BotA: Is the M-Word So Bad?


A couple of months ago there was a lot of backlash against  Rick Remender and his portrayal of Havok in Uncanny Avengers. If you are a comics enthusiast you have probably heard or read a lot  So if you read marvel comics, you have heard of the Uncanny Avengers and Havok’s M Word Speech.  At first I thought this wasn’t a bad speech. I guess I am prone to bouts of optimism that this speech really spoke to. But then the more I thought about it the more I became disturbed. I felt like as nice as that speech sounds, it’s not quite realistic to think of the matter in those terms. I felt like I didn’t quite know where Alex was coming from and where Remender was coming from. Click below the break for my Analysis of the matter.

The M-Word Speech
The M-Word Speech

My main observation was that Havok, while trying to unify two groups of people, was turning his back on a culture and community of people to become one with another. He may not feel that he belongs to another group, but by birth he does. He is a mutant, and while it would be lovely if everyone on earth could understand that we are all human and are equal in the eyes of whichever god we believe in, that’s just not realistic and people are all to prone to selfishness and greed, and putting others down to make themselves feel better. Add to that race, gender identification and just the many different types and groups of people that exist , and we really do live in a melting pot of  differing and opposing peoples, some of which are unwilling to see the other as equal. Not sounding so optimistic now right? Just wait a moment.

Brian Michael Bendis, then had an issue of All-New X-Men where Beast asks about the M-word. The exchange is below in the gallery.

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The way Kitty speaks in this issue was so good. I loved her dialogue, characterization and how this topic was addressed in an X-book. It also made me think about the backlash over Remender’s work. This felt like one writer of an x-book, taking a potshot at another writer of an X-book.  This got me thinking more on the subject of how this could happen. Is this a little writers tif. A celebrity battle. There has to be more to it.

It was about this time that Holly, who regularly writes for this blog, had written a post about the M-Word as it pertains to Harry Potter. You can read the full article here. In the article she says a lot of really interesting things about the Wizarding world being stuck in a pre-Industrial society. Some of her points concern the word Muggle and how it puts a barrier between people. She mentions how little Hermione is shown to think of her Muggle parents, how condescending Mr Weasley is toward Muggles as a people to be marveled at like a toy, and how Muggles are just playthings for Death Eaters. Then Holly says something I wish I had written (a compliment), I’m not going to try and ruin it by not just posting it. Holly says:

But, think about how language works. Using a seemingly innocent word to describe an entire group of people, robs that people of identity, on an individual and a group level. When that word is considered normal, it shapes how the marginalizing group thinks of those who are marginalized. This benign bigotry leads to malignant bigotry, then to organizations of particularly hateful bigots, with one scary and scary-powerful bigot leading them.

THIS is what I think Alex is getting at. This is what I think Remender is getting at. I think I was slightly harsh on him but as Holly says in her article:

I’m inclined to believe that J.K. is clever enough to include more complexity in her books… And, the moral of the story is J.K. Rowling is a lot smarter than we give her credit for.

In a recent article on The Uncanny Avengers Remender says this: 

I’m setting up a lot of things here; some of them will pay out and some are misdirections… Having this entire story broken down up to issue #22 has been great. I’ve been able to make a lot of choices to seed relationships in ways that you might not initially see, as well as introduce more overt misdirections that play out in other ways. Part of the fun of comics is guessing at what happens next, so I’ve tried to give people plenty to guess about. People will see in the next ten issues how it will payout.

I want to mirror Holly’s words. I’m inclined to believe that Remender is clever enough to include more complexity in his books. Is Remender smarter than we give him credit for. Think about it. Issue #11 of Uncanny Avengers was just released. Remender knows what is going on up to issue 22. This doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with Havok’s views, just look at Kitty, but I think Remender has set Havok up to have a unique leaders position in the marvel universe, and if you check Havok’s history, this isn’t out of left-field for him.

So what does this all mean for the X-Men and Battle of the Atom? There have been a lot of dominoes set to fall down in the next two months. There are two main camps of thought being touted as a divisive plot to rival that of Schism.

What do you think? Should the All-New X-Men be sent back to their past or should they be allowed to stay and fulfill whatever the hell it is they need to fulfill while here? With all the hoo hah over Havok’s views and the M-word, we know it’s not all going to be black and white. I’m seeing the color grey in our X-future.

Check back tomorrow for the next article in our Battle of the Atom (BotA) countdown.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. I think, ironically, Alex was speaking to something very human – the desire to define ourselves by what psychologists call ‘Other’. You can see the same pattern running all the way through history (and in the present day): They are Muslim, homosexual, woman, whatever the current nasty Other may be. So the single word becomes a defining concept, and so goes one step further – it becomes the sole aspect of their identity.

    I think there are three ways to react to this. The first is, curiously enough, the approach Christianity took. When the term ‘Christian’ was used, it was in Antioch, and was an insult (‘These people are obsessed with Christ, that’s all there is to them!’) The believers (who previously had just said they followed ‘the Way’) claimed the term, and sort of redeemed it – a rather cool twist of history. It happens occasionally like that, not as often as it should imo.

    Another way to react to this is to obsess all the more over that attribute, so that it’s the only thing that matters. Your religion, sexual orientation, whatever, becomes almost the defining aspect of your character. And that’s what’s been happening in the X-Men comics for years.
    Alex’s is the third reaction, and it’s an interesting one; to refuse to be pidgeon-holed, to be put in a box. Yes, he’s a mutant, but he’s much more than just that.


    1. loz says:

      I think the interesting thing in my own life is that my “other” Label was Christian and I’v always tried to be more than that. Not just the label other people give me, as there are a lot of misconceptions about my religion and I feel there has been a certain amount of pidgeon-holing and judgement on me. I’ve dealt with this in a variety of ways but at certain times I’ve fought to be included and a part of a group or entity that I wasn’t despite my upbringing, and at other times I’ve tried to distance myself from other groups and entities in the attempt not to be seen as the same. I’m interested in Remenders comment where he admits to possible misdirection with certain characters. There’s more to Havok’s speech than meets the eye.


  2. (Incidentally, contrast this with Scott’s approach – in the first issue of All-New X-Men, he tells a new mutant, “My mutant name is Cyclops.” I think those two scenes really play well off one another. Havok’s position is created to contrast with Scott’s.)


  3. herdthinner says:

    Of course, “movie X-men” Magneto thinks of the “mutant name” as the “real” name (ex, when talking to John, who answered “Pyro.”)

    I agree that Alex is chafing at being labeled. Kitty is embracing it, as some activists do. And I’m not even reading the X-books!


    1. loz says:

      That’s a really great point. I’ve been fascinated with how there is a duality in our lives and how comics portray that.I think Magneto has quite the history that is more interesting now that he is allied with Cyclops in Uncanny X-men. He’s playing an interesting game walking the line between SHIELD and Cyclops and his own agenda.


      1. herdthinner says:

        And then I kind of like labels for some reason. If somebody says, “Tell me about yourself,” it’s almost a sure bet that my first answer will be that I’m a nerd. Then I might add something like artist/writer or “I don’t get out much” (extreme introvert), and so on. I tend to go with “nerd” first because it’s such a huge part of what makes me, me. I dislike the word “geek” as some kind of substitute for the former. To me it came out of nowhere. And recall that “nerd” was, and probably still is, an insult that suggested a brainy, but unattractive, socially inept person. But it’s been “claimed,” in no small part due to home computers and the internet, and communication tech in general, becoming as ubiquitous as they are. Now it’s almost a requirement to learn technology to at least a small extent. ie, embracing a certain amount of nerdiness.

        Given the choice, I’d want my mutant power to be the ability to imitate any sound. One of my dream jobs in college was Voice Actor. I never got a foot in the door, but boy, would I show them! I’D SHOW THEM ALL! {{thunder clap… that I imitated perfectly!!!!}}


      2. loz says:

        Traci, you are kind of fantastic. Did you ever read Excalibur and the character Kylun. That was his power. And as an aside, I was just listening to Kevin Smith Interview Tara Strong yesterday and I was in awe at how many voices and characters she has played over her career. Quite amazing. I’m jealous too.
        That said, I always saw Nerd as quite derrogatory and always claimed the Geek Label. I can be a pop cultere geek, and a comics Geek and an extreme music geek sometimes, but Nerd was always associated with academia which I was never quite comfortable with. Funny how there seems to be a blur between the terms but if you ask any fan they will always give you a specific answer of one or the other.


    2. Good catch, I’d forgotten that Magneto said that in the movies! 🙂


  4. loz says:

    Also interesting point from the previews for next weeks Battle of the Atom, Jean outright says, ” Her name is Animax, but her Human name is……..”Whatever it was. This seems quite an explicit statement of personal views or stance that Im not sure has been put forward by a hero. Or has it. I can’t recall a moment.


    1. herdthinner says:

      WP doesn’t have a Reply button on your last… er, reply, so no, I’ve not read Excalibur. Was Kylun’s power “weaponized” the way they always seem to do for such books? Like Cypher in the New Mutants, for instance.

      I worked with someone who disliked “nerd,” too. But “geek” used to mean the guys at carnivals and side shows that would eat live animals – usually chickens – and behave in other disturbing ways. I admit that I have that in my head when I hear the word. Granted, now it’s more commonly associated with people with odd or obsessed interests. I fit that definition for the most part, but I still think that I better fit the definition of “nerd.”

      “Animax?” Really? This is what I think of:


      1. loz says:

        Wow Animax….. That’s so 80s.

        Unfortunately Kylun’s power was not weaponised, but it did give them the element of surprise a few times.


      2. Apparently ‘geek’ originates from a term basically meaning ‘freak’, hence you had ‘freak shows’. Weird how language changes, isn’t it?


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