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Jul 16

X-Men Blue #4-6

Posted on Sunday, July 16, 2017 by Paul in x-axis

Here we are already, at the end of the first trade paperback.  Doesn’t time fly when you’re bi-weekly?  I didn’t immediately pick up on this being the break point, because it’s not particularly defined as a story arc.  This seems to be coming back into fashion again; issues #4 to 6 seem largely concerned with getting some pieces into play so that they can be used in future issues.

Cullen Bunn’s task in getting his book up and running can’t have been helped by the fact that the next issue starts a Secret Empire tie-in, which feels like it’s doomed to wind up as a pointless and unwelcome diversion.  That might explain why we have two stories here that seem too busy introducing new elements to actually tell much of a story with them.

Issues #4-5 see the X-Men investigating a strange mutant signal in Colorado, where it turns out that somebody weird with claws has been fighting the Wendigo.  A local deputy gets a lot of panel time, but she doesn’t actually do a great deal – from the look of it, her job here is to trade exposition and provide some sort of grounding to what would otherwise be some costumed people trudging around a forest.  At any rate, the somebody with claws turns out to be Jimmy Hudson, the son of Ultimate Wolverine, and he’s an amnesiac.

The X-Men do actually recognise him, because Bendis took them to the Ultimate Universe once before, but then a bunch of other Ultimate refugees show up, billed as the New Marauders.  They’re a random bunch – Ultimate Quicksilver is reasonably prominent, but I bet you’d forgotten there was an Ultimate version of Armor, and I’d never even heard of Mach-II or the Guardian.  Issue #5 is basically a huge fight scene, in the course of which we establish that these guys all somehow wound up on our Earth during Secret Wars and they’ve all conveniently lost their memory as a result.  And they’re now being used as henchmen by Miss Sinister, from the Mike Carey run.

This is the sort of story which is less than the sum of its parts.  And many of those parts are good.  It’s a pleasant change to see an extended fight scene which has had some thought put into the details.  There are plenty of neat character moments dotted along the way.  And Julian Lopez’s art is very good – he’s doing great work on making the X-Men look like teenagers and establishing a strong sense of place for all his locations.  I hope we’ll get a lot more from him.

But the big picture is “they find Jimmy Hudson, there’s a big inconclusive fight, and they take him home to join the cast”.  I have a nagging feeling this two-parter was hoping to get by on the momentum of bringing out the Ultimate characters.  But it’s been a long time since the Ultimate imprint was any sort of a big deal – it got axed for a reason.  And the likes of Jimmy Hudson come from its tail end, after Ultimatum wrecked any goodwill that readers had for Ultimate X-Men.  Jimmy himself isn’t an especially compelling character here; confused amnesiacs rarely are, but he’s still a bit of a void at the centre of the story.

Issue #6 is a single issue story in Madripoor which seems to be squeezing in the set-up for something else altogether.  We’re  six issues into the run and only now are we really getting around to doing anything with the location.  A lot of writers seem to treat Madripoor as some sort of lawless criminal underworld “governed” by supervillains.  Bunn seems to be going back to the “Uptown” and “Lowtown” division which Chris Claremont used to play up, and what we get is something that feels like a basically normal modern city with unusually high levels of inequality.

The story has Jean, Hank and Jimmy enjoying a street parade when they go after some MGH dealers and wins up crossing paths with a local supergroup, the Raksha.  From the look of it, these guys are going to be sticking around as supporting characters, presumably to be the outside influence on the team that stops them falling too firmly under Magneto’s influence.  At the moment, they’re your standard brutal vigilantes defined mainly by gimmick powers, but there’s something there to work with.  On the one hand, they keep the X-Men in touch with Lowtown (while Magneto is accommodating them in relative luxury); on the other hand, they’re thuggish enough that the team are still likely to treat them with some caution.  And, hey, new regular characters.  That’s always welcome.

This issue has two credited pencillers, Ray-Anthony Height and Ramón Bachs, which sounds a bit rushed for a single issue story.  There are some awkward bits in the opening pages, but it does pick up once it gets to the streets; the carnival atmosphere comes across well.

Mainly, though, this is three issues of setting up the pieces for stories we presumably won’t get to until issue #10.  Within that limitation, it’s done pretty well – the art on issues #4-5 is really very nice – but it feels like we haven’t got to the substance of it yet.

Bring on the comments

  1. Col_Fury says:

    Wow. Usually there’s a comment on these reviews by now, but it’s been a few days and nothing. Is there no interest in these time-displaced X-Men anymore?

    Looking at the sales numbers, Blue sells roughly 10,000 copies less than Gold to stores, so maybe people have/are starting to give up on them? But sales aren’t THAT low…

  2. Mikey says:

    Col_Fury

    I also keep checking for comments, but I also don’t seem to have anything to actually add. This booking isn’t bad, by any means, but these simply aren’t the characters I care about. Gold has the main crew with some New X-Men characters thrown in, so it’s much more my bag. And Generation X is a real odd group of kids, so that’s satisfying just for it’s weirdness.

  3. Suzene says:

    Frankly, the only way I’ll be interested in the Blue crew is if they finally pull the trigger on them going home, let them keep their memories intact, run a series where these kids are potentially the most powerful superheroes in the decades-past MU by virtue of their foreknowledge, and watch the shit hit the fan from there.

    That’s an AU hook that I’d pay for monthly, especially if Bunn’s writing. But I’ve got no time or budget for them in the 616.

  4. Rich LArson says:

    I actually like the O5 X-Men. I thought the last series did some good stories and did a particularly good job with Scott (him being laid up with the broken leg but not able to shut off his obsessive strategizing) and Hank (the idea of him being too far behind on science so going for magic is interesting.)

    And I think Blue is okay too. However, there’s definitely a problem in that the time lost story needed to have a proper ending in mind. Bendis clearly didn’t, Hopeless had a workable one but it was just tacked on to the last issue and Bunn seems to be ignoring that.

    Bunn gets some good will because his Magneto was well done and a good take on him. But we’re quite a few issues in, Magneto has barely appeared and the relationship between he and the O5 seems like it has to be the main thrust of the book. And Jean seems to be the central character focus, but it doesn’t make sense to do that here and have us reading about her in her own book, too. So they are good individual stories, but they seem less then the sum of the parts. With ultimately not much new to say about them, after a fair number of issues.

    As always, the X line needs to be way trimmed down for these stories to have some weight and not just lost in the details of 15 or whatever books every month.

  5. Rich LArson says:

    Oh, and Suzene. I like your series idea. I’d read that too.

  6. Chris V says:

    The owner of the comic book store I frequent told me that I was the first person to buy a copy of Astonishing X-Men #1.
    That’s just completely unbelievable.
    There was a time that X-Men titles were always amongst the best-sellers at a store. Now, the store sold one copy of a new X-book.
    That’s not a good sign for Marvel.

    I think Secret Empire has killed a lot of the last good faith remaining for many readers with Marvel.

  7. Col_Fury says:

    Re: Mikey
    Yeah, I’m liking Gold as well. I’m behind, though, and haven’t read any Generation X or Weapon X yet.

    Re: Suzene
    I’m kind of in the same boat. I just can’t get myself invested in these versions of the characters. They’re just… copies, really.

    Re: Rich
    I was hoping that Blue would be like the ’80s X-Factor book, with the original gang doing their own thing, but the problem (for me) is that this isn’t the original gang, they’re copies of the original gang. If they want to do a plot about Beast moving over to magic instead of science (which, admittedly, is a neat idea), they can do that with the original Beast, you know?

    Re: Chris V
    Well, if Legacy restores some of the status quo for certain characters, that might open some good will for people. We’ll see what happens, I guess.

    Maybe Marvel needs a new Scourge of the Underworld, but instead of going after D-list villains, this Scourge is xenophobic against people from alternate realities. Similar to what Hulk was doing right before Secret Wars (he was de-powering Hulks to strengthen the brand). Clear out some of the clutter, but leave a few popular ones behind (because Scourge will eventually be defeated, of course).

    Of course, these extra X-Men will stick around until sales completely bottom out.

  8. Suzene says:

    @Col_Fury

    The 05 being copies doesn’t even bother me that much, tbh. It’s just that their story is such a treadmill! Their function should have been as a Ghosts of Christmas Past kick in the teeth to their older counterparts, with the emotional weight and soul-searching of that story resting with the originals, not the time-displaced kids.

    Instead, it went the opposite direction, and it’s been a meandering storyline that’s done nothing terribly fresh since it was introduced. The 05 have already either failed (Beast, Angel) or succeeded (Scott, Jean, Bobby) in not being their older selves. Mission accomplished. Time to take your life lessons and go home.

    It feels like Hope Summers all over again. It’s like no one in editorial realizes when a narrative has run its course and needs to either be definitively wrapped given a good shake-up instead of left to peter out. The 05 hanging around in the main timeline just ‘cuz just seems like a recipe for destroying what momentum that story might have left.

  9. Col_Fury says:

    Re: Suzene
    YES! Yes, that’s a good way to put it. They would have been better used as a plot device to move the story forward for the real characters, not necessarily be characters themselves (I mean, they are, but hopefully I’m making sense. Maybe I mean “recurring characters”).

    It’s like the setup for a joke, but the punchline’s been forgotten. So the gag just keeps going, goofing around in the meantime hoping to remember the point, but it never quite gets there. Kind of like Saturday Night Live in it’s down periods. The sketch just. Keeps. Going. It’s not efficient!

    Efficiency! That’s what we need! **shakes fist in the air**

    Eh, I don’t mean to harp on these poor kids so much. It’s not that they’re offensive to me or anything. I’m sure they’re someone’s favorites.

  10. Brendan says:

    I know the official conspiracy line is Marvel is sabotaging their Fox held IPs. But could the reason they are keeping the O5 around to keep the characters in line with the movies? Jean, Scott, Hank and Warren have been recast younger in the films. Perhaps they’re chasing that elusive movie/comic synergy money that never seems to materialise.

  11. Person of Con says:

    I don’t really have any investment in the original X-men to begin with–not when there are so many other X-characters left to fallow–but I don’t think anything could kill my interest in a series faster than adding yet another Wolverine-surrogate to the roster.

  12. Suzene says:

    @Brendan

    Maybe in part, but I tend to think it’s more of the X-Offices continuing the trend of doing what they can to deny Fox straight-forward story fodder. IMHO, there’s a reason why Morrison’s run was the last time the X-Franchise was remotely forward-looking instead of mired up to its neck in story retreads.

  13. Niall says:

    Well, in fairness Gillen took things forward but it wasn’t followed up on properly.

  14. Voord 99 says:

    I don’t want to think of the X-Men the way I do about the Fantastic Four* – a brilliant series, but one whose day may have passed.

    And I sort of feel that the basic issues for which the X-Men are traditionally used as a metaphor *should* offer possibilities that are as strong as ever, although those possibilities could probably use a fresh look at how to realize them today, much like Morrison had a fresh look at them 16 years ago.

    But there’s definitely something that feels a little lifeless and “here because it’s always been here” about the X-Men these days.

  15. Matt C. says:

    Looking at the comics sales numbers, X-Men is currently Marvel’s #3 IP behind Star Wars and Spider-Man (including Venom and such). They probably realized that Inhumans weren’t going to replace them, and like most comics the results have been hit-or-miss, leading to the eventual relaunch in 18 months.

    I like Bunn a lot as a writer, but I dislike the O5 and feel like he’s throwing a lot of random characters at the wall at this point, kinda wish he’d pick something and go with it. Gold is pretty boring and feels very much like stuff I’ve seen before. I wish Gillen had gotten a chance to really continue what he had started as I think that was the best ‘new take’ we’ve had since Morrison.

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