Honestly, if it’s one thing I love that Cullen Bunn is doing with X-Men: Blue is that he is taking a non-traditional approach to the common separate storyline arcs that follow a single event or mystery or theme to tie up one single scheme of plot. In this series they’re taking careful and precise steps to give us a significant amount of world building to feel that every single thing that goes on in the Blue universe has its own overall effect on the future of the story. On the other side, they also place a great emphasis on character development. While avid readers of X-men in general will know these characters like old friends, what can be lost in translation is that these are not the same mutants from the gold and silver age of Marvel Comics. With their time displacement and knowledge of what they would become they experienced life differently and so became different people, deserving of entirely new forms of development. (Also I was so happy that this issue wasn’t the dreaded Secret Empire tie-in.)
The last time we saw the X-Men we followed up on an attack from brainwashed mutants from another universe. Apparently they were there for their former comrade, Jimmy Hudson. While things got violent due to Jimmy’s lack of memory and the Marauders more violent approach to thing, an exciting fight broke out. While the rest of the team were keeping them at bay, Jean was transported into one of their minds where we see who was truly behind the scenes of this event. Mrs. Sinister was in their minds, controlling them. Her endgame for now was to control as many powerful mutants as she could, especially those from universes that had ceased to exist. She lost control of Jimmy and wanted him back, yet decided to call a truce for the moment. By the end of the comic the team returns to Magneto for advice and to formally induct Jimmy into their ranks as their own version of Wolverine.
Party Hard, Fight Harder
The issue opens with the wondrously bored Jean Grey contemplating how to end this suffering with a night out in Madripoor, which apparently has the quite the nightlife. Yet for all her trying, Scott is far too busy trying to be a better fighter with Magneto and Bobby sulks alone. In the end she ends up with her night on the town being accompanied by Hank and Jimmy. Hank seems equally overcome by boredom but revels his own idea that maybe being around lots of happy and drunk people will somehow trigger some of Jimmy’s memories to return to him. I actually liked that Bunn decided to let Bobby and Scott hang in the sidelines this issue. They seem to always get more of the spotlight and with Hank, with his cryptic secret that he seems to be so elusive about, is constantly creeping around in the shadows. While he has cooled down on his mystic new powers, it still hangs over us as readers to know exactly how he got these powers and why Scott is so against them.
The night surprisingly almost goes pretty well for the first part. Even though Jimmy is pretty uptight and serious about the whole affair and their safety, Jean and Hank do their best to enjoy themselves and help Jimmy to do the same. After some dancing and hilarious karaoke on Hanks end the trio ends up outside and encounter a group of drug dealers peddling a chemical that acts as a mutant growth hormone. Apparently this was a problem even in Jimmy’s universe and before anyone knows it he springs to attack, but what ends up happening is something completely different.
Enemies First, Allies Later
Before even being able to get the jump on the dealers they are suddenly attacked by metallic scorpions. It is starting to become a trope that every times the X-Men try some normalcy they end up meeting with another group of mutants, usually not on the friendly end. Either way it certainly doesn’t begin that way as the X-Men are drawn into a fight with these mutants who have the taste of blood on them, especially considering these dealers got this hormone from doing harm to other mutants.
This new group has some very interesting powers. They all are clad in very ninja-like outfits but their leader, Norio, seems to be able to control a shadow-like substance that can take physical properties. The other two are a telepathically immune swordswoman and another being able to create creatures of his imagination out of pure metal (Whisper Doll and Hexadecimal). Yet most interesting was probably Gazing Nightshade whose power isn’t really completely explained, yet her own telepathic influence wreaks heavy guilt on her unsuspecting victims. This is where things get really interesting, as Hank becomes one of her targets. He begins to bleed from his eyes, which is pretty dark in itself, but suddenly he begins to mutter to himself about the price he paid to obtain his mystic powers. A terrible price? What price did he pay? To who or what did he pay it to? Why out of all the guilty things he could feel was this the prime? I need answers, damn it! On a side note, I think it is admirable that after being shown so many different powers over the years that the writers can still be so original.
After the fight seems to be a stalemate the two groups finally decided to stop butting heads and realize that they have similar goals. They identify themselves as a group named Rashka and it turns out they’re basically all one big Wolverine fan club, adopting his methods. Yet it’s is hard to say which Wolverine they are talking about. Neither old man Logan nor the distant main universe Logan really wore an eyepatch, so they may be from a different universe as well. Yet most significant is the fact that they do have some words of wisdom for our young X-Men about showing mercy to those who would work against them. As ruthless as they are, the X-men must be equal. For now the two teams decide to work together for the greater good. Let us see how long that lasts.
Ray Anthony-Height returns in this book with newcomers, Ramon Bachs, Marc Derring and Terry Pallot. This is one of the biggest art teams I’ve seen and it does show us that more is better. The work in this comic was great, with so many personalities and styles working together, we are treated to a wonderful use of thematic color, better emotional expression, and vividly colored landscapes that swirl to create a surreal and dark world. In just six issues the team on art has changed up quite a bit, which can be seen as a little disconcerting. Irma Kniivila seems to be the most constant on colors, which is for a good reason as she is quite talented.
This was a great entry to a very good comic run. The world building and characterization is really on point. I would like to finally see a more structured plot come together but for now I am pretty much okay with how things are being done. The highlight of this book was reveal into Hanks guilty conscience and the sheer creativity behind the writers making up these mutants with powers we’ve not seen while still managing to keep up with a very demanding use of imagination. Yet, please, in the next issue give us more Hank. This mystery is really eating at me.
Final Score: 8/10
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Ray-Anthony Height & Ramon Bachs
Inkers: Marc Deering & Terry Pallot
Colorist: Irma Kniivila
Letters: Joe Caramagna