Unless you are completely separated from the internet or any real source of comics news (in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this), you know about the rocky start that X-Men Gold got off too. Actually, calling it ‘rocky’ is an understatement. It was a dumpster fire. A xenophobic, shit-show of a dumpster fire. Artist Ardian Syaf managed to sneak in some really hateful, dog-whistle symbolism into the panels regarding the political climate of Indonesia and the internet, as you might guess, pulled no punches. Syaf was unceremoniously ousted from not just the books, but from the mainstream industry in general, as well he should have been. There is no room in comics to be tolerant of intolerance. None. The unfortunate part of that fiasco, besides the fact that a human can hold such abhorrent Theocracy-supremacist views, is that Syaf was actually an incredibly talented artist. His work was beautiful, and his abilities as a graphic story teller were top notch. Now, his career is effectively dead, at least in Western comics.
Since that time, Marvel fought an uphill battle to fill the artistic void, hiring several guest artists pump out art as to avoid any delays in publishing. As a consumer and an avid lover of monthly floppies, I appreciate the effort to maintain a schedule, and I appreciate the efforts and abilities of artists such as R.B. Silva to step in under what I’m sure were strenuous conditions and hostile time constraints. That being said, the crunch was a flashing neon sign of distress, and the book suffered both in quality and sales. It was rough for a hot minute, is all I’m saying, and many quickly dropped the book from their pull lists, opting to pick up other X-titles such as Blue, Weapon X, and the newly published Astonishing X-Men. If you’re going to spent $4.00 on a book, the art and story have to be on the level. Well folks, it looks like X-Men Gold found its level, and that level’s name is Ken Lashley.
Lashley shouldn’t be a stranger to X-fans, as in recent history he applied his talent to Alan Fine’s Uncanny X-Men in 2016, as well as doing pencils on several issues of Excalibur in the early ’90’s, between issues #70-90. Outside of Marvel, Lashley has dropped lines on works like DC’s Suicide Squad and 52, where he is credited with the post-Flashpoint first appearance design of Kate Kane, the Batwoman. The man is a phenomenal artist and his designs have solidified his status as an artistic powerhouse in modern comic art, and he is certainly setting the gold standard of X-Men pencil composition. He finds a balance between anatomical realism and imaginative cartooning. There is no doubt that he, like many other artists, uses photo references in his designs (I’d bet hard-earned money that he bases his Old Man Logan look off of a Clint Eastwood profile), but not so much that it becomes distracting to the point of the panels detriment. Lashley has an expert understanding of muscle form and body language, which elevates his abilities as a visual story-teller to heights rarely achieved, giving X-Men Gold writer Marc Guggenheim the ability to focus on dialogue and tone without having to goad the reader along with blocky narration and unnecessary exposition. I personally would love to see Ken Lashley work on a book with a writer like Warren Ellis who is so adept in his script descriptions that he is able to produce multiple pages of story without any literary element at all.
Readers who have jumped off of the X-Man Gold title because of the artistic blusters would be well served in jumping back on, as Lashley is delivering incredible work. He understands the characters that he is working with, not just their look, but their actual character, and he lays that out on the panel. Kitty Pride carries herself like a ninja again, you can see her martial command of her body in her stances and combat actions. Colossus moves like a tank when he needs to throw a punch, and yet his meekness shines through when on the page with his peers. Old Man Logan will cut you off of his lawn. You would be hard pressed to find a better visual representation of these characters in the last decade, and it would behoove Marvel and Guggenheim to solidify Lashley as the main and ongoing artist for the foreseeable future.