Well it’s here, the finale of the rocky first arc of X-Men: Gold. Can Guggenheim and Syaf turn around what has been a dismal introduction to this team book and salvage any hope for a coherent and well told story? Nope! This one stinks too!
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Ardian Syaf
Publisher: Marvel Comics
If you’ve read our reviews of the previous two issues of X-Men: Gold, you know that this series has not been looked on fondly. From the clunky, dare I say lazy, sameness of Ardian Syaf’s artwork, to the awkward and sometimes dissociative dialogue from Marc Guggenheim, to the flat and uninteresting plot, there’s just not a lot to like about this book. With issue #3, the series’ first arc wraps not with a bang but a whimper, bringing a merciful end to what has been a fairly crappy first outing.
Free from his chains and having already bested half of what is almost certainly the worst rendition of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (Yes, even that one with Mammomax), Old Man Logan waits for the cavalry to come rescue him and New York mayor Bill de Blasio. Confronted by ⅔ of the remaining members, Logan is once again one-shotted by Amara and the three conscious members of the Brotherhood get ready to face the inbound X-Men.
In a rare moment of logic, the young X-Men stop Kitty and company on their way to the X-Jet and suggest that they expand their mission roster rather than head into a 6-on-6 battle. It’s always been silly to me that the X-Men will send out such small teams when they essentially have an army of super-powered teammates that could easily turn the tide for the squad. Kitty sees the light and brings Rockslide and Armor onto the strike force, with only the former playing any kind of role in the battle – if you can call it that.
Honestly, the conflict between the Brotherhood and the X-Men is so brief, it feels like a strong wind could’ve beat these chumps. Maybe it’s because of space constraints, but everyone in this fight (including a Mesmero-controlled Wolverine) gets knocked out in one hit. Rachel floors Mesmero in a single panel (effectively calling him a bitch in the process), Colossus floors the big lizard guy with one punch to the face, and Storm performs the second one-hit kill on Logan in this issue with a bolt of lightning. Shoot, even Avalanche is somehow unconscious by the time the X-Men get there. The parts of the fights that are actually depicted on-panel that don’t result in single-strike unconsciousness are just a lot of meaningless swaying. It’s like watching the background characters in a ninja movie waiting for their turn to face the hero one-on-one, only with Logan occasionally swiping one character or another with his claws to no real lasting impact.
With Mesmero’s Mediocre Mutants out of the way, Rachel lets on that her thorough trouncing of the green-skinned telepath has revealed that the Brotherhood was operating as a false flag for (pause for effect) Lydia Nance. I know. What a shocker. Kitty takes a squad to have an “impotently threaten the bad guy” moment and ends with a defiant “We’re the X-Men!” to close out the issue.
To get this out of the way, Syaf’s art here is not the weakest element of this issue. Sure, every woman has the same face, every man that isn’t ridiculously big has the same body, all of the action is clumsily paced and he literally draws the X-Jet crashing into the abandoned factory where they’re fighting without depicting any structural damage to the building or plane. He does, however, manage to capture decent facial emotions in several panels, particularly in the sequence where Rachel faces off with Mesmero. It’s a small thing, but I’m trying to give praise where praise is due.
No, the real problem here is Guggenheim. His plotting and dialogue is just bad. It’s bad. It’s bad writing. The dialogue is painful. Remember how Logan set up Amara for a pun in the last issue when he said the word “flamin’?” In issue 3 they make sure he says it MULTIPLE times as if to say “no, really. Logan says flamin’ all the time.” It’s just just another sign that Guggenheim has a really bad voice for the characters. Kitty simultaneously claims that this new Brotherhood isn’t a J.O.B. squad, but then spends much of the battle running down these shmos and quipping about their weakness. The same can be said of most of the X-Men, actually. From Rockslide to Prestige, pretty much everyone is cracking jokes throughout what are ostensibly tense action sequences and (though it is in Santo’s character to be that aloof) it ruins any chance of us taking the threat seriously.
Near the end, Kitty threatens that the X-Men will expose Nance “for the bigot (she is),” but like…we already know she’s a bigot. She’s been an outspoken anti-mutant talking head; where’s the surprise? Shouldn’t you be threatening to expose her as the terrorist she is for creating a mutant attack squad to both attack the Pentagon and kidnap the mayor of New York? Also, what’s with the team’s freak out over Kitty and Magma being left behind when the factory explodes? One’s power is intangibility and the other is essentially living fire. If there are two X-Men better suited to surviving an explosion I can’t think of them.
Also, if you had thought the book acknowledging that Pyro and Avalanche are supposed to be dead would lead to something interesting, prepare to be disappointed. They just ignore it.
Then there’s Guggenheim’s self aware jokes, like when Rachel comments that they really need to rename the X-Jet. Like, dude, just change the damn name. Unless Disney has prevented you from changing the damn thing’s name, just make the call, Marc. At times he is obtuse about what may be long term goals (why did Kitty insist that they keep the mute lizard guy for questioning? Why not one of the guys who can actually talk?) and other times he telegraphs his moves so obviously that it’s ridiculous (is anyone surprised about the “twist” with Lydia Nance?). Not to kick a man while he’s down, but Guggenheim is just as responsible for having the X-Jet crash into the factory for what Kitty refers to as a “violent extraction” without the structure of the building or the jet being compromised. It just all reads so short-sighted.
In every sense of the word, this opening arc of X-Men: Gold was a colossal misfire.
Three-issue arcs require tight plotting and a strong narrative to tell a condensed story that both captures the mind of readers and makes in-universe sense. Guggenheim and team tried to cram too much into three issues and everything suffers because of it. The new Brotherhood look like total jabronis, Nance doesn’t emerge as the arch villain they clearly hoped she would, and the team itself come off as removed an uninterested in their own story.
The next arc brings in Gambit and the Sentinels and…well, let’s try and be optimistic about all that.