X-Men Gold #7 is the comic series’ first Secret Empire tie-in. Thankfully, it avoids all the troubling and perhaps negative aspects of the event it’s tied to by locking itself in the New York/Manhattan location that is of course in the event trapped in the Darkforce Dimension.
As a result, they are able to tell a comic story that isn’t mired in political discussion, which can be either boring or troubling for readers who may find the handling of the discussion poor or incorrect.
Instead, the story of X-Men Gold #7 splits into two elements that allow it to merge genres to great effect. The first plot line sees members of the team directly dealing with the ongoing problem from Secret Empire, and thus fighting the demons of the Darkforce Dimension that are now overrunning the city. The other plot line, which takes a much more significant part of the story and maybe shows a desire to try to ignore the Secret Empire mandate as much as is actually possible, is instead a straight-up horror/thriller story.
Taking refuge within the school, Kitty and the remaining team members quickly learn that they are not alone, and that they are locked in with a serial murderer who is targeting mutants. The character is in fact the new X-Cutioner, who has very personal reasons for his extreme hatred for mutants, making the character’s motivations troublingly understandable.
A fascinating thing that writer Marc Guggenheim has done here is he’s made the X-Cutioner, if not likeable, a character we can understand and relate to. We can understand his hatred, even though he’s taken it to a logically flawed extreme. In a world where we see this kind of hatred inform the actions of so many, it is great to see this portrayed so subtly and so well.
He’s not trying the bash the reader over the head with a “hate is wrong, m’kay,” attitude, but a “hate is wrong, but we can understand it.” This of course works better for moving past hate, as with anything understanding the problem can help to solve it.
The other thing that the creators do really well is how effectively they raise the stakes in the issue. For example, the above scene with Eye Boy surely has to be reflected in Generation X at some point, wherein he’s a main character. Initially in the story, some incredibly small and relatively disposable characters are offed by the killer, leaving the reader to think there’s little at stake here; after all, these characters were very much created as a simple story note. And then the killer targets a lead from another title, and successfully gets his hands on him. There’s a sudden, jarring realization the reader has: this story does have lasting repercussions.
The artwork from Ken Lashley and Frank Martin is suitably dark for this kind of story, and the faces portray complex emotions well. Dark as it may be when needed though, it’s also wonderfully light when appropriate. In an earlier, romantic moment, the linework is cleaner and smoother, and creates more of a lighter tone and peaceful energy to the visuals. When the story gets darker, the art subtly reflects it, and the edgy linework works brilliantly well in action sequences by offering a sense of motion.
Overall, what the X-Men Gold team have managed really well here also is a real sense of classic ’90s X-Men storytelling. This issue feels so reminiscent of past storytelling, without feeling like a direct copy or retread. It’s doing what seems to have been the goal of ResurrXion: bringing nostalgia while still moving forward.
Another way it does this is the use of characters outside the usual team, as we see Anole, Rockslide, and Dust used in significant scenes and supporting roles. It always makes for greater, more immersive X-Men stories when you can get a feel of just how large a cast of characters this is. After all, mutants are meant to be a whole portion of the population in the Marvel Universe.
X-Men Gold #7, ultimately, is one of the better Secret Empire tie-ins, mainly because it largely ignores the thrust of the event and just uses the setting for its own story needs.
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