X-Men: Gold celebrates the 50th anniversary of the debut of Marvel’s Merry Mutants with an extra-sized anthology one-shot. Featuring contributions from such beloved X-Creators as Chris Claremont, Bob McLeod, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, the Simonsons, and even X-Men co-creator Stan Lee, it’s an attractive package for any X-Fan. So is it good?
X-Men: Gold Anthology (Marvel Comics)
The collection kicks off with a story illustrated by New Mutants co-creator Bob McLeod and written by Chris Claremont, arguably the most important writer in the X-Men’s history. He also had longer run with the characters than anyone, so perhaps it’s appropriate that Claremont’s story is the longest one featured here.
For better or worse, this story—narrated by one of Claremont’s best co-creations, Kitty Pryde—is pure Claremont. Claremont toned down his famously heavy-handed writing style in his recent work, so to see him return to dialogue like this:
“I agree, Nathan.”
“Do not worry, Madelyne. Scott will be fine.”
“If you say so, Lilandra.”
It’s difficult to tell whether Claremont is simply falling back comfortably into what comes naturally to him, or if he’s going out of his way to pander to fans. It comes close to self-parody at times, but mostly I found it charming. Enjoyment of this story is greatly dependant on how one feels about Claremont’s signature techniques.
“The Sorrow Beneath the Sport!” comes next, and it too could be accused of self-parody if it weren’t so clear that all the creators involved are having so much fun with it. It’s written by Stan Lee (from a plot by Louise Simonson), so maybe it’s more of a self-homage, as every aspect of the story lovingly recreates the look and feel of classic Marvel comics of the early 1960s, from Walter Simonson’s Kirby-influenced pencils to the credits (“Ingeniously inked by Bob Wiacek”).
Yes, Stan, that sure was sneaky of you.
Louise Simonson doesn’t give Lee much of a plot to work with, as the young men of the original X-Men race to win a date with Jean Grey, but it’s a fun action sequence well-suited to her husband’s talents, even if Lee just uses it as an excuse for the X-Men to talk trash to each other—except Cyclops, who as usual is kind of a stick in the mud.
The next (untitled) story comes to us from penciller Pat Oliffe and writer Roy Thomas, who took over the writing duties for the original X-Men series after Stan Lee left the book.
I don’t know much about Sunfire or Banshee, so maybe I’m missing some crucial element to this story, but from my perspective it seems culturally insensitive. I’d like to know how Irish readers feel about Banshee’s “accent,” or how Japanese readers feel about Sunfire’s vocal hatred of Americans. Thomas’s pedigree may have earned him a lot of pull in the Marvel offices, but I’m surprised that he got away with such blatant stereotyping. At least the art’s nice.
“Options!” by Wolverine co-creator Len Wein, penciled, inked, and colored by the talented Jorge Molina, may be the best story of the bunch, as Wolverine contemplates how he could kill each member of his team if such a need arises, as they plan for the rescue mission of “Giant-Sized X-Men #1”.
It’s a surprisingly brutal, yet effective peak into the mind of a trained killer.
Before a set of enjoyable yet unnecessary previews of two current ongoing X-Books, Amazing X-Men #1 and All-New X-Men #18, “Dreams Brighten” is the final selection of the anthology. Written by Fabian Nicieza and illustrated by another staple of 90s X-Books, Salvador Larroca, readers familiar with that particular era of X-Men comics may find it enjoyable, but I wouldn’t know. Larroca’s art is attractive and clear, but I couldn’t follow most of the story, even after re-reading it.
Yes, each of these stories has Tom Orzechowski on lettering duties, just like old times.
- (Mostly) admirable efforts from veteran creators.
- (Mostly) standalone, approachable stories.
- Not a bad artist in the bunch.
- Nicieza and Larroca end on a sour note.
- Fine line between nostalgic appeal and pandering.
- Have Banshee and Sunfire always been caricatures?
The ending is similarly ill-advised. I suppose it’s meant to serve as a prelude to one of Nicieza’s earlier stories, but that isn’t made explicitly clear. For readers that don’t pick up whatever clues Nicieza may or may not have left in the story, it’s a downer of an ending, leaving us with a cliffhanger without telling us where we can read the resolution of the story, if such a resolution at all. Worse yet, this story is the finale to an anthology that claims to be a celebration of the X-Men. Maybe Nicieza wasn’t told that his story would come last, but it’s rather off-putting to go from this story to the last page, where a young Kitty Pryde (as drawn by John Byrne, I believe?) surrounded by confetti shouts “Here’s to fifty more!”
Is It Good?
X-Men: Gold has some major flaws (even by anthology standards), but the better moments are strong and plentiful enough to satisfy any X-Men fan. Here’s to fifty more, indeed.