While he may have begun as a jovial hero, the last two decades explain why the Beast of Krakoa is such a dark figure.
During the current era of Krakoa, many of the classic X-Men foes have found new life as surprisingly heroic figures. But there have also been some heroes who’ve forced themselves to ignore their more heroic impulse and become crueler. Arguing it’s for the greater good, there’s no one who has done this more overtly than perhaps Beast — who has referred to himself as the “bastard” that Krakoa needs to survive and has even admitted to having dark thoughts about humanity.
While at first glance this transformation can come as a surprise considering his former jovial self, it actually tracks with the development Beast has been going through for the last two decades — which has seen Beast increasingly embrace darker elements of the world in a bid to survive both on a personal level and with mutants on a larger scale.
For a long time, Beast was one of the more personable of the X-Men. A loquacious and talkative friend to anyone who could look past his animalistic appearance, Beast was frequently portrayed as a brilliant and often soft-spoken man, to contrast his more fearsome appearance. This was in part what led him to become perhaps the most prominent X-Man to join the Avengers in the 20th century, fitting in well with the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. But at the dawn of the 21st century, the character — and the X-Men as a whole — went through a far darker evolution. Spurred on by a secondary mutation that amplified his beastal appearance in New X-Men by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, Beast became increasingly aware — and self-pitying — about his changing appearance.
Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassiday took this further, with Beast growing increasingly concerned with this development. He even openly considered taking the Mutant Cure, stripping himself of his powers and restoring his “humanity” regardless of the impact a founding X-Man going through such a process would appear to the masses. Although he retained a comical edge to him (and his brief romance with Abigail Brand allowed him to snark a bit more around the edges), this era saw Beast becoming increasingly conflicted as a character. Then came the events of House of M by Brian Michael Bendis and Oliver Copiel — which in turn led to Decimation, when the mutant population was vastly reduced and the remnants of the species found themselves on the edge of extinction.
In the fallout of Decimation, Beast became increasingly desperate to find a cure for the ails of his people. He committed himself to finding ways to restore the X-Gene — even resorting to working with his most deadly and personal foes, like his alternate universe (and nefarious scientist) Dark Beast. And while he could say all of this came from a place of wanting to help, it increasingly pushed him to embrace brutal tactics. Following the events of Schism by Jason Aaron and a team of artists, Beast left to seemingly reinspire hope as a teacher at the Jean Grey Institute of Higher Learning. But in secret, he worked alongside the Illuminati — and even brought time-displaced versions of the original five X-Men to the present, almost dooming the entire timeline in the process.
The current Beast isn’t the first time the character has had to become more morally dubious — it’s just the first time he’s being honest about his actions. After years of trying to explain away his behavior or make a case for the necessity of his actions, the present-day Beast bluntly states to himself and others that for Krakoa to survive, there needs to be someone willing to make those hard decisions — and that given his recent history over the last two decades, it quietly makes a lot of sense that it would be him. It’s the ultimate codifying of the development multiple writers have given him across the years, transforming the bouncing ball of energy into one of the X-Men’s most ruthless commanders — and it tracks with how the character acted during the darkest ages of mutant history.
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