Kicking off the two-part “Brotherhood” story arc, X-Men Gold #21 marks the beginning of the end for the current X-Men Gold squad with a key departure, startling transformation, and a shaken team leader in Kitty Pryde. You’d think this would make for a great issue, but the breakneck speed of it really just had me thinking “wait, that’s it?”
The best part of this issue is undoubtedly the art. From the opening panel to the final page Penciler Diego Bernard, Inker JP Mayer, and Colorist Arif Prianto combine for gorgeous, crisp illustrations. Characters and environments are drawn intricately with clear definition while colors make every page pop in all the right ways. If you’re a fan of Gary Frank’s work on Doomsday Clock, you’ll be enamored with the art here.
We have now reached the spoiler section of this review. Reader discretion is advised.
To quote Bob Dylan in the most cliche way imaginable, “the times they are a-changing” in the X-Universe and specifically X-Men Gold #21 as the team slowly begins unraveling. The first indication comes with Old Man Logan’s sudden departure. I mean really sudden- within two pages he is gone. Writer Marc Guggenheim breezes over Logan’s decision to leave the team, which makes it lack any emotional punch or substance. Logan just sort of leaves.
This begs the question, though- will we see more farewells from Logan in Weapon X and Astonishing X-Men to prepare for the inevitable return of the real Wolverine? My guess is probably, but let’s hope Greg Pak and Charles Soule write a more nuanced farewell than Guggenheim did.
Alongside Logan’s frustratingly quick departure, Rachel Grey’s mysterious recovery from her comatose state seemingly spells doom for the mutants. Readers who have been keeping up with X-Men Gold since the beginning know that Rachel has experienced flashbacks to her Hound days and now she’s sporting the signature Hound facial marks as well as a dark new costume. This new outfit is reminiscent of Scott Summer’s costume- the evil mutant terrorist Scott Summers, that is. Add the Hound flashbacks and new villainous look to Rachel’s assertion that she feels “more alive than ever” and I can’t help but feel that roads are being paved for her path to villainy.
Unlike Logan’s rapid retirement, Rachel’s evolution plays out rather slowly over the course of more than a dozen issues making for a more subtle transformation, like Guggenheim is trying to sneak this past readers by distracting them with alien invasions, cyborg battles, and wars in other dimensions before- POW!- the X-Men are suddenly battling an ultra-powerful Prestige.
It’s the type of characterization that will not only make for a great arc in the future, but will have readers going back to past issues trying to pick out the evidence of Rachel’s evolution. That, or Guggenheim is giving readers a meaningless subplot that will fizzle out before anything cool happens, but I have faith in him to not be so boring. Regardless of where it goes, I am enjoying Rachel Grey’s progression through her psionic powers.
This issue’s battle with the Brotherhood of Mutants plays out like almost everything else in this issue and series- with blistering speed, as the X-Men are somehow throttled by Mesmero, Avalanche, and Pyro. The three inexplicably defeat Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Nightcrawler, a souped-up Prestige, Storm, and Amara like they’re a group of athletically challenged 10 year-olds.
Kitty is the only one not KO’d and she is understandably shook, no longer confident in her ability to lead the X-Men. With a wedding to Colossus looming in issue #30 and a lineup change starting in issue #24, this is obviously the mission that will eventually cause Kitty to resign as leader of the X-Men.
I don’t have a problem with Kitty being relegated to a non-leader role, but this mission’s failure is simply illogical. Avalanche, Pyro, and Mesmero are not just wildly outnumbered and outgunned, but they’d already been defeated by the golden X-Men in issue #3 when they were evenly matched, so how do they suddenly dismantle the team so effortlessly? Like so much of this issue, and really this entire series, it’s simply a rushed plot-line.
X-Men Gold #21 boasts some serious character development for Rachel Grey, Old Man Logan, and Kitty Pryde alongside incredible art. Unfortunately, those developments, with the exception of Rachel, are told so quickly and with such little diligence that they lack any impact. While these revelations make the issue a must read for fans of X-Men Gold, it’s not particularly enjoyable required reading. Hey, at least it is fast reading.