X-MEN BLUE #10
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Giovanni Valletta
Inker: Scott Hanna
Color Artist: GURU eFX
Cover Artists: Arthur Adams & Jason Keith
Henry McCoy, the young, time-displaced Beast, conjures up more than he bargained for with the return of the Goblin Queen!
What you need to know: The young X-Men have been through a lot lately and they have quite a few changes to deal with; Team leader, Marvel Girl and former steady Cyclops are now permanently bonded through a psychic rapport, after she saved him from the mental enslavement of the White Queen, The team has discovered that they have new teachers in Polaris, Danger, and Briar Raleigh, Jimmy Hudson is still trying to figure out his past and how he got here, Frustrated with his scientific abilities in a timeline more advanced than his, Beast has turned to magic for an upgrade.
What you’ll find out: In Lowtown, Madripoor, Hank meets with Gazing Nightshade, one of the Madripoor mutants introduced in Issue #6. Hank feels she made him doubt himself with her as-yet-undefined mental powers, but Gazing Nightshade (who’s eyes are covered in gauze tape) corrects him, saying she saw “guilt”. She knows that he is keeping the secret of his exploration of the dark arts and magic from his friends and calls him out on it. Hank does not regret his decisions. With the sudden burst of self-importance, the insecure young hero walks back to the mansion he now calls home. Maybe his mood inadvertently “conjured” her back to him, but he sees that he is being followed by the Goblin Queen (from Earth 91240, first appearance, Secret Wars # 2, 2015). Feeling desperate he accepts an offer of assistance from her. Danger is training with the characteristically insolent Bobby Drake. If anyone can help young Iceman achieve his potential , it’s the sentient manifestation of the X-Men’s Danger Room. New teacher Polaris is meeting with her father, Magneto, in another part of the mansion. Being honest with her dad, she informs him that she hasn’t decided if she is staying. She’s not sure she trust’s him, and can’t figure out why the young X-Men do. He lets his daughter know that he wants her there to keep him in check. And with that, she agrees to stay. Jean and Scott are out walking the evening in the mansion gardens. They are trying to figure out what their newfound rapport means and how it will affect their relationship. Jean reminds Scott that the rapport works both ways, and he can now see in her mind as well. Cyclops is now aware that Jimmy Hudson has caught Jean’s eye. Flying over Arrow Ridge, Colorado, Angel is carrying Jimmy Hudson to meet with Kira Lee, the sheriff of the aforementioned small town introduced in issue #1. She has offered to help him find out about his past.
Meanwhile, the Goblin Queen has managed to get Hank to open portals to other dimensions. Startled by this, the young Beast begins to utter his famous tag line “Oh my…” but the “Stars and garters” ending is completed by something quite different, a yellow glowing eyed, Beast with white fur. Magical forces begin crackling throughout the entire mansion, leading magneto to half-jokingly exclaim, “We’re X-Men Lorna. Of COURSE, we’re under attack.” Iceman and Danger race to in to help. Suddenly, four figures begin walking through the swirling mystic light, towards the Goblin Queen. Outside in the garden, just as Jean and Scott appear to almost kiss, the mansion explodes. Reaching the mansion, they’re attacked by demons. The Goblin Queen announces that “the gang’s all here”. Beside her are the transformed Beast, complete with horns and hooves, demonic versions of Pixie, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and the vampiric Bloodstorm. “I call them the HEX-MEN. Get it?” , the Goblin Queen taunts young Jean and Scott as a demonic Beast charges towards them.
What worked for me and what didn’t: The problem that has plagued this book for me is the inconsistent art. Giovanni Valletta is to be commended as one of the first artists to keep me “in the story” since Issue #1. That is to say, when the art is rushed, it’s very noticeable and takes my attention away from reading. But there has been a steady climb up in the quality of the art and especially, the writing, for which I will usually stick around for if it’s great.
Cullen Bunn is making me do just that, with X-Men Blue, which in my opinion is outpacing X-Men Gold. Some characters get more spotlight than others and writing an ensemble book is never easy. I feel he is finding a balance here, or a groove, that is really nice to read. We know Jean is going to get more attention as the leader, and rightfully so. Although in her own title, she’s on a quest to defeat the Phoenix, we don’t have to know about that part of her story to enjoy her in X-Men Blue. Perhaps we are seeing the Jean we should have always seen, if not for the way women were written back in the 1960’s. We also see a very strong and confident Lona Dane, Polaris, go head to head with her father, Magneto, not in battle, but with mutual respect through conversation. These are the moment’s readers have been clamoring for! I don’t mind that Jimmy and Angel off on a sub-plot because we have the new teachers around to lend a hand. The additions of Polaris and Danger to the cast was a brilliant move. I’ve always enjoyed any demonic stories in the X-Men universe. There is sure to be a dose of high melodrama anytime the dark arts are in play. No shortage of that when we see what Beast has brought through the portals, and what he’s become. These twisted, alternate timeline versions of X-Men look pretty imposing and interesting. I really enjoy the direction Bunn is going with Beast. I’ve come to loathe what has become of Beast Prime (616), but young Hang has my attention. Wracked with anguish over not being able to find his teammates and himself a way home, he chose a route that is also quite scientific in its own unique way. In that, it is somewhat as misguided as Beast prime, but only time will truly tell.
So we got a few pages with Gazing Nightshade, one of the Madripoor mutants the team met 4 issues ago, and are supposed to be training them to be ninjas, (darn it Secret Empire tie-ins!). Hopefully, we get to see the others soon, as well as the other mutants we saw in the last few issues, like Firestar and Wolfsbane with those funky new powers.
A really strong start with a new arc and new cast members, X-Men Blue is hitting an impressive stride I hope continues. But please! Keep a steady art team and consider going to once a month! I’d hate to see such a well written comic decline due to rushed art.
Final thought: A great jumping on point and an even better treat for readers who have been around since the beginning, X-Men Blue is really an interesting and satisfying read that is growing to be a leading X-Men team book.