X-MEN GOLD #23 by Marc Guggenheim, Thony Silas, and Arif Prianto
Guggenheim's semi-successful series has been waiting for an issue like X-MEN GOLD #23. The birth of a new team, the addition of a complex antagonist, and the beginning of a new arc combine to make a surprisingly successful installment.
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The X-MEN GOLD series has had its fair share of issues (pun only slightly intended). Although X-MEN GOLD #23 doesn’t solve all of them, it definitely begins to. The first installment in the “Cruel And Unusual” arc does a lot more than just show how the Gold team is surviving in the slammer. It also marks the beginning of a new replacement roster meant to take their place. While the transitions between the two teams can be a little jarring, the inclusion of some other X-Men characters works incredibly well. Marc Guggenheim, Thony Silas, and Arif Prianto nail this issue and give X-MEN GOLD a promising future for the first time in a while.

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Facing Time

X-MEN GOLD #23 begins with a brief teaser featuring the return of Scythian. Since that doesn’t have anything to do with the current plot, the scene quickly shifts to a high-security mutant prison. Inside Kitty and her team are being assigned cells. Ironically enough, Kitty’s cellmate is the reoccurring X-Men villain Callisto. While Kitty struggles to play nice, Storm and Rachel face their own problems. Rachel begins to have stronger visions of her years as a hound due to her time battling Mesmero. On the other side of the prison, Colossus and Nightcrawler are forced to fight after being attacked by other inmates. Overall, prospects look pretty bleak for the Gold team.

Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Back in New York, however, things are looking up. Iceman and Rogue have gathered a new group of X-Men to replace the imprisoned Gold team. The roster includes Armor, Ink, Magma, Magik and, after some debating, the new Pyro from Mesmero’s small Brotherhood. While it’s a powerful line-up, they need some time to practice, having never worked with one another before. Luckily, it seems they’ll have time to. With the Gold girls currently occupied with bloodthirsty prison gangs, their sentence doesn’t appear to be a short one.

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The Familiar Faces Of X-MEN GOLD #23

If X-MEN GOLD #23 had only covered the Gold team’s time in prison, it would’ve been a really boring installment. A few of the Gold members had interesting interactions, but overall this issue succeeds because of the replacement team. With a single stagnant roster, things can get a little boring. This is why I applaud Guggenheim for bringing in some other X-Men. With the X-Men so spread out over numerous series, it’s exciting to see so many of them in one room.

Yet it’s not just an X-Men reunion — this new team has a job to do. With the Gold squad temporarily out of business, it’s up to the replacements (and the Avengers… and the Champions) to keep New York safe. X-MEN GOLD #23 briefly shows two villains who could be appearing in later issues: the Shredded Man (who was first seen in UNCANNY AVENGERS #1) and Scythian. The Shredded Man would be interesting to see, since he hasn’t been in this series before. As I’ve said in past X-MEN GOLD reviews, Scythian is old news and really shouldn’t be in another issue.

Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Regardless of villain choices, I’m looking forward to seeing how Guggenheim handles this replacement team. There are a lot of classic X-Men characters in the lineup, which is both thrilling and daunting. Let’s just hope Guggenheim does them justice.

Who’s The Bad Guy?

While the prison scenes in X-MEN GOLD #23 can be dull (and a little too reminiscent of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, in my opinion) there’s one shining beacon: Callisto. She isn’t the most popular Marvel foe, nor is she really a stereotypical villain at all. She has a long, trauma-filled past that, despite Kitty’s mean words, makes her a sympathetic character.

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I’m not saying that she hasn’t done some awful things, like attacking the X-Men as Kitty mentions. Yet, unlike a lot of the other antagonists seen in X-MEN GOLD, Callisto has a back story and noteworthy motivations for her actions. She comes across as much more human than Mesmero or Scythian. Guggenheim seems to be approaching her character in a more neutral way than a lot of writers in the past, which is a step in the right direction. Maybe, after many, many hours of arbitration, she could even fight alongside the X-Men.

Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Different Can Be Good

When I read this installment, I was expecting the work of Diego Bernard, since he’s been illustrating the past couple issues. I was a little surprised to see Thony Silas’ signature style instead. Comic book artists do jump around a lot, but X-MEN GOLD, in particular, has had a wide range of artists in its fairly short life. Some of them have been great and some of them less so. While I really enjoyed Bernard’s work, I think Silas also does a great job at balancing realism and exaggeration.

Like a lot of comic artists, Silas’ art is very much his own style. You can open up any issue illustrated by Silas and you would know, immediately, that it’s his. This can sometimes be a bad thing when the style is unsuccessful, but I think Silas’ renderings work well. The “Cruel And Unusual” arc is a gritty one that deserves the sharp lines and angles Silas’ art offers. A great example of how well Silas fills this role is the introduction scene between Kitty and Callisto. With only a few panels, he’s able to perfectly capture Kitty’s discontent and frustration.

Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Final Thoughts

X-MEN GOLD #23 is a welcome resurrection for the series. Guggenheim’s title needed something fresh and new after so many issues with the same recycled villains and plot points. X-MEN GOLD #23’s familiar faces, complex antagonists, and amazing art have helped to bolster the series and garner new excitement for X-MEN GOLD #24. The replacement team not only brings some popular characters, it also hints at something big happening in X-MEN GOLD’s future. With that many X-Men in one comic, something bad is bound to happen.

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