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X-Men ’97: Episode 5 – “Heartbreaks and Geno…sha”

As we delve into this episode, we’re greeted with the familiar presence of Trish Tilby, the astute journalist from the X-Men universe. Trish, first appearing in “X-Factor” #14, is portrayed by Louise and Walt Simonson as a pivotal human character amid the mutant saga. Her role as a news reporter provides an essential bridge between human and mutant perspectives, especially highlighted in her relationship with Beast. This return to Trish Tilby’s character in “X-Men: The Animated Series” and the comics reinforces the intricate blend of media, public opinion, respectability politics, mutant affairs and nostalgia.

The episode also untangles convoluted romantic plots, like the interplay between Jean, Maddy, Scott, and Wolverine, that are ripe with conflict and confusion. Rogue’s confession to Gambit about her history with Magneto also invites us to explore deeper themes of heartache and living in the past.

Genosha is showcased in its full splendor, bustling with cameos from Pixie, Glob Herman, the Watcher, Beau De Mayo, White Queen, Sebastian Shaw, Nightcrawler, Dazzler, Nature Girl, the original Morlocks, Moira, Banshee, Boom Boom, Archangel, and more. This vibrant setting lays the foundation for Maddy’s journey to self-empowerment and Magneto’s stirring leadership, echoing Moses with his adaptation of a biblical quote from Deuteronomy: “Yet you shall see the land before you, though you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving to the children of Israel.” Magneto’s willingness to lead, contingent on Rogue being by his side, parallels the iconic narrative of Moses guiding his people to the promised land.

The episode intricately weaves the destinies of Jean, Maddy, and Cable, especially in the moving scene where Cable encounters Maddy. Then the episode turns with the sudden Sentinel attack on Genosha, reminiscent of the “New X-Men” #115 genocide, marking a heart-wrenching shift in the narrative.

For me, as a gay black immigrant, this portrayal of Genosha’s destruction is profoundly impactful. Watching a society where mutants freely express joy and pride, only to be shattered by a devastating attack, echoes the fragility and precariousness experienced by marginalized communities. The abrupt transition from peace to chaos is a chilling reminder of the vulnerabilities faced by those living at the intersections of marginalized identities and echoes the real-world genocides, like Palestine, Sudan, Ethiopia and more.

The episode culminates in Magneto’s heroic gambit to save the Morlocks and stop the genocide, but even his omega level powers falter and he perishes, with Gambit also paying the price of war with a heroic sacrifice, set against Rogue’s despair, poignantly captures the deep losses endured by those who constantly navigate the threat of bigotry and violence. The episode closes with Rogue weeping hauntingly as the screen fades to black with her holding his mangled body making full contact saying “Sugah, I can’t feel you…”

For those who will say this episode was too “Woke” I want to remind them that the X-Men since their inception, have been a profound metaphor for political activism, often reflecting real-world social and political issues through the lens of their mutant struggles. In “X-Men” #141-142, the famed “Days of Future Past” storyline vividly illustrated the consequences of societal intolerance and governmental overreach, depicting a dystopian future where mutants are incarcerated in internment camps. This storyline resonated deeply during its release in the early 1980s, a period rife with political and social anxieties. Later, in “God Loves, Man Kills” (Marvel Graphic Novel #5), the X-Men confronted overt bigotry, symbolized by the antagonist Reverend William Stryker, whose anti-mutant rhetoric echoed real-world hate speech. This graphic novel, released in 1982, boldly tackled themes of religious fanaticism and prejudice, positioning the X-Men as defenders of tolerance and diversity. In more recent years, “X-Men” #600, written by Brian Michael Bendis, highlighted the issues of 2SLGBTQ rights through the character of Iceman, one of the original X-Men, coming out as gay. This particular issue, published in 2015, was a significant moment in comic book history, reflecting broader societal shifts towards acceptance and equality for LGBTQ individuals. Through these and many other stories, the X-Men comics have consistently used their platform to address and provoke thought on pressing social and political issues.

Final Verdict: Beyond Omega Level Entertainment

For me, this episode transcends traditional storytelling, becoming a reflective and visceral portrayal of the anxieties and fears inherent in marginalized lives in today’s world. It acknowledges the often-unspoken dread of sudden loss, a fear acutely familiar to many marginalized populations. “Remember It” is not just an episode; it’s a profound acknowledgment of our lived realities, a groundbreaking piece in animation that validates our experiences and amplifies the necessity of awareness and representation in media.

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