UPDATE: Ardian Syaf posted an apology on his Facebook page, stating "My career is over now." Additionally, the digital version of X-Men Gold #1 is no longer available for purchase.
While many comic book fans were eager to read through this week's X-Men Gold #1, excited to finally have a fresh start for the superhero team, some eagle-eyed readers discovered something unusual.
A Reddit post on r/Indonesia on Saturday accused Marvel Comics and X-Men Gold artist Ardian Syaf, an Indonesian industry veteran, of inserting hidden messages into the book referencing an Islamic political movement.
One panel in the issue shows legacy X-Men member Colossus playing a friendly game of baseball with Nightcrawler and co. in Central Park. Colossus' shirt reads "QS 5:51," and while many readers could pass it without notice, the phrase is actually a reference to a verse in the Quaran.
"It is a Quranic verse which states that 'Muslims should not take the Jews and Christians as their allies/friends.' Indonesian translation of the verse states that 'Muslims should not appoint the Jews and Christians as their leader,'" the original Reddit post reads.
While Syaf's understanding of the verse is from its Indonesian translation, it has no direct context within the X-Men. The phrase has been used as part of a campaign to "prevent the reelection" of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is Jakarta, Indonesia's Christian governor -- the city's first non-Muslim governor in 50 years.
G. Willow Wilson, prominent Marvel Comics writer and creator of Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) released her own statement on the verse, saying a mistranslation used in Indonesia is not the true Arabic understanding.
"The Arabic word in that verse that is translated variously as leader, advisor, friend, intimate etc is أولياء (awliya'), the plural of ولي (wali)," Wilson's statement read. "And it means none of those things." Wilson goes on to explain that the meaning of the word is actually closer to "legal counsel," and protest groups have re-appropriated the word for recent protest.
Also referenced in the book is "212," a number with ties to a protest in Jakarta that occurred in December 2016. Protesters believed Ahok, who is currently on trial for blasphemy, had been acting against the Quran. The number appears next to X-Men member Kitty Pryde, a character known to be historically Jewish, now leader of the team.
According to the post on Reddit, it seemed Marvel editors were unaware of the messages, and the publisher has since issued a statement to ComicBook.com on the matter:
"The mentioned artwork in X-Men Gold #1 was inserted without knowledge behind its reported meanings. These implied references do not reflect the views of the writer, editors or anyone else at Marvel and are in direct opposition of the inclusiveness of Marvel Comics and what the X-Men have stood for since their creation. This artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions, and trade paperbacks and disciplinary action is being taken."
Syaf responded with a public Facebook post vaguely referencing the messages, stating readers should buy the first print of the book, since Marvel has said they will remove the references in later prints. Syaf also said he inserted the messages after attending a "212" rally himself. He then followed up with an apology post, though it was later removed.
This news comes just a week after a Marvel executive blamed the publisher's sales slump on a continued push for diversity with celebrated characters like Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) and Miles Morales (Spider-Man), while others argue that the real reason may be lengthy crossover events and unimaginative forced storytelling.