The original X-Men, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman, Angel and Beast, have been yanked forward through time in a fruitless attempt to correct the errors of the modern-day X-Men. The original five teenagers are now stuck in a time far ahead of their own. They’ve ventured into space, met their future selves (with the exception of Jean Grey) and traveled between alternate dimensions. But now they’re back home, on Earth, in this place outside their time.
Utopia, the Promised Land for all mutants, has fallen, leaving it susceptible to scavengers. A group of unnamed looters comes upon the island in hopes of finding implied treasures: weaponry, advanced technology, anything that can be sold on the black market. Before they are able to search the island they are blown up by a shadowy figure.
The panel cuts to the teenaged X-Men, having just returned from a space adventure and enjoying some hamburgers. Some banter, some relish in the burgers, but the most notable occurrence is Jean Grey’s conversation with Iceman. If you have been paying attention to the internet at all then you’ve already seen the panel.
How disgraceful of Jean to out Iceman before he was ready. Curiosity and the power to read minds does not give her that right! Even as his friend, her responsibility starts and stops at providing emotional support on his terms. It is her selfishness that drives her to confront him, as though everything that happens on the team must filter through her first. If Iceman wanted to stay “in the closet” until he felt comfortable then it was his call to make. Maybe he hasn’t had the time to fully comprehend how he feels about men? The time they came from was far less open to gay men; it was a time before the “It gets better” PSA, a time before characters in media could just be gay without a scandal attached to it. It would be perfectly understandable that Iceman did not feel comfortable expressing his sexuality.
Iceman then goes on to make a point: the present-day Iceman isn’t gay and he dated plenty of women, including Kitty Pryde. Jean counters that present day Iceman didn’t date women very well.
This feels like a gross misunderstanding of what it means to be gay. Over the course of the history of the X-Men, Iceman dated a few women. Unfortunately, one turned out to be a cloud. Yes, a literal cloud named Cloud. He also dated Opal, Mystique, and Polaris. None of those relationships ended well for different reasons. Some were a touch evil and a few were already engaged to be married (AHEM, Polaris). None of these things in themselves are proof that anyone is gay. Making bad relationship choices is simply one of the many hazards of growing into a fully formed adult.
It is not a matter of whether or not Iceman is gay. He is, end of story. The handling of this development was simultaneously disconcerting and triumphant. Marvel stayed true to the plight of homosexuals in our society. Worried that they will be ostracized, some feel the need to hide who they are until they are adults. The irony is that Bendis chose to mirror this social struggle using the young Iceman rather than have the adult Iceman finally come out on his own terms.
There is also something to be said about outing an already beloved character. Yes, readers accept Northstar as being gay and Mystique as a bisexual. However, both of those characters were established as such earlier on in the continuity. The outing of Iceman serves a reminder that as we loved him as a character before this issue, we should continue to love him. His sexual preference changes nothing about his character. Whether or not this social relevance was executed purposefully or by happenstance doesn’t matter. It’s there, it’s relevant, and how people react will be important.
Unaware of what’s going on with his teammate; Angel is sorting through his own angsty relationship. He finally admits to Laura that he loves her and that he is terrified of ending up like the present day Angel. They have a sweet moment, they kiss, and all is well in the lives of the young X-Men.
Back in Utopia, SHIELD Agents are readying their crafts to land. They received an earlier transmission stating there may be some unregistered mutant energy, and have come to explore. Before they even have a chance to touchdown, their aircraft is destroyed.
This is an obvious twist. Clearly there are mutants still calling Utopia home, and in true Marvel form they will most likely become the next “gray area” villains: mutants trying to find a home in a world that doesn’t want them. My prediction is a long drawn out battle with SHIELD and the young X-Men, resulting in a new Brotherhood, thus bringing the X-Men full-circle.