“The more things change; the more they stay the same.”
That’s the mantra of this new re-launch of Marvel’s merry mutants; and you know what? It works.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been on the front-line, decrying the fact that Marvel seemed to be straying further and further away from one of their biggest titles of the 80’s/90’s/00’s. As behind the scenes politics and economics between Marvel’s parent company Disney and Fox Studios rage on, it was the intellectual properties caught in-between, as well as the fans of X-Men, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, that have suffered.
While the legal wrangling has not been resolved as of this writing, the waters have calmed enough that there appears to be light at the end of this long tunnel. With Spidey making his appearance in Captain America: Civil War and the agreed upon sale of some properties back to Disney, the major players tangled in this web of legal battles may have found a way to cooperate.
What does any of this have to do with the X-Men?
It means that a group of characters that Marvel has neglected and set on the back-burner is now coming back to the forefront. Marvel is in the midst of a line-wide roll-out of a new post-Inhumans, post-all new, all-different , post-everything line of X-titles that plants the Children of the Atom firmly back in the center of the comic book world spotlight.
X-Men Gold #1 is a bridge between fans. Meaning that while it takes familiar elements of the past by focusing the series on characters that were initially introduced in Giant-Sized X-Men (Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, and Wolverine) and mixing it with a couple of fan/creator favorites (Kitty Pryde and Rachel Grey, formerly known as Phoenix, now known as Prestige) the title is an invitation for new readers to jump into the X-universe.
The focus of the series has once again been put on the X-Men and their place in a world that still hates and fears them, now more than ever. Social topics of racial and sexual discrimination, mixed with the fear of immigration are all working just beneath the surface. The social message of the X-Men may be more relevant now than ever before. A reminder to all of us that it is possible to fight for justice and work towards change in a peaceful way; it’s also a reminder of just how ugly bigotry and small mindedness can be.
Guggenheim sets the stage with Kitty Pryde taking the leadership role in this new incarnation. Older fans are watching the younger generation of X-Men grow up and taking their place within the ranks of the X-universe. Kitty struggles with her choices, wonders if she is doing the right thing, and still acts without hesitation in combat; impressing the readers and fellow teammates alike. There is no doubt from her first lines that this is Kitty’s team. She is a strong female lead and the rest of the world is going to have to deal with it.
The team dynamic has yet to be fleshed out, but we do have the chance to catch the X-Men playing softball, ordering take-out, and acting human. If Guggenheim and company can keep up these quiet moments throughout the series then they will be able to inject this title with some serious heart and much-needed emotion… an element that has sadly been lacking in the X-Men for some time now.
While Guggenheim’s narrative is simple to follow and enjoyable to read; the rest of the creative team is working overtime to keep up. The artwork that Syaf has brought to bear is an amalgamation of X-artists from the past; his style holds familiar reminders of Jim Lee, Arthur Adams, John Byrne and even modern contemporaries like Leinil Francis Yu.
My one strike against the art is that there are panels and pages where the backgrounds are left largely empty. While I can understand this to be a trick used to focus on the characters and events in the foreground, it made this quick read appear “empty” in places. Don’t get me wrong the art is fantastic, but this lack of layers was noticeable. Considering that this is a first issue I can understand the desire to focus on the action, but this is going to be a concern if it continues throughout, what I guessing will be, heavy plotting and crowded rosters.
This was a breath of fresh air to an old X-Men fan like me. I wasn’t sure where the re-launch was going to take us, but if the rest of the titles that are being offered are half as good as this one; we could be looking at a resurgence of all things X. I was afraid that this was change for the sake of change, but this time it does appear that Marvel has refocused their efforts on bringing the X-Universe back together.
You don’t have to have a degree from Mutant High to follow this story and I sincerely hope that it stays that way. Marvel needs a X-title that new readers can jump into that’s strong enough to touch on the past but good enough to stand on its own merits. Given the reveal on the last page of this issue I’m guessing that only more great things are coming. Personally I can’t wait to see what this new creative team has in store for all of us, mutant and reader alike.
This book is the perfect place for new fans to join, a great place for old fans to come back, and a X-book that many fans have been waiting years for. Hats off to Marvel.
Final Score: 4 ½ Stars out of 5
X-Men Gold #1
Story: Marc Guggenheim
Art: Ardian Syaf
Inks: Jay Leisten
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit