“Voices, a thousand, thousand voices
Whispering, the time has passed for choices
Golden days are passing over, yeah” – Ozzy Osbourne
So here we are, friends and relations. The end of X-Men Gold: A book that I’ve hated and loved in equal measure for its ineptly scripted, poorly paced, sometimes badly drawn, Claremontian take on Kitty Pryde’s team of X-Men. If I’m honest, I felt a twinge of remorse when I heard this was the final outing for Marc Guggenheim and his revolving door creative team. I have spread so much bile and negativity about this book over the past year and a half, that now that it’s gone, I find myself wondering if it was all worth it? I mean, this was a celebrated TV writer‘s unique vision of mutantkind meets Melrose Place that introduced new characters, reinvisioned old favorites and tracked a series-long romance arc…that it totally bungled, forcing the team to marry two characters recently rehabbed in another (better written) series in an issue that was probably both the book’s peak, craftwise, and its nadir…well, no, the space Nazi’s giant stone Zardoz god was the nadir, but the transparent bait-and-switch cash grab that was the wedding issue. The point being I wanted to give this series a fair shake when reviewing its final issue. Fortunately for my gimmick, X-Men Gold‘s swansong was just as insipid, emotionally vapid and overreaching as any issue Marvel’s put out all year.
So the issue starts with everyone’s favorite part of the X-Men Gold series: Kitty feeling bad about the decisions she’s made. Look, I’ve gone through breakups where I was the one who called it off for both of us and it sucks. It really does — but you know what a conscientious person in that position does? The one who genuinely cares about the other person who they feel they’ve hurt? They give the wronged party some space to heal and make themselves available without inserting themselves into the situation. They don’t, oh I don’t know, leave long meandering voicemails where they try to talk about their own suffering and ennui to the person they literally thrust it upon. That’s just selfish. It’s uncharacteristically human for the series and maybe the most realistic behavior I’ve seen in this series, but it’s still selfish and doesn’t make me enjoy Kitty as a character any more than her leaving Peter at the altar did.
Fortunately, human emotion has no place in X-Men Gold, so the next page is Rachel (still going by Prestige and back in the ugly ass costume that Ardian Syaf’s intolerant ass put her in back in issue 1) and the X-Men she nearly murdered a little while back facing off against the three most major(ly disappointing) villains from the series in a Danger Room session. Yep, the X-Men are making quick and easy work of Kologoth the lizard space Nazi, the all new all different Exterminator and the undead Russian psychopath who puts the “Suc- in success,” Omega Red all while Rachel mutters some forced apologies to her would-be victims, who are surprisingly cool about being nearly murdered by a coworker. Sure she was being controlled, but she’s like the third most powerful psychic in the world. How do you let that slide? To quote the late great Mitch Hedberg:
If your friend was a tightrope walker, and you were walking down the street with him and he fell, that would be completely unacceptable.
— Mitch Hedberg (@M_Hedberg) June 16, 2012
We get some lip service paid to the failed relationship between Rachel and Kurt before we’re launched into the actual story of this book:
That’s right, a new Omega Mutant! One who’s so powerful and dangerous that our heroes must…wait what’s that? He’s shot and killed four pages later by some random dude on the street? Oh, never mind. Yep, Kid Proteus here barely utters a word before he’s Stand Your Grounded by some random dude with a concealed carry permit. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they didn’t build Brian Morrison better — they couldn’t even be bothered to show the scope of his damage, just imply it. That’s not even a joke. When the X-Men land, they react as if they can barely fathom the scope of destruction they’re seeing — which we may be willing to believe IF THEY SHOWED ANY OF IT. But nope, they had to leave room for the needlessly tacked on and emotionally unearned denouement sequence at the hospital, so instead we have to just assume that the damage (both collateral and property) is so bad that hardened superheroes like Storm (who was on site at Stamford in Civil War I might add) were aghast. We do actually get a wide shot a few pages later, but considering that there’s less damage in that scene than the average “No Powers” baseball game at the X-Mansion, this felt like a meritless effort to build a big bad that fell flat on its face due to poor followthrough. A creative decision that doesn’t earn its implied weight? (Say it with me now) Classic Guggz.
Our heroes then rush Morrison to the hospital where Dr. Ving Rhames decides to forsake his hippocratic oath to prevent the powerful mutant from involuntarily murdering people with his great, ungodly power (see the damage above for reference). Kitty instantly plays the race card, which is fair, but even she would have to admit that this was a pretty significantly special case, only for some random surgeon — who happened to be an NPC in the controversial segment of the first issue. In fact, she was the specific NPC who spat out a racist rant at Kitty after the X-Men had just saved their lives. What brought about this astounding change of viewpoint in this well avowed bigot? You guessed it: X-Men Gold did. Evidently all of the team’s X-ploits have been captured on the news, and despite prominent talking heads like Lydia Nance and her throngs of followers having a clearly prominent voice in the mainstream media, she somehow was able to take a narrative out of their fights with sentient robot swarms, magical Russian mobsters and giant stone monsters straight out of the movie that stuck Sean Connery in a red diaper that was SO positive that it ended her racism. In that first issue her (racist) point was that mutants are too dangerous; that even having them around invites peril to those in the area. She yelled that at a woman that can walk through walls. Now? She’s willing to risk the lives of several hundred people to save someone who, involuntarily, could literally destroy the hospital altogether. (I mean, look at what he did to that tree!)
One hundred percent bullshit. Come on, now. I get that this was probably the end Guggenheim had scribbled on a Post-It after he scripted that scene in the first issue all those months ago, but what exactly had he done to earn this nonsense? What actions did we see in the past 35 issues that would allow a racist to think that mutants are any less dangerous? That they don’t invite trouble by simply existing? Yeah this could have been a powerful image, but you have to show your work, man. We don’t even get an answer to whether or not Morrison survived his brush with the second amendment, which would be fine I guess, if we had any reason to latch on to the character. An emotional end that didn’t spend enough time to deliver the punch it was intended to? Classic Guggz.
But wait, it wouldn’t be an X-Men Gold finale without some questionable to bad art! Yes, while Pepe Perez’s pencils are mostly fine, there are plenty of problems throughout the issue. I’ve already harped on the complete lack of devastation above, and the fact that Morrison’s depiction is really just a direct pastiche of Proteus, we should also touch on his body shapes. There are at least half a dozen pages with these weirdly elongated torsos that make it look like each character is leaning back at some weird angle. This is particularly obvious in the opening sequence where Kitty is leaving her “it’s all about me” message on Piotr’s voicemail looking like she’s attempting to model a line of belly chains.
Still, that may be the Mona Lisa compared to Perez’s frequent issues with arms.
What a way to go out. A poorly drawn, poorly written, poorly scripted story that squanders a potential action sequence it didn’t do enough to build to and goes for an emotional payoff it absolutely does not earn that would be better suited to an epic story but is instead crammed into 20 pages?
“Classic Guggz.” – Not Ozzy Osbourne