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Jul 26

X-Men Gold #31-32: “Prestige Dark”

Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

As titles go, “Prestige Dark” is… not good.  It conjures up images of inexpensive aftershave, or perhaps pretentious late-night soft porn on obscure channels on the third screen of the Entertainment section.  The main hits on Google are for laminate flooring and rum.  None of these connotations seem likely to be intentional.

For a while now, Marc Guggenheim has been building a subplot about Mesmero tinkering with Rachel’s mind.  This is where it comes to a head, but not in an especially satisfying way.

Rachel is a refugee from a dystopian future where she was brainwashed into hunting down other mutants.  So doing a story where a mind-control villain takes her back there in her own mind, and uses her to go after the other X-Men, is pretty obvious, and has been done before.  In this two-parter, we do it again.

In fact, the best thing in issue #31 is a subplot scene – a coda to the abortive wedding issue in which Peter leaves the team.  His thinking is that he’s probably not going to be focussing very well if he’s on a team with Kitty, and that seems fair enough.  It’s a suitably awkward sequence, and it works quite well.

But after that, we’re into an extended Days of Future Past riff, with the current cast re-enacting a variation of the future segments from the old classic story.  This goes on for fourteen pages, and the pay off is a closing panel where Iceman and Pyro tell her she’s hallucinating.  The problems with this are glaringly obvious.  One, it’s fourteen pages on a nostalgia riff.  Two, Rachel isn’t even there for most of those fourteen pages – she can’t even be logically off panel until page 9 – so how does the idea of it being in her head even work?  And three, if it’s all an illusion, what do we care about any of it?  It’s wasted space, surely?

Well, not necessarily.  I guess you could do something clever about how Rachel sees the characters, but that doesn’t really seem to be here.  It doesn’t track with the original Days of Future Past, so it doesn’t seem to be anything she actually remembers from her home timeline.  I guess you could argue that the timeline has been changed, but even if you make that generous assumption – and it’s not how things have worked in the past – there’s still not much of interest going on here.  The main points to take from it are presumably that Peter and Kitty are a couple in this future, and so are Rachel and Kurt; but again, if it’s all an illusion, so what?

It’s a shame, as Pere Pérez does a good job on art of echoing the style of the original story and homaging the key moments.  His flashback material is actually the highlight of his work here; his present day scenes are fine but a bit blander, as if the DOFP timeline gives him more visual hooks to work with.

Issue #32 is a bit of a mess.  Storm and Illyana have a reasonable little scene with Illyana feeling guilty about wrecking the wedding.  Iceman and the new Pyro are established as a potential couple, which seems a bit thematically forced, but could maybe work once Simon gets fleshed out a bit further.  Given Bobby’s mentor role for the newbie, it’s a relationship that’s blatantly problematic, but that’s potential story material, so fine.  But then the issue spends most of its time re-telling what was going on in the previous issue from the perspective of the X-Men, because there’s really not much left to do by the time you reach the cliffhanger.  Cyclops gives a little speech talking Rachel down, she’s very angry, she turns on Mesmero, the end.

The story at least avoids the pat result of having Rachel feel that she’s vanquished her hang-ups about her past, and leaves us with her feeling unsure of herself.  But it’s a weak couple of issues considering how long Guggenheim has spent building it up.  Stories that work better as teases than they do in execution have been something of a recurring problem for this series, and this is an example.

Bring on the comments

  1. Si says:

    Wait, Rachel and Kurt were a couple in the future? Kurt who was an adult when Rachel was born? Kurt who previously has been portrayed as a wrinkly old blue uncle figure in that timeline? I mean technically there’s no reason why not, but it doesn’t quite sit right.

    I also find it weird that all the gay male superheroes are in stable long-term relationships, while the likes of Daken are sexual predators. Things are getting better, but there’s an awful long way to go.

  2. Thom H. says:

    “The story at least avoids the pat result of having Rachel feel that she’s vanquished her hang-ups about her past, and leaves us with her feeling unsure of herself.”

    Surely, that’s the basic outcome of every Rachel story ever. The poor woman — will she ever belong in the present? Maybe if she starts wearing a cape…

  3. Anya says:

    I love that you googled prestige dark. 😉

  4. Voord 99 says:

    Even in the comic which has her codename in the title, our host still cannot bring himself to call Rachel “Prestige.”

    Meanwhile, putting the adjective second communicates the definite sense that Guggenheim wants to show how really committed he is to the idea that “Prestige” sounds classy and impressive, and not like an attempt to win the Worst Codename contest. I mean, “Dark Prestige” would even make more story sense, given that this is a riff on her mother’s most famous story.

  5. wwk5d says:

    Even by comic book standards, Prestige is a pretty dumb code name.

    Weren’t Kurt and Amanda Sefton supposed to still be a couple in the DOFP era? I remember one flashback Rachel had during CC’s first run where we saw Kurt and Amamda taking Illyana for an outing and all 3 get killed off…I guess the timeline just keeps getting changed as per each writer’s whim.

    Much like Alan Davis had Excaliber travel to the future and defeat Ahab and the Sentinels, but lets forget that ever happened too…

  6. Moo says:

    Prestige sounds like a superhero name someone like Kanye West might choose for himself.

  7. Jacob says:

    X-Men Gold: shaky build, awful finish. I can’t say I’m going to miss this title when it’s gone. I felt very let down by the finish of Rachel just saying “you can’t control me” and being done with it. It reminded me of the finish to the Lost in the Negative Zone story where they suddenly realized they could make a portal when they ran out of pages to fill.

  8. Mo Walker says:

    Perhaps Guggenheim was trying to emulate Bendis with his flashback from a different character’s perspective. I hated when Bendis spent an issue doing it and still do now. Clearly your storyline does not have much going for and you need to fill the issue. The strongest aspects of this arc were the fallout from Colossus and Kitty’s wedding.

    It’s strange the Prestige Dark storyline on lasted 2 issues. The pre-wedding arc featured less interesting villains and was dragged out to 4 issues.

  9. Flinkman says:

    Honestly, the hinkiest part of all of this for me is knowing that in addition to Mesmero…Rachel is also currently under the influence of Cassandra Nova over in X-Men: Red.

    Do we think this is meant to tie together or (more likely) do we think this is just another case of two X-Writers not communicating their plans to one another?

    Either way, something tells me Taylor will make better use of the trope. Considering the one-page Rachel/Cassandra reveal held more weight than this entire subplot/story arc…maybe he already has lll.

  10. Taibak says:

    I’m just surprised Googling the title didn’t turn up a brand of chocolate.

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