With his heist gone awry, Gambit has unwittingly unleashed a terrifying new monstrosity on the Marvel Universe: his obnoxious hipster beanie! Oh, also a swarming plague of nanobot sentinels hellbent on killing anyone and anything with a genetic mutation. But mostly the hat.
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: RB Silva
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So just to get this out of the way: this second arc of X-Men: Gold is already light years better than the first – and I’m not just saying that because I’m a big Gambit fan. The artwork of R.B. Silva is miles ahead of Syaf (though both struggle with faces in different ways), and even Guggenheim feels reinvigorated with the way he’s handling the dialogue in this issue. Even the inking team of Adriano Di Benedetto and Frank Martin are bringing a new look and feel to a series I was ready to write off just three issues in.
THAT BEING SAID, there are still plenty of issues that the creative team may want to address if they hope for the series to be remembered for the right reasons.
First let’s touch on the art. I do genuinely like Silva’s pencils, but man, some of his figure and faces are rough. Whenever taking wide or long shots, his characters’ figures grow disproportionately wide. The first panel of page three is the most egregious, as the entire team is squished down to what can generously be referred to as South Park proportions. Shoot, the more voluptuous figure and poofy hair makes Rachel look more like country legend Wynona than the pixie-cutted waif that she’s been the past several years.
The real issue, however, is with his faces. Now, they’re often just fine and perfectly serviceable for the scene, but sometimes they just get lost. Not just in distant shots, where features would naturally be more subtle or hidden, but tight group panels as well. Both Colossus and Logan’s faces look simian at times, while Gambit and Storm boast more catlike features. Mysteriously, there are times when Kitty’s eyes seem to disappear altogether. Silva does have a good eye for action, as the combat and motion-heavy sequences are well-paced and easy to follow. Despite these issues, I really do like Silva’s style–if he could just maintain more consistent character figures, he’d potentially be one of my favorite artists out there today.
On the writing front, Guggenheim is finally starting to find a more natural rhythm with the characters. This issue is light on the verbal cliches and overly expositional dialogue that plagued the first arc. I’m not crazy about Grumpy Grandpa Wolverine calling Kitty ‘Punkin,’ but things are moving in the right direction from a dialogue standpoint. I do, unfortunately, have more issue with the general plotting and story beats in this book.
For one, in a panel I sat in on with Marc Guggenheim at C2E2, he hinted that all of the characters in the book were ones he really wanted to use; people who he had great ideas for. Yet we’re now five issues into the series and Nightcrawler has done basically nothing the whole time. He exists purely to port injured people away from the interesting parts of the story. The more prescient point, however, is the real lack of originality in these storylines. The second arc of the series sees the X-Men go up against a new form of Sentinel. Last time around, they fought a new form of the Brotherhood. In both cases it seems like those antagonists were set in play by the looming threat of Graydon Creed William Stryker Lydia Nance and the recently introduced Olivia Trask. With the plan to reintroduce the Shadow King in the coming months, this is fast becoming the X-Men’s greatest hits collection. What I wouldn’t give for something new and original to help make this book stand out.
Overall, this is so much better than the first arc, but that’s a low bar to cross. I’m glad we’ve moved from an F grade to a C, but there’s still some work to be done here. Whether it’s corporate mandate or Guggenheim’s own ideas, the fact that the entire series is built on legacy ideas is a big issue with me. Hopefully the fresh of breath air that comes with a new art team for each arc will inspire the writing team to shift up the playbook from time to time.