Coincidentally, both of the stories I spent the most time with this week address similar themes: the extreme power of superheroes and the implications for the broader society. Squadron Supreme asks what would happen if the heroes were granted absolute power to create a utopia as they saw fit. God Loves, Man Kills, an X-Men graphic novel, explores the dangers of religious zealots taking violent action against superior, mutant beings they see as a threat. With the Squadron, one is left wondering who the good guys truly are. With the X-Men, that's a lot more clear.
To be honest, I've always found the persecution theme in the X-Men line a little hard to take. I get the intended metaphor for real world bigotry and this particular tale is entirely believable within that framework. It is, nonetheless, a very white perspective on American racism.
However, there are moments when it works, perhaps even too well. In the opening pages of God Loves, Man Kills, two black children are lynched, not because they are black but because they are mutants. Their murderer says right after she pulls the trigger "You have no right to live." That sentiment is at the heart of racism, be it violent or passive. The two bodies are left hanging from the crossbar of a swing set: strange fruit, indeed.
Both stories are... fine. Both are occasionally poignant. Both leave the reader with plenty to think about.
Now it's back to Daredevil and in his return to the title, Frank Miller wasted no time in reminding readers what a dark comic book story is supposed to feel like. Both of the stories above could have done with a bit of Frank Miller atmosphere. In presentation, Squadron Supreme is rather farcical - not a weakness, exactly, but it doesn't haunt me. Miller haunts me. The X-Men story is stronger and perhaps even more relevant 38 years later than it was at the time. But it didn't quite follow through with the darkness established in that opening scene. The baddies were less scary when they were going after superheroes than when they were going after defenseless children. In contrast, Miller takes you down into a deep hole right away and doesn't let you up until he's good and ready. And that can take a while.
Brutal yet effective storytelling.
It's good to be back.
My Recent Reads
Squadron Supreme #10
Originally published June 1986
Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Artist: Paul Ryan
Squadron Supreme #11
Squadron Supreme #12
X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills
Chris Claremont/Brent Anderson
Frank Miller/David Mazzucchelli