If you thought the X-Men were done with the Mesmero-led Brotherhood, think again! The mesmerizing mutant and his band of mind-controlled misfits are back for a second round against the X-Men in X-MEN GOLD #21. Unfortunately for the Gold team, tensions are rising both externally and internally as Rachel embraces a darker side of herself and Kitty struggles to lead the team without Logan. Marc Guggenheim and Diego Bernard set the stage for a new arc while also preparing the Gold team for a rebirth.

X-MEN GOLD #21
Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics

The Brotherhood Returns (Again) in X-MEN GOLD #21

The issue opens with Mesmero doing what he does best: mesmerizing people. Using his mutant ability, he breaks himself and two other members of his Brotherhood — Pyro and Avalanche — out of prison. The scene shifts to the Institute, where Storm is trying to keep Logan from leaving the X-Men. But, her efforts are in vain, and within a few panels, Logan’s gone.

The focus then changes to Nightcrawler and Kitty who are discussing the recently changed Rachel. After numerous near-death experiences in past issues, Rachel’s hound markings returned, and her powers increased. Nightcrawler is understandably concerned, but Rachel is quick to shrug off the changes, telling him they’re positive changes and not negative ones.

Meanwhile, Kitty hears about Mesmero’s return and his plan to kill Lydia Nance — the anti-mutant politician who used him to escalate her own agenda in X-MEN GOLD #6. The team arrives at an anti-mutant fundraiser where Mesmero is trying to kill Lydia. Kitty worries about how she’ll be able to handle the team without Logan as a sort of co-leader, but she’s able to brush these thoughts off before the fight. Perhaps because of her hesitation, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants quickly defeats the X-Men, even though they easily outnumber the Brotherhood. 

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Same Old, Same Old?

While X-MEN GOLD #21 does introduce some new themes, it also contains a lot of recycled elements. Mesmero’s Brotherhood was defeated within this series, and they’re already being brought back. While the Brotherhood could be a very complex antagonist, the way Guggenheim handles them makes them feel a bit flat. Mesmero is a “bad guy,” but he doesn’t have a lot of motivation for being a villain. He lacks a backstory that would make him a more rounded character. He may be the leader of the “New Brotherhood,” but he isn’t exactly memorable.

X-MEN GOLD #21
Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics

The “fake” Pyro and Avalanche also fail to be memorable, mostly because they’re just fabrications of old, more complicated characters. But, their resistance to Mesmero is a promising development that could cause them to turn on their master.

Instead of resurrecting used villains, I would have liked to see this issue focus more on Rachel. The return of her hound marks and old costume definitely hint at a mental shift that could lead to something much worse than Mesmero’s Brotherhood. As powerful as Rachel is (and has become in recent issues), a return to her dark roots as a mutant-hunting hound is worrisome. In future issues, I hope Guggenheim uses Rachel as a focal point instead of relying on Mesmero to add the action.

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The End of Gold as We Know It

It’s clear that Rachel’s changes, Logan’s hasty departure, and Kitty’s leadership struggles are ushering the team towards eventual destruction. Nightcrawler is now a permanent member of X-MEN RED which suggests he won’t be on the Gold team for much longer. Things aren’t looking so good for this team, but maybe that’s actually a good thing. After twenty issues, X-MEN GOLD needs a makeover. Some new team members and a new agenda would help X-MEN GOLD compete with X-MEN RED, which is already being lauded as the fresh new start the X-Men needed.

Although it would be sad to see the team change, I think it would be for the better. Right now, the series is reusing old characters and plotlines. Adding some other X-Men to the roster (like Magma, who appears in this issue) and giving the team a new goal needs to happen. By the looks of the pathetic fight they lose, I’d say Guggenheim has similar thoughts. He’s tearing the Gold team down so he can rebuild it as something better.

X-MEN GOLD #21
Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Drawn Dystopia

X-MEN GOLD usually has superior art, and this issue is no exception. Diego Bernard’s illustrations are both expressive and realistic. While his work isn’t heavily stylized, it still evokes emotions well. His Magma, in particular, shows off an array of emotions during her minimal panel time. Her desperate facial expressions perfectly reflect her resentment towards Mesmero for manipulating her in X-MEN GOLD #6.

Another part of X-MEN GOLD #21 that excels, thanks to Bernard and colorist Arif Prianto, are the backgrounds. Often overlooked, well-done backgrounds add a lot to a story since they literally “set the scene.” The Danger Room’s post-apocalyptic setting is the perfect backdrop for the conversation between Rachel and Nightcrawler about Rachel’s mental and physical changes. The destroyed buildings create a distinct sense of unease that parallels Nightcrawler’s worried suspicions about his girlfriend. 

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Final Thoughts

X-MEN GOLD #21 is both exciting and routine. While it does recycle some characters, it also offers a new look at a classic X-Men character who, in the wake of her mother’s return, hasn’t gotten a lot of panel time. This issue also lays out the workings for a revamped version of X-MEN GOLD which is desperately needed. For the first time in a while, I’m excited about the next issue of X-MEN GOLD. Guggenheim has set up some interesting storylines, and it’ll be interesting to see if they come to fruition.

X-MEN GOLD #21 by Marc Guggenheim, Diego Bernard, JP Mayer, and Arif Prianto
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
The X-Men Gold team faces external and internal trouble with the reappearance of both Mesmero's Brotherhood and Rachel's hound identity. Marc Guggenheim and Diego Bernard's issue falls flat in the villain department but redeems itself by hinting at a new future for the team.
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Dissolution Looms
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