By Marc Guggenheim, Diego Bernard, JP Mayer & Arif Prianto
X-Men Gold #21 kicks off a new arc entitled “Brotherhood” but much of the issue itself feels like it’s dealing with the fallout from the previous arc whilst pitting the team against a returning villain in the form of Mesmero, the telepathic villain who was one-time employed by the anti-mutant politician Lydia Nance, and is now lying in jail plotting revenge. As the opening summary says, “You can’t keep a good villain down,” and it isn’t long before the team find themselves pitted against Mesmero once again.
Guggenheim does a good job in exploring the characters and making the readers know what shape they’re in at the start of the issue. Not one member of the team dominates the pages over the next as we’re spending plenty of time with Storm, Kitty, Nightcrawler, Prestige and Old Man Logan in what very much feels like a calm before the storm as the action doesn’t really pick up until the end of the issue, leaving us predictably on a cliffhanger just as things get exciting. The final act feels too rushed, and would have benefited greatly from a smoother pace.
The book also spends plenty of time with Mesmero as we learn how he united the latest version of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The conflicts between the X-Men in particular are just interesting enough to get by, but like the fight sequences they could have used a lot more care to stand out. Everything feels like it’s just happening far too quickly and scenes that should have carried more weight don’t really stick the landing. There’s also interesting hints that could be pushing Rachel Grey in a direction towards her Hound days as we get a few flashbacks focusing on her character, but Guggenheim doesn’t go any further than that in her character just yet.
The artwork is the real draw of this issue of X-Men: Gold and it is fantastic. Diego Bernard’s crisp, clear take on the iconic characters really helps make them stand out from the rest of the crowd. There’s a scene early on where Bernard gets to draw Professor X and he gets the look and feel of the character spot on, bringing all the depth needed to really help make the near-legendary status of the character known. The inks from JP Mayer support Arif Prianto’s colours, which use some excellent shading techniques being used to great effect. Readers will always be able to understand what’s going on here as everything is rich and vibrant in design, and the characters themselves are bursting full of life and energy, given plenty of depth in their facial expressions to convey their emotions across.
X-Men Gold #21 is a flawed issue; it’s not perfect and even feels a bit repetitive in times as it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table in X-Men mythology that hasn’t been done before and been done better. But it is just about entertaining enough for X-Men fans to get something out of it and it’s hard not to like an issue with art as fantastic as this.