Friday, 19 July 2013

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson review

The Reverend William Stryker and his eugenics-themed team of Purifiers set out to rid the world of mutants in a self-righteous fascistic campaign that has apparently entranced the general public. As Stryker prepares for his Nuremberg-rally-esque speech at Madison Square Garden, he manages to capture the Professor and use his psychic powers to nullify the rest of the X-Men.

God Loves, Man Kills is an embarrassing early 80s effort from Marvel as they allegedly attempt to address racism in this book. It's embarrassing because of the ham-fisted way Chris Claremont goes about it - the bad guys are cartoonishly bad while the question of racism is never really addressed in any meaningful way. It's like reading a child's attempt at writing a grown-up book.

Stryker is the crazy fire-and-brimstone preacher/demagogue that is the go-to archetype for hack writers when they want to portray a contemporary American villain type and I'm sure most Christians would be disgusted to even be considered on the same side as this lunatic. He's so one-dimensional that you can't take him seriously even for a second so that his character completely scuttles the story all by himself.

The X-Men meanwhile somehow find Stryker's Purifiers a challenge - they're just conventional henchmen with guns - but only because there wouldn't be a story if they didn't. It's such a contrived setup, written in Claremont's trademark exposition-everywhere style which weighs down entire panels with unnecessary thought bubbles telling you what's happening on the page if you're too stupid to understand from the drawings.

Moreover, this kind of book is totally pointless - the X-Men were created out of the civil rights movement. The story of the X-Men has always been a metaphor for black people or any oppressed group in society. Writing something as on-the-nose as God Loves, Man Kills is redundant because every X-Men story deals with prejudicial hatred and what being an outsider is like.

It's a waste of time talking about how someone like Stryker could gain the kind of prominence that he does in this book - mostly because he couldn't, not in the 80s, not now, not ever - or that any large group of people could consider him in the least bit credible - the resemblances to Hitler are too similar, deliberately so - instead, God Loves, Man Kills is too stupid to even discuss sensibly as its too extreme.

About the only good thing the book has going for it is that it partially influenced Bryan Singer's X2, the best X-Men movie to date, though Singer turned the story toward a gay rights focused direction (the contemporary civil rights struggle) and jettisoned the right wing Christian nonsense making his story far better in the process. It's also worth noting that Magneto's philosophical viewpoint is explored which would go on to define the character in the years that followed

Brent Anderson's art is just ok - it's very dated thanks to the characters' outfits while the X-Men themselves look very thick for some reason (not stupid just overly solid). The danger room sequence in particular is a laughable attempt at injecting excitement into the story (remember this is supposed to be about racism) and only serves to underline how limited the artist's imagination was in conceiving such clunky "futuristic" apparatuses. I suppose there is a kind of charm to those desk-sized computer designs. Also if you're a fan of Astro City, Anderson's style isn't as accomplished there as it is here (though to be honest I'm not a fan of his work in AC either).

God Loves, Man Kills is a really overrated book that's hopelessly dated, badly written, poorly conceived and executed, and does nothing to memorably or intelligently talk about racism ("it's bad" is about as deep as it gets). Granted, a couple of its ideas went on to become developed in more interesting X-Men works but it's not enough to salvage this sloppy, stupid mess of a comic.

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills

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