X-Men: God Loves, Man Extends

“We wanted something that would read as good we, we hoped, in 5 years if not 20, as it did in that day. And goodness knows, we seemed to have pulled it off.” – Chris Claremont

X-Men and its themes hold a lot of importance to people. Wolverine is one of the most published comic book superheroes in circulation today, an entire generation of kids grew up on the Fox Kids cartoon, and the movies were groundbreaking in their own, slightly awful way. People know of what the X-Men represent and each media property has the same theme running underneath the blue and gold spandex — what it means to be “the other.” 

To some, it’s an analogy for minority rights. For others, it’s a found family of relatable weirdos. Either way, X-Men is at it’s best when examining what makes people unconventional and how that shapes who they are as individuals. No X-Men story distills the essence of this better than God Loves, Man Kills.

Originally released as a graphic novel in 1982, God Loves, Man Kills focuses on a religious crusade determined to cleanse mutantkind in the name of God. It addressed complex issues many comic books at the time couldn’t, such as the growing influence of televangelism in politics, racial discrimination, and the idea of passing privilege. It’s also a beautiful piece of art in its own right and still holds up terrifically today. When my book club covered it in 2019 it struck us how relevant it still was after so much time. So, you can imagine my surprise that Marvel would publish a two-issue “Extended Cut” in 2020 featuring new content by the original writer and artist. 

The first issue of this new Extended Cut was released back on July 8, 2020, and the second issue, well, yesterday. I have some feelings I need to share immediately. 

Firstly, this book is a reprint with additional content. The same God Loves, Man Kills is still here in all of its seminal glory yet its new context is wildly different. It’s distinct in a way you can’t help but focus on. 

The new framing sequence in issue #1 is a five-page dialogue between “Kitty Pryde” and a character who isn’t introduced (previously introduced in Claremont’s X-Men: Black – Magneto of all places) before hard-cutting on page six into the lynching sequence from the original graphic novel. I found this off-putting and I can’t understand why Pryde would inflict that dark imagery on a teenager mid-conversation. Issue #2 picks-up with the other half of the original story and at its conclusion reintroduces the conversation in the framing sequence. When the girl asks why she is hearing the entire plot of God Loves, Man Kills Pryde can’t provide an exact answer. Nothing tangible at least, which is ironic given her mutant abilities. She then phases away before the girl is accosted by some O.N.E. federal agent I don’t recognize dressed as a Sentinel named Warden. The end.

The thematic incongruency of these new sequences with the original graphic novel and the implications are just… totally ill-fitting. As much as I can normally appreciate Salvador Larroca’s covers and Brent Eric Anderson’s artwork, they fail to justify a re-release with a flawed premise.

Pryde wasn’t physically around for a good chunk of God Loves, Man Kills. The story is told from a third-person omniscient perspective, largely focusing on the conversations of the followers of the Reverend William Stryker. It’s not like the telepaths of the X-Men would have gathered around a campfire to retell Professor X’s abduction and torture at the hands of an anti-mutant religious cult. Why is Kate Pryde randomly telling this human girl, whom we do not see experience any form of visible prejudice, this very specifically themed story?

I suppose the payoff of Issue #2 is the suggestion that mutantkind is still locked in the old power struggle with the Federal USA government. That Kate should still be going by Kitty. No mention of any status quo that disagrees with Claremont’s own vision. Just some subtle shade in a panel between Scott Summers and Charles Xavier, presumably aimed at Hickman’s Krakoa. As a fan and reader of X-Men who has seen Claremont’s vision for the X-Men, I do not want.

I missed the announcement of this Extended Cut. Both parts of this re-release ended up in my pull because the folks at my local comic shop know how much I enjoy mutants and I wanted to buy what comics I could in this slow drip during pandemic. I can’t say I regret supporting the shop, but I do wish I didn’t own a copy of my favourite X-Men story that I’ll never read again. 

I found the extra content here superfluous. It doesn’t enhance or expand on the original graphic novel despite reuniting the original talent. It is yet another example of Marvel providing Chris Claremont with a chance to opine on his legacy. The original perspective he gave in the interview published with Issue #1 (quoted above) was correct — the graphic novel was just fine as it was. It didn’t need updating decades later.

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