What All New X-Men #21 Offers
With some reference to real world discrimination, All New X-men #21 shows off captivating art while telling a story about minorities and religion.
The comic would be particularly relevant for high school and college classes examining discrimination themes, and religion. New readers might find the references to other Marvel comics confusing, however. All New X-men #21 offers:
- Powerful artwork
- Discrimination themes
- An English resource
- A Religious education resources
- Collected into a graphic novel, All New X-men would act as a useful literacy resource
Jean Grey and X-23 are the two Marvel super heroes featured on the cover. The pair play a larger role in the plot compared to the other X-men. Kitty Pride also plays a key role. It’s the strong antagonists of the comic that drive the action forward.
William Stryker’s son intimidates and evangelises with his mutant-hating “purifiers”. These characters are Christian Fundamentalists – the Bible is literal to them, and they are critical of liberal values. Purifiers revile mutants.
That’s the narrative thrust of the story, and the source of conflict and themes. A minority group battles against influential, and well armed, fundamentalists.
Who is William Stryker? An evangelical entertainer and former solider, Stryker led a public, religious campaign depicting mutants as evil. This story arc appeared in the graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills (Marvel comics, 1982).
In a Flashback scene, William Stryker appears, and gives a speech to a sold out music hall. It’s a link back to the Marvel graphic novel where he first appeared. William Stryker, decades ago, influenced the opinions of millions with his fervent bible readings.
He quotes from the book of Revelation. Without including spoilers, the artwork captures a sense of sound and volume. Looking at the art, you can hear Stryker’s voice over the public address system, shaking the room. The audience rumbles, roaring with applause, introducing energy to the art.
There’s only one fault – a character’s glasses disappear from their face between panels. This character is a doctor who promises Stryker that he can cure Stryker’s son
of illness. With the glasses missing, however, the revulsion the scientist expresses when William Stryker places a hand on his shoulder and utters “Let us pray” cuts deeper.
Themes, Ethics, Values
X-23 recently arrived in All New X-men #21 from a now concluded series called Avengers Arena. One of the themes of the Arena comic was the impact of reality television, with a Popular Culture reference to the Hunger Games. All New X-men summarises this theme: Stryker’s son states: “You were on a reality show. You were popcorn for morons”. Reality television is derided here, which aligns with themes brought up by Avengers Arena, and Hunger Games themes.
The larger themes brought out are religion, fundamentalism, and discrimination. Discord between religious and scientific women and men feature to some extent.
Early in the issue, a doctor says to Stryker Senior: “Quite a show business machine you’ve build yourself” implying the Stryker is using faith and religion to sell support for his anti-minority cause, manipulating his audience. The man (a scientist) shrinks away when Styker asks him to pray.
When confronted with the possibility of killing the X-men, one of the Purifiers stops Stryker’s son acting, and asks: “Is there someone we could talk to about this? Someone smarter than us?” This depicts the purifiers are fearful, lacking in conviction and intelligence.
Later, another scientist remarks to Stryker’s son “We sell you our best weapons, and you do what you think you need to do.” The scientist, who works for the organisation called AIM (mentioned in Iron Man 3), clearly has little respect for Stryker’s beliefs (A small clash between science and religion).
All three quotes demonstrate the argument against fundamentalist religion. It’s an argument X-men comics are known for. The purifiers are unintelligent, manipulative, carry weapons, and “do what they think they need to do” rather than carrying out a legitimate belief. Fundamental and “pure” approaches to religion are a problem: that’s the key ethic of the comic.
The X-men are a minority targeted and discriminated against by hateful and manipulative religious groups. They fight back, and the comic captures the push against discrimination.