Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

"Mr. Austen, there's a blue priest with a saber here to see you..."

"...And he says he doesn't need an appointment...."


Thanks to Bill Cork for drawing my attention to this. Unfortunately, the Catholic League commentary doesn't actually tell people what's wrong with the X-Men issue in question. However, Usenet, the font of all human knowledge, is ready to pick up the slack.

From The X-Axis, 1 June 2003, by Paul O'Brien (no relation), a monthly review posted in rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks and rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe:

Readers may recall that last year, Wolverine #177-178 featured the title character locked in battle against evil Catholics who planned to use mind-control to convert New York. It is undoubtedly the stupidest religion-themed story in the history of the X-books.

Or at least, it was undoubted until this week, when UNCANNY X-MEN #424 made a brave bid for the title. While Wolverine secured its position with a mixture of awful art, inept plotting and total failure to include any thematic elements pertaining to Catholicism, Chuck Austen goes for the high ground. His story at least makes a certain degree of sense, and has competent enough illustration from Ron Garney. Never one to run from an issue, Austen grapples head-on with the issues of Catholicism.

The result is predictably terrible.

The last couple of issues have already shown that Austen has a certain antipathy towards the Catholic Church, including his desperate attempt to retcon Nightcrawler out of being a priest - always a slightly odd
plot but hardly one which needed a massive retcon to remove it. Austen, however, seemed to feel the need to explain the whole thing away as a mind-control storyline involving the Church of Humanity....

Austen jettisons Casey's origin story for the Church of Humanity's Supreme Pontiff - which was about the only interesting thing in the original story - and replaces him with a disillusioned Catholic nun who's been, you guessed it, the victim of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. So she sets out to bring down the Church by - brace yourself, this is the good bit - creating an evil plan to install Nightcrawler as the Pope under an image inducer, and then revealing him as the supposed Antichrist at the same time that she simulates the Rapture. Then Catholics the world over will turn on the Church and the Church of Humanity will step in to take over!

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Wow. That's an incredibly stupid storyline." And do you know what? It's even worse on the page.

(Someone in the ensuing thread no doubt pointed out that Catholics don't do the Rapture...but I really doubt the comics writer was interested in actual Catholic theology. Anyway, back to The X-Axis.)

You may also be wondering how the Church of Humanity plans to simulate the Rapture. After all, that involves good Catholics being taken up to Heaven. Well, they're going to disintegrate people using evil doctored communion wafers.

I'll just repeat that. The villains are going to usurp command of Catholicism by installing Nightcrawler as the Pope and using murderous disintegrating communion wafers. No, this is not meant to be a comedy story.

This story is so bad that it deserves to be immortalised in derision for years to come. Even as a hardcore atheist, I have little sympathy for Austen's bizarrely twisted idea of the Catholic Church, which seems to revolve exclusively around the twin concepts of sexual abuse and bigotry. Granted that those may be the Church's most prominent flaws, in Austen's stories they seem to be the Church's only features.

The idea of a plan to instal Nightcrawler as Pope - never previously mentioned prior to this issue - is comically over the top...

(Too bad it's just an evil plot. Kurt minus his weird movie-only ideas is a strong orthodox guy who'd make a darned good Servant of the Servants of God. He can teleport, which would cut down on travel costs and security problems for Papal visits, and he's a swashbuckler at heart, which would get men excited about the Church. Every Pope should know how to fight saber!

...The idea that the world's Catholics are going to react to a simulated Rapture in anything like the manner described is little short of ludicrous and suggests that Austen still thinks ordinary Catholics are little more than dogmatic slaves of their church. I rather suspect the average Catholic in the street would continue their existing policy of generally acting much like everyone else.

Ooh, now there's a criticism of us. Ouch.

Oh, and let's not forget the disrespect shown to previous writers of the Church of Humanity and Nightcrawler's priest (also a pre-existing character). The original stories may not have been great, but they were better than this.

Why the hell would anyone want to wrest control of the Catholic Church, anyway? It's not like it's a significant political power any more. I suppose it's all very well if you have an evil scheme which entails
interfering with the distribution of condoms in Angola, but otherwise they might as well be fighting for control of the West Godalming Yoga Centre.

Paul, alanna, you are never going to take over the world with that kind of lack of vision! Political power is the least of it! Control a major world religion and people will do the politics for you! In theory, anyway.... *sigh*

I wonder if the comics writer, Mr. Austen, realizes that the eventual failure of his plot in the comics (because, dude, the bad guys always lose in the end, even if it takes years of comics stories) will just mean that, even in the Marvel Universe, the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church?

More to the point, even if Nightcrawler gets defrocked, he'll still be a priest -- and some comics writer down the road will undoubtedly use this. If he's killed, he'll still be a priest. Whatever Mr. Austen does, for the rest of time in the Marvel Universe, Kurt Wagner will be Father Kurt Wagner.

So phbbbbbt, liebchen.



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