In 2005, my friends Matthew Yglesias and Sam Rosenfeld wrote one of the finest essays of the Bush era. "The Incompetence Dodge" was an indictment of so-called "liberal hawks" who laundered the sin of supporting the misguided Iraq war in the blood of the Bush administration's incompetent occupation. Those journalists and public intellectuals, Yglesias and Rosenfeld argued, needed to come to terms with the fact that they supported a terrible idea, not merely the terrible administration that executed it.
Something like the reverse is on display in Mutantkind.
Schism, the X-event that divided Wolverine from Cyclops and cleaved Mutantkind in half, was a really dumb idea. A Mutant retread of Marvel's 2006 Civil War, it seemed like a concession that the X-universe is out of ideas. Worse, Marvel cynically stopped and rebooted Uncanny X-Men, so the first issue of the rest of the X-Men's lives is... Uncanny #1. Gross. Meanwhile, Wolverine's new team of X-Men debuts in Wolverine & The X-Men #1, which is the comic-industry equivalent of search engine optimization. It's like Marvel decided it wouldn't be out-stupided by DC's "New 52"universe-wide reboot.
The first issues of Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine & The X-Men are now out. And they're good. Very good. Nearly great. After the jump, only the most trivial of spoilers.
Jason Aaron writes the Wolverine N' Friends book. He & Kitty Pryde are the new principals of the restored Xavier School in Westchester, the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. The first issue, heavily influenced by Grant Morrison's New X-Men run, shows Wolvie and Kitty trying to convince representatives of the New York State Board of Education that the school deserves accreditation while X-things happen around them. That is the plot. Wolverine, frustrated over biting off more than he can chew by breaking with Cyclops and pretending to be an educator, cannot slash through bureaucracy. It's wonderful.
Uncanny #1 might be better. The final pre-reboot Uncanny, issue #522, ended with Scott packing away a Jack Kirby-esque photograph of the original five X-Men as teenagers at the Xavier School, telling Emma, "I feel like I've finally graduated." (For nerds, it was moving.) In the new issue, Scott comes to terms with what graduation means: he is now the benevolent dictator of mutantkind, an imperiled race of 200 people, divided across the country thanks to Logan, with the responsibility -- which Logan shirked -- of keeping the race alive. His response is to convene a new elite X-team, called the Extinction Team, of the most powerful mutants left on the independent state of Utopia, and declare it as a deterrent to the world.
The team will defend humanity as well as Mutantkind, in Scott's nod to Xavierism. But. (This deserves excerpting at length.)
"If we're going to be considered a rogue state, well, what's the difference between Iraq and North Korea?" Cyclops asks. "Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction."
Yes, you read that in a comic book.
"And every time this team goes into the field, we remind the world that we do," Cyclops continues. It sucks that the human race still hates Mutants. The Extinction Team has to be good guys, to drain that hatred of its force. "But, in the short-term, if they hate us we need to make sure they're scared of us, too," Cyclops argues. "Because if they're not scared enough, it puts Logan's little school and the whole Mutant race in the firing line."
If anyone disagrees, they do it off-panel. The Extinction Team is born.
That's among the best and most realistic treatments of what the politics of Mutantkind really would be if a race of outcast super-beings was in credible danger of extinction. Cyclops is a benevolent dictator. It remains to be seen whether the stress is on benevolent or dictator.
So this is the new world of the X-Men: a really bad idea, executed really well. You could tell each story without the supposed epochal schism between Cyclops and Wolverine -- "Hey, Cyke, I think we need to restart the Xavier School, and here's why"; "Not a bad idea, Logan" -- but it is what it is. Somewhere, Jerry Bremer or Ken Pollack is reading these comics and pining for vindication.