X-men: Deadly Genesis- Professor Xavier Is A Jerk

In the mid-2000’s, there was this trend in comics where a creative team would set out to retell a silver-age/Bronze-age story but add new wrinkles to it in retcon. These retcons often added darker and “Mature” elements to the stories in an effort to make these classic style stories more “dark and gritty”. These stories often got heaped with praise because “Bam, Pow, Zip! Comics aren’t for kids anymore!” and frankly, these edgelord creative decisions frustrate me…now. See, I was not immune to the pseudo-mature appeal of these comics at the time. I was 16 going on 17 when I jumped into comics and the entire marketplace was full of these stories. Everywhere you looked there was some sort of Silver Age retcon or deconstruction story. Seemingly every critic and even my own comic shop recommended these books with high praise and calling them modern classics and serious story telling.

Well, in the past few weeks I have been revisiting many of these stories from my teens and…folks I think the critics were wrong. These comics are often try-hard stories that I walk away from just flabbergasted by the decisions made inside. You can see that in my reviews of Avengers Disassembled and House of M. These comics are too serious for their own good and often rife with poor decisions to make them seem edgy. There are good parts to these stories, sure. Yet, I feel like they are often overshadowed by their faults. What is interesting is that all the stories I’ve been reading are some I really enjoyed at the time, but now I am just left wondering “why?”

Today’s topic is one that left me scratching my head at some of the choices. Today we are taking a look at X-men: Deadly Genesis. The miniseries that started Ed Brubaker’s overlooked Uncanny X-men run and featured the canonization of the Third Summers Brother. Even more, it is a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Giant-Sized X-men #1. What is there not to like?

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Deadly Genesis

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Penciler: Trevor Hairsine

Inkers: Kris Justice, Scott Hanna, Mike Perkins, Mark Nelson

Colorist: Val Staples

Deadly Genesis takes place shortly after the Decimation event that spiraled out of House of M. After Wanda uttered “No More Mutants” all but 198 of the world’s mutants were depowered. The X-mansion became a refugee camp of sorts for the survivors and placed under the eye of the Office of National Emergency (ONE) and their human piloted Sentinels.

Things are not going well as you would imagine. In addition to the X-men living under the surveillance of a machine designed to kill them, they are struggling to find the surviving mutants, including Charles Xavier—their mentor and father figure. Xavier has been missing since House of M, and while the X-men are not exactly on great terms with their namesake leader (the events of Dangerous in Astonishing X-men), they are looking for him.

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It is during one of these Cerebra searches that Emma Frost picks up the signal of an Omega+ mutant coming across in a space shuttle. Thinking there is an off chance that this mutant could be Xavier, Cyclops takes a team of Wolverine and Rachel Grey to investigate as Emma recovers. The team arrives to the crash site and they immediately get destroyed by the shadowy figure. Wolverine is left for dead while Scott and Rachel are taken hostage by this mysterious figure.

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In an attempt to help find the Professor, the team has enlisted Banshee on Muir island to find anything in the files about where Xavier would go. Banshee finds a secret file in Moira’s lab. It is a video reel and it is there that Banshee learns the dark truth of the past: There was another team of X-men and they all died because of him. Banshee takes the first flight to New York to deliver the files. On this flight though, Banshee meets his untimely end. The shadowy mutant from earlier attacked Banshee’s flight with a stolen Blackbird. To stave off the destruction, Banshee leaps from his flight but with his powers weakened due to injury, he fails in his mission. Hundreds die from the wreckage including one secret fan of country music.

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Well, the X-men learn of the secret team at the same time Scott and Rachel (who are effectively depowered by their captor) learn more about their antagonist. His name is Vulcan and we an X-man. He was apart of a secret team of mutants that Moira found and was help foster. It was like a mini-Xavier’s institute. Xavier couldn’t let that be good enough and once the original X-men are captured by Krakoa, he comes to Moira to use her team. Effectively retconning the events of Giant-Sized by including a failed rescue team. The team dies on Krakoa but not before freeing Cyclops from the island.

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We not only learn about the team, but that Vulcan is also Scott and Havok’s missing third brother. Long prophesized by Sinister, the notion of the Third Summers Brother was a dominant subplot for the 90’s. All clues and intent pointed to Adam-X the X-treme but given the character’s lukewarm reception and the departure of the key creator, Fabian Niceza, Adam largely fell from public memory outside of being a gag. Well, Brubaker and editorial introduced use to the Third Summers Brother- Gabriel Summers aka Vulcan. Gabriel’s powers are energy absorption and projection.

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Turns out Vulcan’s plan is to lure Xavier out of hiding to confront him for leaving him to die on the island. How did Vulcan survive though? Well, it came down to one of Vulcan’s teammates—Darwin. Darwin can survive any condition and was able to “merge” with Vulcan to keep him alive on Krakoa even as it floats in orbit. When Wanda said “No More Mutants” all of the energy that emerged from the mutants left the planet and revitalized Vulcan to life and ramped up his powers.

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Xavier, forced out of hiding by Vulcan, is revealed to be walking but is depowered. Vulcan isn’t pleased by this discovery but with Rachel’s help Xavier is able to reveal the truth to the team. That not only was there a secret team he mindwiped all of those with memories of it to prevent them from knowing the truth. During all of the revelations, Rachel is able to separate Darwin from Vulcan. Vulcan in his rage flees Earth towards his new target—the Shi’ar who enslaved him and killed his parents.

The event results in deep pain for the team. This was the Xavier secret that went too far for them. Scott fed up with it all kicks Xavier off the team, the mansion, and closes him off from the group. Xavier will largely be gone from the main team proper until his return from death in the Man called X storyline in 2017. He will be involved in X-books but not as an official member.

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Does Deadly Genesis Hold Up?

I did like it when I first read it around 2008 and upon a revisit 13 years later? I liked it okay. I finished the book questioning a lot of the decisions of the book but there is a lot to like. Let’s tackle the things I liked first.

What\’s There To Like

The Characters

Brubaker did a solid job writing these characters. He finds their voices pretty early one and manages to incorporate humor into a pretty dour comic. Beast and Emma get some enjoyable banter that one comes to expect from them. Wolverine and Nightcrawler also get some moments together that captures their relationship pretty well. It is a shame that these are not the character Brubaker takes to space in the following arc “Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire.” One of the worst parts of Astonishing X-men being so delayed means that many on that team were off limits to other creators. I would have liked to see Bru take them to space.

Two of the character Bru does take with him Xavier and Rachel work well here. Bru really captures Xavier is a well-intention but thoughtless jerk. It is a recurring theme in X-men and Bru nails it. He gets extended work with Rachel and when she is paired with Xavier there are some novel techniques that showcase their pairing. Even without his powers, Xavier is still a strong teacher for Rachel.

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The way Scott is presented fits the direction of the era but how he reacts to the reveal of Vulcan and his own mindwipe is what sets the direction for the future of Cyclops. He largely was the leader of the X-men at this time as Xavier was largely not involved with the main team, but his banishment of Xavier set the course. It is interesting in hindsight to see Scott get so up in arms about Xavier’s clandestine plots when he will later create a mutant black-ops murder team. Again, hindsight but worth pointing out.

The Art

Considering that the art team is a mess in its size, I found the art to be enjoyable. While Hairsine is credited as the penciler on the stories, he would do breakdowns and layouts only starting in issue #2 onwards. Hanna would finish the line work in inks. It is far from the worst X-men art team by committee approach, but it does have a consistency issue. Hanna would get ink assists for issues #2-4. I am not familiar with the behind-the-scenes aspect, but one would imagine that Hairsine had issues meeting deadlines following the first issue and there was a scramble to help finish the books by deadline. Deadly Genesis was the launching point for Brubaker’s run on Uncanny and things needed to line up.

The art fit the tone of the series with the darker colors and heavy inks. This series was a heavy one to say the least and the art helps sell that. The figure work was solid overall, and I enjoyed it. Was it great? No. It is too inconsistent for that, but it doesn’t hurt the story.

Now the things that left me wondering

The Purpose Of The Retcon

Okay so Marvel and DC have a thing for retconning in these hidden teams and characters. At the time of Deadly Genesis publishing, Marvel recently created the “Lost” Silver-age character, The Sentry. To be blunt, I find that stuff to not be that creative. It creates a lot more questions than answers and unless it is done with any meaningful impact, the retcon will just whimper out. Also, Deadly Genesis retcons the more silver-age aspects of the Giant-Sized X-men #1 such as Krakoa talking and instead has it be Xavier planting that in their head. It is pointless. The whole retcon feels pointless.

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Only thing I can determine is that creative wanted to settle the Third Summers Brother issue and tie it in with the 30th anniversary of Giant-Sized. Yet, all of the connections to Giant-sized are tenuous at best and completely unnecessary at worst. There is no real added insight provided by the existence of the second team except to make Xavier look even worse. Which is fine. Thing is Xavier has done SOOOOO MUCH worse and questionable. Getting a handful of mutant kids killed is a Tuesday for him. Mindwiping the team? That’s not unheard of. The man ripped the psyche out of Magneto’s body and inadvertently created ONSLAUGHT.

Deadly Genesis feels like Marvel trying to cash in on DC’s Identity Crisis. It centers around a mind-wipe to block a horrific event and the fallout from that mind-wipe being revealed. Now, at least Marvel didn’t go as far as including a rape scene for no reason other than shock, but that is the bare minimum and doesn’t deserve praise. Congrats, you didn’t stoop as low as the peers. The fact that must be written is a condemnation of the industry. Why does this have to exist? It doesn’t feel like a celebration of X-men but an unwelcomed deconstruction of the team.

Vulcan

The reason a lot of this exist is to explain the Third Summers Brother. The decision to use Vulcan instead of Adam-X makes sense. Adam-X was largely a punchline at this time and making him the big bad to sack the Shi’ar Empire just wouldn’t sell. I get it. That said, the bending and warping of history to make Vulcan work is impressively pointless. Trying to embed him in the timeline like he was the Sentry was an interesting choice, I will give them that.

The origin of Vulcan is fine. Heck the failed second team is largely useless but it does show Vulcan demonstrating that trademark Summers’ Leadership. My real qualm with Vulcan is that his powers make no sense. He is an energy manipulator. He can redirect energy as well as absorb and project his own. Yet, he can conjure ghosts of the past, manipulate the Earth itself, and suppress mutant powers.

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This is all explained by this peculiar notion pushed at the time of House of M that states mutant abilities are like energy. That’s why the Decimation caused a massive energy surge that revitalized Vulcan, created the Collective (New Avengers) and causes the reformation of Onslaught in the Heroes Reborn universe. The reason Vulcan can do these things is because he absorbed (With the help of teammate Darwin) the powers of his other teammates and he is literally suppressing the mutant energies around him.

 Vulcan is confusing.

Hickman has begun to reclaim Vulcan and is now one of the best parts of the X-men books as of late. Vulcan himself is not a terrible character. His powerset is woefully varied but fits with the Summers clan. He shows himself to be a capable leader and honestly terrifying when he snaps, but his introduction leaves a lot to be desired.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, I still liked Deadly Genesis fine enough. Yet, not as much as a did as a teen. It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny and I’ve largely grown to dislike this style of retcon. It isn’t as critical to the X-men Cannon as you would think it would be. I don’t know if I will be recommending this book out anytime soon. It was a weird choice for the 30th Anniversary of one of the X-men\’s critical events.

Well, it has been Extremely Uncanny. See you next time.

Jordan Jennings

Jordan has written for wide array of comic review sites over the years including Comicosity, Comicon, and Comic Book Revolution. He has been reviewing and discussing comics for over 10 years. In addition to comics, Jordan enjoys various types of games be it video games or trading card games.

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