I’m beginning to sound like a broken record here, but a three-issue arc structure – though it may be preferable for trades – is a terrible structure for storytelling. I know I’ve savaged the writing on this series in the past (and justifiably so if you ask me) but maybe the fault doesn’t really lie with Marc Guggenheim alone. Maybe Marvel’s over reliance on nostalgia and trade-centric narrative structure just means there’s not enough room to develop meaningful stories that have resonant finishes, because MAN does this book drop the ball with its finish. I’m not going to give Guggenheim a free pass on this, by the way – the man chose to create a Russian equivalent to SHIELD (A multinational organization operating under UN authority I might add) and call it S.I.C.K.L.E. I can’t just walk away from that. Is the organization run by Nikolevich Badenov? Is Vodka Drunkensky their version of Dum Dum Dugan? But, comrades, I digress…
Issue 11 picks up where we last left off, with Magick captured by Russian mobsters looking to feed her to the zombified corpse of 90s masculinity…I mean, Omega Red. Turns out Colossus’ uncle Anatoly was using his familial ties to the Rasputin siblings to lure them into a trap for that exact purpose. Ani says he’ll help our heroes find Illyana and big Red, but – shocker – he’s leading them into yet another trap. Fortunately the X-Men remembered they had a psychic on the team this time around and are able to plan around it. Of course, I’m not sure what they actually planned – it seems like the only deception our heroes made was somehow giving uncle Ani an unloaded gun without the experienced Russian mobster noticing. Admittedly I haven’t had a lot of experience handling a firearm (I’ve been shooting twice, so by no means am I an expert) but shouldn’t a mafia captain – whose line of work requires that he carry a piece at all times – notice the weight differential of an unloaded gun vs. a full mag? That’s half snark, half genuine question, by the way. It’s such a trope in modern fiction that I wonder how realistic it is.
So the extent of the “trap” uncle Ani and the B-story bad guys of Arrow Season 5 set is to try and shoot Colossus when he meets the Bratva leader. Yes, Omega Red attacks the X-Men hanging out on the outside of the hideout, but that was probably always going to happen, and it’s not like he caught them off guard. Anatoly had to know Nightcrawler was following his nephew into the meeting with his Bratva captain, so why weren’t they prepared for his involvement? Here’s the kicker though – Nightcrawler doesn’t even do anything! He ports in like he’s about to attack the captain, but Piotr calls him off and fights the wizard one-on-one. He does that “knock out the bad guy for 2 minutes” thing that makes no sense, so by the time he and Kurt have found Illyana, Bratva dude is back up and menacing the trio. For some reason he can tank attacks from both Magick and Kurt while barely batting an eye, but as soon as Piotr gets his groove back, the re-steeled Colossus hits a three hit combo that floors the wizard.
More baffling is the Omega Red fight, as Rossovich battles the combined efforts of Wolverine, Storm, Prestige and Kitty in a string of this series’ favorite trope – the one-hit KO. Well, most of them get KOed in one hit, Storm appears to have fainted off screen. While it’s ridiculous that seemingly no one in the X-Men Gold universe can take a punch without getting concussed, the way Omega Red fights just makes no sense – in a number of ways actually. First off, he takes out Kitty, Rachel and (briefly) Logan by stabbing them in the shoulders with his tendrils. The logistics of how he managed to create three puncture wounds in a matter of seconds using a whiplike motion are pretty baffling, but I have more issue with the fact that he didn’t use the opportunity to absorb the life force of the stabbed X-Men. Like we’ve established that the Royal Order of Moose and Squirrel’s spell puts Red on borrowed time, and that he needs to drain people’s life force to stay alive. We also know that the Bratva’s whole plan was to capture Magick to provide Rossovich with a stronger food supply. So like…why isn’t he draining the X-Men? He’s got them stabbed with his tendrils – that’s the hard part. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to gain some of their strength, or at the very least, take them out of the fight? No? I AM in fact taking crazy pills? Well ok. Anyway, Red takes out the X-Women (including Kitty who can’t seem to phase out of Red’s tendril for some reason) only to be put down by a single claw to the side from Wolverine. Yes, that’s it. No real explanation for why it’s enough to take out a guy that literally shrugged off AK-47 fire or anything, just a shot to the ribs puts down the big bad like a chump.
The epilogue shows uncle Ani throwing shade toward Colossus for not being Russian enough, but Piotr dropping the whole “My dad was right to disown you!” argument on his duplicitous kinsman. Kitty then kisses Colossus and we get one of the most confusing exchanges between the two of them. Pete asks why the reticent Katya was suddenly making out with him, and her answer is “I said I needed time. I took it.” Peter responds by saying he can’t wait to go home, Kitty says “I thought you were home.” and his retort is “Home, Katya, is wherever you are.” Wait, what? What does she mean? What does HE mean? Is she saying she’s accepting his proposal from the beginning of the arc? Does he not realize that she’s next to him – meaning that (by his own definition) he’s already home? Was that a crude sexual come on? I’m just completely baffled by what we’re supposed to take from this conversation. I gather that they’re back together now, but this was the conversation to cement the rejuvenation of their relationship?
This is another let down arc, but at least it’s over. Omega Red has always been a one-note villain who wasn’t that interesting, so him being swiftly dealt with is something I’m ok with. The fact that he was able to take on entire teams of X-Men only to get floored by a poke in the ribs really undercuts his importance to the X-Men canon, which is also something I’m fine with. The three-issue arc structure, however, needs to go if they aren’t going to play off each other or create a more comprehensive ur-narrative. There have been so many poorly constructed elements of the book created and then dropped (the revival of Pyro and Avalanche, Storm and Gambit’s kiss, Giant mute lizard guy, Kurt can’t die, etc.) that would have benefited from more time to develop (I mean most would still be bad, but you know), and the one element that has stuck with the series from issue 1 (Lydia Nance’s mutant deportation act) is completely ancillary and has no real weight in the book.
On the plus side, that variant cover by Mike del Mundo is pretty sweet.