I never believed it would actually happen, but it seems as though Emma Frost and Tony Stark are indeed getting married, at least if the cover of X-Men #26 is anything to go by. The actual contents of the issue seem to tell a different story, or more accurately stories, as this issue messily jumps between three separate events, making it very difficult to follow everything is the latest addition of the flagship mutant title.
Starting off with the best of the three separate events writer Gerry Duggan attempts to weave together, Shadowkat remains a bright spot in the post-fall era. Kate Pyrde’s new alias is still loads of fun after her bombastic introduction in last month’s issue, with the violence and fights not slowing down even a little. Here, we see Shadowkat stowing away on a cargo ship to space in order to hunt down (and most likely kill) Firestar, the mutant who she believes is a traitor. As she fights her way through the ORCHIS station, Pyrde shows that her new persona still shows absolutely no mercy, violently cutting through everyone that stands in her way. These fights are all wonderfully illustrated by Jim Towe and Javier Pina. Their art feels very fluid and in motion, and as Kate charges through the station, the pages come alive and her methods seem all that much more violent. It is a really effective way to show that the era of “KILL NO HUMANS” is over, and there is nothing holding the mutants back from finding their way back home.
Beyond the spectacular Kate action, however, X-Men #26 is a bit of a mess, jumping between various Tony Stark, Kingpin, Emma Frost, and Ms. Marvel scenes with seemingly no real cohesion. Starting off by describing how Kingpin’s power grab in the Hellfire Club came about due to his love for Typhoid Mary, one of the many mutants who was lost due to Charles, we have our first lost opportunity. I thought that the Kingpin developments, with him moving to Krakoa full-time, could have led to some pretty interesting storylines, but it was squandered until it was too late. Now, he is almost a background character literally just holding power so that the main characters can do their stories, a disappointing turn of events. As for Ms. Marvel, the new mutant, we see just a one-page scene of her protecting someone from a bully, which is fine, but again, in an already overstuffed issue I am not really sure where the need to include it came from. It does show that ORCHIS efforts have, in fact, increased mutant hatred everywhere, an interesting idea, but again something really not given enough time to fully expand for me.
Finally, the big promise that the cover makes…sorta falls flat. Through a series of events that I won’t spoil here, Tony is forced to propose to Hazel, Emma Frost’s alter ego, and it is quite anti-climatic. Considering he didn’t even propose to Emma herself, I really feel like that cover and big Marvel press push was a bit much. Of course, we still have to see what happens a little later in Iron Man #10, but this feels like one of those classic Big 2 gambits where they promise something weird and controversial, and then barely deliver. I think X-Men #26 was a solid read, and continues to push the “Fall of X” era in new directions, but as is almost always the case with Duggan’s X-Men run, it really fails to deliver on the potential of all the different seeds it is planting. It feels like there is always too much going on, but never any real resolution.