The first “arc” of Marvel’s new X-Men Gold, written by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by Ardian Syaf, has just wrapped with issue three. The book was sold to new readers as a jumping-on point while Marvel has been proclaiming they’d be “going back to basics” and avoiding “politics” after indications infusing their lines with identity politics has tanked sales.
Yet the X-Men Gold series has been marred with problems. Syaf planted references to Indonesian politics, specifically quoting a Quran verse antagonistic towards Jews and Christians (which, given the book’s trajectory, is rather ironic). X-Men Gold’s first issue begins with a tone-setting talking head page, as “The Fact Channel” shows an interview with Lydia Nance, the “Heritage Initiative Director.”
She’s pointedly anti-mutant and a new character created for the series. The Heritage Initiative chyron was snuck in there, and if it weren’t for the second issue calling attention to the name, it could very well have been innocuous.
In issue two the X-Men confront the “New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants” after they bomb the United Nations. Punching ensues, then the X-Men sit down with Captain America to talk about their new adversaries, which is when the “Heritage” name shifts from maybe a coincidence to a pointed reference to the actual Heritage Foundation, a mainstream conservative think tank in Washington DC.
Captain America says, “Heritage Initiative. They call themselves a ‘think tank,’ but if you were to ask me—” and Kitty Pryde, now leader of the X-Men, completes his thought with, “they’re a bunch of anti-mutant racists.”
It’s later revealed that Lydia Nance and the Heritage Initiative planned and funded the terrorist attacks to get the public to hate mutants so they can start deporting them. The X-Men discover her scheme, break into her home, assault her, and vow to bring her to justice. What justice?
Public exposure. Not exposure of specific deeds, but of her lack of virtue. This is key: Kitty doesn’t threaten the “Heritage Initiative” chief with publicly revealing her instigation of kidnapping, terrorism, etc. — she threatens to reveal she’s a bigot! In Guggenheim’s new take on the X-Men, actual criminal acts are less damning than wrongthink.
To review, the new villain of the X-Men Universe is a barely disguised stand-in for the Heritage Foundation and the X-Men assault the president of said organization. This is after the publisher said Marvel was going to move away from politics.
This Is a Far Deeper than the Quran Reference
Plenty of people already wanted to jump down the editors’ throats for the mess with the artist on the book, but that’s been mitigated because, first, Marvel editor in chief Axel Alonso has said he doesn’t believe artists for comics matter and, second, to catch Syaf’s messaging you had to be familiar with Indonesian politics and the Quran, and follow him on Facebook.
In the Heritage scenario, however, Guggenheim puts his disdain for those on half of America’s political spectrum right there on the page. The editors should have noticed Guggenheim’s use of Heritage combined with making the X-Men a stand-in for today’s hot-button political group, illegal immigrants, especially when their supposed directive was to be “less political.
Comics have always had political angles, but never have mainstream books been so over-the-top preachy and vehement in vilifying the creators’ political enemies. Now every creator is also on Twitter, constantly spewing their opinions about everything so a large number of readers can discover these artists don’t like them.
Marvel has a serious problem: they release up to 50 single issues a month, for which they charge on average of $3.99 each, with a page count between 20 and 24 loaded with ads. Couple that with books including titles like “Gwenpool” (apparently a mix between Gwen Stacey, Spider-Man’s dead-for-years girlfriend, and Deadpool?) and Occupy Avengers (remember Occupy?).
They have an incredibly successful film and television division but can’t seem to sell new books that feature the characters. Is it because for the cost of two issues of a comic you can watch Netflix for a month, which includes about four full days’ worth of Marvel TV? Possibly. The movies are great, but there’s no way for someone who watched the movie to enter the comics world.
There’s no obvious tie-in, and each book sharing the title of a movie shares little in plot or characterization with the movie. Captain America is either Sam Wilson or an Agent of Hydra (allegedly), Wolverine is dead but there’s an old alternate universe version of him walking around (try making sense of that one, reader who just saw “Logan”), Iron Man is currently a teenage girl or Dr. Doom, and Thor is now Natalie Portman. At least the Hulk is still a nerd, although now he’s a teenage Asian.
None of these books invite new readers who are only familiar with the movies. Even if they tried, the comics are being written and edited by wannabe political pundits who can hardly hide their disdain for those they disagree with. Here’s a case in point:
— Marc Guggenheim (@mguggenheim) May 6, 2017
Shit, Venezuela is previewing America's future. https://t.co/YzUA2Jf8FQ
— Marc Guggenheim (@mguggenheim) May 5, 2017
In honor of May the 4th, we watched Revenge of the Sith. pic.twitter.com/kBU7r2D3ZS
— Marc Guggenheim (@mguggenheim) May 5, 2017
Rachel attacks Lydia Nance in X-Men Gold 3. Yet way back in “Uncanny X-Men 207” in 1987, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Romita Jr., Rachel invaded the home of the immortal mutant-vampire Selene, to torture and kill her. If anyone had it coming, it was Selene, who subsisted on the murder of innocents over millennia. Rachel had Selene cornered and was about to murder the villain, when a badly wounded Wolverine showed up to dissuade Rachel from the deed.
Rachel refused to listen — Selene deserved it, she said. Logan responded that this isn’t what heroes are. Then he warned Rachel: he would do whatever it took to stop this murder, even of Selene. Rachel dared him to try. The issue ends with a full panel reading: “SNIKT.” That’s the special-effects sound for Wolverine popping his claws.
Thirty years later, Rachel gets her way. And the X-Men are on board.