I mentioned when discussing Assault on Armor City that sometimes comic-book writing tropes from the past can make a story alien or uncomfortable. This isn’t the case with Blood Ties, an X-Men and Avengers crossover event that celebrates the 30th Anniversary of both franchises. In fact, its themes and issues makes it seem like something decidedly post-9/11.
Let’s see if point-of-view can illustrate what I mean: in Blood Ties, the Avengers, a United States-based peace-keeping force currently operating under the prevue of the United Nations, defies the UN in order to launch an attack on a foreign country with domestic interests in retaliation for an attack on their own, by a fanatical terrorist with religious delusions.
Yeah, now you see it.
What’s interesting here is how Marvel writers deal with this issue in abstract versus in reality: after 9/11, they took a pretty strong stance against this type of action, with stories like Marvel Knights Captain America.
I guess hindsight is 20/20.
In this story, the nation in question is Genosha, which is still politically unstable after the events of the X-Tinction Agenda. See, the Genoshans use mutants as slave labor and consider them less than human, but many countries (including the USA) reaps the benefit of the economic stability this practice created.
The terrorist leader, in this case, is Exodus, who makes his first real debut here after a cameo introduction during Fatal Attractions. He appears here as a zealot: a devoted follower of Magneto but with none of his reason or humanity, and is powerful enough to take on both the full force of the X-Men and the Avengers.
The political aspect involving the Avengers, specifically Hawkeye and Black Widow, here involve the team’s then-status as a UN-peacekeeping force. The UN has barred the Avengers from interfering in Genosha, even though the deposed mutant ruler Fabian Cortez has stolen the daughter of Avengers Quicksilver and Crystal, Luna, and brought her to Genosha.
The UN, of course, is fearful of the political repercussions of invading a sovereign land. So this plot mainly involves the Avengers storming the UN and demanding they reverse their decision… And when they don’t, they divorce themselves from the UN and go anyway.
Now there’s a clear parallel here to be drawn between the actions of the Avengers and the actions of President Bush during the Iraqi and Afghanistan crisis’. Asking to invade a foreign country then doing it anyway? Check. Attacking a whole country to get at a single religious zealot that attacked you? Check.
What’s interesting here is how different Marvel’s stance on such actions are in abstract as opposed to in practice. The defection of the Avengers from the UN is seen as a good and positive thing: they plan on going back to being heroes, under nobody’s prevue but their own. But consider how frightening this is: an arm of the military going anarchy and deciding they’re going to operate on a world scale on their own.
So this is a lot going on. And this is the B-plot. You’ll notice the X-Men haven’t come up much yet.
The X-Men are, in essence, dealing with the MAJOR political ramifications of Fatal Attractions. Magneto is dead, and now many mutants are angry, vengeful, and lacking leadership. Fabian Cortez and Exodus are the opposing forces attempting to fill that vacuum.
Cortez here is a great character: stripped of his prestige as an Upstart, he’s scrambling and terrified. He’s worried about the wrath of the all-powerful Exodus, and kidnaps Luna, Magneto’s granddaughter, as a human shield. Cortez is the worst type of dictator: he’s positively addicted to power. He’s on Genosha not just to hide, but to assume control of that country’s population of mutates, causing a civil war between the mutates, the human government, and a rebellion comprised out of factions of each. The X-Men enter the picture when Professor X is sent as a mutant expert to try and dissolve tensions, accompanied (secretly at first) by US Agent.
So in addition to all this — and let’s look back over this, it’s a lot — Blood Ties is also the first major X-Men storyarc since the all-new X-Men not to feature Wolverine, who has been MIA ever since the aforementioned Fatal Attractions storyline. That might be the biggest point to this story’s credit: that it is an X-Men centric story that can and does exist without Wolverine. That that could be done, and was actually all the better for it.
There’s also some heavy allusion to Concentration Camps, fighting God-like beings, and so many other things. It’s an amazing book with a lot more to offer than just funny-book men beating up each other. I encourage anyone to go check it out.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“There’s also some heavy allusion to Concentration Camps, fighting God-like beings, and so many other things. It’s an amazing book with a lot more to offer than just funny-book men beating up each other. I encourage anyone to go check it out. ”