Killing in Comics? Traditional Comics vs. Uncanny X-Force

Talk about a love/hate relationship! Excuse my bluntness, but I hate the premise of Uncanny X-Force. A group of alienated characters from the X-Men mythos decide to do what no other superheroes will do: kill when the mission requires it. The 2010 roster includes Wolverine, Psylocke, Deadpool, and Fantomex–awesome group of characters, but I hate to see them killing people. Okay, I’ve learned to accept that Deadpool will kill, and he’ll often kill for comic effect, and I’m not sure what Fantomex’ deal is–but Wolverine and Psylocke? In the past, I always liked Wolverine and Psylocke because they followed a warrior’s code that was part zen samurai and part ascetic monk. Wolverine in particular, for all his outward angst, was always a moral center for Marvel, much like Ben Grimm. To see him killing now is grievous.

Of course, I realize the No-Killing law in comics is itself somewhat arbitrary. It came about thanks to the Comics Code of Authority implemented in the Silver Age, after pulp crime books regularly featured bad guys being riddled with bullets. As hard as it is for a 1st Amendment enthusiast like myself to say this, I’ll have to say that in this case, censorship helped the medium. Superhero books I think are best enjoyed when there’s a suspension of disbelief–i.e., the heroes will pummel the bad guys for 20 odd pages, possibly breaking every bone in their bodies, shooting them with all sorts of laser or psychic blasts, but then at the end the bad guys will slink away, living to fight another day, or they’re apprehended by the police, bundled up in one of Spider-Man‘s webs. Having an issue end with a corpse hastily brings us uncomfortably back into reality.

Uncanny X-Force injects a heavy amount of Realpolitik into superhero comics. The characters acknowledge that some bad guys are so very evil that no manner of rehabilitation will make them suitable again for life among civilians, and so they deliver capital punishment. But it’s a slippery slope isn’t it? At what point will the X-Force become like Texas, the nation’s leader in executions?

As I said at the beginning, I have a love/hate relationship with Uncanny X-Force. The love comes from reading Uncanny X-Force issue 1 earlier today (from the 2010 relaunch). First off, the art was spectacular! It introduced me to some artists I had never heard of before: Jerome Opena (penciler) and Dean White (colorist). Jerome Opena has a finely textured style and yet isn’t afraid of engaging in spastic sci-fi action scenes, suggesting to me he must have spent some time studying the work of the French genius of comics Moebius (to see examples of Jerome Opena’s work at Comic Art Community, click here, and to see examples of Moebius art, click here).

In Uncanny X-Force issue 1, the fact that they are killing doesn’t seem so bad when their foe isn’t exactly human. He’s this brooding monster who has apparently misread Hegel, as he goes around spouting that the natural state of life is war.

So I guess in the case of Uncanny X-Force, I’ll let my disapproval of killing slide because the work is of such high quality. I wont’ say the same for Punisher though. That the character uses guns seems pretty lame to me. Any nutjob can go off on a shooting rampage–there’s nothing super about that. I have no inclination to ever read Punisher, even the issues penned by one of my favorite writers Matt Fraction. DC has done a better job of keeping killing to a minimum over the years, although I think this new “edgier” DCU might spoil that. Also, when Hal killed the bad guy at the end of The War of the Green Lanterns, it kind of spoiled the party for me–I still haven’t picked up any of the new Green Lantern issues. I haven’t read Grifter or Suicide Squad yet, but I’m guessing there’s killing in those books.

killing occurs in Green Lantern issue 67.

For fear of becoming my enemy, I won’t say there should be no killing allowed in comics, but I would urge writers to at least follow the rules of poetic justice, but when bad guys are killed willy-nilly, the jig’s up.

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I have written two books of my own. One is titled A Rapturous Occasion and the other is The Madness of Art Short Stories. Both are available through Amazon in paperback and as ebooks. To find out more, please check out my Amazon author page.

Here's a pic I made showing a scene from my book The Madnes of Art: Short Stories

What’s your opinion of killing used in comics like Punisher, Deadpool, Uncanny X-Force, etc.?

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