Have the X-Men become as bad as the Sentinels they used to live in fear of? It's a timely question, given the events of Marvel Comics' recent release of Hellions #8, which reveals a dark secret about the X-Men's mutant nation of Krakoa, and its government's clandestine agenda. (SPOILERS) That agenda involves nothing less than the monitoring and extermination of artificial intelligence, anywhere that it might develop. The Hellions gang carries out that order with extreme prejudice, effectively annihilating an entire race of newly-evolving A.I. robots that had just befriended, on the orders of Magneto and Krakoa's Quiet Council.
The two-issue arc of Hellions 7-8 saw classic X-Men villain Cameron Hodge return from the dead (again) to attack the Hellions on behalf of the extremist group, the Right. Hodge (who became part of the Phalanx, back when) infected some battle-bots with the techo-organic virus, which makes them evolve and gain self-awareness. The bots eventually start to break from the "Hodgemind" that Hodge used to command them, and quickly reassessed whether the mutants they were tasked to kill are in fact enemies or allies. In the end, Cameron Hodge (hilariously) discovers that he, too, is just a robot, and not the actual Hodge resurrected. He dies ordering his minions to shoot him down, to prove he's real (he's not, and they do).
That's where Hellions takes a dark turn, with an even darker reveal.
Havok makes strides in convincing the new "Uni-Intention" collective that mutantkind was its friend. Mutant and machine bonded over the notion of leaving humanity aside and building their own respective independent societies. Havok was feeling really proud about building bridges - and totally unprepared for what the rest of his teammates were unleashing.
Psylocke turns out to be the Quiet Council's operative on the Hellions for carrying out Krakoa's "The Hesiod Protocol" list, and taking out the Uni-Intention with a Krakoan smart-virus. That's when we learn what Krakoa's protocol towards A.I. really is:
Hesiod Protocol Tenets:
- As A.I. have been weaponized against mutantkind in the past, so shall it be in the future.
- Like all A.I., anti-mutant code evolves toward self-awareness.
- It is better to poison a seed than to fell a tree
Hesiod Protocol Practices1comments
- Monitor occurrences of self-aware anti-mutant A.I.
- Report said occurrences directly to the Council.
- Develop targeted viruses to render malignant code inert.
The X-Men have plenty of reason to fear the rise of A.I. In countless futures or alt-universes of the X-Men's timeline, machines have been their mortal enemy or ultimate doom. In fact, Marvel's House of X reboot pretty much established that machines will be the other offshoot of humanity that eventually evolves into a dominant species - and that there's not enough room for mutants and machines to both occupy that space.
So are the X-Men wrong for essentially taking on a policy of techno-genocide, in the name of preserving their future? It sounds a little morally shaky at best. After all, the Sentinels were created to control, corral, or eradicate the mutant threat, before it grew out of control. Are the X-Men any better for essentially doing the same thing?
Marvel's new line of X-Men comics (including Hellions) is available for sale.