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Jan 25

X-Men: Blue #16-20 – “Cross Time Capers”

Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Dennis Hopeless seemed to wrap up his run on All-New X-Men by drawing a line under the vexed question of how the time-travelling teenage X-Men fit into continuity.  After all, by that point – by the end of Brian Bendis’ run, in fact – they’d changed drastically enough that it was unclear how they could ever simply be returned to the Silver Age in the place where they’d left.  Hopeless’s solution was that the kids travel back to their own time, and see another set of X-Men running around the same as ever.  The timeline healed by simply relegating them to the status of divergent X-Men and having the real X-Men carry on as normal.

There are obvious advantages to this solution.  It’s simple.  It clears away a horrible quagmire, and it lets the team move forward based on a “can’t go home, second chance” theme.  But it also has one major downside: it’s a cop out.  It’s not a resolution to the story of how they get home, it’s just defining the problem out of existence.  It’s the sort of thing you do if you don’t have a proper resolution to the story, but you figure that you can’t string it out indefinitely, so best bite the bullet and get rid of it.

On X-Men: Blue, Cullen Bunn sees things differently.  “Cross Time Capers” is a five part story which largely exists to cancel out Hopeless’s explanation and restore the status quo ante of “how are we going to get out of that?”  It’s always possible that Hopeless’s story was done to set up this arc, I guess, but it seems unlikely, since it just takes us back to the status quo.

Part 1 sees time start to unwind as Magneto and other characters begin disappearing.  Before he vanishes, Magneto reveals that he’s been in touch with Professor X (the Silver Age one) all along and that’s why there’s a time machine in the basement, the one we’ve seen in previous subplots.  The X-Men dutifully try to use the time machine to go home but instead wind up going on a detour to visit the X-Men 2099 and Generation X – each in altered versions where the original X-Men became huge baddies.

Finally, the X-Men make it back to the Silver Age, where their replacements are cheerfully murdering the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  They rescue Magneto, who duly joins up with them.  (In a nice touch, the Silver Age Magneto picks up on the fact that he’s working with the X-Men in the future, but concludes that this must naturally be because the X-Men came round to doing things his way.)  And then we get the big showdown with the impostors, who turn out to be the future X-Men from the 2013 “Battle of the Atom” crossover.

As a way of re-opening the All-New X-Men explanation, this is quite elegant.  The X-Men did go back, they did see another bunch of X-Men running around, but they forgot to allow for the possibility that a bunch of impostors had shown up to exploit the gap.  The future X-Men being a bunch of paradoxical meddlers to start with, this also makes reasonable sense from their point of view.  And they’re even a fairly good fit for the original team, since they’ve got a Xavier, a Beast, an Iceman and even a Jean (though it might have been an idea to remind readers that that’s Jean under the Xorn helmet, because it’s not exactly fresh in most people’s minds).  Raze is a shapechanger so he can be Angel… and… uh… Deadpool and Bruiser can both be Cyclops…

Look, I said it was a “fairly” good fit.

So I like that.  And I’m happy enough about re-opening the story to give it a proper resolution, as long as they’ve actually got one in mind.  That’s where we wind up, by the way – with Silver Age Xavier telling the kids that they can’t come home just yet because obviously something has to happen first to get them back to normal.  Since everything is indeed back to normal when they get home (even though they never did anything to reverse the Brotherhood’s death), the implication is that somehow or other it must all work out.  And, I guess, you can do something with that – the dawning realisation that all their development in this time is going to be cancelled out because destiny is on rails.  That’s kind of depressing but you could get some kind of tragic ending out of it.

There’s a pleasant enough subplot with Scott developing a crush on Bloodstorm, despite having a permanent psychic link to Jean.  I can see that going somewhere.  And RB Silva’s art does a pleasingly solid job on a large cast, handling a lot of cameos well and making the time travel guests feel familiar.  (Thony Silas, on part one, is not so great; I’ve seen worse, but his characters are decidedly stilted.)

On the other hand, this really is just five issues of runabout to get back to the previous status quo.  It’s not about anything in particular, beyond unscrambling the continuity knot – or perhaps re-scrambling it.  You can see how it sets up stories that could be about something, but in itself it’s mainly a retcon explanation and a two issue detour to visit Generation X and the cast of X-Men 2099.  Those guest star issues ostensibly serve the plot purpose of raising the stakes by showing how badly things turn out, but they’re really just clutter unless you think the nostalgia factor justifies the exercise.  But the cast of Generation X are showing up in, well, Generation X.  And X-Men 2099 is a book that ran for 35 issues a quarter century ago; does the 2018 audience really care?

This storyline has a lot of empty calories, and it would have been better just going straight back to the Silver Age and getting to the point.  It needs pared down badly, but there are some good ideas in here as well.


Bring on the comments

  1. Mikey says:

    I’m just so done with the Original Five. It’s been *years* already. Even the Phoenix book doesn’t have much of an impact with Teen Jean already a regular fixture.

    Does anyone else have a hard time differentiating which Iceman is which in the Phoenix book? I know they have different costumes, but I can never tell which is which.

  2. Joseph says:

    I enjoyed the nostalgia detours perhaps more than Paul did, even though as a rule I am skeptical of nostalgi. I am also in my 30s and read both books when they came out (at least the first little bit of 2099). With Gen X at least it was nice to see deceased characters like Synch and Skin, both of whom have at least as much potential as any of the “young x-men” characters created since. Also nice to see Sean and Emma together again. These detours also add some weight to re-introducing the future Brotherhood, as they too are something of a nostalgia trip. The Battle of the Atom was 5 years ago at this point. And while it makes perfect sense, Bunmn nailed the reveal very well.

  3. Jason Rubinstein says:

    “The Battle of the Atom was 5 years ago at this point.”

    Jesus. H. Christ.

  4. Voord 99 says:

    I suppose there has to be someone who’s nostalgic for it. 🙂

    Not me, though. Especially as far as the O5 went. The whole point of the O5 is that they’re in their future already.

    I’m not really tired of the basic concept of the O5, and I’d much have preferred that adult Jean never came back. (As I’ve said here before, though, I don’t think you need all five of the originals to do the stories that they’re good for.)

    However, I don’t think what’s interesting about them is the whole “Will they or won’t they go back in time to preserve the timeline?” thing. Bendis himself ended up never doing anything meaningful with that, and I suspect that part of it is because it’s just not all that interesting as a problem.

    For me, what’s interesting about the O5 is the whole “How do I react to my future self and the world that s/he built for himself/herself?” thing. It’s about midlife crisis, basically, run through a nice twist on the X-Men’s standard dystopian future. Which is why I think the O5 worked best when they were hanging around with an adult Cyclops.

  5. Thomas says:

    So the work Bunn was doing on this book of adding alternate X-men to the team, I was expecting this book to be a soft reboot of the Exiles concept. Now that a relaunch of that has been announced and the solicits for an “all-new, all different” blue team has me curious where this is going. It’s not incredible but it’s new and I’m liking that.

  6. Moo says:

    I really don’t understand this O5 business. What’s the endgame here? They either go back the way they’re meant to with all of that development wiped away, in which case it doesn’t matter how they react to their future selves because they won’t remember any of it anyway. Or they remain in the present, grow, and make completely different mistakes for their past selves to be upset about. What else is there? They somehow become infallible?

  7. Voord 99 says:

    It’s superhero comics. I’m not sure that there has to be an endgame. I mean, Batman’s been dealing with his trauma over the death of his parents since 1939.

  8. Joseph says:

    I think that’s right that the 05 (and the Days of Future Past film, and any other number of recent time travel films with dystopian themes) is meant to point out how much we have failed to live up to our own expectations, how much we’ve abandoned even dreaming even a utopian future and thus careen like a driverless train towards a cliff. So yes the concept worked well with Cyclops the revolutionary (though Bendis screwed up the landing big time) but I think it still works simply for its juxtaposition. The scenes with Magneto here fir instance. But still that aspect fades once Angel gets firewings and Beast does magic and Jean becomes the Phoenix etc. I suppose there’s a story in there, despite the differences they can’t quite outrun themselves.

  9. Moo says:

    Thanks, Joseph.

  10. mrjl says:

    Frankly I think this sounds pretty dumb. They blew up the entire multiverse and rebuilt it. Problems like the O5 could easily be handwaved away

  11. Dazzler says:

    There’s a story somewhere in there, yes. But this isn’t really a story so much as a premise. A story has a beginning, a middle and an ending. This O5 stuff is all middle. If they’d simply stuck to telling a story it could have been awesome.

  12. joshua says:

    Was there ever an end game in place for Rachel Summers? Or Bishop? Have any of the various time and dimension-hopping characters ever had a reasonable wrap-up of their convoluted origins?

  13. Mo Walker says:

    I enjoyed seeing variations on the 1990s Generation X and X-Men 2099 teams. However, I really need some movement on this plot. I do not require a detour that leads back to the original highway. I will give the creative team credit for utilizing the Brotherhood, it makes sense.

    I feel like so much of the Bendis era was about spinning plates. Post-Bendis I believe creators were keeping Bendis’ plates spinning because of status at Marvel. Once Bendis’ final Marvel issues are released I hope the X-line exorcises the O5.

  14. mrjl says:

    @Joshua- as people from the future they were not neccessary for the timeline to maintain coherence

  15. Dazzler says:

    Exactly. And not only that, Bishop may be redundant to Cable and Rachel may be redundant to Jean in certain ways, but they’re not literally those characters. Having all these duplicate characters running around is problematic for a number of reasons.

  16. wwk5d says:

    “Was there ever an end game in place for Rachel Summers? Or Bishop?”

    No, but at least their storylines were resolved, somewhat. Excaliber went with Rachel to her future timeline and defeated the Sentinels. And the Traitor Mystery that Bishop knew about was resolved during Onslaught.

    But, as mrjl pointed out, they were from the future, not the past.

  17. Voord 99 says:

    I don’t know that being from the future or the past is really relevant to the question of whether or not a story is resolved. At least, I’d need the relevance explained to me.

    As for the question of stories having beginnings, middles, and ends, it’s true that there’s a problem there, but it’s a much bigger problem than just the O5. It’s the whole “illusion of change” thing: superhero comics are, for better or for worse, built around giving the reader an illusion of resolution, but not actual resolution.

    Or, more exactly, you can resolve a plot on a surface level in the short term, but you can’t resolve anything too fundamental in the long term. Batman can foil this particular scheme of the Joker’s, but he can’t ever actually defeat the Joker for good.

  18. Moo says:

    Yeah, I think we all know how ongoing characters work. This isn’t the same thing. These are photocopies of existing ongoing characters. If you’re going to wheel in duplicates, then there ought to be a point. The point in their case (that they didn’t like how their lives unfolded) has already been made. It warranted a (singular) storyline at the most.

  19. FUBAR007 says:

    Paul: Since everything is indeed back to normal when they get home (even though they never did anything to reverse the Brotherhood’s death), the implication is that somehow or other it must all work out.

    Moo: What’s the endgame here?

    Isn’t the endgame obvious? It’s going to be a soft reboot of the franchise’s continuity a la “One More Day” and Spider-Man.

    The O5 will eventually go back to the point when they left, but with their memories intact (covertly or overtly). Marvel will then use this as an excuse to edit the timeline. They’ll remove stories they don’t like from continuity, retroactively kill off some characters, resurrect others, introduce new ones, and reshuffle some of the relationships.

    For example, I expect they’ll erase Scott and Jean’s marriage to 1) de-age the characters and 2) reset them to either will-they-or-won’t-they or perpetual off-and-on relationship status.

    Voord 99: It’s the whole “illusion of change” thing: superhero comics are, for better or for worse, built around giving the reader an illusion of resolution, but not actual resolution.

    It’s a genre convention, not a law of physics.

    The irony is that, for a long time, much of Marvel’s appeal over, say, DC was that Marvel’s characters did sometimes experience permanent change i.e. the death of Gwen Stacy, Reed and Sue having Franklin, the death of Phoenix (before the retcons), etc.

  20. Moo says:

    I don’t see a “Brand New X” coming from this. For example, as much as I’d love for him to be entirely removed from continuity and never referred to again, I just can’t see Marvel tossing Cable into the trash. And if Cable isn’t going anywhere, then young Scott and young Jean can’t change the timeline all that much or all that meaningfully. Unless there’s a plan in mind to give Cable a different origin entirely.

  21. Thom H. says:

    I’m a lot more interested in how the adult O5 react to their younger counterparts than the other way around. Especially if this isn’t a reboot and the young O5 have to go back at some point.

    The only major arcs for the older characters have been with Cyclops and Iceman. And those have been interesting, but that’s only 2/5 of the team.

    If the older characters are going to stick around, and the younger ones go back to their original timeline, then shouldn’t we be focused on the character growth of the older set?

    But Jean and Scott are both dead (for the moment), and Hank and Warren don’t seem to really care. I think there’s a real missed opportunity here to rehabilitate and revitalize the older characters by reminding them of their original idealism.

  22. Niall says:

    “The only major arcs for the older characters have been with Cyclops and Iceman. And those have been interesting, but that’s only 2/5 of the team.”

    This was a missed opportunity IMO. Beast, for example, really should have had a bit more conflict with his younger self. His actions with regard to the Illuminati, playing with the time stream because of a personal grudge etc. should have meant were as bad as those of Cyclops, if not worse.

    I think Jean was given – at least lately – a little more interaction and conflict with her older self.

    But yeah. As is too often with the X-books, an interesting idea that has some potential is introduced but is then ignored by most of the other writers because it’s not the story they want to tell.

  23. Moo says:

    “As is too often with the X-books, an interesting idea that has some potential is introduced but is then ignored by most of the other writers because it’s not the story they want to tell.”

    Another thing that made Claremont great. Today, Marvel has to hire multiple writers in order for ideas to be introduced and subsequently ignored. Claremont was able to do this entirely on his own (e.g. the hunt for Destiny’s diaries, the XSE setup, etc).

  24. Flinkman says:

    I think you’ve missed a quite major plot point in all of this…and that’s Magneto going back in time and murdering the future X-Men before they ever went back in time to impersonate the O5.

    That’s why the Brotherhood is still alive in the present, and that’s why the O5 THINK they’ll eventually have to go back since everything is back to normal…only we, the readers, and Magneto know there isn’t a countdown clock on their time in the present anymore.

  25. Flinkman says:

    aw, hell…I suppose that should be Magneto going FORWARD in time and murdering the future X-Men.

    bloody time travel shenanigans!

  26. Person of Con says:

    Oh, you’re saying that Magneto knows he is going to will have already done that. *nods knowingly, with supreme confidence in time travel verb tenses.*

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