“Secret Empire Cross-Over” or “What’s Old Is New Again” (X-Men Blue #7 Comic Review)

X-Men Blue #7

 

Writer: Cullen Bunn

Artist: Cory Smith

Colorist: Matt Milla

A SECRET EMPIRE CROSS-OVER! It’s Captain America’s United States of Hydra! Emma Frost and Xorn have negotiated for the State of California (now called New Tian) as a safe haven for mutants and humans alike.

What you need to know: A detainment center on Alcatraz is discovered holding innocent mutants and humans; anyone who speaks out against the new regime. The young original X-Men are directed by Magneto to liberate the prisoners. Upon returning from that mission to a hidden bunker in Redwood National Park (where Briar Raleigh and the recently joined Jimmy Hudson are waiting for them) they are attacked by some familiar faces.

What you’ll find out: Emma Frost (also referred to as the White Queen this issue) has had it. In Xorn’s “throne room” in Utopia, the island Capital of New Tian, we see Xorn, Sebastian Shaw, and Beast (“the older one”), watching the Ms. Frost rant about the young X-Men’s attack on Alcatraz. She wants them dealt with “ONCE AND FOR ALL”. It may appear to be a paranoid outburst as Beast passively remarks, after Emma claims to know that Magneto is behind the attack squad. They all think he is dead. But we the readers know she’s correct. It is also Beast’s dialogue with Xorn that reveals a lot more about how things are done on New Tian. Xorn infers subjugation as a tactic in dealing with insurgents, yet interestingly, Emma cautions it, echoing the teachings of Charles Xavier. After expressing full accordance to Xorn’s wishes, Emma assures Beast that the strike team she sends after the young original five “will go easy on them”.  This scene really makes one wonder: Who is REALLY in charge?

The strike force attacks the underground bunker, and the heroes are forced to the surface. Gathering themselves from the safety of Marvel Girl’s TK shield, they see standing before them: Firestar, Mondo, Marrow, Wolfsbane and Toad! All former friends or associates, dressed in dark variations of their looks, and some exhibiting new abilities! Toad and Wolfsbane display what Toad call’s “secondary mutations”, with Rahne telling young Beast “you don’t know the half of it”. Firestar and Wolfsbane seem in character yet are clearly under some kind of mental control. The battle is intense, with no clear upper hand until it is joined by other members of the strike force: Archangel and Havok. The young heroes are defeated and taken back to New Tian. We then see young Cyclops awakened to find Emma Frost announcing plans for the two.

What worked for me and what didn’t: I have to commend Cullen Bunn for this issue. He does an incredible job of writing a story that A) must tie-in to a larger, company wide story, and B) remain entertaining and surprising, which he does in spades. Besides the return of some fan favorites, we also see cameos by Random and Skids(?) who were being held at the detainment center. Older Beast does nothing to help his own identity crisis this issue. He continues to appear to me as a sad shadow of his former self. Xorn is ever the enigma. Emma is scripted accordingly, I suppose, since I’m not sure about the direction of the character. From what I can see so far, her motivations interest me. The new powers displayed by Wolfsbane are intriguing, and seem somewhat magical in nature. I’m sure fans of Rahne will be split on this. I thought Toad’s new power set seemed strange and unnecessary. With this many character in a book, it can be difficult getting screen time much less script time, however, we’ve hardly gotten a peep out of young Warren. I don’t mind if Bobby has little to no lines in each issue, since he has his very own title, and I understand that Jean is the field leader and will have more dialogue, but the other stars of the book are getting pushed aside for new characters. I’d like to see a bit more balance with the original five and their new ally and benefactor Jimmy and Briar. Another problem I had with this issue is that there is no reference to last issue or to the Raksha. A smoother transition for regular readers would only help to incite continuing interest in new characters.

The art by Cory Smith this issue is a big step up from last issues’ team. From Emma’s delicious smirk to the beautiful double page spread, showing Jimmy Hudson in his new team uniform, as the battle between friends new and old rages on. The art is consistent and flows quite well from page to page. The new designs on the returning characters are interesting to look at. Firestar looks quite good in the darker, monochromatic scheme, with her red hair really standing out like flame. Arthur Adams continues to “hit them out of the park” on covers!

Rating 9/10

Final thought: The engine is finally running! This is the kind of issue first-time readers will one day look back fondly on. This is the kind of issue long-time readers will rejoice with. The strongest issue of X-Men Blue to date.

 

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James Cesena
Some of my earliest comic book memories are at age 4, when I was allowed to read comics left behind by my uncle, who passed away a few years before I was born. He had amazing Silver Age gems in his collection, ranging from DC's Jimmy Olsen, Superman, Batman, and The Legion of Superheroes to Marvel's Fantastic Four, Thor, Strange Tales and The Avengers. I was fortunate to have inherited not only his comics, but his passion for the genre. Some of the titles I started collecting on my own were Marvel's The Amazing Spider-Man, The Uncanny X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and The Mighty Avengers, during the late 1970's. I witnessed the dawn of the Bronze Age of comics, and I've been collecting ever since. Most of my attention has been given to the X-Men universe of books, which have always been my favorite. I welcome all feedback and I look forward to discussing my reviews. You can find me regularly on Facebook as a Moderator for a fantastic X-Men page called Age of X-Men, where we welcome discussion, art, and just about anything within the X-Men universe.
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