You ever complain about something so much only for the guilty party to make the change you’d been asking for and things are still bad? Well welcome to the Negative Zone war arc of X-Men Gold, an event that bucks the series’ three issue structure in favor of a longer, more developed story that gives series scribe Marc Guggenheim more room create actually compelling stories with interesting characters. The thing is, longer stories don’t always mean better stories, and issue 18 of X-Men Gold is still the same dumpster fire it’s always been, only now with more time spent with Kologoth’s gleeful band of space fascists. Happy day.
So about those characters: Let’s talk about the additions to this arc’s cast. First up is Armor. I’m not sure why she made the cut, but I don’t mind. I’ve always enjoyed Hisako, even if she’s the most “created to replace Logan’s paternal relationship with Kitty” character since Jubilee. Her powerset is useful and can lead to inventive artistic interpretations, she’s precocious enough to serve as an entry-point character and has proved herself in enough missions that she doesn’t feel like a liability on a mission. Good choice, Guggs!
Then there’s Ink. Who the fuck thought it was a good idea to bring Ink along? Yeah he’s sort of a jack of all trades character, but there’s a reason soldiers rarely bring Swiss Army Knives into battle – especially when a lot of his abilities are redundant with heavy hitters like Storm and Colossus on your team. Worse yet, his inclusion in this arc is purely to serve as a deus ex machina, and not for any affection for the character – clearly, because artist Ken Lashley is drawing him wrong. When we last saw Ink he had a Phoenix symbol tattooed over his eye; well, not anymore. There are other bits about the character that also don’t square with the existing canon (dude’s artist – the one with the actual powers – was in a coma when last we saw him, yet Ink has new powers?) but that’s the most glaringly obvious proof that his inclusion had nothing to do with the creative team’s passion for the character. Ignoring continuity for no real benefit to the story? Classic Guggs.
Hey, let’s talk about other stupid storyline decisions. So if you read last issue, you know that it ended with Nightcrawler blind teleporting to escape his prison cell – the idea, as he reiterates in this issue, was that he would be killed if he stayed. So a couple of faults with that line of thinking in our heroic mister Wagner. First and foremost, he cannot die. Remember a few issues back when he was “beat to death” to no real consequence and even appeared without a scratch the following issue? Now if you know my joke patterns by now, you anticipate me saying that Guggs forgot, but that’s actually not the case. In fact, the fact that he can’t die is mentioned by multiple characters (including Kurt) and is at the center of the whole “accidentally teleported into a statue” kerfuffle. So like…what was the risk of staying in the cell? They can’t kill you, man. Yeah I’m sure it sucks to get beaten all the time, but how much worse is having a big chunk of slate stone lodged in your gut from a blind port? Speaking of which, Kurt frees himself from his impalement by teleporting again only…the pieces of stone (or whatever it is) should go with him, right? That’s how his power works. The only other time I remember him being impaled while teleporting was when Bastion’s arm got lodged in his chest mid port back in the Second Coming storyline, and when he ported to Utopia, Bastion’s arm was still lodged in his chest. So shouldn’t that side of a mountain be stuck in his gut still? The bigger issue is that by trying to escape he ended up abandoning Kitty. So our brave heroic Kurt abandoned a friend because he was scared he was going to die…which is something he can’t even do. Character assassination? Classic Guggs.
There are other story issues so let’s hit a speed round:
- Why is Amara the one talking to contractors? She was an enemy combatant like 15 issues ago, now she’s being entrusted with the rebuilding of the mansion?
- Rachel’s been unconscious for a while. Why are her “hound” markings just starting to show now? Also why does she bother hiding them? They were a part of her normal look back when they were the all-female X-Men, so why is she so self conscious now? Is it because the name Prestige sucks?
- Why is Logan leading the team? With Cyclops dead, Storm is the longest serving leader in the X-Men. Why isn’t she in charge?
- Why is Armor talking to Kologoth like they’re old friends? Why does he answer hew question about having things to hide?
- What’s the deal with Kologoth’s mole being surprised about the meeting location being sacred to the K-man’s cult? He was in on the whole plan, and was with the X-Men on their ride over to the plateau, so where’s the damn surprise?
- Speaking of the mole, why is he drawn to look exactly like Wolverine’s alternate future son with Mystique, Raze? How lazy was the character design stage of this book?
- If the whole point of Special K’s plan was to revive that weird rock god of his, why did he wait until the X-Men were already kicking his ass to do anything about it? Wouldn’t Scythian be helpful in his whole “overthrowing the endemic Dartayun government” agenda?
- What the hell is the light streak following Storm supposed to represent? She flies by manipulating wind patterns, not on lightning. What the hell?
- Colossus and Armor dropping the classic “Welcome to the X-Men, hope you survive the experience!” line in two languages is obnoxious. I doubt they speak each other’s language, but even so, why not say it in a way the rest of your team will understand?
- Ink says he had his artist add a healing factor, but – and this is a key point – DUDE ALREADY HAD HEALING POWERS AND THE ABILITY TO RESURRECT THE DEAD.
- As a followup to that last point, why not have the tattoo artist giving him all these powers work on the good X-Men? Yeah Wolverine is good enough as is, but why wouldn’t he get some tacky angel wing tattoos like a goth teenager if it meant he could fly?
- On second thought, nah I don’t think he would. But like, Gambit maybe?
Art-wise, this is probably the weakest outing for Ken Lashley on this book to date. His style looks so unfinished and sketchy that this book comes off as more of a rush job. His Logan is the most egregious — as he’s all teeth and receding hairlines. I’m not sure what happened between his first run and now, but his depiction of Logan has really depreciated. He went from looking like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven to Clint Eastwood after spending three days in a microwave. His sideburns literally start at his eyes, his underbite is approaching Beavis levels, and his only facial expression is snarling. I get that this is a somewhat tense situation, but come on. I also have to touch on his depiction of Cecilia Reyes, who is most often depicted as a beautiful Puerto Rican woman with braids, but is here depicted as a slight black man with dreadlocks. It’s…progressive if intentional, I guess? Also, it has to be said, Scythian’s design is just the Zardoz head with a body beneath it.
Overall, this issue is not the worst that the series has been, but it’s just lazy and uninspired. I know this can’t logistically be possible, but it feels like Guggenheim is making this story up as he goes along. If Kologoth’s whole goal was to revive his stupid full body Zardoz god, then that is tremendously underwhelming. Or it would be if I expected quality from this book. You get the idea.