Classic Comic Fridays: X-Men – God Loves, Man Kills

The first Friday of each month, I will review a classic comic from my own personal collection.

God Loves Man Kills

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.

X-Men God Loves Man Kills

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:

God Loves Man Kills

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.

Grade: 8/10

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’!

X-Factor and Racism

Have I told you how much I love Peter David’s X-Factor? I don’t believe I have, given I’ve never reviewed the book on here before. Shame on me.

Seems like the best time to do it is now, given all of the racist hooplah ruining the world as of late.

X-Factor

X-Factor #217
Peter David (writer), Emanuela Lupacchino (pencils), Guillermo Ortego (inks), Matt Milla (colours), Cory Petit (letters), David Yardin and Sonia Oback (cover). $2.99

Hunting for a murdered friend of J. Jonah Jameson, the hired X-Factor team splits up into two groups. Longshot, along with Rictor, Shatterstar and Madrox work to unveil the face of the killer at the scene of the crime, while Monet, Banshee and Strong Guy act as Jameson’s bodyguards.

The story quickly pieces itself together, building up to a tremendous finale. With some brilliant dialogue from David, the reader is left to wonder about relations between Longshot and Shatterstar, while worrying how quickly X-Factor can stop the killer.

What stands out for some great reading is the battle of emotions and religion between Monet and a New York audience about both racism and mutantcy. Jameson gets himself into the brawl and puts the protesters in their place with his quick wit. Crafty words are one of David’s greatest highlights with X-Factor and they can always guaranteed you’ll be glued to the page.

I’ve always been fond of Lupacchino’s work as I feel she can generate any facial expression flawlessly. This holds true in the issue with a great moment with Jameson and his bodyguard after being entranced by Banshee’s speech. She’s just a fantastic, unfortunately over-looked artist. At a monumental, if not one of the most important endings in recent X-Factor stories, Lupacchino beautifully crafts what may be a terrible blow to the X-Factor family.

My little beef, if any at all, comes from Black Cat’s almost irrelevant appearance. Admittedly, I can see her purpose for the next issue, but it was so minuscule that it almost seemed unwarranted. I would have rather preferred more dialogue with Monet and the protesters, or hey! even the mystery behind Longshot and Shatterstar! But I guess beggar’s can’t be choosers.

As probably one of the most powerful X-Factor’s yet – for both message and storyline – David and gang make it clear why X-Factor is the best X-book on the market.

Grade: 8/10

One big difference between San Francisco and New York is that there is prejudice in New York towards Muslims for particular reasons. But the reason why I really wanted to write this piece is because of my Twitter. After the earthquake in Japan, trending topics became “Pearl Harbor” and “Katrina.” By all means, both were tragedies. But the problem I saw was few people stating “The earthquake was karma for Pearl Harbor.” I could not believe it.

So I’ll say it right now: in no way do I agree with intolerance. I hate racism and wish it was abolished. But my point is yet to come.

Now I would like you to see Dean Stell’s review of X-Men Legacy #245. This is entirely relevant because there, Dean touches upon something to which I completely agreed on in the comments below:

One of the problems the franchise has suffered from over the last few decades is that as a society, the United States has become MUCH more multicultural and accepting of differences. . . Now, in 2011, a lot of those nasty old bigots are dead, it seems like half of the high school kids I know either are multi-ethnic or are involved in a multi-ethnic relationship and outside of certain religious groups, homosexuality has become a non-issue. This has made our world a better place, but it has taken that cultural relevance away from the X-Men. Nowadays, I just don’t buy the average Joe in an X-Men comic yelling, “Them muties gotta die!”

I read this and realized that in recent years, Mutants have become greatly accepted in their world. The X-Men are heroes in San Francisco, and there seems to be little, if any bigotry. Dean is right – it just doesn’t work anymore. And when it happens, it’s either too forced or seems entirely unnatural.

Then came X-Factor #217, where it does work.

The funny thing (not really) is that it has the problem has always been there, but the X-comics seemed to forget about it. But suddenly in X-Factor, the X-Men social relevance reinforced itself.

A crowd shouts, “Keep the strangers out!” “We don’t need more Muslim terrorists getting in [New York]!” “Yeah! They’re as bad as mutants!”

Monet appears. “Oh, really? I’m a Muslim and a mutant. Care to take it up with me?”

And so the crowd argues with her, saying wherever her type goes, death with happen.

She replies, “Which ‘type’ is that? Mutants or Muslims?” She continues, “Bad enough to be condemned for what you are. Imagine being hated for what you’re not.”

Monet St. Croix

From there, Jameson jumps in and gives the crowd a quick history lesson on America.

But with Monet. Powerful words.

And the thing is, I don’t remember the last time this was a problem with the X-Men. It has always been vague underlying factor – their move to San Francisco; forced to live on Utopia – for sure the X-Men have had their fair share of prejudice against them. But from recent memory, when was it this bad? When was it a mindset of a society, rather than some bad guy wanting to attack mutants?

Currently in Uncanny X-Men, regular humans are paying to become mutants. In X-Men Legacy and New Mutants, there is prejudice against mutants in a futuristic world – but beyond that, they’re all accepted in San Francisco and asked to help out. Sure, mutants have been attacked by Bastion who hated mutants. But it would be harder to compare it to a social mindset. If anything, it was a comparison to how the military is ran or like religious extremists – if any at all.

What I’m trying to say is that in recent comic books, and most importantly in the X-Men books, I have not seen a blatant call-out against racism. Unless I look for it in the Bastion example above, I cannot just name it. For the X-Men to be the “benchmark” of social commentary in terms of acceptance of other people, I find that it has swayed away from it a lot for years. And even when it seemed “bad” post M-Day (people going up to Xaviers School and trying to get rid of the remaining mutants) it was really all fantasy and seemed forced rather than natural.

Now, it feels real. And when it does feel real again, we know there’s a problem.

Kudos to Peter David.