X-MEN GOLD #22 is a conundrum. Or, maybe the better thing to say is X-MEN GOLD is a conundrum, because recently, the series hasn’t been making too much sense.

Writer Marc Guggenheim, artist Diego Bernard, and colorists Arif Prianto and Java Tartaglia miss the mark with this latest issue, which, like X-MEN GOLD #21, recycles another villain from a previous issue. While Dan Mora and Juan Fernandez’s beautiful cover hints at a problematic Rachel Grey, the issue focuses more on Mesmero’s Brotherhood and neglects to tackle the team struggles mentioned in X-MEN GOLD #21. Overall, the issue has a solid cast of characters, a fantastic artist, and an experienced writer but it doesn’t manage to pull everything together in a coherent way.

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Politicians Always Win

X-MEN GOLD #22 starts off with a brief flashback to Lydia Nance’s childhood. This shows her mutant father abusing her, which explains her hatred for mutants. Back in the present, Mesmero psychically tricks the Gold team into attacking the NYPD. While the green-skinned mutant easily escapes along with Pyro and Avalanche, the police arrest the Gold team.

Mesmero and his very small Brotherhood return to the hideout, where Mesmero gives them each a substantial amount of cash. He explains that Nance staged the attack in the hopes of getting the X-Men into trouble. Pyro is quick to voice his anger and confusion. He believes that Mesmero was seeking revenge on Nance, who had put them in jail. Instead, Mesmero reveals that he’s been working with Nance for money ever since X-MEN GOLD #6. In a fury, Pyro runs out.

X-MEN GOLD #22
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

The scene shifts to the precinct that’s holding Kitty. Jennifer Walters (aka She-Hulk) is representing Kitty, but unfortunately the defense for the X-Men looks nearly hopeless. Mesmero wiped all of the witness’ memories, so to the world, the Gold team unwarrantedly attacked the police. Jennifer tells Kitty to prepare for mutant prison. The last page of X-MEN GOLD #22 switches to deep space. Scythian, who appeared in the Negative Zone War arc, promises revenge on the X-Men for locking him inside the Negative Zone.

Villain Overload

The stars of X-MEN GOLD #22 are, undoubtedly, Mesmero and his Brotherhood. This is odd because the story this issue tells was sort of already told earlier in the series. Both the character of Mesmero as well as his strange allegiance to Nance have been recycled. The first time around, the story was enthralling, but this second time around, the drama falls flat. Mesmero doesn’t have much of a backstory and his financial incentives lack the luster of most villainous motivations. For a few issues, he can be an interesting character, if only because he’s practically a historic landmark in the X-Men universe, making his first appearance in X-MEN #49 in 1968. But in the long run, he becomes a little boring.

X-MEN GOLD #22
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Similarly, Scythian reappearing after only a few issues is strange. The frequent recycling of villains from previous arcs makes the series feel stagnant and confusing. In comics, recycling villains is unavoidable, but doing so after such short intervals is rare. Some time between reintroductions would help separate the arcs better and stop the storylines from repeating themselves.

Rachel Gets a New Suit

Instead of placing so much emphasis on Mesmero and the Brotherhood, I would have liked to see a stronger focus on Rachel. The cover teases a change in her character, showing the shedding of her new Prestige uniform and the donning of her old Hound getup. X-MEN GOLD #21 also hinted at a big change in Rachel’s personality and power level but nothing related to Rachel is mentioned in X-MEN GOLD #22. She gets less than a handful of lines and none of them seem out of character for her normal Prestige personality. Clearly, Guggenheim wants to do something with her character, just not at this very moment.

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However, I’m a little unsure of Guggenheim’s plans for Rachel. She’s struggled with her past before, so I’d like to see him handle her character differently than other writers. As sad as it would be, a “dark” Rachel who completely succumbs to her Hound urges would be interesting. This change would also move her character outside of her mother’s shadow, which she’s been living in for a while. Before her death in NEW X-MEN, Jean was constantly struggling with her past as the Phoenix. Her vacillating between “good” and “evil” filled numerous X-Men arcs. Rachel is doing something pretty similar in X-MEN GOLD. It’d be nice to see her break away and become a character who is very different from Jean. I doubt Guggenheim plans to do something that radical. But, as a Rachel fan, I’d still like to see some sort of new direction for the character.

Stranger Shades

 

Diego Bernard’s artwork is some of the best illustrations X-MEN GOLD has seen thus far. His skills especially shine in actions scenes with complex backgrounds and numerous moving parts. The way he is able to capture the intensity and speed of a fight on a two-dimensional surface is impressive. Without a doubt, Bernard’s art is one of the best parts of this issue.

The biggest artistic problem in X-MEN GOLD #22 is the coloring. Prianto and Tartaglia excel at making Mesmero look a sickly green but they struggle to give natural skin tones. Rachel sometimes appears orange and Storm’s skin has an ashy grey hue at times. However, the watercolor style technique that’s used does have a really beautiful effect. Many of the pages, including the one below, look more like paintings than comic book panels.

X-MEN GOLD #22

Final Thoughts on X-MEN GOLD #22

X-MEN GOLD #22 sets up a lot of new plotlines including the reappearance of Scythian, the imprisonment of the Gold team, and the disappearance of Mesmero. With so many things going on (many of which have already been seen in past issues) the story becomes convoluted and a little tedious. The addition of more recycled villains also means there’s less panel time for the members of the Gold team — some of whom could really use some character development. One of the few positives seen in this issue is the artwork, but even that struggles in the coloring department.

Future issues of X-MEN GOLD need to focus less on quantity and more on quality. One solid villain is better than three. A complex team with fascinating character development is even better than that. This series has so much potential, but it needs to move beyond the repeated storylines and villains to become the golden series it was meant to be.

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X-MEN GOLD #22 by Marc Guggenheim, Diego Bernard, Arif Prianto, and Java Tartaglia
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
X-MEN GOLD #22 focuses too much on reusing past villains instead of concentrating on a few developed characters. Rachel in particular gets cheated after being on the cover but having only a few lines of dialogue within the issue.
67 %
Recycled and Reused
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2 Comments

  1. […] to rescue a trapped mutant. This issue does struggle with art, especially when compared to what some of the other X-Men series are boasting. Regardless of the illustrations, X-MEN RED #2 is another great installment in a series that is […]

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  2. […] to rescue a trapped mutant. This issue does struggle with art, especially when compared to what some of the other X-Men series are boasting. Regardless of the illustrations, X-MEN RED #2 is another great installment in a series that is […]

    Reply

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