REVIEW: X-Men Gold #21 (Brothers In Harm)

Back on home turf and a man down the X-Men barely have time to let the dust settle when they hear the Brotherhood are back on the scene.

 

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X-MEN GOLD #21
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Penciler: Diego Bernard
Inker: JP Mayer
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Publisher: Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know:
The X-Men have just returned home and a team member leaves as they all count the cost of their recent jaunt into space. With Rachel in a coma and the school in a state of disrepair, Kitty has come to the realization she can’t risk losing Peter again and has accepted his marriage proposal.

What You’ll Find Out:

A flashback sees a young man on his knees amongst the ruins of a community college in Brooklyn and being counseled by the astral form of a familiar father figure to many mutants with burgeoning powers. Not only does young Simon know who Charles Xavier is, but that he should also be dead. Xavier simply brushes this off as a regular state of play for the X-Men. He goes on to inform Simon that the surrounding destruction was caused by Simon’s abilities. Abilities that are similar to St John Allerdyce once called Pyro, who Xavier says he knew. As he rises from his wheelchair he offers to help Simon as he once did Pyro…? A relieved Simon falls gratefully into his arms and thanks him, just in time for Xavier’s true form to be revealed. That of the smiling verdant Vincent, also known as the mind-controlling villain Mesmero.

 

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Which brings us to the present, the Homo Superior prison called The Box and Simon/Pyro and an unnamed Avalanche are watching the recent televised interview with the woman who caused their current predicament, Lydia Nance. Mesmero joins them and asks if they want payback. As they remind him that it was his control that landed them in prison he states he simply unlocked their potential and that Lydia controlled him into his actions as well, which our boy Mesmero doesn’t like one bit. He informs them that he has hacked his control collar and leaves them with the offer to let them join him as he plans to escape. Considering their options the two recent Brotherhood recruits wonder if Mesmero has indeed got his powers back and if so is he controlling them again, but decided the chance of escape and revenge on Nance is too good to pass up.

 

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Later they join Mesmero and simply walk out of the prison aided by Mesmero who passes them off as guards on a shift change with a Star Wars reference joke. As Avalanche and Pyro still question the hows and whys, Mesmero explains he managed to bribe a guard to help him and they set off to deal with Nance. Back in Central Park and Old Man Logan is doing what he is always known for and going off alone, bag packed when he is rumbled by Storm, who stops him in his tracks with a whirlwind to get some answers. The Negative Zone incident has left him feeling the weak link and he has decided to take some down time and head to Canada and maybe Japan (where those reading Old Man Logan will already know he will be in for a few shocks of the Scarlet Samurai variety) and is reminded he will be missed as he receives a goodbye hug before pledging to be a mere phone call away.

 

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Back at Xavier’s someone else has also upped sticks. Rachel has finally awoken from her coma and simply walked away and Kurt informs Kitty she has set herself up in the Danger Room with the Days of Future Past scenario. Worried for her mental well-being the two enter the Danger Room to be greeted by what should be Rachels ‘first’ unveiling of her new outfit, which looks alarmingly like her old Hound uniform.

 

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Speaking of costumes Pyro and Avalanche discuss the very weighty subject of the shoes they are filling and whether they are being manipulated again but are relishing the taste of revenge against Lydia Nance. Mesmero agrees that he could be controlling them and they wouldn’t know it. Meanwhile, Kitty is also in a questioning frame of mind and makes no bones about her concern for Rachel, the least of which is her choice of clothing, but more the scenery surrounding them. Kurt steps in and suggests this is a discussion for just the two of them, as a couple. Somewhat on the back foot Kitty agrees and leaves them to it. Kurt confesses he knows about her memory flashes and Rachel believes he was upset for not coming to him about it. When he says it was more worry due to the coma, coupled with the battle with the nano Sentinels, she assures him it’s all connected and she sees and feels so much more and not just psychically. She’s fine, better than fine in fact.

 

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Pyro, Avalanche, and Mesmero have made their presence known at the Heritage Initiative Fundraising Gala hosted by Lydia Nance on her yacht on the Hudson. Stopping the fun and games long enough to look for their target they quickly catch up to her and set about terrorizing her. At the school, Kitty is informed of the development and after a joke that she is off to bed decides to go into action. As she notes her team is minus a Wolverine (there’s a few going spare) she wonders at the wisdom of including Amara, who is keen for some revenge of her own and Kitty asks Nightcrawler to watch her. The first sign she is compromised he is to port her to safety. Similarly, she is unconvinced that Prestige is battle ready having just awoken from a coma. But as Rachel reminds her they are up against an industrial grade telepath (really?) she grudgingly allows them both to join, realizing there is little choice but having some severe doubts all the same.

 

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Back on the yacht someone else having second thoughts is Pyro. Apparently no longer being mind controlled is dulling the flames of anger and he isn’t too keen on killing Lydia. Clearly, this new recruit hasn’t got what it takes to be in the Brotherhood. Avalanche has no such misgivings and is about to take decisive action when a well-placed lightning bolt throws him off guard. The cavalry has arrived, chomping at the bit for some revenge of their own.

 

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Pryde does her best to set her plan in motion but Magma goes full-on hothead and flies at Mesmero. Caught unawares Nightcrawler is unsure what to do as Magma unleashes her rage on Mesmero, who headbutts her for her trouble, giving Nance another excuse to sway public opinion to her cause, citing mutants inability to even coexist with each other. Rachel refutes the assertion and reminds her sometimes they save horrible people like her and steps up with a psi-blast to Mesmero, demanding he stay down. He has however seen into her mind and notes she’s made some changes, all of which have made her vulnerable to his return attack. Somehow Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus have also been taken out in short order, leaving Kitty alone to witness the downfall of her team, the victims of her own shortcomings as she reflects on her earlier doubts.

 

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What Just Happened?
Well, nothing really. The “these aren’t the droids you are looking for” gag was a nice touch, but as Simon says, it was WAY too easy. I wonder if it was to mask the fact nothing really important happened. The ease with which they escaped was hardly worth the page time at all and could have been covered way more interestingly by use of villain exposition during the later battle. Though calling it a battle is a bit of a stretch by the way. It was over way too quickly and finished far too easily, considering how the first Brotherhood meeting ended? Let’s take stock here. In issue #2 we had the same trio plus Kologoth and Masque, not to mention Magma, on their side. I’m loathed to believe that the lack of Old Man Logan was all it took for the X-Men to be taken out by just three of the same Brotherhood they trounced so easily before, especially when Logan was the first casualty the last time around as well. Not to mention the newly assertive Prestige so easily taken over by Mesmero. She barely gets done telling Kurt “the dial’s been cranked on all my senses” before its lights out…yet AGAIN.

 

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Switching between scenes and having the dialogue inform the action as it changes is all well and good but it’s almost forced here to seem clever for the sake of it. From Logan’s farewell and the “what do you mean just left?” action switching to Kitty and Kurt as they discuss Rachel, then onward again to Rachel revealing her new outfit and then yet again switching with narrative dialogue to the Brotherhood as they discuss dead counterparts clothes and then almost every single scene change after. Though a good narrative device on occasion, here it just comes off very overplayed. Also, Rachel gets a new outfit? We knew that already, we saw it in the annual AND in Phoenix Resurrection before she got knocked out again of course. Admittedly these things haven’t happened yet but the big costume change could have been better utilized after her tour de force months ago at the end of the Techno Superior storyline in issue #6. That would have shown considerably more foreshadowing.
Maybe I’m being nitpicky? OK, so what about Logan leaving? So what!! He ALWAYS leaves, right? And the big reveal of who Pyro really is? Oh please!!! There were two perfectly good possible options. St John Allerdyce or Rusty Collins, both of whom have been extensively discussed by many fans for several months and even people personally begging Guggenheim for it to be Rusty. Creating a third option in Simon the bland blank slate is creating no intrigue at all and so now we have another generic pyrokinetic out there? The long wait to find who Pyro was has been one of the most anti-climactic reveals of X-Men history and many a fan will feel let down that once again we won’t be seeing Rusty. ESPECIALLY as Skids recently showed up as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in Tales Of Suspense #101 (great cameo by the way… I for one guffawed at the Boomer joke)
And to top it off now Magma returns to the X-Men and on her first trip out basically hands the victory to the villains. This is one of the most underutilized, undervalued characters from the classic New Mutants line-up who is regularly usurped, yet again being written as somewhat of an easily manipulated rookie. YAWN. So far her best battle has been with the Damage Control rep a few issues ago. Where is that Amara Juliana Olivians Aquilla? I liked her, can we have her back, please?
Not to mention a newly assertive Prestige taken out by Mesmero so easily as well. I’m adding the point five to the score here for the droids joke. The rest was for the art of Diego Bernard, JP Mayer and Frank Martin alone. specifically the goodbye Logan scene and for seeing Rachel smile. For once. Even if they got her eye color wrong. And as previous issues have shown them as green I’m hoping this isn’t an error but might be something more…ominous? Nanotech Sentinels maybe?

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Rating: 4.5/10

Final Thought:
The team has yet another short order status shuffle but it has done them little good here. Someone’s heart just isn’t in it maybe?


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