In the early 80s, Marvel released oversized graphic novels. Coming across the volume featuring X-MEN: GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS, it was one of the earliest X-Men stories I read. This was no ordinary X-Men story as it alluded to many ideas and situations occurring in the 'real world.'
The story begins with two African-American children on the run in the middle of the night in what appears to be a typical affluent suburb in Connecticut. Why is their race important? You'll see in a moment. We get our first introduction to the Purifiers. The children (and their parents) were killed because they were mutants. Their bodies are left propped up at the elementary school's playground, with the label "Mutie" written on them as a sign for the children at the school to discover them the next day. Magneto finds the bodies and is outraged.
The hatred of mutants in Marvel Comics is a metaphor for minorities in real life. We later find out that the Purifiers are a group belonging to William Stryker, the leader of the Worldwide Evangelical Stryker Crusade.
Along with the idea of discrimination, the story also focuses on extreme religious groups, whose mission is to try to spread their views upon others, by any means necessary.
Stryker is gathering intel on the X-Men. It seems he has a deep hatred for mutants and the stage is being set for his attack (we later find out why he hates mutants so much). With his crusade making bigger strides, his ideals come crashing into young Kitty Pryde's world as she gets into an argument over them.
This is where you get a huge example of what the issue really is here.
Stevie Hunter was a former ballet instructor who was a friend to the X-Men. She taught at the school and was a mentor to Kitty and the New Mutants. Kitty's use of a certain word may have been questionable, but again, it was to further illustrate the connection Claremont was trying to illustrate between mutants and minorities. Colossus immediately apologizes to Stevie saying she was upset and didn't mean it. Stevie's thoughts illustrate her feelings on the matter as well.
The action soon escalates as the X-Men and Stryker clash with each other. It's also worth noting that this was the beginning of Magneto's turn from being strictly a villain. There are a lot of heavy scenes contain here and this is a prime example when people assume comics were just silly books for children.
The ideas presented here are no longer new. We've seen Stryker return with his crusade. It is interesting to see how Claremont really brought attention to the hatred that mutants face. It was there before but this brought it to a new light.
You will get a a slight sense of the story being dated and, of course, we have a older incarnation of the X-Men. It is an important story to read. Many X-Men fans may have already read it as it has been reprinted a few times. For those that haven't, it's a nice piece of history in seeing when things started escalating for the X-Men. It wasn't just other mutants or supervillains they had to fight. They now had a new enemy, bigoted mankind.
X-MEN: GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS is one of those stories every comic fan should read. It's also one you could hand off to friends that think comics are just a bunch of characters fighting each other while wearing tights. There aren't many comics I would say are required reading as everyone has their own tastes. But this is a book that should be read.