The Truth Beneath the Lies (X-Men Gold #8: Secret Empire Part 2 Review)

X-Men Gold #8: Secret Empire Part 2

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Penciler: Ken Lashley
Colorist: Frank Martin

What You Need to Know: The school under guard of the gold team is now trapped in the Darkforce dimension as the X-Men finally enter the larger companywide story arc Secret Empire. Exacerbating matters, a sadistic killer is loose on the grounds and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.

What You’ll Find Out: Straight to the point, the first page reveals the outcome of the cliffhanger ending of issue #7. Prestige thwarts Colossus’s death by redirecting the bullet fired at his forehead at point blank range back to the Executioner. In what would normally end the conflict immediately fails with credit to the Executioner’s adamantium laced armor.

Strategically the Executioner assesses the conflict and determines Rachel to be the highest threat and releases a gas removing her from the engagement. Kitty uses her ability and phases an unconscious Prestige and powerless Colossus out of harm’s way and makes her way to Rockslide, Dust, and a Danger Room filled with explosives set to detonate and wipe out the school and everyone in it.

Wolverine and Storm confront and scare off the mob that has accosted another powerless teammate Nightcrawler who by all rights should have been dead long before their intervention. This is no miracle. Nightcrawler has been forsaken by heaven. (Kurt left heaven and his natural death in the first arc of Amazing X-Men, a title I highly recommend.)

The scene shifts back to the institute and like Kurt, Kitty learns she too is powerless. Her abilities will not interfere with the bombs biological power supply. Unlike Kurt the threat of death to her and the student body has significantly increased. Knowing the only choice left is to face the Executioner again, Pryde prepares herself for a solo fight.

Meanwhile in Russia, two unidentified men strike a deal with the Hand, a Japanese based clan of ninjas famed for the ability to thwart death and encounters involving the X-Men, Iron Man, and other central Marvel figures, and secure the remains of the long absent Omega Red.

Kitty reaches her target who has yet another stranded mutant teleporter Pixie at his mercy. Pixie flees as Kitty engages the Executioner in close combat. Doing so allows him to utilize a power dampener on his foe. Now the Shadowcat is both literally and figuratively powerless. Though melee combat favors Kitty, the Executioner levels a gun at her. Unable to phase, the fight is over and she has lost. Pryde switches tactics and attempts to negotiate with the assailant. It’s during this exchange that the tale of the Executioner unfolds in which he confronts the leader of the X-Men with the fact that his wife and son were killed by mutants and a larger argument regarding the culpability of mutant battles that so often leave countless nameless victims in the aftermath. Kitty reflects the twisted logic of the killer and reasons that they are often left with nothing but a series of bad choices and the results, though regrettable, are unavoidable. Determined to have the last word, she states his predetermined and deliberate actions outweighs their negligence. With that the shot is fired but instead of finding its mark in Kitty Pryde, Colossus pays it forward and intercepts the bullet in his shoulder while Rockslide ends the conflict with a swift uppercut.

As the attacker is taken into custody, a staffer for a congressman arrives to serve notice of the pending bill H.R. 372. The Mutant Deportation Act.

What Just Happened? Just a few days ago I posted a central question to my Facebook group members in which I wanted to gauge the response to a thought that has been hammering in my head for some time now and in preparation for writing my pending review. What really is the relevance of humans fearing Mutants anymore, or at least singularly? Super humans have caused just as much devastation but generally are lauded as heroes. Writers continue to cling to the premise of the mutant outcast but I wonder if it’s really plausible any more, and more critically, will Marvel let the waves ripple to other shores. Simply put in the aftermath of Secret Empire, can “we” not ask our writers to reexamine the stock value of the entire super human population collectively? There have been stories for decades which the non-mutant skirts significant ramifications or in limited cases like civil war (1 and 2) rebound without lasting consequences. I reiterate the question in light of the closing pages featuring dialog between Kitty and the Executioner. Initially one could argue that perhaps the mutant menace has been ostracized because of the fear of the unknown living among the general population whereas many key super human characters have lived openly and served publically. Today’s circumstances are significantly different. Wars have been waged numerous times throughout almost all of marvel’s centralized books and characters. Secret Empire’s entire premise surrounds the core of Marvel’s legacy characters acting in extremes. Time and again however, the significance seems stay with the X-Men as a consistent theme and is abandoned in others. I found myself reading both issues 7 and 8 and thinking that perhaps concept is dated and has lost its impact and focus within the creative teams charged with the development of current X-Men titles. The double standard is so obvious that it lessens the sense of genuine authenticity. The mutant plight has always drawn analogies to discrimination and the culture of division in our own reality. The variance however is that discrimination is so pervasive it spans numerous groups and subject matter. The application within X-Men itself has waxed and waned. Gold has relied heavily on the model throughout its run whereas Blue, Weapon X, Generation X, and other titles have concentrated on more character and interactive driven conflict.

Aside from social musings, Gold diverges from its sister titles in other less appealing and unfortunate ways. There is no attempt whatsoever to mask or defer understanding that Kitty Pryde is the central figure of X-Men Gold. Referring to her teammates as supporting cast would almost be overstating their significance in their own book. OM Logan, Storm, Nightcrawler, Rachel Grey, and Colossus hold massive fan bases but are so ignored in favor of Pryde it’s excessive, taxing, and makes me like her presence even less. I decided that to make sure I was not exaggerating I would do a tally. Here you have it.

Kitty Pryde 14 total pages

Next is… Colossus tied with Rockslide at 6 total pages

Dust at 5 total pages (granted mostly background)

Rachel is a champ despite being unconscious for most of yet another issue at 4 total pages

Logan, Nightcrawler, and Storm at 2 total pages

And finally, Pixies at 1 total page

Ridiculous!

The art is marginally better in this issue but as with many other titles nothing that makes me want to open the book twice. The few exceptions and would be the first page close-ups of Prestige’s telekinetic display in stopping the bullet from striking Colossus, and the ending fight scenes between Pryde and Executioner 2.0.

With the Blue showing no signs of declining popularity and astonishing’s first issue being so explosive, my only hope lies in a change in writing because Guggenheim seems to be firmly set to his methods and obvious favor of the lead. Team books normally shift between characters but little is employed here. I am of the opinion that the book has actually declined since its first issues. And we still don’t know anything about the Brotherhood. It’s not the first time an X-Men plot was abandoned I guess.

Rating 5.5/10

Final thought: This is likely the weakest and inconsequential Secret Empire tie-in throughout the entire line of titles affiliated with the story. Executioner 2.0 is likely a one hit wonder. I do hope you’re a Kitty Pryde fan because she’s also the main feature of issue #9. At some point, another supposed “main character” needs to get some attention.

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