Heroes and Villains, January 3, 2018

Welcome once again to the home office here in snowy Cobourg, Ontario as I bring you another edition of Heroes and Villains! This week I’m going to take a long look at the first two volumes of Marvel’s X-Men: Blue series. Ready? Let’s talk comics!

Marvel

X-Men: Blue, Volume 1 & 2
Writer: Cullen Bunn; Artists: Jorge Molina, Julian Lopez, Cory Smith and several others

If I am a Marvel guy first, then I am an X-Men guy second. I’ve dabbled with Avengers, the FF and Spidey, but I enrolled at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters back during the Chris Claremont days and although I have a skipped a few semesters, my attendance record is pretty good. Until lately that is.

After the “San-Francisco era” of the X-Men came to a close and the Schism event divided the team into two camps, my interest in the world of X slowly faded. Combined with some concepts that I wasn’t that into like the rise of the Inhumans, the death of Wolverine and the launch of All New X-Men by Brian Bendis it just didn’t seem like my bag. To be fair, I never gave the all-new concept a chance. I didn’t want to see past versions of the original five X-Men running around in the modern Marvel universe. Why would I? Jean was dead (again), Cyclops was a much more interesting character leading his mutant revolution, Angel was coming off a resurrection/rebirth thing and Beast and Iceman had both gone through enough character growth that they were compelling characters. What did I want with teenage versions of these characters?

So I didn’t read it. I did know roughly what was going on by reading some other core X-titles, but I still didn’t dig it. How much time travel and alternate future/history stuff can a series take before it becomes a parody of itself? In the case of the X-Men it seemed like there was no end in sight, so I quit altogether.

With another round of relaunched, all new, all different, Marvel Now, etc. series on the way, I was excited to see the Blue and Gold concepts back out there. The Gold team would be the Claremont lineup of Kitty Pryde, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Wolverine (Old Man Logan) and Rachel Summers. The Blue squad was the original five, with the twist being that Jean Grey is now team leader. Also, Angel has fire wings for some reason. My intention was to pick up the Gold trades, as I like that team and my daughter is a huge Kitty Pryde fan. However, when I went trade hunting at BMV, there was no Gold to be had, just the first two editions of Blue. And, since I wasn’t leaving with no X-Men comics I decided to give them a chance.

Volume 1: Strangest

I was into this book at the get-go. The costume designs have a throw back to the original X-Factor uniforms and the first artist, Jorge Molina, has a nice style that captured the youthful look of these young X-Men. I was willing to overlook the battle with Black Tom and Juggernaut, even though it was pretty played out and Black Tom was dead last time I checked, because it was done well and the first issue payed off with the reveal that it was Magneto that had brought this team together.

It was here, however, that the parallel universe shenanigans kicked into gear with the introduction of Ultimate Wolverine to the team. Ultimate Wolverine in this case being James Hudson, the blonde son of the original ultimate Wolverine. This brings the marvel universe “Wolverine” total to 4, with Dark Wolverine, All-New Wolverine (X-23) and Old Man Logan already in circulation.

That wouldn’t have been that bad, but from there we also got the all new Marauders, who were, of course, parallel universe versions of Quicksilver and some D-List x-characters brought together by a sexy, lady Mr. Sinister named, sigh, Mrs. Sinister. If it sounds like to much to read in my review, imagine how it felt in the book.

All that said, I wasn’t as turned off by the above as I expected to be. Molina’s art is excellent, the script is good and I do like the X-Men, so I rolled with it. Not my favorite X-Men title to be sure, but I’ve read much worse.

Unfortunately, Jorge Molina left after issue 3 and Volume 2 had to take a detour into that most dark and all-encompassing of Marvel destinations: the company-wide cross-over event.

Volume 2: Toil and Trouble

So I gather there was this Secret Empire thing with an evil Captain America that some folks out there didn’t really cotton to. I haven’t read it, so I don’t know if the concept itself worked out, but holy smokes is it a pain being tossed into one of these things while reading one book and not all the books. Emma Frost, Havok and a very dapper suit-wearing Xorn (???) are bad guys with their own mutant island that evil Steve Rogers gave them. They have a bunch of X-People on their side, all with fancy new powers, and Magneto has a truce with Rogers to protect his young X-team. Okay, sure, but… huh? Hey, there’s Polaris! And the X-Jet was really Danger the living danger room lady all along because of course. The art through this story was pretty rough, as was having no earthly idea what was going on. Why is Wolfsbane a bad guy that can split herself into tiny wolves? Why is Xorn wearing a suit and cape? Why does Emma want to reprogram young Cyclops to think he is old Cyclops? He’s 17; isn’t that kinda creepy? Weak stuff all around. Especially if you are a fan of Emma Frost or someone who liked the Xorn reveal left as it was back in New X-Men by Grant Morrison and never got into the Danger character in the first place.

From here, we go full tilt parallel universe shenanigans as Madeline Pryor (really???) does magic things to Beast and makes an evil team of alternate Colossus, Storm, Pixie and Nightcrawler battle the X-Men. Ugh.

The Storm in question, Bloodstorm (who first appeared in the oh-so 1990s Mutant X series) is a vampire Storm that kinda doesn’t want to be bad and ends up helping. So, of course, they put her on the team.

Okay, so I pride myself in not being that comic book guy that complains about stuff. We all get to have our favourite era and we have the right to like or not like others as we choose, but this series just feels like the well has run dry. It’s like X-Men comics are the air on a non-stop flight to Australia and back, recycled to the point where it’s just not good anymore. I mean, yeah, I’m breathing, but that’s about it.

If you are to believe the internets, there was, prior to the FOX deal, an official edict at Marvel stating that X-Men writers could not create any new characters as they would be rolled into the FOX cinematic canon and that made Mickey the Mouse sad. Is this comic a victim of that? Is this what happens when you aren’t allowed to have new ideas? It kinda feels that way.

There are things to like here and I absolutely think that Cullen Bunn has done well with what he has on hand, but between inconsistent art (seven different artists over 12 issues), getting sucked into the Secret Empire event and non-stop parallel universe shenanigans X-Men: Blue left me feeling just that, blue.

Til next semester, cheers.

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