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Professor Xavier does an impressive pose. Image: R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia/Marvel Comics

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The most toxic X-Man put a stop to nuclear war

Professor X would like some credit for not being a worse person than he already is

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Patrick Stewart is an indisputably correct choice for the role of Professor X. But between audiences knowing him as the kindly paterfamilias of space opera and the X-Men movies going with a somewhat softer Xavier, it’s created a mainstream understanding of Charles Xavier as a good man.

In comics, as they say, Professor X is a jerk. He’s an emotionally detached, ethically compromised, absent father whose response to problems is to fake his own death and not tell anybody about it; leave his students in the hands of an only recently reformed supervillain to abscond to space with his sexy alien wife; or non-consensually alter the memories of his closest allies and most hated enemies alike.

And in this week’s Immortal X-Men #10, Professor Xavier would like credit for not being worse. After all, he’s the reason there will never be a nuclear war.

What else is happening in the pages of our favorite comics? We’ll tell you. Welcome to Monday Funnies, Polygon’s weekly list of the books that our comics editor enjoyed this past week. It’s part society pages of superhero lives, part reading recommendations, part “look at this cool art.” There may be some spoilers. There may not be enough context. But there will be great comics. (And if you missed the last edition, read this.)

Immortal X-Men #10

Professor X pronounces judgement on Mister Sinister before the quiet council, while his narration muses on how he has the power to control the minds of the entire world — every time humans act in hate, he muses “I know that I could have stopped it. I am complicit. I have a secret. There will never be a nuclear war,” in Immortal X-Men #10 (2023). Image: Kieron Gillen, Lucas Werneck/Marvel Comics

In a broader editorial sense, Immortal X-Men is a lead-in story to Sins of Sinister, the upcoming X-Men crossover in which we get to find out what happens when evil gene-wizard Mister Sinister gains full control of Krakoa — but it’s told through the narration of Charles Xavier. It’s a monologue that begins to seem like an admission of his own flaws, right up until the point where Charles once again shows that even in a field as crowded as “mutants with a god complex,” he is an outlier.

Monologue issues can be tricky to pull off without the text and images becoming completely divorced, but writer Kieron Gillen and artist Lucas Warneck keep everything balanced. Which is lovely, because it would be a real pity if the idea that Professor X just took it upon himself to psychically lock every person on every nuclear weapon chain of command on the globe was stuck in a mediocre comic.

Nightwing #100

Nightwing stands with the Teen Titans in front of their under-construction headquarters, announcing that the Teen Titans are converting Blüdhaven’s most notorious prison into their new headquarters in Nightwing #100 (2023). Image: Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo/DC Comics

As a DC veteran, I’m used to the setting promising reboots and rebirths and future states and dawns of all sorts — but I wouldn’t be a DC fan if I didn’t line right up for a ticket every time, with hope in my heart. Will the Teen Titans replace the Justice League as Earth’s premiere superteam forever? Absolutely not.

Am I interested to see what happens with this acknowledgement that the Titans — thanks to quite popular animated and live action adaptations — are more present and beloved in current nerd hearts than their mentors? Very much yes. But even more than that, I like the way that this significant expansion of Nightwing’s editorial responsibilities seems to be integrated right into his whip-smart solo series. Less cosmic crisis continuity, more character continuity, please.

Punisher #9

The Punisher’s ninjas stop the high priestess of the Hand from approaching him. In narration, Maria Castle says that she should have been afraid of her husband after finding out how good her husband was at murder. But she saw that he was trying to leave it behind out of love for his family, in Punisher #9 (2023). Image: Jason Aaron, Jesús Saiz/Marvel Comics
Maria, wearing a villain dress, embraces her husband, musing in narration about how his affinity for murder was made lovable when he showed that he was willing to give it up for her, in Punisher #9 (2023).

Writer Jason Aaron’s Punisher (drawn by Jesús Saiz and Paul Azaceta) is an interesting book. This sounds like faint praise, but given the co-opted state of the character, it’s actually a pretty significant achievement. Issue #9, for example, creates a rise and fall of emotion around Frank’s wife Maria — who’s been resurrected by the Hand cult, bullet scars and all.

Maria has spent the series dazed and gaslit, and the issue does this trick where it makes you think she’s going to be horrified when she finds out that Frank has literally become an avatar for two different gods of murder, only to reveal that Maria has the kind of view of Frank’s deeds that would make the gothest Gothic romance author blink. She’s down for this, and offers herself as a high priestess of the god of the Hand — you know, the undying ninjas from Daredevil comics?

No Punisher comic is going to have a measurable impact on cops and wannabes who plaster his skull on their cars and tactical vests. So why not make him absolutely unrecognizable in the wildest way possible? Why not indeed.

Batman — One Bad Day: Bane

Bane hurls a vial of Venom into his roaring fireplace, to the dismay of the smaller man in his mansion. Bane lifts him into the air by his neck, and demands that he escort him to Texas. “You will show me who is making Venom,” in Batman — One Bad Day: Bane (2023). Image: Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter/DC Comics

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for Bane. He’s maybe the most problematic character that I truly love, from his fake-Latino-country-invented-by-a-white-guy exterior to his buckwild comic-book psychology as a guy born in a jail who just decided to hate Batman one day. I like this guy. I like it when stories take this guy specifically and treat him very seriously.

Joshua Williamson and Howard Porter’s exploration of him checks a lot of my favorite Bane boxes: It reminds the reader of the things he has in common with Batman, it brings up his crusade against the drug that was his greatest strength and weakness, it’s got him ripping a man’s jaw off with his bare hands. I approve.

Dark Web: X-Men #2

Madelyne Pryor and Havok chat in her dungeon, where Cyclops has his hands tied behind his back, his visor removed, and an apparatus above him that surrounds his head with live, adorable puppies, to keep him from using his laser vision, in Dark Web: X-Men #2 (2023). Image: Gerry Duggan, Phil Noto/Marvel Comics

Are you having a bad day? Would you like to see a recent example of how to restrain and incapacitate Cyclops? Do you think supervillains workshop these ideas with each other? Do they put together networking groups that talk about how to make more creative death traps? I hope they do.


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