By Marc Guggenheim, Leah Williams, Alitha E Martinez, Craig Yeung, Jay David Ramos and Dono Sanchez-Almara
X-Men Gold Annual #1 takes us back to relieve some fond memories of the times of EX-Calibur as our heroes travel to London to meet up with some old friends. If you find that current X-Men series leave you feeling nostalgic foe the way things were, this issue may help relieve that feeling. Yes, we are in current times with Kitty Pryde running Xavier’s Institute for Mutant Education and Outreach with a whole batch of new mutants running around, but this issue focuses on some familiar faces. This year does mark the 30th anniversary of Ex-Calibur so, it seems natural that Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey, and Nightcrawler would be the focus of this issue as they travel to London to meet Meegan and Brian Braddox’s new baby. This issue, because it is an annual, gives us extra pages of story that deliver an all around feel good comic book that makes you remember the glory days of the X-Men.
This issue features two stories, a main story about the EX-Calibur gang meeting up again from Guggenheim and a shorter story from Williams. The second story focuses on an X-Man super fan chasing the team around the city as they defeat villain after villain all over New York City. The stories from both writers have a cutesy feel to them, making this issue a really feel-good read. While there is nothing wrong with having a comic that indulges once in a while, but this issue does not contribute anything major to the overall X-Men ongoing arc or Universe, apart from the addition of Meegan and Brian’s child, Maggie Braddox. She is the focal point of the first story, a mutant like her parents her mind is rapidly aging while her body ages normally. So, there are some fun moments watching a baby talk as if she were an adult and ask Nightcrawler some vexing and philosophical questions. The first story does lose some points with setting up a really cool moment with someone seeking revenge against Rachel Grey that just sort of fizzles out when Maggie Braddox finds a peaceful resolution. So, the action level is pretty low throughout this issue, but it is nice to see this side of the heroes.
The super fan story from Williams is a pretty cool premise, a young girl visiting New York wants to meet the X-Men, Storm in particular. So, she stalks them on social media and drags her aunt to where they are taking down emergency after emergency throughout the city. Each time they get there, the heroes are wrapping up and on to the next bad guy. Williams finds way to bring the story back to the core of the X-Men mythos, prejudice. As the super fan encounters the heroes saving the city, she runs into jaded new Yorkers who use derogatory terms to refer to the X-Men. This constant reminder that people are still not accepting of the mutants or even thankful for their service does not dissuade the young girl, but only reinforces her own views. She sees the magic, the heroism, and the selflessness of it all. The last panels in this story are definitely as feel-good as comics get, and help to keep the tone of positivity and happy endings throughout the issue.
Art in X-men Gold Annual #1 is from penciler Martinez, inkers Martinez and Yeung, colorists Ramos and Sanchez-Almara, and letterer Petit. The art in this issue is fun and light-hearted, matching the story. There are some clever panels that will give you a chuckle, including a splash page that shows the inside of our heroes’ flight to London. There are plenty of easter eggs to keep you occupied for over a minute as you scan the page looking for familiar faces. The pages are packed with tremendous details from Martinez, with great facial detail on every character and lots of thought put into each background. The colors really seem to shine throughout the issue, with colors from Ramos in the first story the panels are filled with vivid colors that capture the reader’s attention. The second story has colors from Sanchez-Almara that feel a little more rugged, with more darkness and shadows perhaps to portray the city of New York and action. The second story looses some of the precise detail we saw in the first story; perhaps to fit all of the action into the panels and to make it all happen in10 pages. Overall, the art does a nice job to really portray the overall light-heartedness and optimism of the issue.
X-Men Gold Annual #1 feels like a visit with a distant relative you have not seen in a while. Like that great aunt who is happy to have visitors so she makes you a nice dinner and you enjoy a nice meal over pleasant conversation. There is no political drama or her nagging you over your life decisions, because you do not see each other often you both decide to enjoy the time you spend together. This is what this issue felt like; the writers decided to make this a nice time where nothing really heavy gets discussed and wanted to just enjoy the time they got to write and draw these characters. Overall, it leaves a fun story, but a story without any real substance or consequence for the ongoing arcs or X-Men characters. The only exception being the introduction of Maggie Braddox, and time will only tell if her story or powers get revisited.