X-Force #6 by Benjamin Percy and Stephen Segovia digs into Beast’s role with the covert ops team, and it’s an eye-opening glimpse into Hank McCoy’s state of mind and current role on Krakoa. Honestly this issue might be a bit of a shock for long time X-Men fans, but for my money it very much aligns with where Beast’s been heading all decade, and maybe longer.
Today I’ll answer:
+ Et tu, Beast? What the heck happened to Hank’s morality and is this issue in character?
+ Why Professor Xavier’s confession is the least surprising confession of all time!
My Notes From the Review!
Please note spoilers for the discussed issues may follow.
X-Force #6 opens with Beast asserting his role as the death squad’s conductor, pulling strings from behind the scenes and masterminding schemes in the interest of Krakoa. As Beast says, on a team with Wolverine, Jean Grey, even Quentin Quire, there’s certainly an internal argument to be made about the true leader of the squad, but in Beast’s mind, it’s quite clearly him.
It’s far from the worst we’ll see, but this is a good opening glimpse into the hubris of Henry McCoy. His arrogance frequently comes across as part of his charm, but there’s a sincerity and lack of self-awareness throughout X-Force #6 that transitions it to something more sinister.
From there, Beast quite freely opens up the knowledge that in his role as information controller, he’s increasingly ok with “whatever it takes to hide our work.” Just a few examples given include bribery, planet evidence, memory erasure, and blowing up buildings. He’s like Joe Pesci’s character in The Irishman but blue.
It’s not hard to imagine Beast in a role akin to Gotham’s Oracle, although I think the revelation that he’s more of a Calculator may be surprising to many. That said, the methods of X-Force are often given something of a pass, as this is, as Mystique puts it, “a mutant CIA.” Certainly there’s an expectation that lines of lawfulness and causing harm are crossed. The question is at what point does it all go too far?
Before progressing deeper into the issue, I think it’s high time to address Beast’s years-long descent into the character we see now. I think there’s a tendency to view Hank as a hero almost without darkness, whether this stems from the 90’s animated series where Beast is perpetually a kindly professor, or just his comparative opposition to the inherent darkness in contemporaneous characters like Wolverine, Cyclops during the Utopia era, or even Jean Grey with the Phoenix.
While there’s certainly a modern trend of Hank McCoy’s decent into questionable ethics and “non-heroic” decision making, you can run this back pretty far in X-Men history. Even Hank’s initial decision to experiment on himself is filled with hubris, and most importantly, mistakes that result in him turning blue and hairy for the rest of his days.
Likewise, in the 90’s when Hank was studying the Legacy Virus, Beast turns to Mister Sinister for an information swap. The same happens with Dark Beast in the wake of the mutant Decimation, and while Dark Beast is obviously a darkest timeline mirror from the Age of Apocalypse, it is increasingly interesting to consider whether those seeds are within the Hank McCoy we know from Earth 616.
The real break for Beast in the 2010’s kicks off with 2012’s All-New X-Men and Hank’s genuinely indefensible decision to bring the 5 original X-Men forward in time from their Silver Age debuts to the present day. The entire affair is a mess of a supposed genius intellect tampering with time and all of reality. It’s actually a great example of Beast’s downfall: Convincing himself of good intentions as his hubris drives him to a decision that does not take others into account at all.
Similar conceits include Hank’s membership in the Jonathan Hickman written New Avengers Illuminati, where Hank was part of a group slipping away from their aspirations to never kill in the name of survival and their earth’s greater good.
The worst version of all this, though, is Beast’s role collaborating with Hydra Cap’s regime in the pages of Secret Empire. Now, there seems to be a general Marvel fan consensus to just will away the idea that various Marvel “heroes” collaborated with Fascist Steve Rogers during this 2017 event, and to be fair, I don’t really hear anybody talk about Thor / Odinson’s role on the Stevil Avengers in 2020. Nonetheless, if we’re going to explore Beast’s descent into what he’s quite clearly seeing as “pragmatism,” but young Silver Age heroic ideals Hank McCoy sees as “the bad guy,” we have to mention this absolute low point. This is Beast accepting a Hydra takeover of America, and working with Hydra, so long as mutantkind could keep “New Tian” as their own. It’s an awful look.
Enter the nation of Terra Verde and their experiments with “telefloronic scientists.” Essentially, Terra Verde had been on the brink of a plant-based miracle drug / weapons application when Professor X announced Krakoa’s new role as pharmaceutical savior. The rise of this economic competitor – or perhaps feared monopoly – led to self-experimentation and the rise of a Floronic Man / Swamp Thing / Man-Thing (because it’s marvel) army of plant people.
I love the idea here from Percy and team that rival progress in telefloronics (here described as nanotechnology but with “organic “ components) is in direct competition with Krakoa’s rapid entrance into the marketplace. It helps ground Krakoan miracle meds in the globe in which mutantkind still inhabits.
In a more traditional X-Men storyline, the expectation would be that the team tries to save humans and prevent the rising swamp monsters from inflicting further damage. You might even expect Beast to work on a cure for the infected while the heavy hitters run damage control.
Not here. Hank calls killing the plant people “a worthless moral quandary” and compares their ascension and potential threat to that of the Omega Sentinels.
So Beast projects where Terra Verde’s work is heading and decides – without consultation of anyone on Krakoa it would seem – that their experiments cannot be allowed to continue. Beast determines that Terra Verden floronics would lead to both competition for Krakoan drugs, and an additional way for humans to weaponize their bodies.
After arriving at that conclusion, Hank effectively murders the President of Terra Verde’s son (without leaving a trail of course) and states “Sometimes a little wrong makes a greater right.” It’s the perfect summation of Hank’s deepening pit of compromises and sacrificed moral center.
Even better, and an example showing Percy perfectly understands where Beast has been, is the final shot of the President’s plant-boy sliding out of a hospital window to Beast’s hyper-ironically incorrect statement: “Because I’m never wrong.”
That Beast could even *think* to say this after the time-traveling X-Men, Inhumans vs. X-Men, and his role in Secret Empire is mind-boggling. As a fan of that Shakespeare quotin’, Avengin’, bouncin’ blue Beast, I’m concerned his arrogance is past the point of no return. Either way, it will be fascinating to continue to witness.
On a final note, a data page in this issue reveals the confession of Charles Xavier (although the author is frankly unclear – the fact that it’s written in the third person makes me think it could be from Moira, but there are a myriad of options), revealing his issue #1 assassination was effectively planned from the start.
This is exactly what I suspected, and very much thematically connected to Hank’s hubris that Charles would come up with a rallying cry around the tremendous mourning of his own person.
I’ll admit, I still very much disagree with the sentiment that “Krakoa needed a Pearl Harbor,” at least at this juncture. Everyone had been on Krakoa for approximately 12 seconds when Professor X apparently schemed for tragedy.
Nonetheless, the idea that Professor X would fake his death is about as true to character as you can get in the world of X. Professor X has pretended to die more times than I can count.
Honestly, given this history, I’d actually prefer an issue where someone like a Jean Grey called him out on suspicions of getting shot in the head on purpose. There’s a track record here, as crazy as it sounds!
None of this really changes the fact that X-Force #6 is another great entry in an increasingly strong series. Still, I find it humorous that even in the Krakoa era, Professor X can’t help but go back to the same Silver Age tricks.