If, like me, you’ve found the side stories to Marvel’s latest crossover event SECRET EMPIRE to be more interesting and entertaining than the main plot you’re in for a treat. X-MEN GOLD #7 serves up action on two fronts: New York is cut off from the outside world and overrun with demons from the Darkhold Dimension, and there’s a killer on the loose inside the X-Mansion.

I’ve noticed aspects of this crossover to have a nostalgic feel to them and this issue carries that vibe as well. Perhaps this is a foreshadowing to the LEGACY event that’s approaching? But that’s just speculation on my part at this point. The X-Men have faced demons in New York City before, but that was when their story was the focus. Here they’re as confused by the threat they’re facing as the civilians they’re rescuing. And that’s another bonus to this tale. We get scenes of heroes acting like heroes and not just fighting each other. Meanwhile, back at the mansion, a masked mutant killer is on the loose picking of students. We don’t know who’s under the mask at this point, but the costume has a very 1990’s style to it. Mask? Check. Big guns? Check. Belts and pouches? Check.

But amid all the nostalgia and scene callbacks writer Marc Guggenheim makes this take on Marvel’s Merry Mutants feel fresh. The team is made up of all-time fan favorites: Storm; Logan; Nightcrawler; Colossus; all older and wiser, but the strongest character evolution is represented by Kitty Pryde. The once youngest and most naive of the X-Men has finally stepped into the role of the Professor, and it’s a natural fit.

The art by Ken Lashley and colorist Frank Martin also has a classic feel with modern nuances. Lashley’s character design has some stylistic similarities to the 90s “Extreme” era, but he has a firmer grasp on storytelling than most of the Lee and Liefeld imitators ever had. And Martin’s palette choices offset the moodiness of the scenes with the vibrancy of the characters’ uniforms.

The only thing lacking from this story is a tighter connection to the main Secret Empire storyline, but that’s a minor quibble. The X-Men have always marched to their own beat, and I’m following along right behind them.

STORY- 4.5/5
ART- 5/5


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