X-Men: Dark Phoenix Finally Admits Xavier Isn't A Hero

Professor X Fears Mutants of Power

The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier reveals that years ago, Xavier had discovered a powerful mutant named Matthew Malloy whose ability to restructure reality was beyond anything he had ever seen. The first flare of Matthew's powers had killed his own parents. Too young to fully process his emotions, Matthew played on the front lawn with his toys, discharging wave after wave of energy. The Professor decided Matthew was too volatile, too powerful. He earned the boy's trust, and then erected barriers within his mind to lock off his powers, erasing all memory of the lives he had taken and the destruction he had caused. Xavier visited Matthew periodically throughout his life, carefully reinforcing those barriers - until, of course, the Professor died. Nobody knew about Matthew, the barriers crumbled, and his powers flared out of control once again.

The cases of Jean Grey and Matthew Malloy are disturbingly similar. In both instances, Xavier encountered a mutant more powerful than himself, and he reacted out of fear, using his own powers to exert control. He had his reasons, he could justify his actions to himself, but in both cases he was unwittingly acting against everything he claimed to believe in.

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Curiously enough, there's a common thread running through many of Xavier's worst actions, whether in the comics or indeed in the trailer for X-Men: Dark Phoenix. He seems absolutely incapable of dealing with grief. It's easier for Charles to erase Cyclops's memories of his brother than to help him deal with his loss. And it comes more naturally for the Professor to rewrite the powers and even the memories of Jean Grey and Matthew Malloy than it does for him to let them heal naturally. Perhaps the issue is that, as a telepath, he senses the raw, unrestrained pain of grief in others, and flinches from it. That, married to powers beyond anything even Xavier can conceive of, scares him.

Viewing Xavier Through A Critical Lens

Earlier, we suggested that - at best - Xavier should be viewed as a prophet who points the way to a Promised Land of tolerance and equality, where man and mutant live side-by-side in peace. But here's the thing about prophets; their vision of the future is always one that they themselves are unworthy of. Indeed, to return to that metaphor, Moses himself did not attain to the Promised Land he spoke of to his people. The best comic book writers have understood that truth and applied it to Charles Xavier, revealing his hidden flaws and secret sins, exploring his power trips and control freak-ery. In doing so, they've shone a light upon the complexity of Xavier's Dream, the fact that it speaks against human nature itself - indeed, against even Professor Xavier's own nature. Prejudice is easy, and natural; in a fictional world of mutants, where a teenager has the power to destroy a town in a fit of anger, fear is understandable. The Dream calls for people to confront their own fears, their own prejudices and hatreds, and to put it aside. It presents that challenge to Charles Xavier himself.

So far, the X-Men movies haven't really done too good a job of exploring the implications and challenges of Xavier's Dream. But it's entirely possible that Dark Phoenix will change that; that the film will cast a critical eye upon Xavier, and in so doing challenge his students to truly decide whether this Dream is worth fighting and even dying for.

One thing is for certain, though. The movie will confront the X-Men with the truth that their Professor is a flawed man, more complex than any simple superhero. Hopefully that will be as exciting to watch unfold on film as it is in the comics.

More: Why Dark Phoenix Has Dropped "X-Men" From Its Title

Key Release Dates
  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
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