In the five-part series X-Men: Golgotha, the team of mutants collide with Cthulu–well not Cthulu exactly, but the monstrous villain named Golgotha resembles the Cthulu so closely Marvel should owe H.P. Lovecraft’s heirs some money.
If you’ve never been initiated into H.P. Lovecraft’s weird and gloomy fiction, the Cthulu is the author’s most famous creation. In the popular short story The Call of the Cthulu, a wave of strange disturbances start up across the globe, as normally civilized people start rioting and having decadent bacchanals. It’s later revealed that the source of the violent urges isn’t rooted in the mind, but in the power of a tentacled monster submerged beneath the Pacific Ocean. The idea is somewhat similar to Alfred Lord Tennyson’s conception of the Kraken in his poem of the same name:
Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
The over-arching idea here is that there’s some sort of primeval force that’s been hidden away for ages that, when it rises, will bring about the end of human life. Sounds like supervillain material to me.
X-Men Golgotha is written by Peter Milligan, who has the right idea in updating the Cthulu/Kraken myths to his purposes. Instead of the usual racist megalomaniac for a villain, the story instead features a creature that causes evil things to happen as part of its existence, and never has a clear motive for its actions. It’s first discovered by a colony of mutants living in Antarctica, all of whom mysteriously die after sending out an S.O.S. to the X-Men. When the heroes arrive, they have to find out what has happened, something that’s greatly impeded when the Golgotha creatures begins tinkering with their minds, dredging up their worst fears and magnifying them, causing the X-Men to turn on each other instead of fighting the monster.
The characters in play here are Havok (Cyclops’ brother), Emma Frost, Ice-Man, Polaris, Rogue, Gambit, and Wolverine. By the way, is there some sort of rule stating that Wolverine has to be a member of every team? The mind-warping effects of Golgotha allow the characters’ to be fleshed out, as the reader learns of each heroes’ private fears and insecurities.
The only problem with the series is that we find out more than we want to know. The X-Men’s bickering becomes grating and repetitive. At times I had to say “Okay I get it already, the inability to have physical contact puts a drain on Rogue and Gambit’s relationship, now get to the monster!” If you can gloss over the melodrama, X-Men Golgotha is a pretty cool story.
Added bonus: it’s penciled by Salvador Larroca, who recently did some pretty stellar work for Matt Fraction’s run on Iron-Man. To see examples of Salvador Larroca’s work on the Comic Art Community website, click here.
X-Men: Golgotha is currently out of print in graphic novel form, but I bet you can find it at a good comic book store. If not, just pick up the individual issues of X-Men #166-170.
The Call of the Cthulu can be read for free online via Project Gutenberg (warning: not for minors, and some portions are very racist). To read it, click here.
—–I have written a book titled The Madness of Art: Short Stories available on Amazon in paperback and as an ebook.
If you enjoyed this review of X-Men: Golgotha, check out my review of the entire 2004-2010 New Avenger series.