X-MEN GOLD #7 by Marc Guggenheim, Ken Lashley, and Frank Martin
Tying into the SECRET EMPIRE event, X-MEN GOLD #7 drips tension as the team finds themselves trapped in the Darkforce Dimension. With a serial killer on the loose in the mansion, Kitty Pryde's Gold team must band together to save Manhattan and themselves before it is too late. This story is brilliantly plotted, despite suffering from some pacing problems.
93 %
A Tense Masterpiece
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X-MEN GOLD has been one of the strongest Marvel titles in the last several months. With its back to basics focus, this series has renewed my love for the characters. The series has impressed me with its brilliant pacing and its courage to include notably historic characters. With X-MEN GOLD #7, writer Marc Guggenheim ignites a new story arc for our hallmark team. With this, Kitty Pryde must drag her team into the hearts of a horror film landscape. Will the X-Men find a way to survive not only a venture into the Darkforce Dimension but a serial killer in their midst?

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Grab Your Flashlight

X-Men Gold #7
Courtesy of Marvel Comics

X-MEN GOLD #7 dips its toes into the slasher movie pool. A tie-in to this summer’s SECRET EMPIRE event, issue #7 opens with a flashback. A family flees through Central Park, as Magneto destroys the landscape about them with metal spikes. As they run, the young son, Alex, is impaled and killed while his father watches. Returning to the present, we come to a baseball game. The X-Mansion is taking a welcome break after the Sentinel assault in the last several issues. Colossus, formerly Gold team’s metal bruiser, finds himself without his metal shifting powers. Nightcrawler, meanwhile, strikes up a new romance with a fellow teammate.

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While the day seems bright, dark clouds form in the sky and create a dome over the X-Mansion and the rest of Manhattan. The X-Men are trapped within Baron Mordo’s Darkforce bubble (see DOCTOR STRANGE or SECRET EMPIRE), besieged by demons and human rioters. Meanwhile, two young X-Men have been brutally murdered in the mansion, each with X’s cut into their faces. While Storm, Logan, and Nightcrawler hit the streets to protect the public, Kitty takes Prestige and Colossus to find a serial killer in their midst.

Intensity to the Max

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Guggenheim brilliantly constructs the plot for X-MEN GOLD #7. The story does so much so well in its 27 pages. Guggenheim infuses X-MEN GOLD #7 with tension. Magneto’s opening Central Park attack perfectly jars the reader and sets the intense tone for the issue. The tension slowly builds throughout as the Darkforce bubble rises and Kitty finds the first dead body.

As with any good horror film, atmosphere is key. Ken Lashley and Frank Martin’s artwork fills every panel with the perfect creepy overtones. Realism defines Lashley’s style more concretely than R.B. Silva’s in the previous arc. While I loved Silva’s cartoony style, it didn’t fit the intensity this story warrants. Lashley uses crisp, clean lines and heavy ink for his shadows, but he crams each panel with so much detail. The tone feels palpably moody, and that attests to the artists’ talents.

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My only real complaint about this plot is that the pacing feels a little off. Guggenheim had a lot of ground to cover in this first issue of the SECRET EMPIRE arc, but it never quite felt like it clicked. The writer introduces so many narrative threads, and the reader bounces between them on a roller coaster ride. X-MEN GOLD #7 thrills with its brilliant plot beats, but these moments excel individually. The opening, while setting the stage for the issue’s intensity, is a bit sudden. Logan laments his past mistakes in OLD MAN LOGAN in a beautifully scripted flashback. The next panel sees Nightcrawler under attack by rioters believing him to be a Darkforce demon. The next page, we are back at the X-Mansion following the serial killer in the mansion’s archives. So much story happens in such a little space that I couldn’t help but get confused.

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So Many Characters!

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Members of the Young X-Men, the new Generation X, and other obscure mutants make appearances throughout this narrative with little attempt at characterization. While this large cast does lend itself to the pacing problems, I really appreciated the atmosphere these cameos lent to X-MEN GOLD #7. Guggenheim really accentuates the X-Mansion as this bustling, brimming community, and while the cameos seem a bit like fanservice, it has purpose in elevating the tension. The senior X-Men have bested the likes of Apocalypse; a human serial killer poses little problem to them. However, an entire student body just coming into their powers? Guggenheim creates an entire school of potential victims, which only aids this story.

X-MEN GOLD #7 succeeds most with its characterization of the core cast. Logan receives the greatest focus in this issue with his OLD MAN LOGAN flashback, but Nightcrawler and Colossus both have to endure the Darkforce dimension without their powers. Rachel is still coming to terms with the personal darkness she encountered in the previous issues. Kitty simply wants to keep everything tied together. While I would have appreciated a more singular focus on any of these characters, the team-wide perspective helps unify this issue.

X-MEN GOLD #7: Final Thoughts

Typically, tie-in issues irk me. While I love expanding on my favorite events, tie-ins tend to carry important, event-shaping secrets that you have to pay extra for. X-MEN GOLD #7 breaks this trend. Guggenheim isolates this story, only using SECRET EMPIRE to build setting and atmosphere before sending his characters off to play on his terms. This story takes place at the same time as SECRET EMPIRE, but that event doesn’t define this issue.

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Most importantly, X-MEN GOLD #7 really excites me. The opening to the new story arc fires on nearly all cylinders, exploding onto the page with immediate tension. While I was disappointed that the RUNAWAYS reference from the previous issue (Molly Hayes standing amidst the rubble of Central Park) was not further explored, the number of characters introduced made my nerdy heart leap. What really stands out, though, is Guggenheim’s brilliant manipulation of tension. If you are an X-MEN fan or even a fan of tense, action thrillers, this is a must read issue.

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