Brian and Meggan Braddock welcome their old allies back to the U.K. for an announcement and Starhammer returns and his goal of revenge will not be swayed again. His target…Dark Phoenix and all of earths inhabitants.
X-MEN GOLD ANNUAL #1
Writer-Marc Guggenheim & Leah Williams
Artist-Alitha E. Martinez & Craig Yeung
Colorist-Jay David Ramos & Dono Sánchez-Almara
What You Need to Know:
Starhammer returns to exact his revenge for the death of his home planet and all that stands in his way is a reunited Excalibur and a three-month-old girl. Kitty, Kurt, and Rachel once formed Excalibur alongside the Otherworld champion Captain Britain and his partner Meggan, often battling many otherworldly menaces. Vuk was one of the last surviving members of the D’Bari race after the destruction of his homeworld at the hands of Dark Phoenix. Last seen during the events of Maximum Security having gained a new weapon in the form of a powerful suit of armor and calling himself “Starhammer” attempted revenge against Dark Phoenix. Jean tricked him into believing he had succeeded and induced him into a fantasy world. Now he has broken free and wants revenge.
What You’ll Find Out:
NOTE: This story takes place after the events of X-Men Gold #22 and before X-Men Gold #23.
Vuk has apparently awoken from his trance, and also managed to retrieve his armor (supposedly previously disposed of by Gambit and the Thieves Guild in Uncanny X-Men #387) and is under the misapprehension he was tricked by Rachel and not Jean and once again seeks revenge. Meanwhile, the X-Men are recuperating from their recent trials in the Negative Zone and the second meeting with the New Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants. On the grounds of the school, a stork arrives with an invitation prompting Logan to mention some rather big news before it’s even announced in the pages of X-Men Gold. The stork has brought news from Meggan and Brian about the birth of their baby and Kitty promptly lets the rest of the team decide who is in charge while she, Kurt and Rachel jet off for a long overdue reunion, Kitty deciding flying the X-Jet is too expensive and going coach is best as it isn’t hero stuff and therefore not tax deductible. After a decidedly un-superhero flight, they arrive at the old lighthouse, once their home and headquarters as the peacekeeping team Excalibur. Rachel is somewhat pensive as they are greeted by Meggan who informs them they restored the lighthouse as a suitable home for a new baby. The biggest surprise, however, isn’t Brian with a beard, but the fact that Maggie, barely three months old, is speaking and calmly introduces herself and demands to be picked up.
As she asks Kurt the general inquisitive questions of many toddlers Brian seems to be taking it all in his stride, but not so much Meggan, who runs from the room visibly upset. Kitty and Rachel go after her and she confides in them that though Maggie is physically fine she worries that the child is too advanced for her to cope with as she can barely read herself so will soon be way behind her own daughter. They put her mind at ease with the knowledge that although Maggie is growing fast they will not only live to see her grow but will experience a lifetime of getting to know her which some parents never do. Meanwhile, Maggie and Kurt get existential and very deep in conversation in time for the girls to return and all settle down to watch the Wizard of Oz just before all hell breaks loose and they are attacked by Starhammer.
As Brian attempts to leave Maggie in the care of Kurt (or maybe the other way round) Rachel fends off Starhammers tendrils and says whoever he is he has chosen a bad day to attack. Starhammer asks if she remembers him and she gives the correct answer of no (at least someone is keeping track here) and Kitty phases outside into the path of a uniformed Captain Britain who offers her old costume to her. Clearly, the baby carrier proved too difficult for Kurt as Brian is wearing it and fielding questions from Maggie mid-battle. Rachel asks her own questions and gleans from Starhammer his true origin, which causes her to correct him on her place in the ongoing drama. Kurt comments on the baggage and Kitty wonders what he means as Meggan goes full feral and tears through the aliens mechanical tentacles. Having had enough, Starhammer presses a button on a device and when nothing happens Kitty comments on the lack of any effect. What follows is good old team comedy as they patiently await his ineffectual master-plan.
Finally, it springs to life and they are transported to another world. Starhammer announces he intends to do the same to all heroes and usher in mankind’s extinction without any form of defense. Rachel racks her memory for any hint she knows Starhammer and Maggie ask her father to get her the remote. Chiding her that it isn’t a toy she replies, of course, she knows this but has a plan, just as Rachel remembers something and forces Starhammer to drop it. The team rally round and get it to Brian who tries to instruct Maggie on what to do (a nod to his past as a scientist) she impatiently tells him she knows what she is doing. She tinkers with the device and somehow they are transported to a D’Bari settlement and stores the location as Kurt comments on how these things tend to happen to enable a stunned Vuk to bring any surviving stragglers of his race there to live in peace thus ending the threat. Back in the lighthouse, the team goes about the old business of rebuilding the battle-ravaged home and Brian announces the reason for the invitation. They ask all three comrades to be godparents to Maggie, which they heartily accept. Something tells me that this is one lucky child and I don’t mean because of her gifts but more her family.
Also featuring a backup story by Monty Nero with art by Djibril Morissette-Phan and Michael Garland on colors, of a young girl called Rosie and her quest to get her aunt to take her to meet her idol Storm of the X-Men. After witnessing the team battle Fin Fang Foom, one visit to the mansion where they meet Anole (who isn’t quite X-Man enough for Rosie) and several close calls where they keep missing them by mere moments, they do however meet up instead with angry people who despite the bravery of the X-Men see them as a menace. Although her aunt doesn’t disagree with the crowds at first she eventually sees things through her niece’s eyes and when they finally catch up to Storm and the team clearing up the debris of a battle they get an added surprise and a lift.
What Just Happened?
A strange lead tale, maybe a little rushed but still with the essential elements of an Excalibur story. The only thing missing was Warwolves or Technet (recently active again in the last Rocket series) Although no Alan Davis is present the art here is perfect Excalibur and Meggan in full wolf form is as good as ever. The colors pop especially the sequence where Rachel changes into uniform just the way Phoenix used to. Rachels assertion that Meggan is lucky that they will live to see their child grow up is heartfelt especially as not only are her own parents dead but the versions she came to know in this world are also now both gone. Nice touch having Brian talk to Maggie about the Gluon Inhibitor (he was once a brilliant scientist at the Darkmoor Research Centre when he first became Captain Britain) Brian’s acting out of depth with the intricacies of the team dynamic as Kitty phases through the lighthouse also harkens back to his awkward days.
As for Starhammer himself, he has met the Avengers and Namor in the past and come off equally as incapable of being a prime threat. I prefer to think his error of attributing Rachel being the one to trick him during Maximum Security and not Jean as his error and not the writers, as we see when he discusses it with Rachel she has no clue what he is talking about. Possibly the years of false illusion inflicted upon him is where the confusion has arisen? I was at first also confused as to Starhammers memories, but re-reading the issue from the Maximum Security tale it kind of adds up as he never was very good at discerning who was to blame. And it made sense also as Jean currently isn’t around but Rachel is, so how else is he to exact his revenge? Little does he know if he’d only waited for a short while he could have met with Jean himself. I also wonder if recent events in Phoenix Resurrection haven’t somehow had a part to play in his return and the fading of the fictional world he had inhabited? The dialogue when Starhammer fails to enact his teleportation device is typical Excalibur and its almost like things have never changed between our friends.
Final Thought: The back up story with Storm was equally heart-warming, very well scripted by Nero and the blind adoration of the girl, though maybe a little overly saccharine sweet, IS the way any child would idolise their hero and given the negative assertion from all around her (even her own aunt) it was nice to see a child who’s innocent opinion could not be swayed by their supposed betters. The message that children’s hopes should be fostered and not drummed out of them seemed to be the central theme here and is something we could all do with learning. Children don’t hate on their own. It’s something they are taught…
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