Welcome to the column formerly known as X-Men: Bland Design! As it turns out, even when we say nice things about X-Men comics, when the column is titled “Bland Design,” it apparently bums people out. And we don’t want to bum people out about the X-Men. We love the X-Men!
The X-Men have long been neglected by Marvel as a result of Ike Perlmutter‘s war with Fox over the X-Men and Fantastic Four movie rights, and X-fans have long-suffered as a result. We’ve seen Cyclops’s character assassinated over and over again. We saw the fascist Avengers invade the X-Men’s sovereign country and try to imprison a teenage Hope Summers on the moon for crimes she might commit in the future under the influence of a bird-themed cosmic death god and somehow end up portrayed as the heroes in the abysmal Avengers vs. X-Men super-mega-crossover event. We saw Marvel try to replace the X-Men with the Inhumans, who literally nobody cares about. It was a dark time.
But with the Disney/Fox merger looming, the X-Men are finally able to rise once more to their rightful place as Marvel’s most important franchise. It’s a new day for the X-Men, and it’s time to let the healing begin.
So welcome to the first week of our rebooted weekly recap column, where we can all agree it’s time for some…
The concept of X-ual Healing is simple. We read all the X-books Marvel publishes in a given week and we tell you what happens in them. Along the way, we’ll fill in the blanks on some history or additional explanation where required and possible. We’ll also point out when the comic does the sort of things we think comics should be doing to be more accessible to new readers: properly introducing characters and explaining how their powers work, providing links to back issues when previous stories are referenced, and generally providing a satisfying experience in a single issue for the outrageously high price Marvel charges for comics. If the comic fails to do those things, we’ll point that out too.
We’ve been collecting and reading X-Men comics since the 1980s, and we’ve read pretty much every one Marvel has published, many of them multiple times, but it’s been a while. To refresh our memory, since starting this column, we’ve been rereading the X-books beginning with Giant-Size X-Men #1 on Marvel Unlimited (switching to paper where there are gaps). We’re currently up to Inferno, in case you were wondering. Marvel Unlimited is well worth the subscription price for the X-Men comics alone, but we recommend you utilize a reading order guide to keep up with all the spinoffs and mini-series. And if you just can’t get enough X-Men, and you’d like to dive into some theories on classic X-Men comics, you might be interested in checking out the Chris Claremont‘s X-Men section on the Fanfix blog.
So that’s how this all works. If you’re a longtime X-Men reader, you can follow along, let us know if we missed anything, and post your thoughts on the issue in the comments. If you’re new to the X-Men, hopefully this column helps you figure out what’s going on in the X-Men’s 60 years of complicated continuity. If nothing else, we hope you get a few laughs.
Now, let’s get on with the show…
X-MEN GOLD #26
MARC GUGGENHEIM (W) • Diego Bernard & Paul Renaud (A)
Cover by DAVID YARDIN
THE COUNTDOWN TO THE MUTANT WEDDING OF THE CENTURY!
CRUEL AND UNUSUAL Part 4
It all begins here! But WHO is tying the knot? And can I bring a plus-one?
Also: The X-MEN in their final confrontation with an old foe, a fight that ends up costing RACHEL everything.
Plus… The evil alliance you never expected.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
A new storyline, ‘Til Death Do Us Part, kicks off in this issue. We start with a flashback to X-Men #129, when Professor Xavier and the X-Men first met Kitty Pryde, and Kitty first met her future fiancé, Colossus. Let’s take a trip down memory lane…
Back in the present, Kitty and Piotr are having drinks at a cafe in Santo Marco, reminiscing about their statutory-rapey early relationship. Kitty wonders whether they’re getting cold feet about their upcoming special wedding issue, but Piotr says they’ve just been busy being in jail and stuff. Another classic X-couple, Gambit and Rogue, are also on the scene. The X-Men are trying to track down Mesmero after he got them arrested in the previous storyline. Mesmero is disguised as an old woman, so the X-Men can’t attack him lest they end up on YouTube. So Rachel handles things covertly, challenging Mesmero to a psi-war.
Mesmero quickly gains the upper hand, revealing that he’s been slowly messing with Rachel every time they make telepathic contact over the past few months (or whatever the time span is in modern comics where a single mission can last six months in publishing time). Nightcrawler and Rogue jump in to attack Mesmero before he can mess with Rachel any more. As Nightcrawler tends to his former Excalibur teammate, Rachel has a vision of herself as a hound ripping his heart out.
The X-Men defeat Mesmero and bring him to the mutant prison, The Box. X-Men Gold helpfully points out that the X-Men were locked up in this very prison just two issues ago. We love a good caption box back-reference. In an exchange with Kitty, X-pository dialogue reveals that the warden is an anti-mutant racist.
Meanwhile, in the Savage Land, a tropical Antarctic oasis filled with prehistoric creatures, generic anti-mutant villain Lydia Nance is chilling with her homey, the mutant sentinel Alpha. They’ve built some kind of facility for nefarious purposes, but we don’t learn what those purposes are yet.
Back at the Xavier School, which now sits in the middle of Central Park, Kitty is grilling Iceman on his decision to add fake Pyro, a former member of Mesmero’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, to the X-Men during the previous story arc. Kitty gave Bobby and Rogue their own team to lead while the X-Men were in jail, stemming from a storyline in the recently canceled Iceman solo series which is also helpfully referenced in a caption box. Bobby explains that fake Pyro was being mentally controlled by Mesmero, and besides, like half the X-Men’s roster are former villains. Kitty reluctantly agrees.
In the Danger Room, Colossus is battling a CGI Doctor Doom, but Nightcrawler senses that there may be some underlying issues here…
Kurt thinks that what Piotr really needs is a bachelor party, and despite Piotr’s objections, he teleports away to make the arrangements.
Later, Kitty visits her mom at her house in Deerfield. X-pository dialogue reminds us that Kitty’s father is dead, but not how or when (it was in Genosha when the island was destroyed by Sentinels sent by Cassandra Nova in New X-Men). Kitty asks her mom to walk her down the aisle when she marries Piotr, since her dad is dead.
Later, in Las Vegas, Piotr is having his bachelor party. Kurt, Simon, Bobby, and Gambit are in attendance. Piotr and Kurt reference something that happened in “the casino,” with a caption tease for the upcoming X-Men: The Wedding Special. So far, not only two past references, but even a reference to a comic that hasn’t come out yet? X-Men Gold is nailing it this issue. Maybe they’ve been reading this column. As Kurt and Gambit talk about their own marriage prospects with Rachel and Rogue, Piotr takes a bathroom break and talks to himself in the mirror in Russian.
Google translate tells us it means “What are you doing here, my friend?”
Alpha speaks Russian, it seems, because he shows up now (has he been hiding out in the bathroom?) and tells Piotr he has an answer for him. That answer, of course, is fisticuffs. A battle ensues, and brief X-pository dialogue explains that Alpha’s body is made of nanites. As the battle is taking a long time, Bobby decides to go check on Piotr, and finds him being dragged away by Alpha. He ices up and attacks, but Alpha smacks him away. Alpha uses his hands free calling feature to let Lydia Nance know he’s bringing Piotr to the Savage Land. The issue ends here.
We’ve complained a lot about X-Men Gold over the past few months, as it has suffered from severe pacing problems and lack of fundamentals, but this was the best issue in a while, nailing the basics, referencing past continuity, staying true to the characters, and moving several plotlines forward. We couldn’t ask for anything more.
Read more X-ual Healing here: