(Attention: massive spoilers!)
I might be a little too late with this article, but the last few weeks were rather stressfull. I wrote the last exams before my finals begin, and I actually have to start preparing for my finals RIGHT NOW. But this is a topic that I find very interesting, because it’s just something that’s been going on a lot in comics lately. So here’s what i think about “Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier” and the last issue within this story.
Let me get this straight first: I really like Bendis’ work on the X-Men. And I really enjoyed this particular story. It was a great read and I didn’t even think it was too long, even though it took 9 issues. That being said, I liked the end of the arc, but…
…I think all of us are getting sick of the Deus Ex Machina that is time-travel.
To show you why this is something that really bothers me, let’s start where it all began. More than 30 years ago, in the year 1981, Chris Claremont’s short, but great storyline “Days of Future Past” was published in the issues Uncanny X-Men #141 and #142. The scenario: Kate Pryde runs through the ruins of a world that was destroyed by the Sentinels with mutants either dead or living in concentration camps. In order to prevent all this from ever happening, Kate is sent back in time by the mutant Rachel, who would later turn out to be the daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, taking control of her 13-year old body. She now has to prevent the assasination of Senator Kelly in order to prevent the Sentinel program from uprising. The interesting thing about this story is that it was one of the first stories in comics books with a dystopian future and time-travel as central plot elements. It was innovative and good.
Farst forward to the year 2012. A lot of things have happened in the world of Marvel comics, we have seen countless dystopian futures and/or time-travel stories, and these things are no longer innovative. But we’re about to face three Marvel stories that will ultimately make us hate these kind of things.
- Age of Ultron
- Apocalypse Twins/ Ragnarok Now/ Avenge the Earth (Uncanny Avengers)
- Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier (Uncanny X-Men)
The problem is that all of these stories did not start that bad after all. But in the end, 95% of the story didn’t happen at all because one of the characters decided that preventing the events that caused everything would be a better solution that just fighting the problems in the present. And who can blame them? Writers often put characters into totally desperate situations. The earth is controlled by Ultron. The Apocalypse Twins have destroyed earth. All the X-Men are dead and there’s a mutant that is even more powerful than Omega-level mutants that can kill anyone on earth at any given time. These kind of things make the story extremely dramatic and powerful, but fixing everything with time-travel makes the end extremely anticlimatic. It also makes you wonder why you read the story at all, since most of the events never happened. Hawkeye saving Spider-Man? Never happened. Rogue killing Wanda, Grim Reaper killing Rogue and Wanda killing Wonder Man? Never happened. Beast realizing that Cyke was right all the time, Scott and Magneto arguing about wether they should use Mathew for the revolution? Well, that never happened.
Doesn’t mean that I never want to see dystopian futures or time-travel again. I love both things! I just want to see them less often, and I don’t want great stories to always end in the same, boring way. In this story especially, it’s annoying, because we got to see so many awesome things. I loved how Beast was totally pissed because Scott was right about the Mutant/Human relationship. I loved how Scott was the only person who actually wanted to help Mathew with all the flashbacks to his youth that really helped to understand his character, and how Kitty and Kurt were totally kind to each other because they miss each other so much.
I’m tired of seeing great character developement and epic scenes just to realize that all this has been prevented via time-travel. The fact that these three stories all came out in the last two years makes it even more frustrating. These stories always follow the same pattern, so the end is never surprising. Writers should focus on great stories without time-travel as a Deus Ex Machina that can literally solve ANY problem. It kind of makes you think “why don’t they just use time-travel right now”, but then again, in the most cases, they do. The “Dark Angel Saga” is a great example for a modern story with great characters that is extremely dramatic and has a great ending without time-travel. That’s something I want to see more often!
I know that this phenomenon of more and more timey-wimey stuff is all leading to something. It’s basically about the fact that characters use time-travel too often and they break time and space. That’s what Age of Ultron was about. And the use of more and more time-travel and different futures and time-displaced characters is certainly leading somewhere. So we will probably not see that much time-travel once Secret Wars is finished. I’m still annoyed, though.
But I don’t want to be too rude to this arc, because I really enjoyed it. I love the fact that Tempus has gone totally apeshit with her powers. I loved to see Xavier again. And seing Scott tell everyone that he loves them was heartbreaking. I’m excited to see what Scott will do without his school and how/if his former students will come along with the students at the JGS.
Actually. I enjoyed every single issue. It’s just sad that most of them didn’t happen now.