RSS Feed
Jul 6

X-Men: Gold #4-6 – “Techno Superior”

Posted on Thursday, July 6, 2017 by Paul in x-axis

The thing about biweeklies is, you fall a little bit behind on the reviews, and they’ve already started the next arc.  Time to catch up, then.

“Techno Superior” is the second arc of X-Men: Gold, and this time our artist is R B Silva, who is much less problematic than his predecessor.  And in most ways it follows in the direction which the opening arc established: it’s going to play the hits while it re-establishes what the X-Men are all about.  It’s solid, it’s a bit house style, it feels like an X-Men book, everyone feels in character, and it’s very much a return to an 80s/90s team format.

True, it’s not a direct copy – we’ve got Kitty in charge, we’re right in the middle of the city instead of hiding out on a private estate – but those changes are rather less prominent this time round.  This is X-Men Classic.  Trad X-Men.

And in those days, while the X-Men certainly did two or three part stories, they weren’t quite so defined and self-contained.  There was a lot more emphasis on subplots building over time.  Perhaps the most striking thing about this arc, particularly on a re-read, is how much of it is given over to subplots that are building to future stories.  So issue #4   finds a couple of pages to set up a serial killer plot, which gets a passing mention in issue #6 but doesn’t come to the fore until issue #7.  It also picks up on the plot thread about the random Brotherhood member who doesn’t speak English and isn’t a mutant at all, and it finds a couple of pages for Kitty to catch up with Magma.  For some reason the issue also spends a couple of pages on a random fight with the Serpent Society, which I guess is the equivalent of Spider-Man beating up some muggers in an alley.

The other two chapters are more focussed, but issue #5 finds time to remind us about Lydia Nance, and issue #6 chucks in the X-Cutioner.  All this is structured much more like an ongoing series of old, and it’s a reasonably encouraging sign that Guggenheim has some plans here.

You’ll note, though, that I’ve got this far into the review without actually talking about the A-plot.  And that’s because it’s rather mundane – in fact, it’s largely a collection of stock X-Men tropes.  Gambit steals a vial of nanotech for a client who turns out to be Olivia Trask, yet another member of the Sentinel-building Trask family.  This leads to a Sentinel AI getting control of the nanotech and heading off to do Sentinel things as a sort of nanotech Sentinel cloud.

Quite what being a nanotech Sentinel cloud entails is never altogether well defined, largely because the story wants there to be something for the X-Men to hit, even though it doesn’t ultimately want the hitting to be very effective.  At any rate, there’s a nanotech Sentinel wandering around which is all terribly dangerous and everyone has to fight it.  Part 2 ends with the old “it’s going after anyone with a genetic quirk” schtick, in which the dumb robot starts attacking people who are colour blind and so forth.  Mainly, that’s just something to do to raise the stakes.

The point of all this, apparently, is to have Rachel rise to the occasion and use her psychic powers to take down the otherwise uncontrollable AI swarm (which is vulnerable to telepathy because it is, after all, intelligent).  It’s the old “afraid of reaching her full potential” routine, although I suppose that does make a degree of sense for Rachel, given how much she’s been depowered over the years compared to her time as Phoenix.  And to be fair, the next issue does follow up on this, so it’s decidedly possible that this is basically a vehicle to get Rachel to where the wider plot wants her to go.  But that doesn’t make it any more interesting in itself.

There are a couple of vaguely interesting side elements.  Despite being a member of the Trask family, Olivia is apparently not an anti-mutant zealot.  She just wanted to steal the technology to use in her munitions business.  It’s Gambit who assumes that she must be a dangerous maniac and winds up dropping the plot device on the Sentinel tech.  Quite why Olivia has old Sentinel AIs lying around – whether she has a separate anti-mutant agenda or whether she just happens to have inherited some of the family heirlooms – is left ambiguous, and in her limited scenes, she seems like a potentially interesting character.

On the other hand, issue #5 has some infuriating nonsense.  For some reason people keep using the word “sub-luminal” to mean “learns from previous encounters”, which is just plain wrong, unless a word meaning “slower than light” has been really strangely repurposed when I wasn’t watching.  And there’s an extraordinary sequence where we’re asking to believe that Kitty “speaks binary” – that she can literally hear a stream of zeros and ones from the nanotech Sentinel and translate what it says into English.

This is nonsense.   That’s not the problem, not really – you can get away with nonsense.  Superhero comics are full of gibberish pseudoscience.  But the trick is to go for something mildly exotic where the readers’ understanding is fairly vague – nanotech, for example, or our good friend genetic engineering.  If you go for something too mundane and too obviously wrong… well, you might get away with it if you really camp it up.  But in a book like this?  Basically played straight?  Lord no.

But the bigger issue is that the story is just rather weak.  Anti-mutant robot goes mad, gets beaten.  Maybe it’s a vehicle to get Rachel somewhere, but it’s not much to hang a three parter on.

Bring on the comments

  1. Mikey says:

    I’m really enjoying the bi-weekly release schedule. It keeps things moving at a nice pace.

    I wish the creators had kept Colossus’ beard from the last run of books. I know this is a back-to-basics approach to the X-Men, but it seems like everyone has reverted to old looks (except Rachel’s hideous new costume).

    I also *really* appreciate that Guggenheim is giving space to the New X-Men. I started reading X-Men comic books around Endangered Species, so I have a real affection for those kids. I would much rather X-Men: Blue focused on them rather than the Original Five (hey, anyone remember Hope’s team? Nobody?)

  2. M says:

    Maybe they meant ‘subliminal’ which would still be wrong?

  3. Voord 99 says:

    I’m fairly certain that M is right and that they meant “subliminal.”

    Still wrong, but in the right neighborhood: you can see how something* that learned immediately and unconsciously from experience might be described as doing so “subliminally.” In fact, this might even be a rogue autocorrect attack.

    Although you can’t be sure. I’m reading Dan Jurgens’s Thor run at the moment, and I’m thinking of creating a dictionary of Jurgensisms, archaic words used incorrectly, sometimes to amusingly bathetic effect. For the record, the run is otherwise quite good, especially once it really gets going. But, still, someone should have bought his editor a dictionary. Or, you know, a computer – this was all Googleable by this point.

    *Being on Unlimited, I haven’t read this yet, but I take it that the “sub-luminal” thing is the nano-Sentinel cloud. Because “learning from previous encounters” isn’t something that really needs a fancy word if you’re applying it to a human, or a dog, or….

  4. Suzene says:

    @Mikey – Ditto on the Academy X/New X-Men kids. A lot of squandered potential there.

  5. SanityOrMadness says:

    > (hey, anyone remember Hope’s team? Nobody?)

    Wasn’t there a guy whose power was to turn into burgers and feed five thousand? 🙂

  6. Voord 99 says:

    Anyone remember Hope’s team?

    I do. I mean, they had the good fortune to be written by Kieron Gillen.

    But what I’d like is a book that created its core cast by mixing-and-matching a few of the strongest characters from all of the many, many young mutant characters created between … I don’t know, the Grant Morrison and Jason Aaron eras?

    Say, Pixie, Hellion, Rockslide, Elixir, Idie, and David Alleyne? Or whoever – some group about whom the writer thinks s/he has stories to tell. Those are just off the top of my head as characters whose stories I’d like to see continue.

    And have *all* the others as background characters, who can move into the foreground as the book develops. Like the DeFilippis/Weir New Mutants, but maybe with the dial turned just a little away from “school story” towards “adventure.” And if you want to bring back Danielle Moonstar as the mentor-figure, along with any other spare New Mutants, I’d be OK with that.

  7. maxwell's hammer says:

    Do a New Mutants title, but Peter David/X-Factor style. Hell, get Peter David to write it! Where he just throws together a random bunch kids from the X-Men Junior League, and explores all the untapped metaphorical potential of their power sets! And every few months he can drop a character and throw a new one into the mix. I went cold turkey five years ago on comic books, but I’d consider falling off the wagon for a title like that!

  8. Mo Walker says:

    I am glad Guggenheim is planting the seeds for future stories while dealing with the A plot. I have missed this in recent years. It is nice to see something that breaks away from the standard ‘lets just focus on the current five to six issue story arc’.

    When I heard that Generation X was being revived, I hoped that title would feature a more random assortment of Junior League X-Men.

Leave a Reply