It was the moment that defined the X-Men for the past few years. As ‘Avengers Versus X-Men’ came to a head, a corrupted Cyclops lashed out – and killed the man who had been his mentor and friend for years.
It’s interesting to cast our minds back to those distant days. Professor Xavier had become a polarising figure in the X-office, and his position in the franchise had seemed awkward for some years. Mike Carey had done an excellent job bringing the character back into the limelight in his ‘X-Men: Legacy’ run, but Matt Fraction had found his voice much harder to ‘get’, and Xavier had drifted back into becoming wallpaper.
When Brian Bendis headed into the ‘AvX’ retreats, he was surprised at all this. He’d never had a problem with Charles Xavier – in interviews he’s discussed Xavier as one of his firm favourites – and frankly he had plans for the character. But gradually he began to get it; the franchise had outgrown Xavier, and it was becoming clear that his stories would work fine – perhaps even better – without Charles Xavier in the picture.
In the end, the decision was made: Charles Xavier would die.
And here’s where things get really interesting. We now know that someone else in Marvel had plans for Charles Xavier – Jonathan Hickman, who had planned Xavier to be a member of the Illuminati, and to play a key role in the build-up to Secret Wars. Hickman wriggled out of it, dropping some plots and bringing in the Beast as Xavier’s replacement, but it’s worth noting this caused the worst continuity error of the whole thing; Xavier’s will has been revealed twice, once giving Beast his Infinity Gem (and the school) and once launching the entire ‘Last Will and Testament’ arc of Brian Bendis’.
In all honesty, I’m tempted to agree with Marvel that the X-Men had outgrown Xavier. It had already felt out-of-character for Xavier to be so irrelevant for the Schism between Wolverine and Cyclops; events post-‘AvX’ wouldn’t have worked at all. Xavier’s death served as a catapult for Simon Spurrier’s excellent Legion-centric run on ‘X-Men: Legacy’, and the whole Mutant Revolution arc was eventually explained away as Cyclops’ dealing with a post-murder nervous breakdown.
That being said, I do have one regret. In a beautifully awkward moment in ‘The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier’, it looked as though Bendis had brought the Xavier of yesterday – the guy who was tutoring the Original Five – into the present-day. Now that is a guy who I’d be interested to see…