X-Men Gold #6
Written by Marc Guggenheim
Penciler R.B. Silva
Inker: Adriano Di Benedetto
Colorist: Frank Martin & Andrew Crossley
In the wake of the heated debate that stormed across social media regarding Rachel Grey’s latest moniker, Guggenheim symbolically links the two together and lays the foundation for the evolution of what Prestige will become.
What You Need to Know: Manhattan is besieged by a combination of nanites and a Sentinel A.I. determined to eliminate all genetic mutations and targets civilians all over the city, both human and mutant alike.
What You’ll Find Out: Rachel is in bad shape locked in a trance state is visited by each of the most significant relationships throughout her life. Meanwhile the X-Men are joined by members of the Avengers, Champions, and other local heroes to repel the seemingly endless legion.
As the defenders begin to falter and the battle seems to turn in favor of the A.I. Gambit and Storm share an intimate kiss in which I meant to remind Remy that he’s still worthy despite has past transgressions and remind Ororo despite tumultuous failed romances, her heart is still wanting. Prestige has heart to hearts with her greatest love, Franklin Richards, her mother and father, Jean and Scott, and finally herself. After each urge her to accept herself and banish her fear of the vast power she is truly capable of even without the addition of Phoenix, Rachel emerges from her reverie, locks onto the Sentinel and unleashes her ultimate telepathic potential which simultaneously causes all the A.I units dispersed throughout the city to explode.
What Just Happened? Marc Guggenheim has been playing with us. When issue five ended, it left me wondering if he has issues with plot follow-through. The sixth installment of gold is undoubtedly the best issue in the volume thus far and in just one issue put Gold back in the running with the steadier performance of X-Men Blue. It is rare that I have physical responses to scenes in comic books anymore but the moment that I turned to the first page of the story and saw Franklin Richards standing with her, outfitted in his pale green Days of Future Present jumpsuit as he begins to council her regarding her new identity and foreshadows that her new incarnation is “Just another name in a long line.” I inhaled sharply and held my breath as goosebumps rolled down my arms. It was a moment that brought back welled up feelings of loss for this version of Franklin that we haven’t seen since the 1990 arc. For many, Franklin Richards is an enigma that veteran readers have been craving for years to see play his destined inclusion leading to a prominent regular role within the X-Men universe but has yet to cross into actuality. Though I am not at all under any false pretense that Marvel will even remotely inject Franklin in this manner, it is clear that the bonds between Franklin and Rachel still resonate with her and with us.
The emotional rollercoaster doesn’t end there. The significance of Rachel summoning Jean is that despite their tenuous relationship at times, she is the closest person who can truly understand her in both heart, power, and common experience. It is here that Guggenheim wants to be thoroughly clear that this is not another Phoenix reunion but to establish Rachel’s true power as an omega level mutant in her own right. I am personally thankful that this concept is strongly communicated to the reader. Though I believe Rachel is the rightful heir to one of the greatest cosmic powers and has been criminally relegated in favor of others who have virtually no connection to the entity in recent years, doing so would only make her a target again for convenient use and rapid disposal. After its introduction readers went through years of absence and was carefully used on moderate occasions only when it was absolutely essential to the story and development. In truth, I am incensed at Marvel’s gross exploitation of the Phoenix’s over saturation by an onslaught of appearances throughout numerous titles, characters, and I applaud Guggenheim from not taking the easy and predictable approach. If the Phoenix is to return to Rachel, it would preferably after an extensive period of retirement.
After interacting with her father who she perhaps was normally more at odds with during his life the realization of the truth lies in a brief conversation with herself. It’s in this moment that Rachel makes a conscious choice as the moment in which she both accepts her true nature and breaks the bindings that have always predetermined her own life and choices. Just before the deathblow is delivered to her teammates and their allies, in an act that would make Emma Frost take two steps back, Rachel unleashes Prestige, the full summation of her telepathy and annihilates the A.I. threat.
In the final panels, Rachel’s eyes flash with images of a variety of heroes throughout the Marvel universe, signifying unequivocally that for now at least Rachel is no longer just one of the customary telepaths each X team is seemingly required to carry, but has an actual purpose again with a larger role to play in the coming issues ahead.
Final thought: If you are a Rachel Grey fan, this is long overdue compensation. No she’s not Phoenix, but Guggenheim demonstrates that she really doesn’t need to be.