The first Friday of each month, I will review a classic comic from my own personal collection.
I’ve been doing something a bit different with these past few CCF reviews. To keep that going, and to celebrate its release on trade paperback earlier last month, comes Marvel Graphic Novel #5: X-Men – God Loves, Man Kills. I really wanted to speak about it because of it’s overall message.
The story is a turning point in the world of the X-Men. It’s probably one of the most in-your-face stories without trying to hide behind some super villain like Magneto, or huge robots like the Sentinels. This is a story which is very plausible. The results are anything less than astounding.
Marvel Graphic Novel #5: X-Men – God Loves, Man Kills (December, 1982)
Chris Claremont (writer), Brent Anderson (pencils, inks, cover), Steve Oliff (colours), Tom Orzechowski (letterer). $5.95
I’m sure you’ve heard of William Stryker. You remember the main villain in the movie X2: X-Men United – the one guilty for giving Wolverine his adamantium skeleton? The one guilty for the Weapon X project? Well this is where Stryker first appeared. But he was nothing of what he was in the movie.
Here, in God Loves, Man Kills (GLMK), William Stryker is a reverend, and we see early in the story that he hates mutants and wishes them all to be cleansed from the earth. In fact, he has a team of religious fanatics called the Purifiers (which you may of heard in X-stories already) who do Stryker’s mutant assassination for him. All of this is done in the name of god. Stryker believes mutants are indeed the “homo superior”, but are not “homo sapien.” Thus, they are products of the devil and must be destroyed.
Stryker’s seems nothing like how he’s portrayed in the second X-Men movie, is he? Neither is the story.
This story is blunt with its readers by contrasting humans and mutants with racial subjection. Within the story’s first few pages, a black family is killed in cold blood – not because of colour – but because the parents bore a son who was a mutant. Then the mutant son and human daughter are executed in the first two pages, then strung up on a swing set for the rest of the world to see. A sign posted on the boy reads “Muties.”
Cut to Kitty Pryde fighting a boy at Stevie Hunters dance studio. She’s fighting because the boy’s family supports Stryker’s endeavors. The boy is unaware of Kitty’s powers, so Stevie jumps in to stop the fight and tells Kitty to back down before she uses them on the boy. Despite knowing that Kitty’s a mutant, Stevie talks to Kitty to calm her down:
These blatant comparisons to real-life issues are what the basis of the X-Men grew to be. Lately, there have not been many comparisons between racism and mutants, but it is stories like in GLMK which bring us a wake up call by a slap to the face.
GLMK is not a story about hate upon religion. It is definitely not a spite against god, either. It is the idea of hate reaching out and becoming ever-engrossing by shielding itself behind an ideal to be justified. GLMK successfully shows us this with its story.
Stryker becomes so powerful with his rhetoric that he gets to speak at a stadium to preach his word on behalf of god. There, he faces a final showdown with the X-Men with quite a surprise twist.
That twist, too, is a perfect example of how society operates. Without spoiling it, the end recedes what Claremont built up in the entire story. In a way, GLMK becomes a story of Good versus Evil versus Good. It implies the analogy of grass being green on the other side and shows that there is still a continuous loop to what is defined as both good and evil.
I cannot talk about the moral of the story without mention of Brent Anderson’s moody pages. As a graphic novel, these stories get a lot more attention to than regular comic books. It shows.
Immense time and effort was placed into crafting a grim story amongst a fearful backdrop of hate and despair. Anderson successfully hits every mood with every turn of the page. Even when the climactic ending comes into play, the positive feeling the reader should get with the falling action is narrowed by Anderson’s art. As both the drawer and inker, Anderson has no boundaries to how he makes wonderful sketches seem downright terrifying.
Steve Oliff’s colours hit the mark. Rarely are pages splashed with colours to give any sort of hope to the mutants. Even on a sunny day, Oliff works the panels to still suggest danger afoot. Even with the image above between Stevie and Kitty, Oliff’s use with white, red and black tones really separate the different feels in each panel.
GLMK is a phenomenal story which I would suggest is deeply prevalent, even today. With the recent reactions and discussions from the public on the death of Osama bin Laden, it is somewhat frightening that thirty years later, GLMK could still a possible and harsh reality.
A story that never stops teaching is a story always worth reading.
As a side note: I went to the midnight viewing of Thor. I would definitely say it was the most accurate portrayal of a Marvel character, and I was quite happy with the film. It is certainly worth seeing a few times. Tons of love and screen time was given to Sif and the Warrior’s Three – which is something I was not expecting. There’s also tons of little tidbits added into the film for Marvel fans to enjoy – so stay sharp!
Don’t forget to stay after the credits.
Keep on Space Truckin’!