I’ve been pretty hard on X-Men Gold since joining AiPT, and I gotta be honest it breaks my heart. Believe me, I want to love this series. There’s no reason this series shouldn’t be great with the wonderful ensemble of characters it brings to the table. Yet every two weeks I am utterly disappointed in how this series unfolds. That’s why I am down-right elated to say that X-Men Gold #24 is the best issue for writer Marc Guggenheim since before Secret Empire. That may not mean much considering how bad the series has been, but nonetheless this is an entertaining issue that truly allows a new X-team to shine.
Last issue, Guggenheim revealed the replacement X-Men that would be defending New York City while the starters were in prison and the results were underwhelming to say the least. This issue pits that team- Magma, Magik, Ink, Armor, Rogue, Iceman, and the recently reformed Pyro- against the unexpected return of Shredded Man, who has chosen to attack Manhattan rather than Boston this time around.
The action sequences that comprise the majority of this story are a joy to dissect as the showdown between the mutants and the evil Inhuman absolutely ravages a Manhattan block. Thony Silas captures the frantic speed of the battle so well as Rogue and Ink leap into battle while the blinding white of Iceman’s frozen streams contrasts the continuous flames from Magma and Pyro.
While this young team is still showing growing pains, especially after being manhandled in the Danger Room last issue and allowing Shredded Man to quickly gain the upper hand here, their bout in Manhattan is their first real taste of action together that really shines a spotlight on the leadership abilities of Rogue and Iceman. It’s no surprise that Rogue is such a strong leader after her stint with the Avengers Unity Squad, but seeing her back in the saddle calling the shots with fellow X-Men will be a joy to X-Men fans.
Throughout the chaotic brawl in the city, Rogue remains level headed even as her team is completely getting their asses kicked. While Bobby Drake is barking out marching orders, Rogue is quietly assessing the situation, staying one step ahead of her fellow teammates and discovering the true nature of the attack before anyone else.
This leads to a chilling confrontation between Rogue and Shredded Man that simultaneously displays the unnerving nihilistic motivations behind the attack as well as Rogue’s admirable, if not naive, belief in the goodness in everyone. In a heartwarming exchange, Rogue offers Shredded Man peace, allowing him to walk away and urging him to be a better man. Using her power absorption mutation, Rogues is able to thwart Shredded Man’s attack and ultimately save the day herself.
There’s been so many long and drawn out plot threads during X-Men Gold that the succinct, stand alone conflict with Shredded Man feels like a breath of fresh air. There’s no lingering cliffhanger, no interjected teases of intergalactic fascists from another dimension. Just a fast paced, entertaining fight with a particularly dark villain that allows this new team to prove their worth. I was so enthralled with the battle in New York that I completely forgot this story opened with a little bitty prison brawl involving Prestige, Kitty, and Storm.
Not only was the main battle the real backbone of this issue, but it shows just how boring the prison scenes are. There weren’t any X-Men fans clamoring with excitement over an imprisoned X-Men storyline and there won’t be any after this issue. The X-Men are simply in prison. Being prisoners. Nothing more to it. At this point, the series would be better off just ignoring the o.g. Gold squad until it is time for the replacements to break them out.
Even the art suffers during the prison sequences. While the slugfest in Manhattan is bursting with action and fantastic character designs from Thony Silas, the prison shots are bland with little to keep readers lingering on the page aside from confusion. It turns out, when you put Kitty Pryde and Rachel Grey in matching outfits they become pretty damn hard to differentiate.
X-Men Gold #24 is just the shot in the arm this series needed to get me excited again. It’s not a game changer nor does it change the status quo for the series, but it is easily the most entertaining issue since at least October. Fans of Marvel’s merry band of mutants will dig this new Rogue-led team and I, for one, hope Guggenheim keeps her around even after she inevitably breaks the Gold team out of prison.