Saturday, June 13, 2009

1982 - Marvel Graphic Novel #5: X-Men

Marvel Graphic Novel #5:
X-Men - God Loves, Man Kills
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Brent Anderson

I remember picking up this graphic novel early in my collecting career. Up till then I had never really read a comic book meant for a more mature audience. I was used to reading lighter fair, like Amazing Spider-Man and Uncanny X-Men, and I distinctly recall being shocked by this comic. Some of the subject matter really engraved itself in my mind; for example, the crucifixion of Professor X and the murder of those young mutants in the prologue. This graphic novel was a departure from the usual X-Men in that I really had a disturbing feeling that the X-Men were really facing a deadly threat.

Reverend Stryker, believing he is on a personal mission from God, launches a religion campaign to brutally deal with mutants. Professor X, clinging to his dream of a peaceful coexistence between humankind and mutantkind, is caught off guard by Stryker's conviction and resources. The leaderless X-Men form an temporary alliance with their former arch-enemy Magneto who views this whole situation as the true feelings of humankind rising to the surface.

Brent Anderson, of Astro City fame, provides the artwork for this graphic novel. His only other X-Men works where X-Men Annual #5 and Uncanny X-Men #159. His style really brings a realism to the story. There isn't any over-the-top muscular hero or impossibly-large chested women, just very human portraits of characters. The colourist, Steve Oliff, definitely deserves part of the praise for the artwork. His strong, moody colours really set the tone and atmosphere.

Claremont takes the Stan Lee formula from the early X-Men which saw them persecuted for being mutants and raises its a level adding a disturbing religious fervor to it. He does a fabulous job at really making you hate Stryker, but at the same time, you really understand who he is and his motivation. This story has many levels which make it the great piece of work that it is. All great storytelling arises from conflict, and this story has several conflict each on different levels. Professor X is forced to question his dream, the X-Men, the embodiment of his dream, are also challenged, and of course how this dream comes into conflict with Stryker's crusade.

Easily one of the most powerful X-Men stories and perhaps one of the most accessible as it doesn't depend on any X-Men continuity.

An interesting note is that Neal Adams was actually supposed to draw this graphic novel. However, he only drew 8 pages before his contract was terminated apparently after a contract dispute. You can see those 8 pages in the X-Men Visionaires - Neal Adams graphic novel.

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