Let’s be honest, X-Men Gold hasn’t been consistently good for the vast majority of its short time in publication. The book’s been marred by weak tie-ins to universe events, forced crossovers, and complicated plots pitting the mutants against Galactic overlords rather than actual mutant problems. If there’s one positive this series has held onto, it’s the revived romantic involvement between Kitty Pryde and Piotr Rasputin leading to their engagement and eventual wedding. X-Men Gold #26 officially kicks off the wedding preparations in a decent yet unremarkable issue that grounds the X-Men back on Earth facing classic X-Men problems.
After the underwhelming but welcome end to the Gold team’s battle against an interdimensional space deity in X-Men Gold #25, Kitty and her team of merry mutants are back on Earth, hot on the trail of Mesmero. The operation to take down Mesmero plays out like a spy thriller with each X-Man hiding in plain sight to spring their trap. It’s a welcome sight to see the Gold team back in action against an Earthly threat after being thrust into space or imprisoned for so long.
The Mesmero trap goes off with only one small hiccup, once again showing just how bad-ass Rogue is- at this point, I’m not sure why Rogue isn’t the outright leader of the X-Men instead of Kitty Pryde. Although an inclusion of Gambit feels random and forced, the Mesmero storyline concludes nicely within the first ten pages of this book, almost as if writer Marc Guggenheim is reassuring readers that he really is taking this book in a different direction from past issues with a finite ending to one last lingering problem.
It’s after Kitty returns Mesmero to prison that this book really begins to feel like a true X-Men series again, when the prison warden is blatantly bigoted towards mutants right in front of her. This serves as a reminder that the X-Men’s biggest threat is still the hatred they face at home, and how they overcome that hatred to be heroes anyway is what makes the X-Men so special. They’re all about rising above the detractors to do the right thing.
This moment also segways perfectly into Lydia Nance’s return, once again concocting some elaborate scheme to cause anti-mutant hysteria or eliminate their kind. While I like the idea of Lydia Nance as a villain- a career politician hell bent on making mutant’s lives hell both through legal and illegal means- I feel as if she’s grown stale, having failed to bring the X-Men down at nearly every opportunity. Regardless, she stands as a perfect metaphor for institutionalized bigotry and I, for one, could not think of a better thing for the X-Men to fight against (sure beats fighting Scythian the ancient fascist space deity or whatever the hell his deal was, that’s for sure).
Ironically, the more lackluster aspects of this issue are the ones about the actual wedding planning. What makes a comic book wedding exciting is the impact it has on the characters and what the flourishing relationship says about each one.
With this wedding, there’s no substance- sure it’s a big deal, but there’s nothing about the wedding that actually feels important. The dialogue exchanges between Piotr and Kitty are bland while their moments making wedding preparations apart are equally void of any heft.
Piotr’s preparations involve being dragged to a bachelor’s party in Las Vegas by Nightcrawler, Iceman, Gambit, and Pyro but these pages are lacking any fun whatsoever. The conversations are simply bland with no life to them and Gambit gets real old, real fast (two “boyos” within a page are too many.) Even more infuriating is the editor’s note that refers readers to “see X-Men Gold: The Wedding Special #1″ for a moment Piotr references before the bachelor party, an issue that isn’t out for a few more weeks.
It says a lot about the steadily declining quality of X-Men Gold as a whole that an issue as ordinary as #26 is one of the better issues, but it’s an issue that has me hopeful for the future of this series. X-Men Gold #26 may not be an issue everyone will be talking about, but it’s a return to form for the Gold team as they look to once again battle the institutionalized hatred exemplified by Lydia Nance. Let’s just hope the upcoming wedding won’t completely overshadow what could be a decent storyline (who am I kidding, of course it will).