It seems almost compulsory for Marvel to split up the X-Men into different books, be it Uncanny, Excalibur, New Mutants or, in April 2017, Blue and Gold. These two teams allowed writer Marc Guggenheim to explore a team lead by Kitty Pryde in Gold, while Cullen Bunn focused on the original team members sent from the past in Blue. Guggenheim’s run was a love letter to the Chris Claremont era (Guggenheim says so in the afterword) and it showed — for better or worse. This seventh volume out in comic shops is all that and more, so to honor it I’ve picked three reasons why you should check out this final chapter.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The cake has been cut, the band has gone home — the most surprising X-Men wedding of all is over! But for Kitty Pryde and Colossus, the day has left them shaken…and with hard decisions to make. But what happens when Rachel Grey goes bad?! You’ve known her as Phoenix, Marvel Girl and Prestige… but all of that is gone. Only the Hound remains! Pray that she doesn’t catch your scent! Then, Ororo returns to the Kenyan village that once worshipped her as a goddess! But now that she wields Stormcaster, she actually is…isn’t she? The truth about Storm’s Asgardian hammer is revealed! Plus: The X-Men battle — the undead?! A day in the life of a Xavier Institute headmistress! And a brand new bouncing Braddock bundle of joy is the perfect excuse for an Excalibur reunion!
Can I jump in easily?
Not really. These final issues (collecting #31 to #36 and Annual #1) deliver a Rachel Grey story where she turns back into the Hound, a Storm as a goddess in Africa story, and then two minor wrap-ups to the series. If you haven’t read the series you’ll be lost as far as team chemistry, and if you haven’t read any Excalibur you won’t understand the weight of the annual or what is going on with Rachel Grey.
Reason 1: Fans of the Excalibur series will love this.
Rachel Grey has been used in a variety of ways, from school teacher to wolf-like hunter tracking down mutants. In this collection, someone taps into her past acts as the Hound (all taking place in the future) and it serves as a weapon most can’t match. It’s similar to how Old Man Logan was used to kill all the X-Men and it seriously screws up the character — so much so that she must break it off with Nightcrawler because she doesn’t know herself. This is an interesting character yet to be fully explored by other creators and it’s nice to see her focused on here.
Reason 2: Storm as a Mjolner weilding goddess? Yes please.
We all know Storm was a super powerful hero, but when she’s basically Thor, there’s no question she could take on anyone. In this collection, we get to see her go to her hometown and encounter another “god” who has taken hold of her people. It’s nice to see Guggenheim take on Storm’s roots and see her in her original element. It’s a good example of showing how Storm wasn’t always an X-Men and has ties that humanize her (even if she was a god in her hometown, that is).
Reason 3: Mutants are people.
Guggenheim ends this collection (not counting the annual that ends this volume) with a one-shot style story throwing Kitty Pryde and company into a terrorist situation. A mutant has lost control of their powers and is hurting innocent bystanders. Kitty somehow connects with him, but just as she’s about to deescalate things, a bystander shoots him. This thrusts the story down a road of morality and ethics as doctors won’t treat the mutant for fear of their powers. It’s an interesting take since one can understand why a doctor wouldn’t want to work on what is basically a living bomb, but it’s the feelings of the X-Men who must stand by and watch that are more important. They are helpless, and they are just like that mutant who isn’t being helped and can understand the weight of the situation. It’s an element that has kept the X-Men so important to fans for decades.
Reasons to be wary?
I can see why so many disliked this series. It’s scattered in its pacing, the sentiment in the final issue is strange and ends abruptly, and the Storm story seems so apart from the main team it serves more as a miniseries. If you haven’t read Excalibur you won’t understand what Guggenheim is doing either. This isn’t the comic for everyone and you have to be open-minded to enjoy it. Regardless of those things, I found enjoyment in this collection and it’s a nice slice of X-Men moments.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
It’s a good collection if you look at what it’s trying to do. Storm comes off as a wickedly powerful superhero not to be neglected, Kitty shows her humanity, and Rachel Grey goes through a rollercoaster of emotions. Elements that make the X-Men great are all present here.