I thought the first run of installments in the X-Men Gold title were a mixed bag: but with the positives mostly outweighing any negatives in the broad reckoning.
I was enjoying the characters and their interplay and I was enjoying the blatantly nostalgia-motivated approach to this series, which felt grounded in earlier, classic X-Men eras and the Claremont/90s X-Men title in particular (my review of the first eleven installments is here).
There were signs of shortcomings, however. I just didn’t think the series would take such a nose-dive – and for so many consecutive installments.
The chief perpetrators were the two story-arcs, ‘Mojo Worldwide’ and ‘The Negative Zone War’.
I was so astonished by how bored I was throughout these two story arcs: so bored in fact that I can’t even be bothered to do a detailed, comic-by-comic review or recap, but would prefer to just speed through a quick overview.
What’s worst is that these two story arcs together took up something like 8 (yes, 8) issues of X-Men Gold. I mean, I can take a couple of issues of poor material – but 8 whole comic books of tedious, boring material?
X-Men Gold #13 (Mojo Worldwide Part I) is especially frustrating because it starts so well and the artwork is absolutely fantastic. Having all these beloved characters just chilling out, playing baseball, felt like a really nice evocation of classic X-Men. And the artwork here is unbelievable: the renderings, color and tone, are gorgeous. Rachel/Prestige in particular is rendered more stunningly in this installment than I’ve ever seen.
Unfortunately, the story just goes into a mixture of cliche and nostalgia overload. The appearance of Mojo – and the subsequent waylaying of various characters into nostalgia-heavy recreations of past X-Men settings – inevitably leads to a smattering of nostalgia references.
But the nostalgia vibe, which has been present in X-Men Gold from the start, only really works well when it is subtle and done in measured doses that feel naturalistic. When it’s all just thrown in your face like this in a big splat of references and images, it just feels contrived and manipulative.
Also, does anyone really like seeing Mojo? While Mojo himself is perhaps a nostalgia device too, the real issue is that he’s just never been a very interesting villain. He’s fine for a single-installment sideshow or gag, but for a multi-book arc, I don’t think Mojo works so well.
In any case, this is all pretty old-hat stuff by now.
These installments just feel like a running gag: we get to see the characters dressed in variations of their old, classic outfits, for example, or plunged into old, familiar settings (the Avengers v X-Men thing, for example). But it’s just a stream of gimmicks within a larger gimmick and none of it really hits any kind of meaningful note.
It’s just bad, is what I’m saying.
But when we move on to the Negative Zone War in X-Men Gold #16, it actually gets worse. Again, there a few early bits of X-Men Gold #16 that are nice: the Kitty/Peter stuff is cute, at least. But then it quickly plunges into the main story: and the main story is nothing to get excited about.
The less said about the arc that follows – and takes up the entirety of about six comic books – the better.
In fairness, this story arc could also be said to be somewhat in the style of some old, classic X-Men stories – and thus part of the same nostalgia strategy of this title. However, a story as lightweight and side-showy as this wouldn’t have taken up this many installments in the old days: it would’ve been one or two comics, tops.
I really couldn’t work up any interest in the Negative Zone situation, in the planet Dartayus or its society or its aliens and their conflict. There’s nothing interesting here. The story is bland, the stakes never feel palpable or real and the whole thing feels like a removed affair that has no weight or consequence outside of this bubble.
There are a few nice character moments scattered about these books, particularly with Kitty and Peter: but, generally, this is all hugely forgettable material.
It’s baffling, really, to have this group of characters (I mean, come on – Rachel, Kitty, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, etc?) at your disposal and to spend a long run of installments on a pointless distraction. I find it really annoying, actually.
The series can save itself: but it really needs to go back to its core and focus on characters and relationships for a little while.
Needless to say at this point, if you haven’t read Mojo Worldwide or The Negative Zone War yet – just don’t. Skip it.
Stop at X-Men Gold #12 and then jump right ahead to X-Men Gold #22.