Comic Picks By The Glick

X-Men: Blue vol. 5 — Surviving the Experience

December 21, 2018

There’s still one more volume of “X-Men:  Gold” to go, but I feel confident in calling “X-Men:  Blue” the more successful of the two flagship X-titles.  Yes, “Poison-X” was utterly dire and derailed this title’s momentum, but “Blue” was still the more forward-facing of the flagship titles and it even managed to turn out a decent story with vol. 4 after said derailment.  Now “Blue” faces a new challenge with its final volume:  trying to find a way to give some closure to the story of the time-stranded original X-Men while the actual end of their story is being handled over in the “Exterminated” miniseries.  Before that can be done, there’s the matter of whatever happened to Jimmy Hudson which has to be dealt with.

What’s that you say?  Jimmy looked fine when we saw him in the last issue of the previous volume?  If only that were true. You see, the events of “Poison-X” were followed up in the subsequent “Venomized” miniseries.  I didn’t read it. I had no interest in reading it. I still have no interest in reading it after learning that it apparently took place between this and and the previous volume of “Blue” and left Jimmy bonded with one of the Poison aliens that feeds on symbiotes like Venom.


“Blue” writer Cullen Bunn also wrote “Venomized,” the “Ultimate Wolverine” miniserieswhich featured Jimmy, and created the Poisons as well.  So it would appear that Jimmy’s current status represents a vortex of his pet interests. I’d be more impressed if they all combined into something interesting.  What we get is a bog-standard tale of Jimmy trying to hold onto his identity as the Poison tries to assert its with the Blue team showing up for some friendly assistance/intervention.  That falls by the wayside once Daken shows up, claiming that he’s been sent on Magneto’s orders to take Jimmy out.


That’s the most interesting thing about this two-parter, and I honestly wish Daken had succeeded.  It would’ve been more interesting to see how the team would respond to his ruthlessness in arguably justifiable circumstances.  It also would’ve spared us the rotely sentimental ending which sees the X-Men letting Jimmy go because they trust him. At least we get some decent fight scenes out of this two-parter, courtesy of Nathan Stockman’s loosely energetic art.


The other good thing about these issues is that they set up the team’s reckoning with Magneto.  After the events of vol. 5 saw him having to kill mutants in self-defense, the Master of Magnetism is on the warpath and looking to take out the individuals whose actions created the circumstances which led him to do that.  Top of his list is Emma Frost. She’d be easy to take out by herself, but the Blue team has managed to get to her first in Paris and now the stage is set for a massive mutant brawl in the City of Lights.


Bunn wrote a “Magneto” solo series for a while that saw him get some really good stories out of the character’s moral relativism.  Here, there’s a feeling that he’s been given a directive to get Magneto back into villain mode and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t manage to pull it off.  The first issue is ripe with lots of foreshadowing which doubles as reminders that the character’s ruthless nature will always reassert itself. We see this most strikingly in a scene that finally shows us what Jean saw when Magneto let her look around in his mind way back at the start of this series.  Still, for all of his reversion to type there are still lines that he’s not willing to cross. Believable, credible lines that make a lot of sense when the fight comes down to a stalemate between him and Jean Grey.


That leads us into the second half of the story, which is actually a flashback to show us what Magneto saw when he used the time machine to escape back in vol. 4.  He wound up going to the future, only to see that it’s become yet another dystopian hellscape so familiar to the X-Men. The catch here is that the only reason mutants are alive appears to have been down to him according to the locals because he was willing to do what had to be done.  That’s not a sentiment shared by the surviving X-Men who are looking to put Magneto in the ground to save this future.


It might seem confusing for the story to change settings so abruptly, but it works since the payoff is pretty satisfying.  Without giving too much away, Magneto sees things in the future which -- to him, at least -- serve as a justification for his “means justify the ends” line of thinking.  It’s also interesting to see how his dialogue with the X-Men winds up reinforcing his mindset even though everything they say is clearly intended to call him out for his actions.  This all has the effect of sending him back to the present day with the conviction that mutants need his ruthlessness more than ever if they’re going to stave off the dark future ahead of them.  It also leads to some explicit visual cues that he’s back to supervillainy now, but it’s a shift that actually feels right for the character after everything we see here.


Art for these issues is mostly successful combination of efforts from three different artists.  Original “Blue” artist Jorge Molina does some nice character-driven work for the first issue even though the way-too-dark coloring does his art no favors.  Andres Genolet takes over for the next one and gives us some high-energy scenes of destruction and some wide-open cartoonish-looking mouths that actively distract from the drama of the story.  Then there’s Marcus To, working in a familiar but appreciable superhero style as to depict this awful future and all of the fighting that goes on within it.


To does get to show more range in the final two issues, which are mostly made up of the time-stranded members of the Blue team talking to their present-day counterparts and taking care of loose ends before they return to their time.  This results in some pretty fun moments, like the two Jeans trying to figure out how they know the same stuff or the two Icemen being goofballs to each other. It doesn’t shy away from some of the darker stuff, such as Cyclops acknowledging that he’s going back only to die, while there’s also a general acknowledgement that all the characters are essentially giving up who they are now for the benefit of everyone around them.


Bunn and To do a good job of selling the emotional content of these final issue while also doubling back to wrap up any last lingering plot threads.  It’s all good finale stuff, especially considering that they’re essentially forbidden from wrapping up these characters’ story the way it should be done.  You’ll have to go read “Extermination” for that. These issues do make me a little apprehensive about reading that event series. After all, if that’s the storyline which finally sends them back to their time shouldn’t it address the mental and emotional cost of doing so?  It might still do that, only in a very loud and bombastic way and with little of the nuance that’s shown here. I wouldn’t mind being wrong about this, though.


That’s ultimately a wrap for “X-Men:  Blue,” a series that for half of its run was good continuation of the story of the time-stranded X-Men from “All-New X-Men.”  It had a second half that was a lot rougher, but still managed to be a surprisingly decent read in spite of that needless “Venom” crossover and wound up sticking the landing in the end.  Will it be remembered for being a significant part of the X-Men canon? That’s highly unlikely. Still, it does make the case for the story of the time-stranded X-Men to be a worthwhile read overall.

Play this podcast on Podbean App