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May 19

X-Men: Blue #1-3

Posted on Friday, May 19, 2017 by Paul in x-axis

X-Men: Blue seems to be a bit less arc-bound than Gold, but this is where the artists hand over, so let’s run with it as a break point.

This is the successor title to All-New X-Men, focussed on the time-travelling original X-Men.  Or version thereof, at any rate.  And in keeping with the back to basics theme of this relaunch, we’re returning to the original five; Jean returns to the cast, and somebody else gets to pick up Idie and Evan.  But the hook is that this time Jean is in charge and she’s sold them on an alliance with Magneto.

Which means that Cullen Bunn is still writing Magneto, following directly on from his previous runs on the Magneto solo series and Uncanny X-Men.  That’s a nice thread to keep going, because even if Uncanny was a step down, Bunn’s take on the character has been one of the high points of the X-books over the last few years.  And this time we’ve got decent art, with Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni (or Ray-Anthony Height inking issue #3).  Characters with a bit of emotion and actual life to them!  It’s been so long.

Why are they allied with Magneto?  Well, that’s kind of left as a mystery.  Magneto gives a reason, of course – and allows Jean to verify it telepathically – but it’s pretty clear that alarm bells ought to be ringing.  According to Magneto, the latest resurgence of mutantkind has filled him with optimism and he now believes that humans and mutants need to work together after all.  He wants the young X-Men to tackle the baddies who stand in the way of that, and serve as public symbols for the dream.  Given his own dreadful reputation, he obviously can’t serve that role himself, but he can help from behind the scenes.

Plainly, we’re not supposed to take any of that at face value.  The rest of the team are openly sceptical and only playing along because Jean has sold them on the idea.  And even Jean stops short of giving a wholehearted endorsement; in a nice variation on the trope, she’ll only confirm that Magneto believes what he’s saying about his own motivations.  But how self-aware is he, really?  And alongside all this, Magneto is apparently working on some way to send the X-Men back home (which seems a bit odd, since Dennis Hopeless went out of his way to seal off that plot thread in his closing issues… but we’ll see where it goes).

Issue #1 is largely a showcase to reintroduce the team and the set-up, as they take down Black Tom Cassidy and wind up fighting the Juggernaut.  Juggernaut’s credibility has taken a battering over the decades, what with being the supposedly invincible guy who never wins, but he’s still a decent opponent for a group like this, even if Bunn does seem uncertain at times quite how experienced the characters are meant to be, or for that matter quite what time period they’re actually from.  (Scott talks as though they’re from a time where Brylcreem was in fashion.)  They can’t really beat Juggernaut; in the end, Hank just resorts to magicking him away.  That’s nicely done, since it picks up on an existing thread but it’s also held in reserve just long enough to feel like a surprise against the trad-X-Men background.

To be honest, some of this feels like it’s killing time so that the big Magneto reveal can take place at the end of issue #1 – a bit of a pointless exercise given that it was promoted in advance.  Issue #2 then fills in the back story, and issue #3 brings us, um, Bastion and some mutant Sentinels.  The basic angle here is that Bastion and his robots want to save mutants now – but only so that there still mutants around to destroy in future.

This is supposed to be an Artificial Intelligence poser.  The idea, as Hank describes it, is that a robot which exists to clean the house would make a new mess in order to have something to clean.  Framed as an artificial intelligence issue, this amounts to pointing out that computers do silly things if you program them badly, as (for example) by failing to add a line that says If No More Mutants Then Stop.  This is true, but it’s also banal.  (It’s also a storyline that would have worked rather better before Inhumans vs X-Men, when there was actually a crisis.)

But the literal angle isn’t the only point here.  What we’re supposed to be wondering, I guess, is whether Magneto is up to something similar: he does genuinely want to promote Xavier’s dream, but only because it needs to have some degree of success as a precondition for what he really wants to do.  And in Bunn’s take on the character, that ultimate motivation would probably be rather bleak and vengeful.  For Magneto, in this version, the battle has become an end in itself and actually resolving it would be unsatisfying.  So when an opportunity to help re-build the equilibrium of endless conflict presents itself, Magneto will tend to take it.

Perhaps.  There’s something in it as a take on Magneto; but it’s not hugely interesting as a take on Bastion, who becomes a guy stuck in a botched logic loop.  I suppose that’s a common trope with the Sentinels.  Back in the Silver Age, they were especially prone to getting confused by badly defined objectives.  You know the drill – they were programmed to protect humanity so they wanted to take over the world to do it properly; they were programmed to eradicate mutants, so they flew into space on a futile mission to try and cut off the source of mutating radiation by extinguishing the Sun.  This is sort of in that tradition: they were programmed to kill mutants, but since that was defined as an end rather than a means, they need to ensure a continuing supply of mutants.  But does that 1960s “Dumb AI” story really work in 2017?  I’m not so sure.

A bit scattergun, then, and a slightly mixed affair.  But it’s a marked step up from Uncanny and the art is great.  I’m cautiously optimistic about this one.

Bring on the comments

  1. Joseph says:

    I don’t mind the 60s jokes. They work on a meta level. The Marvel U has had a sliding scale that’s grown increasingly difficult to address directly, so why not wink at it every now again. The original 5 get more traction that way, it seems to me.

    I wasn’t excited to see Bastion reappear. But it fits with Bunn’s ’90s revival (Empath, the Dark Riders, etc) and makes a nice counterpoint to Magneto, and perhaps even a nice parallel to current events. As far as the latter goes, these kinds of stories work better than those that try to treat them head on (as in, for example, Sam Wilson, or perhaps even X-Men Gold, though that remains to be seen).

  2. Brendan says:

    In continuity, the logic behind the O5’s references to their ‘own time’ should be the 00’s. But I’m with Joseph, referencing the 60’s works on a meta-level and, I find, more enjoyable as a reader. We’re not all still pretending there are ‘new’ readers who wouldn’t know this is the 1960s version?

  3. Joseph says:

    And additionally, these meta-level commentary always seems to come from Cyclops, which is in keeping with his characterization as the uptight Boy Scout. And when the other characters tell him to shut up, it works on both levels.

  4. Kreniigh says:

    If the O5 aren’t actually from the same linear timeline (as Hopeless established), why can’t they be from the 60’s?

    Honestly I don’t understand why they passed on the opportunity to use Secret Wars as a way of fixing all this — just say Beast unintentionally pulled them not from the past but from Earth-1963 or whatever; it got blown up in SW; and Franklin & Reed’s new reality has the X-Men forming much later. Magneto can presumably be attempting to send them “back” to what is now an alternate timeline. You could even do a series where a group of current 3rd-tier X-Men get sent back in their place — imagine Martha, No-Girl, Anole, Glob Herman, and Rockslide substituting for the O5 in the original 1963 X-Men run. I AM THE HOUSE OF IDEAS!

  5. Paul says:

    “If the O5 aren’t actually from the same linear timeline (as Hopeless established), why can’t they be from the 60’s?”

    If the world they left behind was that far removed from the world that the present-day X-Men remember starting out in, nobody would have thought that they were the same characters in the first place.

  6. jpw says:

    I didn’t read these issues, so I have a question. Was Magneto involved in the Juggernaut fight? If so, would that make this the first time the two have met?

  7. Paul says:

    No, Magneto isn’t going on missions with them. He claims that being publicly associated with their missions would undermine their publicity value.

    I’d be surprised if they’d never met, but nowhere is springing to mind.

  8. jpw says:

    I’m not aware of any prior meeting between the two, but there’s a lot of obscure stuff from the 1970s I haven’t read and I’ve only been half-paying attention since around “Schism” or so.

  9. Zoomy says:

    Amazing Spider-Man #36, the 9/11 tribute, if that counts in continuity – Magneto, Juggernaut, Kingpin, Dr Doom and Dr Octopus all come along together to shed a tear.

    But it’s really quite awesome if they’ve never met in a real story. Is it plausible that Magneto’s never really heard of the Juggernaut? He might just be vaguely aware that Xavier’s got a stepbrother who’s some kind of supervillain, but he’s never really thought about it before… there’s definitely a storyline in that, somewhere! 🙂

  10. wwk5d says:

    “Amazing Spider-Man #36, the 9/11 tribute, if that counts in continuity – Magneto, Juggernaut, Kingpin, Dr Doom and Dr Octopus all come along together to shed a tear.”

    Its like Acts of Vengeance, only much, much shittier.

  11. ASV says:

    According to marvel.wikia, Magneto was with the X-Men when encountered the supercharged (or whatever, I can’t remember the story) Juggernaut during Fear Itself. Seems like that might be it.

  12. Zoomy says:

    Yep, that’s true, they interact in that one – Juggernaut throws his magic hammer, Magneto scoffs that it’s silly to throw a hammer at the master of magnetism, then realises that it’s a MAGIC hammer and he can’t stop it. Kitty saves him from getting flattened. Juggernaut 1, Magneto 0.

  13. jpw says:

    I’m pretty sure that Spidey 9/11 issue was out of continuity. I didn’t read Fear Itself (a good decision, based on what I’ve heard about it) but it sounds like we found a winner.

  14. I forget about long-term continuity in the Marvel comic book universe these days and just read each arc as a stand alone. It saves brain cells I need for other things.

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