X-Men: Gold leans in to its nostalgia kick by reviving one of the ’90s most inexplicably popular villains, reigniting a relationship made popular in the Claremont era, and reintroducing a character that hasn’t been seen in around 15 years. Oh also we get an appearance from a forgettable Iron Man villain that is only relevant because he was in the second worst MCU outing.
When we last left the Claremont reunion tour that is X-Men: Gold, the new X-Cutioner met the same fate as the new brotherhood and the sentinel swarm (i.e. one-note villain, swiftly sent back to obscurity after a promising build hinted at overarching mysteries that were never actually developed), Nightcrawler managed to kind of die (but he had an extra guy, so he’s back already), and Colossus’ powers stopped working. This month, Guggenheim and team get away from all of the recycled plotlines and character beats from the X-Men stories of the ’80s – opting instead for a turn toward the ’90s.
Yes, the central plot of this arc (and I suppose the overarching goal of the Lydia Nance story that has been building since the start of the series) is the introduction of the Mutant Registration…I mean, Deportation act. See? It’s a new and different idea! Kitty has been invited to speak to congress on behalf of all mutantkind in her attempts to block this piece of legislation that would have no chance at being ratified because of how unconstitutional it is…at least that’s something I would have said before our current pre….you know what? Not going to go there in a comic review.
Anyway, Kitty makes the curious move to bring the de-powered Colossus along for protection, and it’s another transparent case of story winning out over logic. See, throughout the series, Guggenheim has been playing coy about the lingering attraction between Piotr and Kitty – and by “playing coy” I mean “has made it an entirely one-sided attraction.” Yet while Colossus has followed his precious Katya around like a lovestruck puppy, only to be spurned at every turn, his borderline suicidal efforts to save Kitty from the X-Cutioner last issue has seemingly rekindled the warm fuzzies for the Siberian strongman. I get that this is just another of Guggenheim’s throwback tropes to rekindle lapsed fans’ nostalgia for the golden days of X stories, but even if Kitty was confident of her ability to survive/repel attacks, isn’t it irresponsible to bring the depowered guy that’s the size of a linebacker into the line of fire? Even so, why bring JUST the de-powered guy? Last episode proved that Nightcrawler can’t die, Wolverine is Wolverine (even when he’s old wolverine), Rockslide is indestructible – you’re literally sitting on an army of invincible super people, why not keep the guy who’s most vulnerable safe? Especially if you are falling back in love with him?
Speaking of falling back in love, what is up with Piotr’s attempts at winning Kitty back? She’s only JUST coming around to admitting she still has feelings for the guy and he instantly proposes marriage? Slow your roll, man! Maybe re-establish the loving connection that took you years of near-death experiences and meaningful interaction to create rather than rush into things. I can’t believe they have Kitty even consider it. She is just coming off of a failed engagement and when her ex, whom she’s kept at arm’s length for the entirety of the run thus far, proposes marriage, she’s considering it? Does Guggenheim understand how people’s emotions work? Near the end of the issue, Colossus actually says “Has there ever been a moment where what you wanted was not ‘right’ with me?” Like, yeah dude. You guys didn’t split amicably, it was Kitty’s call. Let’s not forget that it was an important plot point during the whole AVX sequence that being spurned by Kitty drove you a little crazy. Continuity, man. Do you speak it?
So Kitty and Peter head to DC at the behest of 90s holdover Stevie Hunter, who has somehow made the phenomenal leap from dance instructor to member of congress. It’s not the most auspicious start to a political career that we’ve seen in recent years, but…no, not going there. Anyway, on the second day of her testimony, Kitty’s courtroom is attacked by long time Iron Man c-lister and no time X-Men villain Whiplash (for some reason). To be fair, they do sort of setup that he has some vague anti-capitalist gripe with the congressman, but it’s so weird. It feels like he’s only there because he’s a Russian guy with some sort of metal energy whip – something that will be a theme in this arc, it seems. Though the X-Men easily subdue Mickey Rourke, we later learn that a mutant-loving Russian cult has revived Omega Red for what I’m sure are not poorly thought out reasons to feed readers’ nostalgia boners. I don’t know, I know Red was really popular in the 90s (even making it into the Marvel Vs. Capcom games) but he’s a really dumb character, and I’ve never really seen the appeal.
We also need to talk about the B-story of the blooming romance between Nightcrawler and Rachel, because it just isn’t working. Maybe it’s the art (more on that later), maybe it’s the stunted dialogue, but I just don’t buy their chemistry. This really feels like they just crammed two characters together who had nothing else going on, and that never works. For one thing, Kurt just went through a fairly traumatic experience, both being beaten to “death” and learning that his particular form of revival means that he can’t actually die. Yet they don’t touch on it. Instead he asks Rachel out on a date, then proceeds to contradict himself several times over. He both says they shouldn’t be in a relationship if they’re working on a team together AND highlights several instances when teammates have been in relationships. Rachel actually does it too, using both sides of the argument to counter Kurt’s points at separate points in the conversation. It’s just crummy. It’s clear the writers want to put these two together, but it’s a connection that just doesn’t feel earned.
So the art…it’s not very good. I’ve liked Ken Lashley’s work in the past (his Instagram, in particular, has some really great pieces), but this issue feels lazily put together. Where he particularly struggles is with displays of emotion. As I hinted in the previous paragraph, Kurt and Rachel’s chemistry largely fails to land because their faces are flat throughout. He even appears to reuse the same faces several times. Nowhere is this more obvious than in his depiction of Colossus. I saw Ken speak at C2E2 this year, and the biggest takeaway from the page was that he “loves to draw Colossus,” yet you wouldn’t know it to read this issue, as Piotr is the second worst rendered character in the book. Take a look at the sequence where Kitty asks Pete to come with her to DC. It’s a 2-page, 10 panel sequence and Colossus only has two faces in it. Yes there are slight differences between the panels (like a weird gap appearing in one of his eyebrows randomly) but it almost looks like he simply copied and pasted each panel, making small shifts from one to the next.
Worse yet is his depiction of Kitty, whose character modeling is all over the place. There’s the height disparity that pops up at points (at times she’s taller than Stevie, others she’s not), but the biggest issue is her hair. This has actually been something every artist has struggled with on this book, but there is just no consistency with its shape, length or style. Sometimes it’s long enough to cover her face, sometimes it’s short and cropped. Sometimes she has a slight widow’s peak, other times she has a forehead you could fold laundry on. I’m not sure where the issue really lies on this hairstyle, as Lashley isn’t the first artist to struggle with it, but it’s definitely an issue I’ve had with the book from the get go.