Remember last month where I talked about how I kind of enjoyed X-Men: Gold #14? How the scripting and artwork seemed uncharacteristically strong for this book, and led to a fun middle chapter of what is an admittedly pretty shitty Mojo crossover? Well, this month is a return to form as both the quality of the writing and the artwork falls clear off a cliff, and we’re back to the barely cogent dreck Guggenheim and company have been producing for the past several months.
Building off the events of X-Men: Blue #14, this issue sees our not-dead heroes emerging in Mojoworld looking to fight their way back to the 616. To do so they have to fight through Spiral and her army of little mini-Mojos and break into Mojo’s control tower to shut all the madness down.
So a couple of points here. Much like the use of Longshot, who seems to be his normal self over in the current run ofCable but is in his “factory reset” self here, what the hell is Spiral doing in Mojoworld? The last I remember, she was raising a pre-teen runaway as part of an (also admittedly bad) Uncanny X-Force series and was very much her own person, so why is she now back to being Mojo’s gofer?
Second of all, and something I feel like both Guggenheim and issue artist Diego Bernard share the blame for, is the complete lack of logic when it comes to the spacial awareness as it pertains to physics and motion. At one point Kitty ducks out from the fracas to look for Mojo’s control tower by phasing into the ground. She eventually returns saying she’s found it, but we later see that the tower is not underground. Like…what the hell did she do? How did she find the tower? The tower itself has no doors or windows or distinguishing marks, so how did she identify it? If you were going to search for an above ground location, why not have Angel do reconnaissance? His powers aren’t exactly useful in a fight, but he is super fast, so why not put those talents to good use and have him survey the area? Later, when we’re inside the tower itself, Kitty notes that the control center is at the top, but there don’t appear to be any stairs. So what does a team with five people who can fly (four of whom have been known to carry multiple team members using their mutant powers), another that can create moving icicle structures of unlimited size and shape, and yet another that can teleport himself and a teammate over considerable distances, do when faced with this obstacle? They…break down a wall and enter the control room? Wait, why? You’ve established Mojo is at the top, why are you going sideways? What kind of backward ass logic is it to move sideways to go up? To go down to go left? I get that Mojoworld is a crazy place, but what the hell?
Elsewhere, Polaris, Danger and Magneto are trapped in their own stupid spire where they are facing off with the menacing Apocalypse! This world-beating baddie is considered a global threat, having been the central antagonist of several major conflicts that have proven him a match to entire teams of the X-Men’s heavy hitters… and Magneto single-handedly wastes him in three panels. I know this is a fake robot version of ‘ol blue lips, but come on. Robot versions of D-listers like the friggin’ Press Gang killed Wolverine and Storm last issue, but Tupacalypse Now can’t stand up to some damn shrapnel here? Apocalypse does get a good shot in on Danger though, so Magneto works to heal her only to come face to face with the Shi’ar Imperial Guard alongside Vulcan. Now if you know your history, you know that Vulcan became the leader of the Shi’ar empire by murdering the empress Lilandra and claiming the throne for himself. Yet here he is (in fake robot form) standing next to Gladiator under “the Order of Lilandra Neramani, Majestrix of the Shi’ar.” It feels like Guggenheim found a way to work around how little he actually remembers of the continuity so that he could cram whatever the hell he wants in these stories, logic be damned. You want Apocalypse and Vulcan in your book? Fake robots, don’t worry about it. You want Longshot and Spiral in your book? Kidnapped and mind wiped, that’s why they’re back to the way they were in the ’80s. You want a fastball special but don’t know what to do with it? Double it up and then cut away! No one cares if the law firm of Howlett and Son actually makes contact with anything, we just want the implication of combat. Honestly, the battle is already over when Rachel chucks the Jimmies, so I guess even for the X-Men it was all for show.
It wouldn’t be an X-Men: Gold review without ardent complaints about shit dialogue and scripting, and issue #15 does not disappoint. Well, I guess it does because it’s bad, but….you catch my meaning. The worst thing that could have happened to this book was giving Guggenheim a fourth-wall-breaking character like Mojo because now he gets to excuse his poor writing by having a character who exists purely to comment on those mistakes. Mojo taunts the mutants by calling them “X-Crements,” which he then follows up with “See what I did there?” It’s not clever to have a character purposefully recite obnoxious exposition in lieu of meaningful dialogue. I know memory erasures and amnesia are a big part of this (utterly awful) story, but why does Magneto not recognize Apocalypse? Danger, who was injured in the initial confrontation with Apocalypse, is on the mend and suddenly says “There is Danger…” and either pauses or is cut off by Magneto, of all people, scolding her for speaking in the third person. She actually meant that bad guys were coming so there was ‘peril,’ but this is one of those “playful misunderstandings” that lazy writers throw into these kinds of stories but would never actually happen. Her name is Danger, you don’t think her advanced alien database hasn’t prepared for misleading wordplay? Speaking of that exact (terrible) ear for wordplay, behold this mess of an exchange:
Woof. The apple doesn’t fall from the tree, it turns out, as when our heroes enter Mojo’s control tower and see flashes of their own pasts Jean flips the fuck out. Most of this stuff didn’t even happen to her, but she literally screams about the X-Men not cracking, then proceeds to crack and then blow up one of the monitors and the wall behind it. Cool. Way to maintain your composure there, Jeannie.
Art-wise, this issue is another step down. Marc Laming managed to make the most of his time with the X-Men, and created a unique visual experience that lifted the quality of the book above the bad writing. Diego Bernard, however competent his pencils may be, is sunk by it. There’s really nothing new or exciting about his work on this issue and he falls into a lot of pitfalls that have ruined past artists’ tenures on the book as well. His body sizes tend to run together (why is Titan the same size as Danger?), his faces fall apart at any wide shot, and he seems to lose side characters between panels (Vulcan is there in one panel then never seen again). Some of these issues I can trace back to the poor scripting (like the face and silly reaction of Jean’s freak out), but sometimes it feels like he had the opportunity to get creative with these dumb ideas but instead chose the easy route (the frequent breaking down of walls by angry X-Men is literally just them standing in a row and firing powers at a wall. Blah). Credit where it’s due, though, he draws a pretty mean Apocalypse.
This is the last outing for the Gold team in this Mojo-centric crossover and to paraphrase AiPT!’s own Chris Hassan in his review of the Blue portion of this mess, good riddance. Guggenheim is a bad writer, but handing him a “self aware, fourth-wall breaking” character like Mojo is just a license to print garbage. It doesn’t excuse your bad comedy by calling attention to it, and the solution to bad character development isn’t adding 12 more characters to hide the lack of growth. I look forward to next month being back to normal bad, instead of special event bad.