Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Real Relvance: The X-Men


If you don't like any of these guys, I don't care you as a person.
 
A while ago, I wrote an article on why Superman was still relevant. I used a slightly different definition of relevance to what is generally used by the comic-reading community. See, the community see relevant, and takes it to mean “good comic” or even “cool character”.

I’m not satisfied by that definition. For me, something’s relevant if it matters to society. If it encourages us to seek something outside of ourselves and become better for it. Today, I’m going to aim that definition on the X-Men.

Now, this comes not long after I’ve read Avengers Vs X-Men for the first time. I won’t go too much into it least I spoil the review, but it seemed to me that Marvel were very much trying to downplay the significance of the X-people because, y’know, Marvel no longer owns the movie rights. I can’t blame Marvel for trying to capitalise on the now insanely lucrative Avengers franchise, but they’re ignoring just how important the X-Men are not only to business, but to readers. Below follows a few reasons why the X-Men are relevant enough to earn respect.

A real community

We're all friends here.
The X-Men, more than any other Marvel franchise are more than a superhero team- they’re a society. There are groups within the team and those teams don’t always get along, but they all share a common goal; protect mutantdom. Sure, these guys may sock each other in the mouth more than once, but when it comes to, they’ll band together and do something great together. That’s not really something that I’ve seen in Avengers, which currently go the opposite way; a few groups that mostly get along, but will get mad at each other very easily.

We need to be reminded of that. In Australia, where I live, there is talk about taking rather oppressive legal action against Muslims following a botched attempt at terrorism by extremist sociopaths (because it's totally reflective of all Muslims- just like the Ku Klux Klan is reflective of all Christians and Stalin is reflective of all Atheists). We need reminders that it isn’t what separates us that matters, it’s what draws us together and the X-Men do this better than any other franchise.

Idealism

Remember when it was okay to have
ideas.
This is particular for Bendis’ engrossing All-New X-Men, but also applies to X-Men: Legacy (regardless of what you thought of Spurrier and his work), but it’s something that makes X-Men worth keeping around. You see, if All-New has been about anything, it’s been about how innocence isn’t a weakness. The currently un-jaded younger X-Men aren’t being pushed around by the new world they’re in, they’re changing it, and they’re changing it because they’re idealistic. Hope Summers’ role in Avengers Vs X-Men is another great example of this, trumping conventional “wisdom” with will and determination.

We need people who still believe they can change the world; people who are willing to stand up to injustice and make changes. There is too much out there designed to quench that spirit, and X-Men, to me, is a symbol of how radical change can happen.

You are there

For me, this is the biggest one. Unlike the Avengers, the Justice League or any other superhero team out there, the X-Men are highly discriminated against. The pure amount of hatred that society gives these “muties” is incredible.  They’re called names, attacked, made to suffer disgusting jokes, they even have their character called into question simply for being a mutant (something I always found strange in a world that seemed to think that superpowered beings in the Avengers were okay).

Go on, keep a straight face and tell me that someone who feels marginalised for being of a different race, religion, sexuality, or even being a little bit “nerdy” can’t find something that applies to him or her in this kind of story. Myself, I’m a Mormon. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that the challenges I face are even close to the same level of many other minorities (religious or otherwise), you may be surprised just how much hatred my religion gets, even from other Christians (sadly, sometimes it’s especially from other Christians). If it matters to me that people who are hated and feared can be a force for good, as they are in the X-Men books, I can only imagine how much it should matter to those in worse-treated minorities.
Actually, this is a thing.

We talk a lot about diversity in comics, as though characters having the same skin tone is somehow going to relate better to certain readers. What I don’t think many of us realise is that the X-Men speaks to everyone. They send the message that no matter what your challenge; you can be powerful. You can change the world around you. That message is important. It’s highly relevant and it means more to people than yelling “Avengers Assemble” or simply being snarky.

So that’s my argument for the X-Men’s relevance. Who do you think I should go for next?

PS. For the record, I don’t hate the Avengers. I’ve actually been loving the Marvel NOW! Avengers books. I do, however, fell that Marvel are loving their Marvel Studios properties a little too much and leaving the Fox-owned ones by the wayside a *little* bit.