-term coexistance with Utopia. Everyone else interprets it as code for confrontation with Utopia. (And even the liberals, without admitting it to themselves, feel reassured because of the implication.) His rivals try to "out-Mutie" Bratton by signaling their support for Mutant registration or calling in the military to raid Utopia. Bratton cleverly repudiates them -- while leaving his specific Mutant agenda frustratingly vague.
Cyclops has seen enough. He watches Bratton on TV and sees Senator Kelly all over again. Not a skilled politician -- after all, he doesn't need to be, on Utopia -- Cyclops swallows his pride and calls Beast at the Grey School. Hank, relishing the fact that Scott doesn't know what to do, advises Scott to take the hardest course for someone in Scott's situation: restraint. "If you want Utopia not to be an issue in the campaign," Hank says, "don't make it one."
Scott can't do it. On the advice of Emma, he calls a sympathetic San Francisco Chronicle reporter and invites her to accompany him on a Blackbird flight to a Bratton campaign stop in the Inland Empire. When she boards, she sees the Extinction Team in full: Colossus, Emma, Magneto, Magik, Storm, Namor, Danger. All in uniform. Scott means for the flight to humanize the team -- implicitly a recognition that his rollout was too confrontational.
The rest of the story is told through the Chronicle piece that results. The Blackbird lands near the stop, at a strip mall. Cyke is all smiles for once. Rolling up on the campaign as Bratton and his entourage pack up and get into their SUVs, Scott hails Bratton and extends his hand in friendship, saying he'd like to talk -- and clear the air.
"I'll talk with Scott Summers anytime," Bratton says. "But I won't talk with Cyclops, and I won't talk with a strike force devoted to 'Extinction' backing him up." One of the few people remaining by the strip mall captures the moment on his iPhone. Within the hour, it's up on YouTube and becomes a sensation. Bratton ekes out a victory.
We close with Scott's hand putting down the newspaper, in silence, bitter at his mistake. There's an anonymous quote that's been singed by a minor optic blast. "Approaching Bratton with the team, in uniform, and saying he wanted to clear the air? Oh, my stars and garters."
The camera backs away through the room as we see Scott Summers adjusting the tie on his new suit.
2. Uncanny X-Men: Elections. It's too much for Storm. She's been Queen of Wakanda. She's been leader of the X-Men. She knows what it's like to actually have to govern and be a general. She joined the Extinction Team, sure, but she also voiced reservations about the hostile message it sent -- and she told herself she joined because the team couldn't withstand any more divisions after Wolverine decamped for Westchester.
But now she's thinking longer-term. Yes, Scott kept Mutantkind alive and together. He even got a Medal of Freedom from President Obama and Steve Rogers. But he also sanctioned an assassination team; the recruitment of child soldiers; an aggressive foreign policy that's showing signs of blowback; and he's at least partially responsible for dividing Mutantkind at its most vulnerable moment.
And who elected him, anyway?
During a meeting of the Extinction Team, Ororo proposes there be an election for the leadership of Utopia. Scott immediately agrees. Leading the island is burdensome for him; he's starting to doubt himself; and he even offered an election to Logan as a means of preempting the schism. In his mind, shedding the mantle of "Mutant Ruler" is the best thing that could happen to him.
Except. Collossus is the one to say it: "Will the new president of Utopia also lead the X-Men?"
Absolutely not, Storm says. Leadership of the X-Men rightly belongs to Scott. And there should be a separation between Utopia's civilian leadership and the X-Men.
Namor arches an eyebrow. "Maybe that works for you surface-dwellers," says the King of Atlantis. "But no king can rule with his military under the control of another."
Storm reacts with calm. In Wakanda, she and the Black Panther were both the most powerful citizens of the country, and they controlled a separate military structure without incident. "Yes," says Magneto, "but you were also the most powerful people in the country. Will the President of Utopia resign from the X-Men? And will happen if neither the president nor the X-commander wishes to bend to the other's wishes?" As he speaks, he unconsciously bends the forks and knives on the table out of shape.
Collossus says that this clearly runs deeper than just an election. Utopia is an independent state. Mutantkind is a political entity now. It needs a Constitution to settle these questions. Before a presidential election, there should be a constitutional convention, so the first presidential victor doesn't set the rules that pleases him or her and entrenches them in legal granite.
Scott and Emma share a look. They're fine with all of this in theory. But Mutantkind is under severe external threat. The Sentinels are still out there. There's a hostile governor in Sacramento. No one knows how long the X-Men's welcome by the San Francisco municipal authorities will last -- or, for that matter, what U.S.-Utopia relations are shaping up to be. It's great, and appropriate, that Utopia reach an arrangement governing its domestic political structure, Scott says, but let's keep focused on the danger abroad. The meeting adjourns.
Now Piotr and Ororo share a look. They've heard that before. Magneto and Namor walk off together. The factionalization of the X-Men has begun.
Storm later meets with Scott privately. She's holding her headdress. She tells Cyclops she intends to resign from the X-Men and run for president of Utopia. Scott winces. "You'll make a great president, and I'll support you," he says. "But I need you. I need you as part of the X-Men. If you resign, it'll be Wolverine all over again. We'll fracture."
Ororo: "How can I be your president in the morning and your field general in the afternoon? It can't work. If we're really going to leave here on Utopia, then we have to be more than the X-Men. If we're not, then it makes no sense to have a president at all."
Scott doesn't reply. He just hands her back her headdress. Ororo won't take it, and leaves. She walks down the hall and finds Piotr. With a sad look on her face, she tells him, "It's as we feared. He doesn't want elections."
Ororo starts setting up her campaign, while Scott doesn't declare any intentions. No one else runs for president because they figure Scott will ultimately declare -- and, Dani Moonstar confides in Sunspot, who wants her to run, it doesn't make sense to risk pissing off Scott or Ororo. Pixie suggests that the Grey School get to vote absentee, since they have a stake in Utopia as well, but Hope tells her not to get involved. Quietly, Mutantkind backs away from its first presidential election.
Piotr sees that it's not going well for Storm. He needs an exogenous event that convinces Mutantkind to rally around her. With a heavy Russian heart, he decides. During some X-battle, he Juggernauts out and starts breaking shit randomly. It doesn't seem like he's trying to control his demonic impulses. Scott tries to calm him. But Piotr clobbers him, knocking Scott off his feet. It's suddenly clear in a panicked moment: Cyclops can't control his own people.
Ororo windriders out, shooting up into the sky and monsooning Collossus. But Collossus is too far gone. Now Storm and Cyclops exchange their own anguished glance. They're powerless to stop Collossus -- unless they decide to really unleash the full force of their powers. Which could kill their friend. It's agony. And it all happens as Collossus builds up speed for another assualt --
Until he's stopped in his tracks. Frozen immobile, unable to lift his arms and snarling in frustration. Scott and Ororo look up. Magneto, the former Mutant terrorist, has just taken charge. He has done what his old X-Men enemies couldn't. And he's proven that he is the most powerful of all.
Days pass. Ororo has quietly suspended her campaign. "Magneto Was Right" t-shirts start popping up among the X-babies. Both Storm and Cylops request a meeting with Eric. They want to know what he intends to do -- with Utopia, and with the X-Men.
"Nothing," he says, with Namor smirking over his shoulder. "I intend to do nothing. If an ex-terrorist came to rule Utopia after your little Extinction Team stunt, Washington would interpret it as an act of hostility, a de facto threat to California. The humans would view it the same way if I came to lead the X-Men. I will do nothing." He pauses. "And neither should you."
And that is how Utopia's politics are "settled." The Mutant presidential election is stillborn, setting the precedent that Utopia is an X-dictatorship -- except one where the real power may not actually reside with the dictator. Absolutely no one is pleased. And absolutely no one is prepared to challenge that agonizing political and military apoplexy.