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X-Men Foreign Policy #1: Examining Krakoan international relations

The start of a new series tackling the political elements of the X-Men titles in 2020.

For X-Men fans, 2019 was a truly benchmark year. Under the direction of Jonathan Hickman, our merry mutants were pushed from comfortable complacency into a confident, innovative direction where death is almost an afterthought and the team’s most devious villains are now compatriots. The direction spawned by House of X and Powers of X (HoxPoX) has not been universally loved, but it did reinvigorate my love for the X-Men in a way not seen since Grant Morrison took the helm in the early 2000s. Everything felt fresh, different, and for the first time in many years, the Dawn of X launch felt like it was taking the X-Men into new territory. I went down to my local comic shop and subscribed to every book in the current line, something I hadn’t done in nearly 20 years. HoxPox was a dense series that set up the new status quo for the X-line, with a number of philosophical themes for readers to unpack and consider. It’s given room for writers to pair up teams of mutants that seemed unthinkable just a year ago and explore elements of these established characters not yet addressed. I have not adored every decision made in the brief few months following HoXPoX, but I remain captivated as to where the line is going. This is an exciting time to be an X-Men fan.

One of the major changes championed by Hickman was the creation of the sovereign mutant state Krakoa. This living island (ironically, once a throw away villain for the relaunch of the book in the mid ’70s), now served as a safe haven for mutants around the world. While this is not a novel concept in the X-books (look no further than mutant-dominated Genosha), Krakoa differed from previous attempts at mutant safe spaces by making clear that this nation would be treated as an equal with other states on the international stage. Krakoa had means of demanding this level of acceptance in ways previous mutant homelands could not.

This nation of Krakoa has been one of the most intriguing elements of the new X-Men books, and the one I have spent hours pondering over the last few months. It got me thinking about how this new mutant state might operate on the world stage and how international relations theory could be applied to this comic book world. Thus, a series of essays to discuss and consider the realities of Krakoa on the world stage. 

What This Series of Essays Will Do

I intend each essay to deal with a central question in international relations (i.e., “How might natural resources guide a nation’s foreign policy?” or “How might Krakoa integrate into the international political system?”) Recognizing that academic writing on this subject has a very small audience, each essay will be written for the general layman and should be approachable by readers with little background on this topic. Each essay will incorporate research used in this field of study, with an emphasis on applying it to Krakoa in a manner that encourages discussion and debate among comic readers. 

It goes without saying that I deem comic books to be a legitimate art form worthy of analysis. These essays will treat the X-Men series as a legitimate avenue to discuss complicated social and political issues related to international relations, just as they have been a tool to discuss discrimination in the past. 

What These Essays Won’t Do

I am not privy to any secret knowledge about the X-Men line; I am reading the weekly books like everyone else. Thus, everything discussed in the essays will be spoiler-free, but one should assume that each essay may reference current content from the various X-books.

These essays will discuss how Krakoa might act on the world stage, not what the authors should do with Krakoa in the comics. We love comic books because they offer drama, comedy, romance, and adventure wrapped into an illustrated 32-page monthly book. I don’t expect the X-Men books to simply become an exploration of international relations, and the writers may actually take Krakoa in a different direction than I envision for the sake of interlocking narratives. Therefore, one should not see these essays as criticism of the narrative direction the books take, rather as an exploration of how some of these themes in the world of foreign policy might manifest. 

Additionally, actual case studies of various states and their foreign policies must be used as examples when discussing how Krakoa might act. Using these specific real-world examples should not be seen as an endorsement of a nation and its foreign policy nor an attempt to ridicule its people. 

In Conclusion

As noted above, this is a thrilling time to be an X-Men fan, and I hope my enthusiasm for this series comes through in these pieces. The direction being charted by Hickman, Duggan, Howard, and Percy has brought an increased interest to the line not seen in years. Additionally, it may offer some readers a primer to a field of academic study they had not considered prior and give them a reason to explore the realm of international relations beyond its application to Krakoa.

Ryan Sonneville is a teacher, writer, and researcher located in Sonoma County. His areas of focus includes English, government, and history. His work in politics and international relations includes a number of essays and his published dissertaion, Norms in U.S. State-building Following the End of the Cold War.

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