Wednesday, 7 December 2011

X Men

Warning: This post contains a minor spoiler for Ultimate Comics: X Men #  1. If that bothers you, you can stop reading now... And if it doesn't bother you, then why not? You should read Ultimate Comic: X Men # 1.

I maintain there is no other medium of media that is as perfectly suited to the "twist in the tale" than comic books. Films twists are great, but there, the pace of the interaction is dictated by a far off director. A good twist in a book is great, but the visuality of it all is up to you. 

With comics, it's a juxtaposition of both the visual effect and the turning the page when you are ready and at your own pace. That, for me, results in more gasp-worthy moments than I've had anywhere else.

One book that never disappoints on this front has always been the X Men.

At its core, the X Men is the story of a persecuted minority coming to the aid and protection of the persecuting and bigoted majority because of a belief in the basic tenets of humanity. The very humanity that is denied to them by the majority.

Powerful stuff. (If you buy into it!) Of course, there are space battles and the stuff of sci-fi along the way, but at it's heart, the X Men is all about the battle to embrace difference, and the struggle that it is to be unaccepted, and also to be the un-acceptor (if that's a word...).

In the most recent comic in the Marvel Ultimate universe, Jean Grey, great stalwart of the X Men, arrives at the house of a newly powered teenage mutant (stay with me....!) who we see in the background playing joyfully in a home video on the TV screen with new powers of telekinesis. 

This story has been told before, so many times up to now Jean Grey has wowed the parent with the promise of excellent education combined with the assurance of control over the aforementioned uncontrollable powers. However, this time the spiel doesn't go as expected. Halfway through the conversation, the mother breaks down, and they hear a bang from upstairs. Turning the page, the next panel is this:

The parents of this 12 year old girl chose to put her out of her "misery" rather than force her to grow up in a world that sees her as an abomination. The mixture of the images of the joy on the girls face on the TV screen and the utter devestation on the parents faces is not an easy one to look at, but a powerful one to remember.

They have given in to the fear of what's different, and it's clear that this is a direction and a theme this run of issues is going to go in. The parents in the story have allowed this fear to consume them, to the extent that they are willing to sacrifice the child they have brought up.

Shocking stuff. Bet you weren't expecting that were you?

So, out of this, I'm thankful for messages and lessons in unexpected places, and for art, artists and storytellers who try to translate those messages in creative and ever-reaching ways.

And I'm thankful for the X Men. For all they have taught me over the years and continue to, both shocking, challenging and entertaining.

You should give them a go...

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