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Observance of Superhero: Commercially Savvy Christianity in X-Men?

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Thursday, Apr 15, 2010
In a new regular Graphic Novelties segment, Andy Smith explores the deep and abiding connection between superheroes and religion.

Oftentimes, comicbooks do not wear religion so boldly on its spandex sleeve. Historically, X-Men has rarely chosen any side on religion, but the book has never been afraid to use compelling themes from Christianity as plot devices.


Between “Messiah Complex” and “The Second Coming,” creative teams behind the X-Books seem to be especially keen on Christian allusions over the past couple years. They made it easy enough with the rumors of Hope—a child of an impossible birth—being the first new mutant since Scarlet Witch left only a couple hundred after causing the Decimation.
  
Cable saw her as her namesake, fulfilling the kinds of things a messiah should fulfill. Bishop and the ironically-Christian fundamentalist group the Purifiers see her as quite the opposite.


Simple enough, but what started as a neat idea has become a full-on trilogy of events – the genesis being “Messiah Complex,” then battling through the “Messiah War” and ending with the “Second Coming.”


March brought the beginning of the “Second Coming,” Cable’s last shot at protecting Hope from Bishop in the present and Bastion’s ever-lasting grudge against the X-Men coming to a head.


“Second Coming” seems to continue a historical trend in X-Books. The persecuted, survival-impaired X-Men sport several Christian members but tend to face just as many oppressive, antagonizing members of the same faith.


Aside from characters like Nightcrawler (who is historically driven by his Catholic faith) the most overtly Christian of the characters in the “Messiah Trilogy” are The Purifiers. The baddies made their debut in the Chris Claremont-penned X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills in 1982. God Loves, Man Kills pitted the X-Men against Reverend William Stryker, a representation of religious hypocrisy and tyranny.


The X-Books are certainly not the first book to drive its narrative with Biblical nods, but this mainstream franchise has sharply strayed from casting its vote on the validity of the Christian faith. Commercially, it’s a smart move, allowing creators to play with those themes without committing to any scheme.


Hopefully, this will make the conclusion of the “Messiah Trilogy” all the less predictable.

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