Democracy and Demagogues (X-Men Gold #9 Comic Review)

X-Men Gold #9 Review

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Penciler: Ken Lashley
Colorist: Frank Martin & Andrew Crossley
Publisher: Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know:
In the wake of a battle with the newest incarnation of the X-Cutioner, Kitty Pryde receives a summons to appear before a congressional subcommittee to testify on the proposed Mutant Deportation Act.

What You’ll Find Out:
An unspecified Russian interest is fast at work preparing to return former X-Men Archenemy Omega Red to life in what will undoubtedly unfold into a direct conflict with the gold team.

At home, relationships are explored as Kitty and Piotr pretend things between them are strictly business and drafts Colossus as personal security for her trip to Washington D.C. The tension between the two is palatable but Kitty holds her feelings in check and poorly masquerades her emotions behind an obvious transparent veil citing suggestions from Logan regarding safety as the reason for his accompaniment.

Rachel and Kurt take the opposite approach and barrel without hesitation into a full-blown conversation regarding the surprise kiss in the previous issue. Rachel probes Kurt about his trepidation regarding the progression of their romance. Kurt remarks that romances between X-Men have questionable longevity and rarely end well but concedes that he wants to ease into things slowly over dinner.

Kitty and Piotr arrive in Washington and are welcome by longtime friend Stevie Hunter who explains that she has been elected to Congress and is the catalyst behind Kitty’s solicitation to testify. At the mention of Kitty’s seemingly obvious choice in an escort, she quickly tries to quell the insinuation of romantic involvement, subjecting both to an awkward moment.

Kitty arrives for the first day of deposition which provides tense interaction between Pryde and the congressmen. The politician declares that mutants are not humans and they pose a national security risk as time and again conflicts involving mutant affairs result in collateral damage which affect humans. Kitty counters stating that mutants are in fact humans and should have the same rights and liberties as those without. She continues her arguement with points specific to mutants risking their lives to protect the baseline population and doing so without thanks much less compensation. She presses the politician on the parallels between the proposed deportation of mutants to the plight of Japanese Americans during WWII.

The next series of scenes shift forward and back beginning with Kurt and Rachel as they continue their discussion on romance over dinner. Kurt does not utilize an image inducer or Rachel’s telepathy to mask his appearance yet both seem oblivious to the attention and discomfort of the rest of the patrons. Kurt shares his reservations regarding their romance stating the obvious reasons of distraction in moments of danger. Rachel neutralizes his fear by reminding him of Meggan and Captain Britain’s longstanding relationship during the tenure in Excalibur. Kurt continues to explain he is confused while Rachel seems to have a momentary distraction noticed by her would be lover.

Kitty feigns her stubborn position and reminds Piotr that the dinner has no deeper meaning though she does concede she still holds a strong attraction for her former bow.

Kurt asks Rachel why now after all the years they have spent together does she wish to begin a relationship with him now? Rachel claims that before the kiss she was not aware of the feelings Nightcrawler harbored for her and that though she does not want to find herself struggling with the same romantic issues her mother did, she is no longer fearful of her power and has a new conviction to see what possibilities are in store for her in life, clearly including Kurt.

Shifting again, Colossus shows more than just his normal physical strength and asserts that he has no fear of moving forward and knows what Kitty wants and he is willing to meet her desire in marriage catching Kitty off guard. In the end both men assure the ladies that as they have done so in the past, they are not going anywhere.

The second day of testimony doesn’t go far as the session is interrupted by the surprise attack of Whiplash, the second to take the name, Russian Anton Vanko. The battle is quick and fierce but victory is never in doubt as the intruder is quickly subdued and Pryde quips “And people think nothing gets done in Congress.” The jest however also serves as a dual foreboding.

That evening Kitty expresses that though she still cares deeply for Peter she needs time. Colossus clarifies that his proposal of marriage was a standing one and that he made it as a commitment knowing that is what she truly desires. Back at Stevie’s office, Hunter breaks the bad news that Kitty’s testimony and both X-Men’s display during the assault was for naught as congress has the votes and will inevitably pass the mutant deportation act.

In the final pages, the enigmatic Russian secret group utilize a summoning ritual and revive Omega Red.

What Just Happened?

There’s little doubt that X-Men Gold’s 9th installment is full of politically charged land mines and highly devisive social issues which take aim at American foreign and domestic policies. If you pay even the slightest attention to the media coverage over the last year it’s hard to miss Guggenheim’s opportunistic use of current events as a foray into numerous issues America faces as a nation.

The Mutant Deportation Act (MDA) is a stark comparison to the policies set forth after President Trump attempts to make good on repeat promises made to his constituents on the campaign trail during his bid for the White House. Today travel bans targeting key Muslim countries have been authorized in an effort to deter “extremists” from entering the country and preserving the safety of the nation. Concurrently measures including the invalidation of amnesty and raids have increased dramatically which have led to the highest number of undocumented or illegal immigrants which some sources estimate could be up to 8 million being detained and swiftly deported in the name of national security.

If we are to assume that events that unfold in issue #9 still occur during the Secret Empire timeline, this is perhaps the catalyst which serves as the establishment of New Tian, an independent state which holds most the mutant population under the watchful eye of Hydra. Though unconfirmed, this would make sense and give the reader insight into how New Tian evolved from the Secret Empire arc.

Guggenheim doesn’t stop there. The highly suspect return of Omega Red, who has never truly been a major name among the host of X-Men villains is riddled with obvious meaning and apparent undertones as the nonstop barrage of news coverage swirls around Russia’s certain involvement in last year’s election cycle and it’s ongoing investigation.

The X-Men have always been a natural vehicle used by countless authors to provide analogies, pose questions, or at times, to convey a message. It’s worth noting that Marvel mutants are a symbolic figure for many minorities and to fear and hate the misunderstood has always been the platform of the X-Men titles. Unfortunately, Guggenheim’s misstep is that he does little to hide blatant inclination whereas his predecessors, for the most part, have always trusted the intelligence of the reader to reach their own conclusions or render their own personal judgement instead of spoon feeding the obvious. The instrument of a congressional hearing with the purpose of expulsion, Omega Red and Whiplash acting as a Putin parallel, mounted on top of a concurrent story already taking aim at American politics with comparisons to Hydra and Republicans and symbolic fame found both in Captain America as a former hero and the reality television star, Donald Trump, celebrated for being the virtue of American success leave both devolving into despots. Some of the best stories told have been ones that require the reader to draw upon the subtle context which often shows true creative brilliance. My disenchantment doesn’t lie in the intent but that it simply isn’t original or inspired, and is dripping with design that’s a bit too on the nose for me.

The continuation of romances is really not all that exciting. Colossus and Kitty everyone saw coming, and Kurt and Rachel is difficult to believe as I have mentioned before in my previous review of issue #8 that with years of partnership between the two, romance was explored only on one other occasion which was quickly discarded. I have doubt about the longevity of their union in the long run.

Lashley’s art is ok and consistent. Nothing new there.

However, issue 9 wasn’t a total waste. New Mutants fan rejoice! The fabulous Stevie Hunter returns! Even if it’s for a brief cameo…

Rating 5.5/10

Final thought: The best authors are those who craft a story through ingenious setting and narrative, unexpected plot twists, and meaning through inventive analogy which leave the reader to draw upon their own personal conclusions. There was nothing in this issue that displayed any of those qualities in Marc Guggenheim’s storytelling. There is no room for interpretation or analysis, only dictation from someone who wants to do the thinking for you.

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