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X-Men: Gold #23 Review

by Charles Martin on March 07, 2018

X-Men: Gold #23 Review
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Thony Silas
Colourist: Arif Prianto
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Let's start with the obligatory joke: Our main team has been socked into prison - Orange Is the New Gold! 

Unfortunately, Marc Guggenheim overfills our plate here and we don't get a satisfying portion of any of the many plot threads he's dishing up. The main team's prison sojourn doesn't get much past establishing that yep, they sure are in prison, and the new backup team doesn't get to do much besides jump in the Danger Room and demonstrate a troubling lack of teamwork. 

The main stories are bookended front and rear with "ooh-er, here comes a big villain" scenes. These involve two different villains, neither of whom looks particularly promising and both of whom seem frustratingly far from the action. (This has been a consistent problem throughout this series. Somebody needs to give Mr. Guggenheim a lecture about premature villain introduction.) The final pages drop one last antagonist on us, who is at least a refreshingly immediate jail-yard threat to Kitty, Storm, and Rachel.

The other guest stars are a mixed bag. Callisto as Kitty's cellmate is frustratingly generic, as is the contrite new Pyro who applies to join the backup squad. Rogue and OG Iceman have some decent chemistry between them, and Bobby shows hints of becoming the chummy team-builder the new squad desperately needs.

Given the sheer number of active plots (and Mr. Guggenheim's preference for keeping his scripts fast and shallow), it doesn't seem likely that Bobby will get the space he needs to work some team-building magic. And that's really a shame, because his presence is probably the high point of the issue when it comes to characterization.

Besides offering up too many threads, this issue's script does a bad job of prioritizing them. Which story takes primacy here, the imprisoned main team or the new backup team? What's the batting order for the three villains antagonizing the X-Men now? Which of the endless dangling plot threads is going to tie in next? Is this zillionth repetition of Rachel's "fighting Mesmero messed me up" line the one that's finally going to matter?

I was apprehensive when I saw Thony Silas's name on the credits page. I've seen him do some workmanlike fill-in art on other Marvel titles, and his scratchy, low-detail style smacked unpleasantly of the 90s to me. I wasn't looking forward to an issue full of triangle-torso X-Men.

His performance in X-Men: Gold #23 comes as a very pleasant surprise. He invests a lot of effort in firming up his anatomy and using shadows well, and there's also plenty of good work invested in backgrounds and scene-setting. Look for the simple but effective way an old team photo gets tucked behind the meeting of Bobby, Rogue, and Pyro. 

Colourist Arif Prianto contributes subtly to the scene-setting work. While his overall range of colours is limited, he fine-tunes the saturation impressively to put real depth behind Mr. Silas's panels.

Mr. Silas is actually good at expressive faces, but the one place he's still struggling is with distinctive faces. This issue's roster is admittedly challenging; any artist will find iced-down Bobby "I could be any 30-something male brunette" Drake tough to distinguish. The female characters are even rougher, considering half of them are stuck in identical orange jumpsuits now. Thank goodness for eyepatches and Hound marks!

Some surprisingly good art helps perk up a messy, aimless script in X-Men: Gold #23. The new story arc is not off to a strong start, surrendering too many pages to unwelcome foreshadowing and unproductive rehashing of dangling plot threads. This is both literally and metaphorically a rebuilding issue, but it makes such a thorough survey of the work that needs to be done that it doesn't get around to fixing anything up.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I'm afraid Gold stays pegged firmly on the bottom of my "to-read" pile of X-Books.