Tuesday, May 2, 2023

#IReadsYou Review: X-MEN GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS Extended Cut #1


STORY: Christopher Claremont
ART: Brent Eric Anderson
COLORS: Steve Oliff
LETTERS: Tom Orzechowski
EDITOR: Louise Jones (original); Jennifer Grunwald (extended cut)
EiC: Jim Shooter (original); Akira Yoshida a.k.a. C.B. Cebulski (extended cut)
COVER: Salvador Larroca with Guru-eFX
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Brent Anderson; Rod Reis; Giuseppe Camuncoli and Erick Arciniega
44pp, Color, $4.99 U.S. (June 2020)

Rated T+

The X-Men created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

The X-Men are a Marvel Comics superhero team and franchise created by writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Jack Kirby.  In The X-Men #1 (cover dated: September 1963), readers were introduced to a professor who was also team-leader to his students.  Each student had unique powers and abilities because he or she was a “mutant.”

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills (Marvel Graphic Novel #5) was an original graphic novel published in 1982 by Marvel Comics.  It was written by Christopher Claremont and illustrated by Brent Eric Anderson.  Colorist Steve Oliff and letterer Tom Orzechowski completed the graphic novel's creative team.  The story pits the X-Men and their longtime enemy, Magneto, against a fanatical religious leader bent on exterminating “mutantkind.”  The graphic novel went on to become one of the most popular and beloved X-Men stories of all time.  Elements of the God Loves, Man Kills were used in the 2003 X-Men, film, X2: X-Men United.

Back in 2020, Marvel republished X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills as a two-issue miniseries, entitled X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills Extended Cut.  The series divides the story in two parts and brackets it with a new ten-page framing sequence or story produced by the original story's creating team.  The first issue of this “extended cut” opens with five pages of the framing sequence and the second issue ends with the other five pages.

In this new sequence, the member of the X-Men known as Kitty Pryde and her pet dragon, Lockheed, are in southwest Texas.  There, Kitty visits a young woman named Kate who met Erik Lehnsherr a.k.a. “Magneto.”  Kitty has decided to tell the young woman the story that is X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills.

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills Extended Cut #1 opens in the “Gold Star Cafe,” somewhere in southwest Texas.  There, Kitty Pryde of the X-Men meets Kate, a friend of Magneto, and decides to tell her the story of a time when Kitty was new to the X-Men and was known by the code name, Ariel.

Once upon a time, there was a popular and fanatical religious leader named William Stryker who led a religious organization called the “Stryker Crusade.”  Under the guise of evangelical Christianity, Stryker hatched a plot to destroy all mutants on Earth.  To begin, Stryker targeted Charles Xavier a.k.a. Professor X, the lynch pin to his plot.

To get to Xavier, Stryker will have to go through the X-Men:  Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Kitty Pryde/Ariel.  To fight the X-Men, Stryker had a strike force, a form of armor-wearing men he called the “Purifiers.”

Professor X and his X-Men were unaware of the danger to their lives.  Colossus' younger sister, Illyana, was also living with the team.  After Professor X and two of his X-Men are captured, the X-Men begin to fight back, but they will find themselves needing help from the greatest enemy, Magneto.

THE LOWDOWN:  I read X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills several times in my youth, but prior to reading this reprint series, I don't think that I had read it in decades.  I didn't read the sequel to it that Chris Claremont wrote for his former X-Men comic book series, X-Treme X-Men (2001-04).  Entitled “God Love, Man Kills Part II, it ran from X-Treme X-Men #25 (July 2003) to X-Treme X-Men #30 (October 2003).  The entire story line was collected in the trade paperback, X-Treme X-Men Vol. 5: God Love, Man Kills (October 2003).

It turns out that I had forgotten quite a bit of “God Loves, Man Kills.”  That includes the action-packed final battle against the Purifiers and that final debate with William Stryker at the “Stryker Building.”  I also had forgotten that Claremont has Kitty Pryde use the term “nigger-lover” in anger at Stevie Hunter.  An African-America woman, Stevie was a recurring, non-mutant character, who mostly appeared in The Uncanny X-Men and New Mutants in the early 1980s.  Four decades later, I have to say that I don't like that scene very much and I'm not happy about the use of that term.  I'm not surprised that Marvel did not remove it, but I am sure that it would not be used today in a scene of a similar context.

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills is a pivotal point in the publication history of the X-Men.  I believe that the X-Men began as a group of costume adventurers and superheroes who were defined by the fact that they were mutants and who faced prejudice because of it.  However, the original X-Men comic book series also focused on the action and was essentially an adventure serial.

After the debut of the “new X-Men” in 1974, writer Chris Claremont wrote the X-Men comic book as a serialized soap opera, although the X-Men team of the time traveled around the world having adventures and facing one peril after another.  Under Claremont, the X-Men and mutants, in general, became outcasts because of their mutant status.  No matter what they did as superheroes, being a mutant overshadowed or defined their actions.

Eventually, the X-Men, which was eventually re-titled “Uncanny X-Men,” became a comic book in which the narrative focused on prejudice, bigotry, racism, and hate.  The X-Men's struggles were a metaphor for the struggles of persecuted and hated minority groups fighting to be accepted by the wider society.  What made them different did not make them “less human” was a recurring theme, even as the traveled around the world and off it.

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills was the point of no return.  Never again would the The Uncanny X-Men and its various spin-off series really be about adventure.  Past, present, and future – even future-past – would be about the mutant struggle and what forms the struggle would take.  Eventually, the X-Men would become a franchise that was insular and redundant.  I think that is why over time the Uncanny X-Men went from being a bestselling comic book franchise to being in the shadow of titles like Avengers, Batman, and Justice League, to name a few.

The mutant struggle became repetitive and tired and it began with a really memorable story, X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills.  The X-Men were once mutants who really wanted to prove that they could be the kind of superheroes who protected both mutants and humans and fought to save a world upon which both shared.  Then, the X-Men became just mutants.

Apparently, individual issues of comic books that are reprints of other individual comic books have been popular with buyers for more than a decade.  That is the only reason to reprint X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills Extended Cut.  The X-Men are not as relevant as they once were, and the original X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills was rendered irrelevant by repetition of its themes long ago.

As for the new framing sequence:  there is a kernel of something relevant in Claremont's scenario.  And Brent Anderson's art reminds us that he is still an important artist in the history of X-Men publications despite his small output in the franchise.  If one of the themes of X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills was and still is “hope,” then, X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills Extended Cut, at least for me, suggests that there is hope for the X-Men  It is hope that the franchise can be more than what it is now – a consumer product, an intellectual property (IP), and for some, a fetish.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of the original X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills will want to give X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills Extended Cut a try.

[This comic book includes two interviews, one with Chris Claremont and one with Brent Anderson.]

★★★½ out of 4 stars

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"


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