Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Questionable Logic of Scott Summers' Utopia


Recently the X-Men have come up against the Dark Avengers in the Utopia crossover. Norman Osborn flexed his military muscle and tried to replace the X-Men we all know and love with his hand-picked Dark X-Men. This villainous team includes Emma Frost and Namor the Sub-Mariner. As in all things Dark Reign, Norman desired to replace the unpredictable and uncontrollable X-Men with his evil puppets and further cement his control over all things Marvel. Cyclops takes issue with this and makes plans to protect not only the X-Men, but all of mutant kind.

The end result of all this (SPOILERS ENSUE) is that Norman gets betrayed by Emma and Namor, his Dark Avengers (and Dark X-Men) get smacked down and Scott Summers unveils his grand plan for the future of mutantkind. The plan he has been carefully developing for the duration of the crossover and patiently waiting to unleash.

And this plan is... from now on all mutants get to live in the San Francisco Bay on Alcatraz island which is propped up by the remains of what appears to be Asteroid M. Well done Scott. Mutant problems are clearly halted and everything is now candy and jelly beans of joy.

Let's stop and think about this for a second. The purpose of this Utopia was to remove the X-Men and all mutants from the territorial boundaries of the United States as well as the oppressive regime of Norman Osborn. I'm not sure that this Utopia fits the bill.

Granted the mutants are on an island that is not part of the US mainland, but this doesn't mean they're a separate nation. When I go to the New Jersey shore and swim out into the water, I'm not traveling internationally. In fact I haven't even left New Jersey. Those waters belong to the United States. Being 1.2 miles from the San Francisco shore doesn't seem like the most insurmountable of barriers and doesn't make you a separate nation. The X-Men are also living on Alcatraz Island which was formerly a federal penitentiary and then a national park. If you want to explicitly remove yourself from the influence of the United States government there are a few places you could choose that wouldn't be so connected to US influence. You could argue that raising Alcatraz island via Asteroid M makes Alcatraz no longer a US island but I'm not buying that either. I can't put my house on stilts and have gambling and prostitution inside because I'm "no longer on US soil." It doesn't work that way. I've tried. The stilts were too expensive and the police were on to me from the very beginning. But I digress.

Now the X-Men face the daunting task of converting a prison/military base into a mutant mecca that will house, feed, and educate the remaining hundreds of mutants from around the world. That means creating an entirely new infrastructure out of decommissioned military ordinance and space rock. How does Scott Summers intend to feed, clothe, and support the hundreds of individuals who will soon be arriving at his declared paradise? Even Scott himself admits he has no idea, despite the fact he had weeks (while watching Norman Osborn hold San Francisco under martial law) to plan it out. Granted he does have a lot of resources at his disposal in the form of his other X-Men. Iceman and Storm can provide water, Surge can provide electricity, Magma can provide heat, Maddison Jeffries can build machines to keep the island running, and Beast could act as tutor and supervisor (if he weren't going into space to be with Agent Brand). But where will the food come from? Every now and the Namor could lead a giant fish astray and beach it on the island, but who wants to eat gargantuan octopus every night? Of course Utopia is so close to the California mainland that Angel could fly over and pick up take-out every night and wouldn't be gone half an hour. Which only further points out how absurd it is to think of Utopia as a separate nation.

Perhaps I'm being a naysayer, but this doesn't not sound like the most well-thought and brilliant of plans. It's certainly not the kind of masterstroke you wait several weeks (in story) and 6 issues (in reality) to unveil. Moving from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island seems akin to setting up a tent in your parent's backyard and declaring independence from them.
You could argue that Scott only needed to move the X-Men slightly off US soil in order to allow Norman Osborn the ability to say that his Dark Avengers "banished" the X-Men when talking to the press. But if I was living in San Francisco and I could see Emma Frost in the shower from the Golden Gate bridge with any decent telescope, I wouldn't feel very isolated from the X-Men. I might certainly have some other feelings, but isolation would not be one of them.

In short, the new mutant Utopia is one with questionable legality and utility that benefits mutant kind in only the most superficial of ways. And maybe not even superficial benefits may be derived from it. If anyone can find value in this turn of events, I would truly love to know it.

20 comments:

Dave said...

I think Cyclops' idea makes more sense in the context of a Marvel Universe in which a large chunk of Oklahoma has recently been carved out as a new Asgard by Thor and legally recognized as a foreign country.

For superpowered beings, the territorial sovereignty of the United States is clearly less of a concern than it is for, say, dudes in Montana with guns.

Scott said...

I was under the impression that Utopia island didn't rise up UNDER Alcatraz, but as a separate island. Also, in Dark Avengers: Exodus, you see the island pictured in open ocean, though, as you say, still only "1.2 miles" off the coast, so still in territorial waters. In short, I think they could move it outside US waters, as it is already outside the Bay and not under Alcatraz (from what I could tell).

Will said...

I agree with Scott that I had assumed it was more in the Pacific outside San Francisco than in the bay. It is still in the U.S. sovereign waters as far as I can tell, so the overall option seems silly.

Also, isn't basically creating a self-imposed concentration camp seem like a bad plan. Admittedly, it is a very well-defended location with all of the mutants there, but it still seems like a much easier target for genoicidal maniacs while also creating an adversarial relationship with the most powerful nation that might have been useful otherwise.

Larry Lennhoff said...

Put all your eggs in one basket and someone will nuke the basket. Not a smart move IMHO. Also, wasn't the Xmen's whole raison d'atre the peaceful integration of humans and mutants? How does this fulfill that plan? I bet Prof X is very disappointed.

Ken said...

"Being 1.2 miles from the San Francisco shore doesn't seem like the most insurmountable of barriers..."

That rather depends on the intensity of the optic laser blasts being directed against the ships and planes sent to dispute the issue, doesn't it? As Dave's comment notes, sovereignty depends on the ability to enforce it.

"I can't put my house on stilts and have gambling and prostitution inside because I'm "no longer on US soil." "

Actual economics: A number of states have legalized gambling only on river-boats, generally because it was sold to the public as a romantic return to the days of paddlewheelers. It is kind of amazing what qualifies as a "boat" under these laws, and often what qualifies as a "river". In a few places, the boats are actually anchored to the river-bed by concrete piers.

Andrew TSKS said...

I finished reading "Utopia" two days ago myself, and had many of the same thoughts you did. My main question was how the residents of this island would be able to earn a living or feed their families when they were living on a small barren rock. I feel like the U.S. soil question is less of a concern because it would probably satisfy the general public to put the mutants in an island version of a concentration camp. That said, if they really were trying to carve out their own territory, separate from the U.S., this was a terrible and probably unsuccessful way to do it.

Sometimes, even with a writer I generally like (i.e. Bendis, or Fraction), I feel like the people responsible for controlling the events in the Marvel Universe are just not thinking things through enough. Poorly constructed story endings like this one don't fill me with enthusiasm for continued issues of these comic titles, I'll say that for sure.

Chris said...

You'd think they'd have learned something from Israel, wouldn't you. "Now, the idea is that you gather all these people whom there's a prejudice against and set them down in the middle of millions of people who are (a) prejudiced against them on general principles and (b) hate them for taking over their territory, and hey presto! peace and amity prevails! Because that worked so well last time." Still, maybe that's the metaphor they want to explore.

Mark said...

Interesting points all gentleman. And after re-examining my Utopia issues, I do realize that Asteroid M may not have risen under Alcatraz. It's possible I put that idea in there myself because I liked the image. Regardless Asteroid M is currently docked in the bay, though it is highly likely that it could move. Also thanks to Ken for pointing out some flaws in my analogies. Directions to said gambling riverboats would be appreciated. Don't get me started on Asgard being a seperate nation.

Matt said...

I know countries in Europe like Luxembourg for example have people that work in other countries like Germany and then travel back, like people that live in Jersey work in New York. The only problem with that would be the obvious discrimination of those mutants are stealing our jobs. Maybe that will take some of the heat off Mexicans.
I have to agree with Ken who made the point if about enforcing sovereignty. I don't see the US going to war over it because I don't think they could win without nukes and they can't nuke them because they are in such close proximity to San Francisco. So maybe it was a good choice.

Anonymous said...

There's only 198 mutant left and some of them have died. The number of people who will come to the island will be limited unless more mutants are born.

I have to agree that living near the Bay Area seemed like a goofy idea. At least Asteroid M was out of everyone's jurisdiction. May be Scott Summer has been taking lessons from the Superman movie's Lex Luthor...

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