It’s time for the culmination of long-running subplots once again. Over in X-Men: Blue it’s that title’s first go at it as we finally find out the full scope of the Mothervine business that Miss Sinister has been planning ever since the first volume. X-Men: Gold has already had one go at paying off on its subplots, which resulted in an awful fourth volume. That one in turn set up the events of this one as Kitty and Colossus finally prepare to tie the knot, but not without some villainous complications first. Which volume wins this round? The result surprised me. Mainly because I wound up changing my mind about the better volume on a re-read.
X-Men: Blue vol. 4 -- Cry Havok begins with a major strike against it. That would be how the terrible previous volume, the “Venom” crossover “Poison-X,” took the time-stranded young X-Men into space and left them there in some pretty dire circumstances. With them out of the picture, there’s no one on hand to stand against the Mothervine project devised by Miss Sinister to turn the general population into mutants, thus making them the planet’s dominant species. While this suits the goals of her conspirators, including Bastion, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, and the still-inverted Havok, Magneto has issues with it. He may be all about mutant dominance, but the side effects of Mothervine make it an untenable means of achieving that goal. Even if he’s not powerful enough to stop this plan himself, there’s still his daughter Polaris and her impromptu team of X-Men on hand to help save the day.
I’m still wondering whether or not “Poison-X” was an editorially-mandated crossover or something that writer Cullen Bunn genuinely wanted to do. If it was editorially-mandated, then his efforts with “Cry Havok” represent an impressive salvage job. Halfway through we get a ragtag team that consists of Polaris, Jimmy Hudson, Bloodstorm, Daken, Gazing Nightshade, and (ugh) Xorn. They’re not a patch on the regular team, but they work well enough and Bunn tries for some interesting friction between Wolverine’s “sons” Jimmy and Daken. The biggest beneficiary of the team’s absence is Magneto as this allows the writer to focus more on his favorite X-Men character. That works out well here as the character has to navigate some morally murky territory trying to seize the moral high ground against Miss Sinister’s crew.
So while all this is good, I want to point out that if the Venom crossover was Bunn’s idea then it’s a mystifying act of self-sabotage that has the knock-on effect of handicapping this story. “Cry Havok” probably would’ve worked better if the time-stranded X-Men were involved since we care about them more than this new team. Their involvement also would’ve generated some interesting dramatic tension as they try to puzzle out Magneto’s role in all this.
It all wraps up well enough, if a bit predictably. There’s a character death that I really hope sticks, one major character development that’s been a long time coming and the Magneto vs. Emma Frost grudge match that’s set up has promise. The art, like the story, feels kind of jumbled together thanks to the three artists involved yet still works in the end. The always-welcome Jorge Molina illustrates the first half of the volume and R.B. Silva gives us a nice-looking if seemingly rushed issue right afterwards. Marcus To fills out the volume with a more conventional superhero style. As with the writing, it’s not the best work we’ve seen on this series. It still gets the job done and we get a volume that’s more in line with the quality I’ve come to expect from “X-Men: Blue.”
“X-Men: Gold” has seen some of its shine come off in recent volumes, but “X-Men: Gold -- vol. 6 -- ‘Til Death Do Us Part” represents one of its better efforts at repackaging nostalgia. In this case, it’s the long-running romance between Kitty and Colossus. While their romantic history usually merits no more than an indifferent shrug from me, I at least liked the idea that they were finally going to move forward with things and finally get married. Of course, it wouldn’t be an “X-Men” wedding if there wasn’t some supervillain drama on hand to spoil it. In this case it’s series villain Lydia Nance who has teamed up with the nanotech Sentinel Alpha to kidnap Colossus -- During his bachelor party in Vegas no less! -- in order to use the remnants of the Legacy Virus and the “Hope” mutant cure in his bloodstream to create a new virus that will wipe out mutantkind.
Business as usual for the X-Men, as you can see. What makes the parts of this volume involving this supervillain plot a breezily enjoyable read is that the execution is sharper than usual this time around. Writer Marc Guggenheim keeps the pace fast and the action packed throughout this little arc and that counts for a lot. Even if there aren’t any big twists or surprises in the story itself, he wisely keeps the focus on Kitty and Colossus’ relationship to provide some actual human drama in addition to the plot drama of this new virus. I also like how Guggenheim juggles multiple subplots over the course of these issues, though it remains to be seen whether or not they’ll be resolved as well in the next volume as the wedding is here.
So, about that wedding. The issue itself features some very nice art from David Marquez who is great at selling the emotional content of the event. It’s an issue entirely of characters talking to each other, but as the artist has shown during his many collaborations with Brian Michael Bendis, he’s really good at handling this kind of stuff. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory right here, but what happens with Kitty and Colossus does feel right. It wasn’t just Illyana’s night-before conversation with Kitty, but the uncertainty of the event was set up pretty well in the previous issues. Then you have that last-minute twist which is at once a surprise and yet completely keeping within the character of those involved. Particularly if you’ve been keeping up with their current status.
This volume of “X-Men: Gold” also features a “Wedding Special” issue which features work from legendary X-scribe Chris Claremont, as well as regular writer Guggenheim, and “Rogue & Gambit” writer Kelly Thompson. Claremont teams with Todd Nauck to give us a brief history of Kitty’s time with the “X-Men” with the intent of putting her decision to get married into proper context. Guggenheim and Greg Land show us what the Colossus bachelor party express was up to before he was kidnapped and nod to the events of “Doctor Strange: Damnation” in the process. Finally, Thompson and Marika Cresta reveal what Kitty got up to for her bachelorette. All three stories are entertaining bits of fluff that would’ve been better served had the “Wedding Special” been placed at the beginning of the collection rather than the end. For reasons pertaining to both logistics and the outcome of the wedding itself.
So I did like “Cry Havok” more than “‘Til Death Do Us Part” on my first read-through. I thought its resolution of the Mothervine subplot had more heft to it than the drama of the wedding. Going back over them prior to writing this, the former’s storytelling doesn’t quite hang together while the emotional content of the latter stuck with me. I’m glad that I’ve got both volumes of these series in my library, but “Gold” wins the battle of quality this time out.