X-Men Gold #1 and the Death of Progessivism at Marvel Comics
By Andy Frisk
Apr 8, 2017 - 18:37
Publisher(s): Marvel Comics
Writer(s): Marc Guggenheim
Penciller(s): Ardian Syaf
Inker(s): Jay Leisten
Colourist(s): Frank Martin
Letterer(s): VC's Cory Petit
Cover Artist(s): Ardian Syaf, Jay Leisten, Laura Martin
Update: Around the time this article was published, Bleeding Cool published an article about the anti-Semitic and anti-Christian messages artist Ardian Syaf hid in his artwork for the issue. While Marvel Comics has denied any and all support for Syaf's messages, they have said nothing about the story line and its regressive messages.
Imagine this, a comic book story starts in the middle of a battle between an ISIL contingent and a capable division of Iraqi Security Forces. The people being defended by the Iraqi Security Forces are a group of Christians. The Iraqi Security Forces are victorious and repel the ISIL fighters, saving the lives of the Christians. The leader of the Iraqi Security Forces turns to the crowd of Christians who are not particularly moved by the heroism they just displayed, and is insulted by them by being called subhuman. The Iraqi Security Forces leader states that he understands that the Christians don't trust him and his comrades because they too are Muslim and vow to change the narrative and prove their heroism.
This is essentially the opening sequence of X-Men Gold #1. Replace the Iraqi Security Forces with X-Men, the ISIL fighters with the villain Terrax, and the Christians and their reaction with the innocent NYC bystanders and their reaction, and you pretty much have the same story. Kitty Pryde, now leader of the X-Men, reacts to the crowd with "I understand...that you've never trusted us" but now we are going to earn your trust. It's almost insulting, especially since the X-Men have represented the oppressed minority for decades and often were portrayed as justifiably not acknowledging that they owed anyone an explanation for being different or needing to prove that they were heroic, even though they did so selflessly time and again. They never had to admit that they were different and needed to prove that they were just as human as every one else.
Professor Xavier is turning over in his grave.
The progressive era at Marvel Comics is over.
It's now acceptable for average everyday citizens of the Marvel Universe to refer to a mutant as an "it" with just a minor chiding from their public leader. Indeed, it is now necessary for the majority of mutants to prove that they are not dangerous (i.e. a terrorist) because a minority of them are. Again, substitute Muslim (or any minority) for "mutant" (keeping in mind that mutant often equals "other" or minority in the Marvel Universe metaphorically and allegorically) and you can see just how far Marvel Comics is going to abandon the long term social justice themes that nearly all X-Men stories embodied.
The extremist as bad guy.
The regressive shift in tone doesn't end there.
The talking head that opens the story, who is appearing on the "Fact Channel," lays out a course of logic that justifies her bigotry, that she is claiming is not "bigotry," towards mutants since they are "HMDs" (Humans of Mass Destruction), it's instead just a natural desire to keep humanity safe. Her argument is fundamental to how Marvel Comics wants us to consider just exactly what "mutant" means going forward.
This would apparently make my argument at the outset of this article moot, since to Marvel Comics, mutants are now no longer meant to represent a repressed race, or minority, they are ALL a danger that needs corralled until they are proven to be on the side of the angels.
Again, see where this is going?
This is actually pretty frightening stuff. I am hesitant to draw a collusion between Marvel President Issac Perlmutter's support of Donald Trump, who actively stoked racial and religious fears and prejudices on the campaign trail last year, and this shift in Marvel storytelling policy and theme, but it is a tantalizing collusion to draw isn't it?
Right wing media is quick to cite Marvel's sales slump as a result of their progressive story lines and in your face liberal dialogue and images. The data behind this assertion is sketchy at best. The "in your face" liberal dialogue and images were poorly done, but that is to be chalked up to poor writing, not poor politics. A well written story shouldn't have to beat the reader over the head with platitudes and obviously inane dialogue bent and shaped into a diatribe. Sales slump because the stories are poorly told, not because the stories are too progressive, and conservative readers are "tired of being told how awful they are." The majority of the bad guys in Marvel Comics over the years have been totalitarians (Doctor Doom), authoritarian usurpers (Deathbird), left over Nazis (Red Skull), and political (Flag Smasher) and religious (Rev. William Stryker) extremists. They have not been everyday conservatives (see USAgent/Johnny Walker) or devout Christians (see Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner). If you identify with Doom, Skull, Deathbird, Flag Smasher, and Stryker...well, sorry...you ARE awful.
...and, again, the regressive turn doesn't end there either...
When Kitty had guts, and brains.
The X-Men set up their new school in the middle of NYC's Central Park and then Old Man Logan suggests to Kitty that he "claw" the taxman (representing the "tax and spend Democrat") who comes to collect, because, of course, taxes are bad. You'd think Kitty Pryde would have thought of this when she got the clearance to set up there. It appears that mutants are not just a minority that needs to prove its innocence (since by nature now they are all guilty of being destructive before even doing anything), but pretty dim witted as well. Nice.
It appears that groundbreaking and powerful stories like the brilliant and noble "God Loves Man Kills" or "Days of Future Past" are gone for good. In this new Marvel Comics storytelling context, the world of "Days of Future Past" might actually be the idealized utopia of the future...all the HMDs are dead or de-powered and the authoritarians are ascendant.
Again, Professor Xavier is turning over in his grave...along with Marvel Comics' progressiveness and decency.
There's a difference in returning the X-Men to "their heroic roots" and abandoning tolerance and understanding. Marvel Comics is making a grave error here. One which I hope they survive long enough to reverse.
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