X-MEN BLUE #11
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Douglas Franchin
Inker: Scott Hanna
Color Artist: GURU eFX
Cover Artists: Arthur Adams & Peter Steigerwald
The X-Mansion in Madripoor has been taken over by the Goblin Queen and her HEX-MEN!
What you need to know: Back home at the X-Mansion, the team was settling in with new teachers Polaris, Danger, and Briar Raleigh when they were invaded by demons! Feeling insecure, Hank McCoy bargained with the Goblin Queen in exchange for further knowledge of the arcane. As one would guess, the Goblin Queen played her hand by using Hank to bring in demonic versions of some of their friends, she calls Hex-Men! And at their side a transformed, demonic Beast!
What you’ll find out: Picking up directly from the last issue! Just as a transformed Beast (complete with horns, white-fur, and cloven hooves) lunges at Cyclops, the full battle begins between the teams. The usually impressive duo of Marvel Girl and Cyclops cannot seem to stop the demonic Colossus from charging towards them. As he slams Scott’s optic beam back at him with his sword, Colossus hears Cyclops ask, “Colossus? That’s you right? Why are you attacking us?” We then see a flashback to how this particular version of Piotr Rasputin came to be. Becoming a slave to survivors guilt after discovering his dead sister Illyana in Limbo, Piotr simply became a destroyer of demons within and without. Marvel Girl pulls up a mental illusion of herself as Illyana to confuse Colossus. But as Cyclops manages to escape Colossus, he falls right into the path of Bloodstorm’s arms as she swoops Cyclops into the air. We see a glimpse of this version of Ororo. She is not the Bloodstorm from the Mutant X series from several years ago, but rather another version of the other version. (!) Just as she hisses at Cyclops and prepares for a bite into his neck with her vampiric fangs, he manages to blast himself out of her arms and into the telekinetic field of Jean. SHes suddenly attacked from behind with pixie dust from, well, demonic Pixie! When we see the final member, demonic Nightcrawler, Cyclops, and Jean pull a maneuver they call the Lightbox Special. Jean buffers a path for Scott’s optic beams to follow until hitting their intended target, the one pulling the strings, the Goblin Queen. This gives Jean the moment she needs. Telling Scott to “Hold on”, they are BAMFED away by Pickles, the demonic Bamf that has befriended Jean. In a nearby alleyway, Cyclops wonders what to do since Iceman, their teachers, and their mentor Magneto, are all still captured in the X-mansion. Jean attempts to locate Jimmy Hudson and Angel, who are in Colorado looking into Jimmy’s past with the help of Sheriff Kira Lee, a local who has offered to help. We find the trio deep beneath Arrow ridge in a hidden bunker. Red lights suddenly illuminate the dark hallways leading to a laboratory. Computer generated images of Miss Simister appear around the room. SHe greets Jimmy by informing him that she “knew he would return to the scene of the crime sooner or later”. She goes on about how different he is than the mutants of this world; that he’s a man-made creation. His genetic material has apparently been harvested, but for what purpose we shall have to wait and see. In a “d’Oh!” moment, Angel figures out how to stop the computer generated recording, just as Miss Sinister was about to reveal her plan. AGainst the wall and connected to tubes, they see the partly lit Blob. As Jimmy chides ANgel about stopping the tape, He bares his claws. Angel tells him to calm down but he doesn’t realize that the once sleeping Blob is about to grab him.
Back in Madripoor, Jean and Scott seek the help of the Raksha, Mutant protectors of the city. Scott gets paranoid about not having sensed the knowledge of Pickles in Jean’s mind since they now have a psychic rapport. She explains that if she didn’t “partition” their thoughts they would have one brain”. (Stop whining Scott!) The Raksha don’t care for people to barge into their establishment, a bar lounge where we see people eating, drinking and playing cards. Jean says they need help to clean some demons from their house. Back at the X-Mansion, we see the captured Danger, Polaris, Iceman, and Magneto, bound by mystical volcanic spires that will fill their space with magma the minute they try and use their powers. The Goblin Queen explains what her plans are: using Beast’s magic as a conduit, she plans on bringing all the alternate versions of the Goblin Queen to this plane of existence. Bobby pleads with Hank to stop helping her but he gets no response, as the Goblin Queen states “you make it sound as if he has a choice”. Curiously, Bloodstorm notices Beast’s dilemma and see’s a similar fate she once had. The issue ends with a silent vow from Bloodstorm, to set Beast free even if it means sacrificing her own freedom.
What worked for me and what didn’t: Just as I was praising Giovanni Valletta last issue, we get another penciler this issue; Douglas Franchin (with Scott Hanna on inks). I wish they would at least keep ONE penciler for each arc. It’s quite jarring to read a story where each part is drawn by a different artist. I’ve mentioned the lack of solid artists on the book as one of its main negative points in the past and it continues here. Although the work here isn’t horrible, it’s a step down from last issue’s work. The cover, by Art Adams and Peter Steigerwald, is exquisite. The design has a biblical feel to it, which fits perfectly with the subject matter. I only wish the interior art was closer to the level of the cover. We don’t get a clear shot of the Hex-Men as their flashbacks take over most of their “screen time”. Again, more artistic style and layout choices that could have remedied the situation.
X-Men Blue has been steadily climbing my personal list of favorites, outpacing its sister book, X-Men Gold by quite a distance. However, this issue felt slightly rushed and incomplete. The battle scenes, especially in the beginning of the issue seemed too convenient and contrived. I have a big problem with how the introduction of the Raksha has been handled. We hardly know them and here they are again, coming to the rescue. Maybe the Secret Empire tie-in’s the last few issues upset the storyline? Either way, I would have liked an issue exploring their relationship, especially after Jean asks them to train them as ninjas! No follow-up!
At first, I felt bored with the Jimmy/Angel side story, but it is becoming intriguing. I was excited to see the return of the Blob and I look forward to seeing what plans Miss Sinister has. Since we were introduced to a new version of Bloodstorm, I find it interesting that she can turn the tide of battle in favor of our heroes. It’s a nice development. Magneto should learn a lesson from this issue; set up magical defenses in the mansion! Even mutants as powerful as the Master and Mistress of Magnetism have some difficulty when dealing with the dark arts. I hope that Beast does not continue on the path of his older counterpart by making poor choices. One maligned Hank is enough in the Marvel Universe. I also wouldn’t mind if he stayed in the demonic form. It’s a striking change for the character. Overall, I felt like this was half of a story rather than a full second chapter. Not bad, but not the WOW I was expecting after the last issue.
I did enjoy some of the dialogue between Jean and Scott. This Jean is every bit the leader and her experiences here have only helped solidify her as a competent field leader. Now if we can develop Scott, Bobby and especially Warren a bit, it would only help the book continue its ascension.
A slight speedbump in an otherwise good story arc so far, Toil and Trouble Part 2 only partially delivers. I hope the following chapter makes up for it.