X-MEN GOLD #10 is a fast paced narrative detailing the return of one of the team's greatest villains. As a superhero story, it shines in its dark tone. However, the characterization that has defined the series thus far faltered.
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The X-Men have faced a number of deadly threats. During their history with Marvel Comics, the team has dealt with the world-ending whims of Apocalypse, the destructive force of Magneto, and the ire of their fellow human beings. However, one of the team’s most obscure and dangerous foes is Omega Red, a Russian serial killer named Arkady Rossovich. Working around the mutant’s natural life-stealing powers, scientists from a Soviet era Weapon X program grafted carbonadium into the man’s body. Rossovich became Omega Red, Russia’s greatest military asset, and formed a trail of dead bodies for the X-Men to follow. His threat became so great that Wolverine was forced to kill him in 2009. In X-MEN GOLD #10, though, the dead prove they can rise again. Arkady Rossovich is back, now in the hands of Russian Organized Crime.

Magic and Bullets

Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

In X-MEN GOLD #9, the team discovered a possible bill that would catapult American politics into the Stone Age. The US Government seeks to deport all mutant citizens out of the country. After a tense battle of wills in Washington D.C., Kitty Pryde returned home exhausted. X-MEN GOLD #10 picks up immediately after these events. To relieve tension, the team sits down for a game of poker. During the game, Piotr Rasputin (Colossus) receives a call from his uncle, Anatoly, whom Colossus never knew about.

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Anatoly turned to Russian organized crime when Piotr was young, leaving his father to disown him. Now, Anatoly wishes to reconnect to help defend Russia from a new, deadly threat. Sensing a trap, the X-Team gathers and flies Colossus and Magik (Illyana) to Russia to meet their uncle. The team learns that Omega Red has been resurrected by a branch of the Russian Mob that has a slight mastery of the mystic arts. During their conversation, the magical mobsters attack, and when the smoke clears, Illyana Rasputin is missing.

The Omega Red Threat

Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

As should be obvious, X-MEN GOLD #10 treads on rather serious territory. A dozen jokes can be made about the candid ridiculousness of magical mobsters, and writer Marc Guggenheim isn’t afraid to poke fun at the concept. However, this story opens with blood. Omega Red slaughters a woman on the page, and immediately, the tone is drastically different from previous issues in the series. While the earlier story lines have dealt with serious or deadly threats, the overall tone in the writing and art has focused on the family bonds of the team. They weren’t lighthearted, but a lot of fun was had in those pages.

This tonal shift acts as one of the greatest successes in X-MEN GOLD #10. Immediately, Guggenheim throws us into a story that feels different. The tension skyrockets from page one, and never quite dies down. This tension does lose some steam in the midst of the team’s poker game, but the game feels necessary to explain the course of present events. Every moment in X-MEN GOLD #10 is wholly necessary for the story’s progression. While this book doesn’t quite come off like a horror book (i.e.,penciller it isn’t particularly scary), it takes obvious influence from that source material. Omega Red becomes a slasher villain, and despite not being in the book for very long, his presence constantly casts despair and dread on the pages.

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Much of this tonal shift’s success comes from penciller Lan Medina, inker Jay Leisten, and colorist Frank Martin’s incredible artwork. The previous issues’ lightheartedness came from the art style employed in telling the story. Bright colors filled every page next to stylized caricatures of our favorite heroes. While I loved the past artists, Medina’s pencils simply worked for this issue. He brings a very detailed style to the page that fits such a dark story. The muted colors give way to Leisten’s heavy inking. All around, this story looks far more serious, and it is an aesthetic triumph for that reason. The art is as much an indicator of tone and tension as the dialogue, and Medina’s team approaches the darkness of X-MEN GOLD #10 with this importance in mind.

Bozhe Moi: The Russian Mutants Stand Out

Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

As potent as the plot and tone are in X-MEN GOLD #10, I can’t help but feel that the characterization falters. The plot and dialogue drive the story forward well enough, but I didn’t feel that Guggenheim fleshed the characters out. While this issue attempts to spotlight Russian superheroes Colossus and Magik, the book never captures any true personality. Colossus, for example, simply speaks exposition, referencing plot details. While Medina does capture some great expressions in his art, Colossus is just there for the sake of the story.

Magik, I feel, was the biggest failure in characterization, though. Colossus, for the sake of argument, has had some great moments in previous issues. However, this is one of Magik’s few appearances in X-MEN GOLD, and many newer fans may know little about her. Guggenheim’s writing of her character requires a deep understanding. He references her youth in Limbo, how Illyana should be much younger than she appears, but never fully acknowledges it. This was baffling to me, especially since Magik turns out to be the key to success for the Russian mafiosos at the end of the issue. It seems like a wasted opportunity not to explore such an important character to X-Men lore. I’m not necessarily saying reiterate her entire history for new fans, but any form of new insights or interesting dialogue would make her appearance stronger.

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Final Thoughts: X-MEN GOLD #10

X-MEN GOLD #10 is a solid issue. Its fast pace held my interest, and the art by Medina et al. perfectly fits the new, dark tone. While the characterization doesn’t shine like in past story arcs, it doesn’t fully take away from this issue’s worth. I enjoyed my time with the story, and the potential horror that Omega Red brings has me excited for future issues. In terms of story, X-MEN GOLD #10 is one of the best in the series. I simply wish that we had gotten that same family-centric and character-driven storytelling that defined previous issues.

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