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'X-Men Gold Vol. 5: Cruel and Unusual' review: Comic attention deficit disorder

Comic Books

‘X-Men Gold Vol. 5: Cruel and Unusual’ review: Comic attention deficit disorder

A good time with superheroes, but it has its issues.

In a world where Xavier no longer leads, what has happened to the X-Men? For starters, there are two teams: one for Blue and one for Gold (and actually, now a third in Red!) with different leaders. Gold focuses on Kitty Pryde taking the team into her own hands and in this latest trade paperback, she must rely on Rogue–recently fired from the Avengers–to lead as she’s put into prison. Zoinks!

So what’s it about?

The official summary reads:

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Sacrifices were made in the fight against Scythian. Find out what’s in store for the X-Men after their treacherous escape from the Negative Zone! What is the new status quo for the team and where do they go from here?

Why does this matter?

Collecting X-Men Gold #21 to #25, this arc is relatively easy to jump into. It adds new characters to the team, has the team take on some clearly defined villains and wraps all these things up.

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

'X-Men Gold Vol. 5: Cruel and Unusual' review: Comic attention deficit disorder

The heroes fight villains small…

There is a lot going on in this trade paperback for better or worse. There are at least three major villains that fight the X-Men and this book only collects five issues! As the story progresses characters are taken off the team for varying reasons, new members are brought on, and there’s no time to get people up to snuff and ready for battle. Opening with Mesmero, writer Marc Guggenheim weaves in your usual politician who wants to end the mutants’ agenda with her own narrative. Things get dicey though when that leads to a few of the mutants being put into prison. From there an attack on New York takes place and through all of this, a god from another dimension is rushing in to give our characters a hell of a climactic finish. You seriously can’t think too hard while reading this because things shift and change so much. It’s actually quite impressive how much Guggenheim can juggle and there are clearly good subplots starting so as to build towards something later, so I give him props for that.

The art is anywhere from good to great. It’s clean and does a good job with the superhero business like fighting giant monsters and using powers on the grunt baddies. The style certainly changes from chapter to chapter, but it not in a jarring way.

'X-Men Gold Vol. 5: Cruel and Unusual' review: Comic attention deficit disorder

…and large.

It can’t be perfect can it?

This series can never get into a groove. There are perfectly fine bits of dialogue, but then a strange reply or weird comment throws things off. Characters seem to get good character work (like Pyro early on) and then are abandoned. It’s like the original scripts were heavily rewritten or editorial changes shift things so much there’s no coherent tether to hold it all together. It’s not only obvious with the character writing, but with the plotting as well.

The characters take on more than three major threats in this book and this book is only five issues of story. The narrative is all over the place too. The plot has villains escape prison, a bunch of the heroes gets put into prison, they face off against a massive attack on New York while understaffed, and then the book gets capped off with an attack on Paris whilst new X-Men members are thrown into the mix. This book seriously has some attention deficit disorder issues trying to do way too much in way too little space. Kitty, Storm, and Rachel all going to prison, for instance, could easily fill out a trade paperback, but instead is introduced quickly and then wrapped up in a maddeningly simple way (Storm basically just beats up the guards and says she’s done with it). More time and attention given to character growth, reflection, and interconnection could have gone a long way in making this book more rewarding and interesting.

Is it good?

This is a perfectly okay comic series, but it’s all over the place in its plotting and inability to focus on a single character for more than five seconds. Dialogue can be good, but then be thrown off by a bad one-liner or something you’ll have to read twice to understand its point.

'X-Men Gold Vol. 5: Cruel and Unusual' review: Comic attention deficit disorder
X-Men Gold Vol. 5: Cruel and Unusual
Is it good?
It's an okay time with these superheroes but the narrative is too all over the place to really matter or mean something.
Certainly keeps your interest with nearly constant shifts in plot, villains, and action
The art is generally good to great with solid superhero style
The story never settles on a plot point, villain, or character moment for long enough for any of it to stick or matter
The dialogue can at times be strikingly off

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