X-Men: Gold Annual #1

by Charles Martin on January 10, 2018

X-Men: Gold Annual #1
(Main Story)
Writers: Marc Guggenheim & Leah Williams
Penciler: Alitha E. Martinez
Inkers: Alitha E. Martinez & Craig Yeung
Colourists: Jay David Ramos & Dono Sánchez-Almara
Letterer: Cory Petit

(B Story)
Writer: Monty Nero
Artist: Djibril Morissette-Phan
Colourist: Michael Garland
Letterer: Cory Petit

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Gold roster includes 60 percent of the original Excalibur team, and now the arrival of a Braddock-Meggan baby provides a fine excuse for a reunion. But even the most die-hard Excalibur fans might want to give this one a miss.

The trouble starts before we even reach the comic. The title page says this takes place between Gold #22 and #23. Let me check with Calendar Man; yeah, this comic is about six weeks early. And I think it spoils the ☠☠☠☠ out of a momentous X-soap-opera development from issues as yet unpublished.

So, uh, buy it, stick it on your shelf, read it at the end of February and get disappointed then instead of now, I guess?

The first page (re)introduces Starhammer, a grim D'Bari orphan with a mighty Phoenix grudge who's stalking Rachel Grey. And the next page is all goofy jokes (and heinous spoilers), leading to Kitty, Kurt, and Rachel hopping on a humorously-crowded coach flight to meet Brian and Meggan's new baby. That ping-pong clash of tones sets the precedent for the rest of the story. 

It rattles between comedy and melodrama fast enough to instill whiplash. The script also struggles to give its best ideas the attention they deserve. The strongest ones - like the brilliant baby Maggie - are flanked by clunkers that should have been chiselled away during the editing process. But there are ugly, frustrating scars in the script that suggest things we would want to see have been removed.

Put Kitty back in her Shadowcat uniform? Nah, why reward fans that way? Should we also cut the embarrassing, teasing jokes about her street clothes being too restrictive for fighting? Oh no, those are brilliant without the Shadowcat payoff! (And they make tons of sense because Kitty's powers rely so strongly on acrobatics.)

Artist Alitha E. Martinez struggles to redeem this mercurial story, but even her wonderfully distinctive faces and the vibrant colours provided by Jay David Ramos & Dono Sánchez-Almara can't save the day. And though Ms. Martinez does fantastic work with individual characters, the way they're assembled into the panels together is sometimes stiff. 

The backup story by Monte Nero and Djibril Morissette-Phan is a surprisingly good palate cleanser. It's a simple Astro-City-esque yarn about a young girl visiting New York and trying repeatedly to meet her idol, Storm - but it's a busy three-crisis day for the X-Men and it's hard to use the subway to catch up to a flying weather witch. Of course, the plot conspires to deliver Ororo before the kiddie has to catch her train home. 

The whole affair does a good job of warming Storm's heart, and it should have a similar effect on readers. The clean character art and strong settings bump up my opinion of artist Djibril Morissette-Phan significantly, and I'll also be happy to see new writer Monte Nero's name on more Marvel comics in the future.

Inconsistent tone and lukewarm overall quality make the main story a match (not in a good way) for the relentless mediocrity of the current X-Men: Gold run. A bouncing baby Braddock and a sweet B story don't do nearly enough to counterbalance the problematic script or to excuse the huge page-two spoiler. So my jokey suggestion from earlier becomes quite serious: Wait on this one until after Gold #22 comes out - or just skip it entirely.

Our Score:


A Look Inside