In the wake of a major controversy over highly charged political and religious messages hidden within "X-Men Gold" #1, Marvel has officially announced that Ardian Syaf is no longer that series' artist as his contract with the company has been terminated, "effective immediately."
Due to the fact that the next two issues of the twice-monthly series have already been sent to the printer, Marvel stated Syaf's art will continue to be seen in "X-Men Gold" #2 and #3. R.B. Silva will draw "X-Men Gold" #4, #5 and #6 -- issue #4 was originally solicited with art by Syaf -- and Ken Lashley will illustrate "X-Men Gold" #7, #8 and #9. There's no word yet on whether the shipping schedule of future issues will be affected.
The original plan for the series was for Syaf to act as lead artist, with Silva and Lashley rotating in for various story arcs. Marvel promises a replacement for Syaf will be named in the near future.
Marvel's statement, released to CBR, reads in full:
Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately. 'X-Men Gold' #2 and #3 featuring his work have already been sent to the printer and will continue to ship bi-weekly. Issues #4, #5, and #6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues #7, #8, and #9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley. A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to 'X-Men Gold' in the coming weeks.
This past weekend, observers on social media noted multiple messages subtly hidden within "X-Men Gold" #1's art. In the issue, which was released the previous Wednesday, the Indonesian artist drew Colossus wearing a shirt that reads "QS 5:51," a reference to Quran Surah 5:51 -- a verse of the Quran which has been at the center of political protests involving Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian and the current governor of Jakarta, the capital of the Republic of Indonesia.
The verse is translated on quran.com as, "O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people." Given the created purpose of Marvel's mutants in the X-Men books is to serve as a symbol for minority populations -- a major theme of "X-Men Gold" #1 -- many fans were surprised and offended to see the characters used to deliver a messaging seemingly against the minority religious populations in Indonesia.
Additionally, the issue contained the number "212" hidden inside a crowd scene, a reference to a real-life protest on Dec. 2, 2016, where an estimated 200,000 Indonesians marched against Purnama for alleged blasphemy against the Quran during a speech.
Marvel quickly responded to the messages, stating that the messages were inserted without anyone's knowledge at the publisher or on the rest of the creative team, that the artwork would be removed from future collected editions of the issue, and in the digital version, and that "disciplinary action is being taken." Syaf later acknowledged the situation on Facebook, writing "My career is over now" and that the passage quote was a message of "justice" and "love."
"X-Men Gold "#2 is currently scheduled for release on April 26. The series' writer, Marc Guggenheim, has been mostly quiet on the topic on social media since it proliferated this past weekend, but wrote on Saturday via Twitter that the "the support has been amazing. From fans and pros alike," and linked to Marvel's statement on the matter.