Every era of X-men is defined by an eclectic mix of situational quirks, new uniforms, and reshuffled lineups. Sometimes the Xavier Mansion, or whatever base of operations the X-men happen to be operating out of at the time, blows up along the way. In any case, these eras usually have definitive traits that set them apart. More than any other franchise, the X-men find unique ways to make eras distinct from one another.
The ’70s had the All-New, All-Different lineup with fresh faces, new threats, and Chris Claremont’s knack for creating over-powered, reality-warping threats. The ’80s had X-Factor and Uncanny X-men, the original five X-men and an emerging generation of X-men that would one day make Hugh Jackman a superstar. The ’90s had the Jim Lee-inspired costumes, two main X-men teams, and an uncanny tendency to make any and all issues in the Marvel universe a mutant issue by default.
These generations stand out in their own way, some more than others, thanks to iconic art, iconic stories, or whatever non-so-iconic gimmicks slipped through the cracks. By these standards, it’s hard to assess the current generation of X-men comics because a great many of those not-so-iconic gimmicks came to define the series. From sterilization plots to a glut of time travelers, it’s hard to define this era as all that iconic.
This is why X-men Gold #1 is so vital to current and future generations of X-men. Marc Guggenheim and Adrian Syaf have a golden opportunity, if that’s not too loaded a word, to redefine the X-men for a new era, hopefully, one that relies less on sterilization, time travelers, and clones. That opportunity never feels wasted as the story that unfolds forges multiple paths into a new era.
The X-men enter this era with a more tarnished reputation than usual. It’s not enough that they’re mutants, a loaded word that generates the kind of reaction usually reserved for internet trolls and spam email. They’re mutants who recently went to war with the Inhumans and didn’t exactly conduct themselves in a respectable manner.
They can blame Cyclops, Emma Frost, and fake news all they want. It doesn’t change the fact that the X-men come into X-men Gold #1 as those mutants who have gone to war with two separate superhero teams already and didn’t exactly come out looking like polished adamantium. That’s not a good foundation for peace and understanding. At this point, the public is more inclined to give Victor Von Doom a chance than the X-men.
Kitty Pryde, the X-men’s new leader and arbiter of this new era, goes out of her way to acknowledge this in the X-men’s battle against Terrax. She rightly points out that if another superhero team had fought this battle, they would be getting smiles, cheers, and positive hashtags. Unfortunately, they’re mutants. They’re still associated with starting wars, screwing with timelines, and one too many clones. In a city that already deals with Spider-Man’s clones, the public is right to be unhappy.
It’s the most important feature to the story in X-men Gold #1, as well as the overall theme of the X-men comics moving forward. For years now, they’ve given the public way too many reasons not to trust them the same way they do other superhero teams. Beyond warring with other superhero teams, mutants are a constant source of chaotic. Regardless of whether or not they put on costumes and try to be superheroes, their powers and their conflicts are like the weather. Sometimes they’re like a simple gust of wind. Sometimes, a full-blown hurricane.
It’s one of those understated, but inescapable aspects about the X-men that sets them apart from other superhero teams. No matter how much good they try to do, the X-men are still mutants, and mutants are a chaotic force of nature. People fear that chaos for the same reason that they fear hurricanes.
Guggenheim doesn’t hide from this distinction that keeps the X-men from being adored like the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, or whatever other superhero team doesn’t have its movie rights tied up by another studio. By acknowledging it, the new host of challenges the X-men face feel genuine.
X-men Gold #1 throws multiple challenges at the X-men from the get-go. Some are of the personal kind. Some are of the kind that require Kitty Pryde to phase a collapsing building through another. The mix of personal issues and public spectacles is very much the gold standard, so to speak, of what gives the X-men their appeal. After so much of their stories have been mired by extinction and sterilization plots, it’s a welcome reprieve.
While the themes are refreshing for any jaded X-men fan, the structure of the story is somewhat choppy. The narrative jumps around from moment to moment, rushing through various scenes without taking the time to tie them together in a cohesive way. This makes the story feel rushed. There are many moments, especially the personal moments for Kitty Pryde, which don’t get as much depth as they need. It makes X-men Gold #1 feel like one of those comics that needs to be at least ten pages longer to really work.
Despite the inconsistencies in the story’s progression, it’s still a satisfying story that offers overdue promise to cast of characters that badly needs it. There’s no more fending off extinction, avoiding poison gas clouds, or getting mixed up with one too many cosmic forces. This is just the X-men fighting for peace and understanding in a world that has plenty of legitimate reasons not to give them another chance.
It’s the same fight that Charles Xavier led the X-men into back in the days before civil rights was more than just a hashtag. Kitty Pryde and her revamped, revitalized team of X-men, one of which is her ex-boyfriend, carry on that fight in X-men Gold #1 after one too many interludes. It gives hope that the X-men are back to doing what they do best, provided nobody gets sterilized again.