X-MEN BLUE #12
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Douglas Franchin
Inker: Scott Hanna
Color Artist: GURU eFX & Matt Yacky
Cover Artists: Arthur Adams & Peter Steigerwald
TOIL AND TROUBLE Part 3: the conclusion! Will the Goblin Queen’s plan to bring hell on earth come to pass?
What you need to know:
An insecure and desperate, Hank McCoy made a bad deal with the Goblin Queen. Using Hank as a conduit, she’s brought demon hordes and demonic versions of their friends, she calls Hex-Men, to conquer the X-Mansion. Magneto, Iceman, Polaris, and Danger have all been captured, and Hank transformed into a physical Beast. Marvel Girl and Cyclops escaped and went looking for their new friends, The Raksha for assistance since Jimmy Hudson and Angel are investigating Jimmy’s past in Colorado. Now, the Goblin Queen plans on transporting every alternate version of HERSELF to this dimension to take over the world! But an unexpected ally may just turn the tide…
What you’ll find out:
At the end of the last issue, we see a sympathetic Bloodstorm observing the way Hank is being treated by the Goblin Queen. She knows all too well what it’s like to be enslaved. She harkens back to her origin, a different past from the one readers of Mutant X are familiar with. This version of Bloodstorm was captured by Dracula as a child. Here, we see more of her origin. In a seemingly abandoned Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, we see broken picture frames on the floor of past and later teams (looking different than anything we have seen). Further in, we find Ororo, feeding off of Charles Xavier. At that moment, the Goblin Queen appears with an offer.
Back in the here-and-now, plea’s from both Iceman and Magneto fall on despondent ears as Hank feels he is too far gone to do anything now. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Jimmy Hudson, Angel, and Sheriff Kira Lee are investigating Arrow Ridge, in a hidden base belonging to Miss Sinister, when they are suddenly attacked by one of its patient’s: the Blob! More wild and vicious, the Blob attacks Angel, who’s flame wings have no effect on him. When Jimmy attacks, the Blob displays a new ability; he metamorphs and outstretches his hand and arm grabbing Jimmy in the blob-like mass. But just then he seems to lose control of his form and begins to melt into a giant blob.
At that moment, with the forms of her “sisters” whirling around her, and a little “shade” thrown at Polaris, the Goblin Queen is just about to manifest them into this realm when the roof caves in. It’s Marvel Girl, Cyclops, and The Raksha!
In Colorado, the Blob begs them for help as his form devolves further and further into a protoplasm. Jimmy deduces that the secondary mutations they’ve been seeing are the result of some experiment with his DNA and mutants of earth prime. This would explain the freaky new powers we’ve seen with Wolfsbane and Toad in past issues. They discover more mutants in another room, with Jimmy Hudson recognizing Quicksilver as one of them. They are all dead. Some mutants become enhanced with this procedure, some die. These are the mutants from the Ultimate universe last seen in X-Men Blue #5. And the program Miss Sinister calls Mothervine is responsible. They set about heading back to the X-Mansion (with the Blob), unaware of the hellish landscape it has become.
As the young heroes clash with the Goblin Queen, Bloodstorm sees an opportunity to help Beast. She remembers the Beast in her timeline, one she betrayed and fed from. Here, she tells Hank to betray Madelyne. He reverses the spell, casting the Goblin Queen’s “sisters” out. They grab her in fear of losing their way. As they enter the portal, the Hex-Men and demon horde in the mansion disappear in plumes of smoke. All except Bloodstorm. Apparently, her betrayal set her free as well. Worried that he is stuck in this form, Bloodstorm assures Beast he can change back if he wants to and that it’s up to him if he is to continue on that path. He transforms himself back into human form. Magneto offers the Raksha places on the X-Men but they decline, preferring the way of their hero, Patch, aka Wolverine, and not the way of one of his greatest enemies. Cyclops offers the other time-displaced hero, a place on their team: Welcome to the X-Men Bloodstorm…hope you survive the experience!
What worked for me and what didn’t:
Douglas Franchin and Scott Hanna finished with a solid-in-most-parts finale. However, I was disappointed in some parts; like the entrance of Jean, Scott and the Raksha into the battle. It’s hard to distinguish demons or people from the debris. I still feel that the art team would only improve if the book went monthly, but again, it’s a solid effort. The coloring by GURU eFX & Matt Yacky was off the mark for me. Since this issue utilizes a back and forth technique to tell two consecutive stories, wouldn’t it help to make the atmosphere different in each? They used the exact same color palette for both stories. The mystical setting of the X-Mansion could have benefitted from using colors other than yellows and oranges. I get that they are trying to convey a “hellish” atmosphere, but how about adding some variety? This was one big orange issue! The cover art, by Art Adams and Peter Steigerwald, looks to be an homage Adam’s own work from the cover of The New Mutants #39. Mr. Adams remains one of my all-time favorites and I enjoy seeing his work evolve from greatness to legendary. I was disappointed that Miss Sinister did not appear in the issue, but more on that soon. I would love an entire issue with Art Adams pencils, but then again, who wouldn’t?
The finale to TOIL AND TROUBLE fell a little flat for me. The story started out with a bang and seemed to dip with Part 2 and now 3. For a 12th issue (something celebrated back in the day with something special or significant, story-wise) it was just ok. I like the explanation regarding Secondary Mutations, but why not have Miss Sinister appear? Why not UP the threat level by having Jimmy and Angel not make it home with this issue but are left on a cliffhanger for next? Oh, wait, they CAN’T. The next “arc” begins and they are in it. THIS is what bothers me. The stories are being set-up to begin and end on an arc. The dialogue during the MIss Sinister sub-plot (YES, sub-plot! She’s on the cover but makes no appearance this issue) feels rushed. This is a story that should have followed the debut in issue #1. And the Raksha? Sometimes when you introduce characters that are meant to be mysterious, it’s best to give them space between appearances. But they conveniently are placed here and end up doing nothing significant. If they are going to appear, give them something to do other than becoming another person to blast down. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I would have liked it if Beast stayed transformed for a while. It’s a striking departure for young Hank, further distancing himself from the Hank of Earth Prime. Only time will tell if he transforms again. I didn’t care for how easy it was to send the Goblin Queen back. Akin to tapping ruby heels together, with a few gestures by Beast, it was all over. Where were the much-touted Hex-Men during all this? They have barely been seen this issue! With all of that, we get Bloodstorm as a new team member. This book is starting to become a collection of lost-in-time mutants, not unlike the Exiles, which is fine by me. If that is the direction Cullen Bunn is going, I’m interested. But by golly, I’m expecting more from this book now, and I hope things are a bit “tighter” going forward. I’ll keep saying “move the book to monthly for the sake of quality”. It’s enjoyable.
Final thought: A slightly damp firecracker of an ending, but with seeds for other stories planted, X-Men Blue needs to “fuel up” if it’s going to maintain the momentum.