Between a Rock and a Hard Place: (X-Men Gold #18 Comic Review)

Caught between two warring factions of an alien race the X-Men fight to save their kidnapped allies, while Nightcrawler’s life literally hangs in the balance.

X-MEN GOLD #18

Writer-Marc Guggenheim
Artist-Ken Lashley
Colorist-Arif Prianto
Publisher-Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know:

As the X-Men negotiate on Dartayus with the ruling faction to secure the freedom of their friends, Kurt has taken drastic action and teleported blind to escape the clutches of his captors, finding himself painfully merged with the towering statue of Scythian, the religious symbol of the Dartayan rebels.

What You’ll Find Out:

We find Magma in regulation hard hat and civilian clothes, inspecting the battle-ravaged site of Xavier’s Institute in the company of a representative of Damage Control (remember those guys?) hashing out an exorbitant quote for repairs. In typical contractor style, he is attempting to undermine her assertiveness by purposefully getting her name wrong, despite her continued corrections. Negotiations are interrupted by a psychic heads up from Cecilia and there is a little misunderstanding as Ballinger assumes her ‘excuse me’ comment is referring to his statement about repair prices and attempts to persuade her his price is fair. Before leaving Amara shows her true Latin heritage and returns the name forgetting insult, pointedly calling the contractor by an incorrect surname. When he corrects her she simply reminds him, without a backward glance, how it feels to be so dismissed. On her arrival in the medical wing, Cecilia tells Amara of some very familiar facial scarring, which Cecilia takes to be a skin condition. We are left to ponder the significance of this as the action shifts to our spacefaring heroes in the Negative Zone.

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Kologoth is discussing the negotiations of the prisoner release with Augur, his second in command and whether they have agreed to his terms of their return. Kologoth is unconvinced they will leave peacefully claiming them to be petty. He commands Augur to collect Kitty while he deals with ‘the blue one’. Upon opening the cell however he discovers it to be empty. Outside and unbeknownst to his captors Nightcrawler is impaled on the stone statue of Scythian and instinctively teleports once more to a safer location below, deciding his luck has held despite his obvious pain.

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In the seat of Parliament, the X-Men have received news that Kologoth has decreed they can retrieve their allies on the condition they leave the planet. Armor and Logan disagree with Colossus and his assertion it is a trap, ever the strategists they see it as Kologoth playing safe as he knows they could become a nuisance if they stay. Ink is not happy with the prospect of leaving the planet as it is while the commander states they have no choice, it is none of their business. Ink grudgingly agrees but asks for him to secure a vehicle to replace the one they trashed on arrival. The commander assures them he will and also try to find their ‘other’ missing comrade.

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Kitty in power dampening collar and manacles is escorted to a transport and informed Kurt is dead. Shocked at first she insists he is lying and Kologoth seems not to care either way. They arrive at the agreed meeting point to find Colossus, Ink, Logan, and Armor waiting, escorted by the commander they have been negotiating with who notes the location as being the Kavangian Plateau, a place of some religious significance to Kologoth and his followers. As Kitty joins the team she informs them of what Kologoth has told her. Logan also calls him a liar stating Kurt is immortal. Kologoth scoffs at this saying only Scythian is immortal and when Armor reasons that he just wants them to go he agrees this is the case.

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At this point, it is discovered the commander who brought them is on the side of Kologoth as he pulls a gun on them. A scuffle ensues and Kitty delivers a swift kick to Kologoth saying she doesn’t need powers to deal with him. As the commander fires a warning shot Kologoth calls for them to be killed and Logan warns Kitty to get down as Storm makes a grand entrance. Kitty remarks on the tactic and he states it was something she would do. Kologoth has also held reserves and more soldiers appear. Armor and Colossus go back to back and indulge in banter taking advantage of the universal translators. As Storm shouts out to Ink, who is blasted by laser fire, he reveals he has been having tattoo modifications back home and has acquired a healing factor as well as some handy optic blasts. In what has become usual Kitty mode she runs off to scout for Nightcrawler but not before calling Colossus “sweetie”, much to his surprise, and using Ink to psi-link the team and inform Storm that Kologoth is the leader and to take him out. Storm grabs him and takes him for a flight, informing him that language barriers shouldn’t stop him understanding she intends to drop him unless he gets his men to stand down. Disbelieving he calls her bluff and points out she has given him the vantage he desired and draws her attention to the statue of Scythian which has suddenly sprung to life and is towering above the shocked form of the missing X-Man who exclaims “GOTT LEBENDIG”< “GOD ALIVE” Translator Steve…for those of you without Universal Translators>

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What Just Happened?
The humorous diatribe is on form here between Amara and the Damage Control rep, who calls her Ms. Attila and then Ms. Acrylic. Wait, Cecilia is psychic now? Although it is obviously someone else on staff who gives Amara the call it is unusual for said mental intercom device not to be at least referenced in some way, a niggling point I know, but it needs addressing. Loved the exchange between Hisako and OML showing they understand the aliens can speak English and so revert to Japanese (more precisely Kanji) and even we don’t get to know what they say. Nice touch of mystery from Guggenheim there.

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I must have missed something here, who is the “other missing comrade”? They had no knowledge at this point Nightcrawler was missing and the commander doesn’t say anything about it either, just that Kologoth has agreed to “return your FRIENDS”. How can he do that if Nightcrawler is missing? Though Logan’s warning about not finding him in mint condition is clearly meant to be referring to him. Also, the same commander who later betrays them is unaware that Storm is missing on arrival at the meeting point and was held back in reserve? On the plus side, it was great to see Storm actually let loose at last as well as Ink showing some new tattoos, although I feel invulnerability might have been a bit better than a healing factor. Why take the hit in the first place and have to take time to heal if it can be helped? On the whole, this issue seems a little off-kilter compared to the initial start of the arc. The fight at the mansion made sense at least two issues ago, but here the largest chunk of the action takes place in one area and it seems not to flow as well as before. On the plus side though the Armor/OML private chat and her also going back to back with Colossus shows she has got what it takes and always had what it takes to be in the big leagues. Also, I noticed Arif Prianto has returned the red color to Armor’s armored form (not the pink we saw last issue) and the pencils are as amazing as the last issue in the fight scenes and Lashey shows Ink here as full on as I’ve ever seen him. Can’t wait to see him unleash that Havok blast.

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Rating: 6/10

Final Thought: Guggenheim has waxed lyrical for so long now about wanting to do a space saga story and I think it isn’t living up to the hype despite a  great start the last two issues. It almost seems as though he’s distracted here and trying to sneak in some foreboding for Rachels fate while NOT dealing with the drama at hand.

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