Hey, remember the ’90s?! When the X-Men ruled all, with TWO different teams — Blue and Gold!
Well, those times are BACK! Marvel is taking the X-Men seriously again, with two titles actually CALLED Blue and Gold! They’re SO serious they’ve put television writing superstar Marc Guggenheim, of shows like Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, on their flagship Gold book.
It seemed like a good idea, anyway.
It sure seemed like a good idea to bring back fan-favorite X-Men like Nightcrawler, Colossus and Storm, and to mix them up with Old Man Logan, Rachel Summers (under yet another new codename) and Kitty Pryde, finally in a firm leadership position. We were promised classic X-Men tales with modern twists, full of high stakes and interpersonal drama.
What we got was a comic book for the Tumblr generation — short snippets of things that might have been part of actual stories, but are instead crammed together without any cohesion. Random romantic hook-ups with no set-up or follow-up. Characters introduced, interacted with and shuffled off, with dialogue so light it’s impossible to develop a connection with them.
Such is the second volume of Guggenheim’s X-Men Gold, Evil Empires, although it’s unclear to what the title refers. I guess it must be Secret Empire, as the first two issues of this collection are ostensibly tie-ins to the 2017 summer event, but only insomuch as the darkforce dome over New York City is an excuse for residents to beat the shit out of Nightcrawler. I mean, he looks like a demon, right? And New Yorkers haven’t seen weird stuff their whole lives; nope.
Meanwhile, a new X-Cutioner is tearing through the mansion, killing children, eliciting a reaction of, “Well, we can’t let anyone know about this” from Kitty Pryde. Seriously. No mourning, no pledges for justice; just another day at the beatin’ up bad guys office. And by the time we get to Omega Red in issue #9, Nightcrawler is healed and no mention is ever made again to the murdered children, as if none of it ever happened. If the romantic moments are the Tumblr of comics, the entirety of the issues is more like bad ’80s sitcoms — no progression, and nothing ever matters. Next week comes and we might as well be starting over from scratch.
Oh wait, while this arc makes slightly more sense and holds together a little bit better, it DOES carry over something introduced at the very end of the previous story — the threat of a MUTANT DEPORTATION ACT. Okay. Yes this is topical, and yes the X-Men have faced government oppression before … but deportation just flat out doesn’t fit. They didn’t come here from somewhere else. Where would they be deported to? Mutanistan?
Omega Red is ultimately defeated, but not before Kitty Pryde blasts him with a big-ass gun and sort-of gets back together with Colossus. Did I mention Colossus had lost his powers? Doesn’t matter, because they return once he gets his groove back and guess what? No one knows how and it’s, yep, never mentioned again.
Because the last issue of Evil Empires is all about the scaly green guy from the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Really! Turns out he’s actually a seditious alien who HOLD ON NO MORE TIME TO TALK ABOUT THAT ‘CAUSE MOJO IS COMING UP NEXT!
The art in Evil Empires is similarly Tumblr-iffic to the writing. A lot of still images ready for sharing, but no real continuity between them. To the credit of Lan Medina and Luke Ross, they’re able to follow Ken Lashley’s style well and at least maintain visual continuity between the three different artists. Frank Martin does the same for colors, with a little help from Andrew Crossley.
All in all, X-Men Gold Vol. 2: Evil Empires reads like the creative teams were chasing moments rather than narrative. Each fist-pumping battle quip and unheralded kiss between characters might make for a nice Pinterest post, but a conglomeration of a bunch of them does not make a compelling story. The art suffers from much the same syndrome, thought it is somewhat pleasant to look at, out of context. Still, if this is Marvel taking the X-Men seriously, maybe we’d be better off if they stopped caring again.