I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I was incredibly relieved when X-Men: Blue’s, Secret Empire tie was so far removed from the crossover series that it barely got even a mention other than that it was, in fact, a tie in. While in and of itself the issue wasn’t terrible, a lot of the story was very out of context and seemed to come out of nowhere. Unless, of course, you read Secret Empire. While the comic throws you into a United States that is controlled now by a Captain America helmed Hydra, X-Men Blue #7 takes place in a Mutant controlled California that has a sort of peace with Hydra. Like I said, it’s so far removed from the crossover that this is all we ever hear about it, and that’s fine with me.
The last time we saw the X-Men, Jean, Hank, and Jimmy went out on their won for a night on the town which started off as fun and well-needed, but quickly became a night of work as they discovered some idiots trying to sell off replicated mutant genes as a drug. As they move to stop them they are attacked by another group of mutants who take a more violent means of gaining retribution for their fallen friends. The fight quickly becomes centered between the two groups of mutants, and some really inventive new mutations are shown keep things interesting. On the mysterious side, we get another reminder that something dark is going on in Hank’s mind—something having to do with his new mystic powers. By the end of the book, the X-men convince these new mutants to form an alliance for now, working on what mercy these angry mutants still have left.
Brave New World
This comic does assume that you have read the Secret Empire crossover up to this point, and doesn’t really bother explaining why this story jumps from literally nowhere. However, if you have some common sense, it is really easy to put two and two together, especially since Emma Frost and Jean Grey kind of just spell out the basics. The book takes place in California, now dubbed the nation of New Tian. Its political leaders who include the illusive de facto leader Xorn and, counselled by Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw and the older Beast; in the opening of the comic they are discussing a recent attack on their detention/mental reconditioning center on Alcatraz island.
The purpose of the reconditioning of course is to make mutants and humans much more docile both to keep control of their citizens and to keep extremists on both ends in check. Amongst the chaos of Jean Greys teams constant attacks on all detention centers, the powers that rule are getting frustrated. While Emma Frost is alone in thinking that Magneto, now thought dead, is behind the organization. Her three colleagues are less convinced as they try elaborate on how their new world is keeping everyone safe from what Hydra’s United States has become.
One thing that had me confused, though not for long as it was also elaborated on, was elder Hanks involvement in this nation whose sole weapon was brainwashing. Seems that in his old age not only has he become less idealistic as he once was, but he also sees things in context to a whole. While I can’t condone the means to his end, his heart is in the right place. With what is going on with Hydra, New Tian, even though it is nowhere near perfect or moral for that matter, he at least has some measure of control and defense. If this story continues in this comic, he may have a larger part to play in the end.
Yeah I know that sub header is a spoiler, but if you’re reading this review I’m pretty much assuming you’ve already read the comic. Anyway, since their last encounter with Bastion and his sentinels, Jean Grey and her team have enjoyed a bit of a winning streak in terms of battle and gaining more allies to their side. It was bound to end, and yet it breaking at a pivotal moment such as this makes the fall feel even harder. At the present, the X-Men are part of a resistance group trying to keep mutants out of these detention facilities, yet the more they liberate the more end up back in them not long after.
Along with the help of some old allies like Briar Raleigh, the team is doing what they can to keep up the good fight and stay hidden at the same time. Until of course they are finally discovered, shows you can’t expect a good thing to last forever. Deep in a hidden forest, the base is destroyed by five mutants who have had some impressive upgrade. These upgrades come in the form of secondary mutations, for example, Toad, who is a classic mutant now has his tongue covered in flames. Not incredibly creative but still pretty cool nonetheless.
The fight is sadly pretty one sided as the X-Men take a really bad beating from these five alone. They aren’t prepared for a new and overpowered Havok and his devastating attacks or for the mental demoralization at the appearance of the elder Archangel who of course is still under the influence of his time as the Angel of Death under Apocalypse. By the end of the comic, they are spectacularly defeated, in scenes reminiscent to the Dark Phoenix Saga and the close features Scott in a similar mental connection with Emma Frost that Jean had previously shared with Ms. Sinister.
While I understand that yet another change in artist was probably necessary due to the fact that this issue was probably commissioned solely for the part that this was tie in, it would be nice to have some consistency. Not that any of the artists have been bad in the seven issues of this run; it’s just that I’d personally like to see someone root themselves into it and put a signature on it.
For the most part the art in this was great; the fight scenes in particular were nice even though Archangel still comes off as kind of cartoonish for a darkness that he really is supposed to portray. A lot of panels had the money shots with so much happening it was hard to keep track of the whole fight, but in a really good way.
While I’ve made my opinion on the Secret Empire pretty clear, this issue could have used a lot of work, even if it was still pretty decent in any case. As long as the crossover is around, I feel that all comics will follow suit. Still, the fact that X-Men have made their own sort of separate universe to it is not only a shot at the crossover itself, but that they can still make a quality story. A little more context would have been nice for clarity’s sake, but we were given enough to be satisfied that it both is a tie in but stands firmly on its own.
Final Score: 7/10
X-Men: Blue # 7 Credits
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Cory Smith
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letters: Joe Caramanga
Images Courtesy of Marvel Comics