Let’s talk about X-Men: Blue – a series that I actually haven’t enjoyed all that much.
X-Men Blue #1 fares about the same as Gold #1, feeling largely like a retro book, but also containing just enough sense of the new to it – or at least the novelty value of having the time-displaced original X-Men breaking off on their own and become their own team.
It has a bit more bounce and energy to it and it’s nice to see young Jean Grey taking charge of her team (which feels a little more logical in this book’s terms than it does to have Kitty leading the team in the other book). Not much seems to happen here either, other than to reestablish the dynamics and interplay between these characters, while an encounter with Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut adds another element of retro feel to the affair.
The fight with Juggernaut is actually reasonably fun; but essentially there’s nothing of any great note on offer here so far.
The only real surprise we get is the twist of the ending, revealing who it is that the X-kids are actually working for. I admittedly did not see that coming.
Strangely enough, X-Men Blue feels less obviously like a nostalgia exercise than the X-Men Gold title does – even though, counter-intuitively, X-Men Blue consists of the original, 60s X-Men brought forward to the present day and therefore should, in theory, be the ultimate nostalgia exercise.
That being said, X-Men Blue #2’s cover – a giant Magneto looming over the X-kids – does feel very old-school.
I’ve expressed doubts elsewhere about Kitty Pryde leading her team (for reasons that are laid out in the X-Men Gold posts); but, as far as Jean leading this team goes, I’m good with it. It makes good enough sense.
X-Men Blue #2 continues to develop the arc established in the first issue, centering on Jean’s uncertain alliance with Magneto. There’s nothing massively compelling here; and reading both this title’s first issues and X-Men Gold’s first issues (along with Weapon X, which I haven’t thought very highly of), I have reaffirmed my view that we’re going to struggle to get the X-books on as good a footing as is hoped.
That said, this is a visually enjoyable book, and the story – though sparse – offers just enough intrigue to keep us on board. There’s something I also instinctively like about seeing the young Jean Grey dealing with Magneto.
On a side-note, I’m really glad Jean has her own solo title right now too (reviewed here), as it allows a whole separate book for her to be the central focus, while maintaining X-Men Blue as more of an ensemble series. That Jean Grey title is far and away the best thing going on right now in the current X-Men shake-up.
X-Men Blue #3 gives us a direct confrontation between the team and the new, ‘mutant’ Sentinels, leading to the revelation that Bastion is alive and well and is apparently behind the (seemingly) benign Sentinels and their activities.
I am, admittedly, struggling to stay engaged by any of this – just about the best thing in this comic is the reference – via Bastion – to a far better spell in the X-books (specifically 2011’s X-Men: Second Coming – one of the best things the X-books have done in years); which isn’t much of a tribute to this current book.
X-Men Blue #4 changes direction a little bit, bringing us a new plaything in the form of the young Wolverine (Son of Logan – actually, Bobby’s term for him, “Young Man Logan” seems perfect) from the other universe. It’s an interesting development, but nothing here is particularly stand-out or exceptional.
This book continues to have a mixture of adolescent cool and retro charm that helps keep you moving from page to page, but it is still failing to truly find a weight or momentum.
X-Men Blue #5 does better, managing to bring various elements into play and up the intrigue levels. There’s more of a sense here of a richer tapestry being woven, with the converging parallel universes and what this is going to mean. ‘Miss Sinister’ is a welcome presence and I like the idea of something unfolding between her and Jean.
There’s more going on here and, with Magneto coming back into the picture, it feels like the elements are starting to come together better. I’m not all that sure about Young Man Logan (or Jimmy, I guess) joining the team; but I guess it makes sense.
X-Men Blue #6 drops the ball again, failing to find the right quality level. Nothing that happens here is interesting. Jimmy, son of Logan, is a damp squib.
X-Men Blue #7 takes us into Secret Empire territory – and this is actually a welcome interval that makes things more interesting for a bit. Bringing some of the rest of the X-Men world into the pages of this book does it some good, while the general dynamic of Jean and her team carrying out rescue missions and resistance activity – against the interests of Hydra’s Mutant collaborators in ‘New Tian’ – is a good one.
There’s something to be said, I think, for the kids being noble idealists willing to react with their gut to the new situation, while the adults are much more political and willing to cooperate or compromise with their enemy.
The main problem I have here is the appearance of Havok during the fight between our young X-Men and a team of Mutants sent to stop them; specifically, my problem is how hostile Havok is made to seem towards the young X-Men and particularly Jean.
It doesn’t really feel legitimate or logical. That he would be here to carry out orders is fine – but would he really be enjoying it this much and seeming so aggressive towards the kids?
As is often the case with the effects of big ‘event’ seasons, I wonder whether the Mutant characters – in this instance, a side-show to the main Secret Empire business – are being well characterised in relation to what’s going on elsewhere. Jean and co are fine – they’re spot-on here. It’s Havok and some of the others that are possibly the problem, including Xorn.
X-Men Blue #8 and #9 continue in the same vein, but throw some interesting gimmicks into the mix. The idea of a sentient or personified entity created by the Blackbird is interesting (if a little lacking in explanation), though only briefly introduced here.
Havok continues to be characterised in a questionable way that doesn’t feel right. And Emma Frost is being a bitch (nothing new there); though the idea of her trying to have her way – in some way or another – with the teenage Scott Summers is seriously creepy. I don’t know if it’s meant to be creepy or just villainous – but it’s creepy.
We get some goodish stuff in X-Men Blue #9 though, with a direct confrontation between Jean and Emma for the sake of little Cyclops. Emma only gets creepier; but it’s nice to see her get bested.
As a result of this encounter, Jean and Scott now seem to have a permanent psychic link of sorts – which could be interesting if handled well.
The highlight here for me, however, is the appearance of Polaris – a character I haven’t seen for a long while and who I retain a soft spot for from days gone by. Having her attack Havok is interesting, if a little oddly characterised. The idea that Magneto has enlisted her to keep an eye on the kids is another detail – among several in this series – that doesn’t feel like it rings true.
But, on the plus side, the notion of having Lorna around more in this title gives me some added incentive to keep reading.
There’s lots going on here; not all of it works that well. At times it feels like an incohesive smattering of characters and things. But Emma, creepy or not, always makes for a good Bitch presence.
We also get a tense encounter between Steve Rogers and Magneto.
Looking back through the first nine issues of this title overall, it is difficult to find a great deal to be enthusiastic about. The premise was fine; but this just doesn’t find a good quality level anywhere. Whereas X-Men Gold kept improving as it went on, and Astonishing X-Men started on a strong footing right off-the-bat, X-Men Blue just isn’t doing it.
There might also be a bigger problem that – aside from Jean Grey – the novelty factor of having these time-displaced, sixties’ X-kids here has long since worn off and these characters just aren’t very interesting anymore.
I’m enough of an X-guy to give it more time; but I suspect X-Men: Blue, like the current Generation X, might soon find itself slipping off my required reading list.