I’m going to begin this “review” with a disclaimer that it won’t be your typical run-down of artistic elements and dialogue and other points I normally touch upon in my reviews. For some of you, that may be disappointing as you’ve come to appreciate and rely on my general column structure, but I’ve found it can become predictable like a middle school writing prompt. For everyone else I’m hoping this discussion format is a pleasant change of pace. I also wanted to warn against spoilers, as the major plot progression is the bulk of what I will writing about. American politics will play heavily into my analysis, so for those of you wishing to avoid debatable topics and left-leaning opinions, turn back now. I do insist you read the comic, as it gets 4.5 out of 5 Stars from me, but you can draw your own conclusions.
X-Men Gold has gotten a fair share or criticism in the short 4 months it has been on comic shelves. It began with Adrian Syaf sneaking Middle Eastern political messages into the artwork, past the editors and into the hands of millions of people. He was sacked shortly afterward. I’ve also heard people call Marc Guggenheim a lazy writer with terrible dialogue (which I can concede to a degree) and the art team has rotated from Syaf to RB Silva to Ken Lashley in a very short time, so judging the artwork is based on personal preference. The Secret Empire tie in from the last two issues was actually quite loose, which I loved despite having many unanswered questions.
So, leave it to this major X-Men title to really address real world issues head on without explicitly naming names or going into specifics. In X-Men Gold #9, Kitty Pryde is sent to Washington DC to testify before Congress regarding a Mutant Deportation Act. Now, for those who aren’t up to date, this was first introduced in the first issue when a television personality publicly berated mutantkind, blaming them for property destruction, political unrest, and costing the United States a boatload of money. Now, after the lowering of the Darkforce bubble around Manhattan and the seemingly back-to-normal status of the country (How? When? So many questions…), the government feels the need to pursue this topic instead of what I would assume to be hundreds of other more pressing issues.
Okay, so back to Kitty. She and Peter Rasputin, who can no longer transform into his metallic Colossus form, are flown to DC and met by none other than Stevie Hunter, who longtime X-fans will remember as Kitty’s dance instructor from the 80’s and a close friend of Storm and the X-Men. Off the page, she has become a Congresswoman for Connecticut, and it is she who has arranged for her former student to testify against the deportation of mutants. What transpires is nothing short of a fictional reflection of real life politics and the struggles of Americans today.
Kitty makes many valid points about the plight of mutants: that mutant rights ARE human rights, that to marginalize a minority to suit the agendas of the controlling class is simply un-American, that segregation and internment have always ended up on the wrong side of history. These arguments are currently being made against the actual US lawmakers concerning a travel ban (focused on Muslim countries), deporting immigrants mainly of Mexican heritage, and the newest tweet announcement by President Trump to discontinue allowing Transgender troops to serve in the military. (BTW, I did a whole Trump article last week, found HERE). Although Kitty is speaking about a fictional race of human evolution, I made immediate connections to these other groups getting negative attention in the media and on Capitol Hill. Guggenheim clearly knows how to write a comic that expresses his political opinions without explicitly blurting it out on the page like many others have in recent months. His tactful approach is much appreciated.
Nevertheless, Congressman Zelman has very valid points too, some of which Kitty can admit to because the argument is logical. He says the mutants are not even human, which Kitty squashes with science. He says they are “walking weapons” that U.S. has disproportionately had to deal with, and that safety and money are the two driving factors of this deportation bill. She concedes to those points, but counters that the cost of human lives saved and ending worldwide threats far outweighs collateral damage.
I am a liberal, but I am not so closed-minded that I cannot empathize or at least acknowledge the viewpoints driving conservative motives. I can see why Mexicans or Muslims or LGBTQ citizens could pose a threat to their values and goals, and in the same mindset, deporting mutants would seem like the smart thing to do for the larger American public. However, I think we need to take the good with the bad where compromise is not acceptable.
To drive the X-Men’s point home, Kitty and Colossus are able to stop Anton Vanko (Whiplash) from killing the Congressman when he literally breaks into the hearing room like an electrified Kool-Aid Man. Earlier in the book, there is a page of dialogue from a steadily working Vanko about how America speaks of peace yet imposes sanctions on Russia, as well as selling votes and starving their citizens. He finishes with “And yet to them, I’m the criminal.” This is also an easy connection to the Russian scandal currently happening in Trump’s America and there is more Russia-related content than I am disclosing, but it has more to do with future issues than the one at hand. Smart move making Whiplash the antagonist instead of a mutant like Avalanche or Blob, because it is a clear case of a mutant solving a problem caused by a non-mutant to save those who hate and fear them. And he’s a Russian being stopped by Piotr Rasputin, another Russian. A lot of subtext here.
Yet despite all this, Stevie Hunter bears the bad news that Congress is going to vote in favor of the Mutant Deportation Act, because “they’re scared of the voters and the voters are scared of mutants.” This is our political system in a nutshell. Despite personal opinions, politicians will vote according to what they believe will ensure their own re-election and I am whole-heartedly convinced this is why our bi-partisan system is so broken. Republicans are afraid to admit how bad things are because they will be treated like traitors to their constituents and their party.
Overall, I think this was an incredible expression of opinion that needed to be written. If ever there was a Marvel comic to break down social prejudices and equal rights, X-Men is it (next to the obvious choice of actual POC titles). Well done Marc.
Now, many of you may be surprised that I am not talking about the other big developments in this comic. I’ll discuss them briefly, although I do not view the romance as the ultimate takeaway despite the major impact it could make in the series. Logan and Storm never appear in this issue, which I am a major fan of. They are so popular that they tend to steal the spotlight from other team members, so their absence only means more attention for Rachel, Kurt, Peter, and Kitty. The tension between Kitty and Peter is tangible (lol), and comes to a head when Peter proposes, in a sense. Kitty needs to think about everything, but if they do get back together, Peter thinks marriage is the only way to go. Obviously.
Meanwhile, Rachel and Kurt go on a date, where they discuss superhero relationships and their past flirtation while members of Excalibur and Uncanny. As a major Nightcrawler fan, I am a fan of this. (Also, major kudos for name dropping Excalibur teammates Meggan and Brian Braddock when discussing team relationships. Nice touch for a huge fan of the British team of mutants). I was rooting for Kurt and Rachel the whole time, but I also feel he and Kitty have a strong chemistry. I’m just glad romance is in the air and that the heartstrings left dangling over the past couple decades are being tied up. What I’m more concerned with is the glossed over revelation that Kurt was killed last issue, but because he has no soul, Heaven wouldn’t take him back. Does that mean he’s immortal? I really hope to learn more about his, Piotr’s, and Rachel’s new power developments, like, ASAP.
No problems with the art. Lashley is an Excalibur alumnus, so all these characters are not new to him. Coloring, lettering, and layouts are all good. I’m only giving this 4.5 Stars because of all the unanswered questions I have concerning the hasty Secret Empire wrap-up and character development. Otherwise, this is an expertly executed comic focusing on the real, true conflict of the X-Men rather than meaningless fight scene after fight scene. I like superhero action as much as the next fan, but the social struggles of the characters are what has made Marvel’s Merry Mutants so timeless. This issue delivers not only romantic developments and the beginnings of future conflict, but a real vision of what politics in the Marvel Universe must look like. Comics need to be entertaining, but by expressing a critical view of the government through fiction, Guggenheim takes the mutant metaphor to a whole new level.
Jump shot from the 3-point line.
(W) Marc Guggenheim (A/CA) Ken Lashley