Monday, 25 February 2013

Uncanny X-Men #235-#238: Holiday in Genosha

Uncanny X-Men #235-#238 is a ridiculous retcon that shouldn't work. We are supposed to imagine that there has been a highly-advanced nation, Genosha, built on mutant enslavement, all along, and that nobody mentioned this until now (its existence is outright contradicted by dialogue in #200 which explicitly mentioned systemic oppression of mutants as a theoretical thing rather than something happening in the world right now.)

But, actually, I don't care. Genosha is a fantastic idea, and yes, it would have been better if Claremont had written it in a hundred issues ago, or even if Stan Lee had written it into #4 as the nation that Magneto was overthrowing, or whatever. But that didn't happen, and it's only now (possibly to provide an example of what Mutant Registration could lead to if the government tries to enforce it).

So, what exactly is going on in Genosha, anyway? Well, we're told it is an island country north of Madagascar, and that it owes its wealth - which supports a first-world lifestyle for "ten million" people - to the results of slavery of a "few hundred" mutants. This is seems like unfortunately broken worldbuilding. Mutants should be really very rare, and yet we see them randomly in city scenes. You wouldn't waste one by using their extra-long limbs to pick up garbage, for example. And there would be no need for mutant-only railway platforms. Still, it's a very powerful idea, and it can withstand the details now being quite right yet. The enforcers are called Magistrates, and the chief of their number a woman named Anderson, in what I take to be another Dredd reference.

We're also told - in an attempt to justify why it had never been mentioned in the more than 300 other X comics that - that they have been able to keep the oppression secret, despite open segregation on the streets, and despite the country sending "Press Gangs" abroad to abduct people. Fine, whatever. Just get on with it.

Apart from the concept, there is some character work for some of our team who had been stuck in a rut. Wolverine admits that his claws kinda rely on his healing powers to not kill him: when he is depowered he starts to die (possibly from adamantium poisoning although I don't think that's made explicit). Rogue, when depowered, takes on the persona of Carol Danvers. Together, the two of them, as Ace and Patch, take a tour of Genosha and expose its nature to the Genegineer's son. He and his girlfriend - whose extrajudicial extradition had been the proximate reason for the X-Men getting involved - leave with the X-Men. Wolverine threatens that Genosha had better get its shit together, or they'll blow the entire thing sky high.

The fact that enslaving a few hundred mutants can result in such a boost to a country's economy - and we're not talking a tiny little island nation here, but talking something with the population of Portugal - implies that similarly powered mutants in less segregationist parts of the world would be able to get a very good wage, which is a curious result. Mutant dominance of the world could be economic dominance?

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, Genosha is highly problematic in terms of fitting into the ongoing narrative, but it's such an absolutely brilliant idea it's hard to care. Like you said, you just wish someone had come up with it sooner.

    The other problem with Genosha is the question of population density: even if the country is supported by only a few hundred enslaved mutants, why are there so many in a geographically isolated and small nation like Genosha when there probably shouldn't be, at this time, too many more than a few hundred in all of the US?

    Of course, later writers will try to answer that question, but because they will do so in the 90s and their answer involves the words "sugar" and "man", it's best to move on.