***This article contains spoilers for Avengers vs. X-Men #11.***With Marvel's two biggest franchises warring against each other for the bulk of 2012, it was a good bet that things weren't going to end well for somebody.
This week's Avengers vs. X-Men #11 revealed that "somebody" to be X-Men founder Charles Xavier, struck down by his Phoenix-powered former student Cyclops.
"This is a death of biblical proportions for the X-Men universe," Brian Michael Bendis, writer of the issue, told Newsarama. "Not only because of who dies, but how they die."
The fateful scene comes as Professor X makes a last-ditch attempt to talk sense into Cyclops, embroiled in a standoff against the combined forces of the Avengers and the X-Men. Cyclops, freshly in sole possession of the Phoenix force at the center of the story, instead uses his nearly unlimited powers to snuff out the man who mentored him beginning in 1963's X-Men #1, with Marvel's heroes helpless to do anything but watch.Though the "Phoenix Five" — Cyclops, his partner Emma Frost, and their fellow X-Men Namor, Colossus and Magik — initially used their nigh-omnipotence for good, it seemed only a matter of time before the destructive cosmic entity would start corrupting its hosts. It's happened before, as seen in past stories like "The Dark Phoenix Saga." Still, Bendis said exactly how responsible Scott Summers is for Xavier's death remains an open question.
"There will be an argument that says, 'Well, he was under the influence of a terrible, terrible force that he could not control,'" Bendis said. "But he did put himself under the influence."
The last page of Avengers vs. X-Men #11 sees Beast declare Cyclops "Dark Phoenix" — clearly echoing the prior fate of Scott's deceased long-term love interest Jean Grey — and though that situation looks to be resolved in the 12th and final issue of the event series out Oct. 3, the ramifications will be felt in a number of places, including the forthcoming series All-New X-Men, written by Bendis."What a tremendous hole for me to work on with [Cyclops]' character, because he's got to dig his way out of this," Bendis said. "There will be people who will never, ever forgive him for this, and there will be people who will want to kill him for this, and there will be people who make giant choices based on this thing happening."
Despite the events of Avengers vs. X-Men #11, Cyclops still has at least one fan — Marvel's editor-in-chief, Axel Alonso.
"I'll say, unequivocally, that Cyclops is and remains my favorite X-Men character," Alonso said. "I can't give away details about how the story ends at this point, but to look at him as an outright villain misses the point of the story."
Avengers vs. X-Men editor and Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort characterizes AvX #11 as the culmination of a "progressive seasoning" for Cyclops, one that started when he took control of the dwindling mutant population and hunkered down on the island nation of Utopia.
"My interpretation of how the Phoenix operates is essentially that if a bit of the Phoenix is in you, it kind of burns away artifice," Brevoort said. "Scott's a guy that's wound very tightly. He's had to be, given that his optic blasts have been uncontrollable since he was a teenager. It's not easy to live Cyclops' life, and that's made him very controlled and very focused and very determined.
"Now, clearly a line has been crossed and what that will mean for the rest of the X-Men and the world at large, that's all next week and next month's story to tell."The death of Professor X comes at an interesting time for the character. Though he's played an important part in Avengers vs. X-Men, he hasn't had much of a defined role in the past few years, with both Cyclops and Wolverine taking leadership of their own X-Men teams.
"Professor X has had this problem going back to the '60s, really," Brevoort said. "The set-up of X-Men originally was, there are these young teenage kids who are learning to use their powers and grow into maturity, and at a certain point, that process requires them to step out from under the shadow of their father figure and stand on their own feet."
Of course, with any major comic book death, fans immediately start the countdown to the seemingly inevitable resurrection. Professor X himself has been presumed dead on more than one occasion in the past, only to return before too long. Yet Alonso says not only is Xavier's death currently viewed by Marvel as a permanent one, him being dead is a crucial thematic component of the Marvel NOW! revamp starting in October, the month after AvX wraps."We have no plans to resurrect him," Alonso said. "He is gone, and there's no potential of Professor X stepping into what looks to be a leadership vacuum in the X-Men. Who's going to lead the X-Men when this is over? Will people want Scott to lead them? Is it going to be Logan? Don't assume. Will it be Hope? She's a young girl. Will she be around? What will mutants' role be in the Marvel Universe post-AvX, without having Professor X as the guiding hand of stability?"
Marvel NOW! series including Uncanny Avengers, depicting Captain America forming a new Avengers squad to help better deal with threats to the mutant population, and All-New X-Men both deal directly with the fallout of Xavier's death. The latter features the original five X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast and Angel) transported from the past to the present, only to deem the modern-day Marvel Universe unacceptable — and now it's obvious as to why."Some people were questioning, 'What are they going to see? I don't get it.' How about 16-year-old Cyclops discovers that he murdered Xavier, and is hanging out with Magneto?" Bendis said. "Poor Jean and Scott, they're so filled with young love for each other, and then she has to see, "Oh, you grow up to be this?"
Despite the story potential in a dead Xavier, Bendis said that it was still a "hotly debated" decision at Marvel. It was also never a situation where someone "had" to die in order to give weight to AvX, Alonso stressed.
"We could have done this event without killing Professor X, easily," Alonso said. "We could have done it without killing anyone. But it made sense. This is more than just a set piece we use in AvX; it enriches the story when you see son kill father. We wouldn't have done it if we didn't think it created an interesting dynamic for the future, and where we're headed."Since the (temporary) demise of Hawkeye in 2004's Avengers #502, Bendis has had something of a reputation for killing beloved Marvel characters — and now he's bumped off the guy who started the X-Men, two months before he starts his run as writer of the new flagship title.
"I decimated the mutants, gave Wolverine his memories back, and killed Charles Xavier, and I haven't even started the X-Men yet," Bendis said, with a laugh. "That's just nuts."
With All-New X-Men #1 not out until November and the blood of Charles Xavier already on his hands, Bendis has some advice for X-Men fans who might not be pleased with him over the latest developments:
"Let us follow in the teachings of Xavier and be tolerant and accepting of other people's ideas, and not yell at me."More from Newsarama:
- Fatal Events: 10 Comic Book Crossover Character Deaths
- With the End Near, Brevoort Talks AVENGERS VS X-MEN Thus Far
- Exclusive: Brian Bendis on the Marvel NOW! ALL-NEW X-MEN