Monday, May 08, 2006

Mutants and Specials, Minorities of the Future
My last comic book review, as a return to blogging after a week of vacation. (Sorry, no exciting travel tales; I stayed home this time.)

The last series I got introduced to during the great comic book splurge of '05 was J. Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars. I admit, I already have a noted fondness for Straczynski's work, what with my recent undertaking to watch all of his Babylon 5 TV series on DVD. But truly, the man is brilliant.

Rising Stars is the story of 113 children who were all born after a strange meteor struck their town. The meteor endows them all with special powers. The main character and narrator notes as an adult that the combination of powers they were given looks as if it was intended to be exactly what was needed to fix many of the world's ills, if they had worked in concert. Instead, they were quarantined in a special camp every year as children, minutely studied, treated with extreme fear and distrust, and only grudgingly allowed to live within normal society as adults. Some were abused, some were exploited, some rose to fame and fortune, some lived just like anyone else. But in the end, their differences were too much for those in positions of political influence and power to tolerate, and, well, read it and find out. It's a beautiful story, in both the art and writing, but it is not a comforting picture of society.

Its main message is actually very common in sci-fi literature. The parallels with the X-Men series are clear. The main "villian" in the X-Men universe was a victim of the Holocaust, and feels that the efforts in Congress to enact legislation to control mutants is entirely too similar to what he experienced as a child in Europe. Throughout the comics, TV series, and movie trilogy, the theme of mutants struggling against the prejudice of humans is repeated over and over.

In Anne McCaffrey's Rowan series, the main characters are telepathic and telekinetic. Though their talents have become too valuable to that futuristic society for them to be systematically persecuted, given that they facilitate all inter-system transport of goods and services, as well as a variety of other smaller scale tasks, the issue of prejudice against people with their abilities comes up several times.

It is interesting that in most of these futuristic societies, it is seems that current day racism has passed into history, but there is never any doubt that other groups will arise as targets for prejudice and hatred. In some cases, the struggles are based on physical differences again, as with humans vs. alien races, but in Rising Stars and similar works, the group has become less easily spotted, and it seems the prejudice against them is often portrayed as being harsher because of that. The comparison with the Holocaust seems all the more apt.

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