The Negative Zone War Part 1: (X-Men Gold #16 Comic Review)

 

In the wake of Mojo Worldwide it’s a big day for Kitty Pryde. Not only does she hold her own in a nationally televised debate, but she also gets to grips with an old flame. To top it off the X-Men get a knock on the door from some alien rebel invaders on the lookout for their leader. When the dust settles not everyone is accounted for as two X-Men are taken hostage and one other will fall.

X-MEN GOLD #16
Writer-Marc Guggenheim
Penciler-Lan Medina
Inkers-Jay Leisten & Craig Yeung
Cover Artists-Ken Lashey & Juan Fernandez
Colorists-Frank Martin & Andrew Crossley
Publisher-Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know:
The X-Men have recently battled with an all-new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, under the control of the mutant mentalist Mesmero, who in turn was under orders of the mutant-hating activist Lydia Nance. They managed to capture the Brotherhood and hand them over to S.H.I.E.L.D. with the notable exception of one of their number, a mystery mutant Kitty calls CNG, or Creepy New Guy, who it is soon revealed isn’t a mutant at all but an alien renegade. Kept in a holding cell in the grounds of The Xavier Institute with the hopes of better learning his origins, the prisoner soon escapes, due to an unrelated incident involving an anti-mutant serial killer wearing the garb of the outlaw X-Cutioner, who releases him with the intent of causing as much chaos and confusion as possible while he himself goes on a killing spree within the school.

Meanwhile, the extraterrestrial fugitive goes into hiding in the school grounds and in the ensuing chaos of a city-wide invasion by Mojo is completely forgotten. Kologoth Anteres, himself considered a mutant by his own species was abandoned by his parents as a child and is in exile for staging a coup on his homeworld of Dartayus in the Negative Zone as well as the murder of his own parents. While working with the Brotherhood he actually allows himself to become captured to infiltrate the school and gain access to their comms array to contact his fellow rebels, who have now seized a ship from the ruling Parliament fleet and have set course to Earth to retrieve him and turn the tide of battle in their favor.

What You’ll Find Out:
Beginning with a flashback to issue #3 and the aggressive face-off between Nance and Kitty, where Kitty informs her the X-Men are aware of her complicity in the Brotherhood incident and Lydia is warned she will soon answer for her bigotry, we flash forward to another meeting between the two in totally different circumstances. Sitting in the more civilized surroundings of a TV studio for the talk show CROSSTIME, Lydia is holding court answering to the accusations of bigotry levied at her in their previous encounter and name dropping to the best of her ability, citing her proposed Mutant Deportation Bill as her biggest weapon. Kitty welcomes the opportunity to discuss the situation with her cohorts when filming abruptly stops. Off camera Nance immediately goes on the offensive, all pretense at niceties dropped and mocks Kitty for her choice of name. Kitty doesn’t miss a beat and without letting it get to her simply says that she’d like to ask a question of Lydia in turn, and states that as she herself manages to do the normal things in life without feeling the need to demonize those who are different she wonders how it is that Lydia is so broken that she can’t do the same.

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We don’t get to hear the answer because next thing we know Kitty is walking down the street weighing up the merits of murder and discussing it with Peter, who chimes in how articulate she was and that he heard the whole thing as apparently, the microphones were still on. Somehow he heard the “guy I’ve got history with” as “guy I like” and needles her about it. Noting her embarrassment he apologizes for bringing it up and is surprised when she silences him with a kiss. He then notes that her confusion doesn’t seem to halt her from frequently kissing him, which in turn causes him some confusion. Kitty has an answer that might solve their mutual confusion and pulls out a room key that just happens to belong to a hotel they are standing in front of. Smooth move Kitty.

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Now seems as good a time as any to leave them and see what is going on in Central Park. Old Man Logan is marveling at the crowd of supporters who are standing nearby waving banners announcing unity with the mutant cause and resisting mutant deportation. Rachel and Kurt watch on in obvious cheer while he goes on to ask Ororo if someone should go and speak to them in thanks. He refuses when she suggests he do it himself and Kurt wonders where Kitty is as she should see the supporters turning out for them. When he hears she hasn’t returned from filming the Crosstime show the previous evening he utters the fateful words “hope everything’s alright” as a vortex appears mid-air looking for all the world like a Storm caused whirlwind. Coming into orbit Kologoths allies arrive in order to rescue their figurehead in the battle against the ruling Parliament. Anole comes out of the school to tell the gathered X-Men that NASA has made contact and finds they are already aware of the situation. In earnest innocence, he posits that it may not be hostile and while Logan doubts the truth of that Storm instructs Anole to get Peter and asks Rachel to contact Kitty. Rachel acts as an alarm clock and mentally contacts Kitty and informs her of the situation. Asking whereabouts Kitty is she tells her she will send Kurt to collect her while she endeavors to find Peter. Kitty tells her not to bother as she has him with her. When Rachel realizes what’s going on she can’t help but comment. Meanwhile…back at base, bugs in the software, flashed the message “something’s out there”…sorry, meanwhile back at the gathering in the park chaos and panic are in order as the crowd scatters and Storm, still unsure of the impending spaceships motives tries to get people to vacate the area calmly, doing what she can to create order and when Logan threatens to start cutting anyone who disagrees she delivers a death stare that stops even him in his tracks. Anole chimes in and saves him as he informs them a squadron of fighter planes is being scrambled to the site and are responding to the arrival of the gargantuan ship, leading Logan to ask what kind of response.

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Fighter planes engage the leviathan and open fire while onboard the alien ship the invaders are assessing the situation and deem the threat primitive but sufficient to cause damage and decide to return fire while prompting Kologoth to hurry to their location. Nightcrawler arrives with Kitty and Colossus in time for Storm to inform Kitty the fighter planes are being wiped out. Kitty instructs Storm and Prestige to get the aliens attention and as they fly up to approach they hear a broadcast in an alien dialect and correctly assume that the visitors are attempting to contact someone below. From his hiding place, Kologoth waits patiently and prepares to move out. Kitty also makes a move and phases into the craft to meet whoever is on board and deal with them, much to Logan’s chagrin. The aliens spot Kologoth and prepare to maneuver in, leaving Colossus and Logan clinging to the skin of the ship and Logan remarks the situation isn’t looking good. Meanwhile, Nightcrawler ports in to support Kitty, commenting they don’t know their enemies forces. It is soon apparent though as the two are faced with a full battalion of warriors running their way. Outside Logan slips off the ship and plunges toward the ground. Just as Prestige makes a daring move to rescue him she takes a hit from the ship’s weapons.

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As Logan then falls through the roof of the school and Prestige is sent hurtling to the earth, Kologoth emerges near to her prone unconscious form as the ship lands gracelessly on the school and Kologoths beloved Augor departs to greet him and insists they leave before the breach portal closes on them. Kologoth comments it isn’t a moment too soon as he can’t wait to return and make many back home suffer for the indignation of leaving him a prisoner on Earth for so long. A situation Nightcrawler and Kitty are now themselves painfully aware of as they are held at gunpoint onboard while the ship traverses the warp portal.

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Back on solid ground and Hisako has the unenviable task of assessing the unconscious Logan and barely avoids being eviscerated upon his awakening. Filling him in on the situation she reveals that although Colossus and Storm are unharmed things don’t look so certain for Rachel. On top of which both Kurt and Kitty are apparently still on the ship, which has flown off. As he surveys the damage she wonders aloud what they will do. Logan replies there is only one option. GRRRRR!

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What Just Happened?
The art this issue is a definite improvement. Lan Medinas etchings on Logans tired face speak volumes about his weariness as does the scolding look Storm gives him and a shout out to the colours of Frank Martin and Andrew Crossley, little touches like seeing Rachel with glowing eyes when in telepathic contact are a great element to see. Every telepath has their signature glow, from the likes of Psylocke, Jean and of course Karma so it’s wonderful to see it here as well, especially as she no longer has the Phoenix glow I for one miss from her. The action during the battle above the school is short and definitely sweet visually. In seven short pages we see the art team of Jay Leisten and Craig Yeung work in tandem and not overpower the pencils or crowd the dialogue. What could have been an over-busy sequence is a clear definition of action and laid out to show every key players part. The three panels showing Rachel and Logan taking the brunt of the ship’s attacks is in itself an action-packed wow of a splash page. Just as the art team here are so in synch so as well are the characters on the page who also act in unison and support each other as the smooth fighting unit they have become over the years, but still it doesn’t stop them getting a resounding thrashing from the unknown enemies. Though Storm fans are chomping at the bit for her to lead again (that killer look she gives Old Man Logan was a nice touch and reminds us all of the bond she shared with his counterpart) and she sometimes seems to be in the background too much lately, Kitty as leader does well and is equal parts eye-opening and frustrating as she has obviously learnt from the best and is confident in her strategy. Though too often of late she does seem to enjoy diving into the fray Wolverine style and being the solo scout. This tactic has now come back to bite her on the derrière as her and Kurt are captives of an unknown threat. You can’t deny her spirit though. Speaking of which, as always she can hold her own in an argument as we have seen many times before. Prime example being the televised debate as well as the post-filming sequence with Lydia Nance. Yet again someone who tries to undercut Kitty, as Mojo did recently. Nance attempts to demean her by stating she is immature for wanting be called Kitty and not Katherine. Like that’s ever worried her before. This is not how to get one over on our Ms Pryde, who immediately counters with a sharp retort of her own getting to the heart of the matter in true Kitty style and calls Nance out on her hate of anyone different, because that’s just the way life is, people are different. She isn’t as quick on her feet later however when Rachel discovers where she and Peter spent the night. Maybe she is feeling the same discomfort Rachel did when they last discussed the similar situation between herself and Kurt and Rachel has clearly picked up on that and is relishing the moment. Guggenheim really does write Kitty well and although during Mojo Worldwide the bigger cast came off a little cumbersome, here it seems he has more of a handle on his characters and personal dialogue is taking shape better as well as character development. The speculation was rife as to the new line-up of the Brotherhood in the first arc of the series so we are all still waiting to find out if Pyro and Avalanche are the originals back from the dead or if Pyro is indeed another Lazarus style flame based X-Men ally we all know and love, as it was hinted the Brotherhood had some FRIENDS of the X-Men amongst them and so far we have only discovered and reclaimed Amara. Only time will tell, but all that is yet to come AFTER this arc, patience gang. I want to say I can’t wait for that to happen but I also can’t wait to see how this drama unfolds, especially as Armor and Ink will also join the battle and there will be big changes ahead for several of our leading team members before this arc is even over with.

Rating: 9/10

Final Thought: We didn’t get to see Ink or the uniforms as hinted on the cover but all good things come to those who wait. I am also much preferring the name Kologoth to that of Kleevus originally mentioned in pre solicit listings for issue #12. Bullet dodged there I feel. Speculation was rife on some news media sites as to it being the name of another alien from previous Fantastic Four stories or just an Ike Perlmutter pet name. It could also have been a derivation of the Albanian name Klevis. Whatever the reason, I for one am glad it’s gone. To quote Marc Guggenheim “I just came up with a name I liked better”. He ain’t wrong.

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