Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I want to take some time today to talk about one of my favorite characters: Alex Summers, A.K.A. Havok. Why do I love this guy so much? I don’t know, exactly.

I’m just sort of fascinated with his character development, I guess. See, occasionally, I think we get into this thing where people aren’t quite sure what kinds of stories/traits should be used to define a character. So they end up trying a lot of different things to give that character some unique or individual flair. I think this has been done to varying degrees of success or (wild) failure with Havok.

I mean, X-Men is notorious for this kind of stuff--with so many mutants running around, sooner or later people just start slamming them into movies or new comics or whatever and put whatever spin on the character they like. Wasn’t Psylocke a villain in X-3 or something like that? Weird. By the way, in case you don’t know who this guy is (and shame on you if you don’t) Alex is Scott ‘Cyclops' Summers' little brother.

Here’s a few things about him worth knowing: Alex is like a walking power battery. He’s constantly storing energy in his body that needs to be released sooner or later (usually resulting in him blowing something the *%$ up). The thing is, Alex isn’t storing electricity or even radiation. Alex’s body is constantly storing ‘Cosmic Energy’.

For those of you playing at home, that’s the insanely potent stuff that turned Reed Richards and his family into the Fantastic Four.

Needless to say, Alex is a dangerous mutant. With a lot of help from Charles Xavier and others, Alex has been able to better control his powers. Another weird little note? Due to some sort of genetic fluke, Alex and his big brother, Scott, are completely immune to each other’s powers. So they could sit around blasting each other all day and neither of them would feel a thing. Weird, right?

OKAY that’s his powers. But who IS Alex Summers? What makes him tick?

Over the years, we’ve gotten a lot of different takes on his personality. I present for you: Alex’s greatest hits and my thoughts on what has gone right or wrong with this guy…

1. As a reluctant member of the X-Men
Thumbs up, here. To me, this will always stick in my mind as Alex’s most defining feature. Originally, Alex was just an on-again, off-again cameo in the X-Men comics, not a full time member. The point of putting him in the book to begin with was this: not every mutant wanted to be a superhero.

There’s something that just felt right about this. The fact that he was Scott’s little brother…it was sort of like he wanted to differentiate himself from Scott, go his own way and lead a different life. Hasn’t everybody got a sibling that they look at and think ‘we’re a little different’? Alex doesn’t really want to BE an X-Man…he just wants a normal life.

2. As an X-Man, going up against his former lover, Lorna Dane, now possessed by the maurader Malice
Thumbs WAY up. I totally loved this now long lost piece of forgotten Marvel lore. Alex’s romantic interest, another mutant with magnetic powers comparable to Magneto (…and green hair) named Polaris went through a stint where she was literally possessed by the disembodied consciousness of one of Mr. Sinister’s Mauraders named Malice (loooonnnggg story).

Some of the fights between the X-Men and the Mauraders were INTENSE. The rivalry between these teams was epic, back in the day. After all, the Mauraders were responsible for killing countless innocent mutants and putting several X-Men (Nightcrawler, Shadowcat and Colossus) out of commission. So the X-Men had payback on their mind whenever they went toe to toe with these guys.

Having Malice constantly harping on Alex’s insecurities in the middle of these knockdown, drag-out fights, taunting him to shoot at the woman he loved…it was just so ROUGH, you know? There was no love lost between these teams and this kind of dynamic just sealed the deal by giving you a sense of that’s just how bad Sinister’s guys WERE. They fought dirty. And Alex had to get over that if he was gonna be of any help to anyone.

3. Seduced by Madelyne Pryor, the Goblin Queen
Thumbs up.

God, I love Inferno. It so wacked out having the X-Men go up against demons come to life all over New York City. You aren’t likely to ever really see anything like it again.

But at the time, it was the crossover you had been waiting for for YEARS. With tension brewing between the original team (now called X-Factor and very public) and the current one (practically outlaws), the stage was set to let everything just get totally out of control. For me, the penultimate creepy moment was having the seemingly shy and vulnerable Madelyne--left by Scott for Jean Grey--suddenly and assertively seduce Alex.

The fact that Madelyne is Jean’s clone just makes this all the more weird and confusing. Alex has never been super close with Scott so you can totally see him drifting towards the woman whom he thinks Scott hurt, right? It’s a comedy of errors of tragic proportions, but after watching his own love interest completely subsumed by Malice, you totally get WHY he’d be seduced here. It’s bizarre and a little incestuous. But you get it.

4. With Wolverine, in a limited series
Thumbs up here. This was an odd pairing, I admit. But if you could ever get your hands on this 4 issue limited series from the 80’s, it’s worth your time. Strange point of interest: can you think of two people who don’t share great love for Scott Summers?

5. As the team leader of the government sponsored team X-Factor
Thumbs up! Man, the highly underappreciated second run on this comic featuring Havok, his returned lost love Polaris, Strong Guy, Multiple Man, Quicksilver and Wolfsbane mixed humor and issues about human rights to excellent effect. I really loved this team and I love that after a long run of insecurity, Alex starts to seem more like Scott here. He’s not as comfortable or as confidant with the role, but he’s got that ‘natural leader Summers’ thing going on.

I thought this was cool too, because to some extent it freed the ‘old guard’ up to try new things. With Scott and Jean now married, you kind of felt like Alex and Lorna could step in to lead the troops, with Scott and Jean moving more towards mentoring and teaching. It’s all gone pretty well up until now, right? So…what happened then? Well…

6. As the suddenly evil leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants
Thumbs WAY down for this sudden and uncharacteristic plot twist. Alex became evil. He says it’s because he was so stressed out. He and Cyclops had a few good fights here, I admit. But this just…didn’t make any sense to me.

7. Traveling across time and space in a parallel universe in his own comic series called Mutant X that doesn’t make a lick of &*%$ing sense:
Yeah, thumbs down. I’m sorry- I know there are a couple of hardcore Mutant X fans out there. Because if nothing else, I guess it’s just different and you have to give it that?

But it’s kind of like if the people who wrote Age of Apocalypse went on a wild bender of drug use and cranked out a comic, that comic would be called Mutant X. ‘Nuff said.

8. As an X-Man again, but suddenly falling in love with some chick that I don’t even recognize because I haven’t been reading that many X-Men comics and leaving Lorna at the altar:
WHHOOOOAAAA, thumbs DOWN here. Why did they DO this? So all that pain, and that hurt…just to have them have an unhappy break-up together? Again I don’t see the point.

Other than someone, somewhere was like: “well, let’s just do something just to have something happen. Because we don’t know what else to do.”

The idea that Alex and Lorna have been miserable together all along really irks me (almost as much as it does Scott and Jean). Of course, speaking of shoddy rewrites, don’t get me started on the whole ‘Is Lorna Magento’s third child’ thing. I can’t even keep track anymore.) So, I was pretty disappointed at this point at where the path has led us. But finally…

9. As the leader of the Starjammers:
FINALLY, thumbs UP here. This is a cool and interesting take on Alex I never would have thought of. It puts him in a leadership position, but it’s different and weird enough to really differentiate him from Scott.

Another really strange part of this is that Scott and Alex’s father, Christopher Summers, ended up the leader of these intergalactic freedom fighter/pirate types. The circumstances of how Christopher fell into this are just downright bizarre and it’s always been one of the weirdest ‘connections’ in all of Marvel comics. But having Alex kind of step in to take dad’s place somehow makes the whole thing ‘fit’ better for me.

It brings up more of what made Alex "Alex" to begin with- there’s plenty of space for him to wrestle with living up to his father and big brother’s legacy, but also learning to do things his way. Really, everything that’s happened in The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire and War of Kings has been pretty interesting. Recommended.

So let’s just hope we can more forward from here, in a positive direction. That’s all I ask.