X-Men God Loves, Man Kills is one of my personal favorite comic book stories of all time. In fact, it is one of those stories that helped me define and solidify my developing ideas on just what civil rights and equality actually mean. It also helped explain and put into context what I was negatively reacting to about televangelism and religious extremism as it applied to the time in which the story was published.
In the story, televangelist Reverend William Stryker runs a ministry that is virulently opposed to mutants (who stand in for oppressed minority groups metaphorically) and secretly funds a religious paramilitary militia dedicated to the summary execution of mutants (which often parallel hate crime lynchings). Professor Xavier and his X-Men have a run in with Stryker and company, and end up teaming up with mutant supremacist/extremist Magneto to save Xavier from Stryker’s clutches. Magneto makes an offer to Xavier to join him at the end of the story, which Xavier rejects. He’d rather continue to work toward tolerance and peaceful integration in lieu of Magneto’s separatism. Without ever resorting to social justice warrior preaching, writer Chris Claremont crafts a story that outlived its time and remains relevant to today’s world, and especially the racial climate in America under Donald Trump.
It is rather interesting that Marvel Comics took this moment to republish God Loves, Man Kills with the gimmick of it being “expanded.” The expansion, based upon the first issue, is nothing more than the addition of a frame story that encapsulates the original story...although it is even more interesting that Kitty Pryde is chosen to tell the story of the events of God Loves, Man Kills since at this point in the current continuity of the The X-Men comic book franchise at Marvel Comics, she most likely would look back upon the events of God Loves, Man Kills as an unfortunate event that would never have happened under the current Xavier/Magneto alliance that supports mutant supremacy rather than mutant integration.
The X-Men now, under the direction of Jonathan Hickman, metaphorically represent a purified master race rather than a minority seeking peaceful integration in a diverse world. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise as much as it is a disappointment that The X-Men have morally and ethically devolved so under Hickman. This is the writer who gleefully wrote the murders of famous broadcast news talking heads in the pages of The Nightly News years before the press was declared the “enemy of the people,” and turned Marvel Comics’ stand in for Old World Totalitarianism and Feudalism, Doctor Doom, into Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s daughter’s beloved Uncle. Under Hickman, The X-Men have gone from protagonists in an ongoing tale about the dangers of religious (as well as all other) extremism to having Nightcrawler, a devout and inclusive Christian, declaring that he must now found his own exclusive mutant religion. My how the times have changed. I wonder how Stan Lee, something of a social justice warrior himself, would react.
All I can attest to is how I have reacted. I am heartbroken and, even more importantly, disheartened by the direction the X-Men have taken. Marvel Comics has always been near and dear to my heart, not just because of the fond memories of spending many a rainy afternoon, as a kid, on the floor of my bedroom reading stacks of Marvel Comics, but because reading Marvel Comics’ books was an activity that taught me scores about human relationships, which included the great capacity for human goodness, as well as the understanding that sometimes failure and the necessity to continue to fight the good fight are part of the human experience as well. I hope that Marvel Comics’ decision to republish God Lives, Man Kills at this point in history helps some other young developing mind that comes across it understand that racial division and supremacy are evils that need to be overcome and fought against, not surrendered to in order to tell a new tale, not only in fiction, but in the world right outside your window.