Despite a few minor issues, Cullen Bunn wraps up the X-Men’s Secret Empire tie-in on a satisfying note while introducing a whole set of new questions.
When I asked what’s next for Cyclops and Marvel Girl in my July interview with X-Men: Blue writer Cullen Bunn, he told me something would happen between the two during the Secret Empire arc that would change their relationship, “sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.” Well, we finally find out what Bunn was referring to in X-Men: Blue #9… but more on that later!
A lot’s happened in this arc – some of it controversial to longtime X-fans (basically, any beloved character willingly serving the rulers of New Tian and working against the X-Men). We pick up where we left off, with Danger, aka the X-Men’s jet (#Transformers) battling the New Tian strike force; Angel, Beast and Iceman locked up; Emma Frost hell-bent on making Scott into her dearly departed Scott; and Jean and Jimmy Hudson caught in the middle of a former-lover’s quarrel between Havok and Polaris.
That was a lot to type, but it’s one of my favorite things about this series – so much is always happening!
This was definitely a good issue. But one of its strengths also becomes one of its minor flaws. Bunn loves to set up mysteries. I mean, it’s kind of a job requirement for X-Men writers. And it also feeds the appetites of fans who grew up wondering who the “X-Traitor” and third Summers brother were, or who ordered the Mutant Massacre. But… I finished this issue with a few questions I really wish had been answered, specifically the strike force’s secondary mutations. I feel like I kind of walk away with a sense of how they happened, but when Hank wonders out loud about it, I can’t help but feel there’s more than meets the eye here (#Transformers (#SorryIHadTo)).
Bunn isn’t a reckless writer, though, so I have faith in him revisiting these mysteries down the line. I just wish “down the line” was at the end of this issue.
With that aside, there’s a lot of good in here. The Havok-Polaris battle proves Bunn knows his X-history through every dig the two sling at one another. After so many writers have made Lorna look comically insane, it’s nice to see Bunn delivering some much-needed character rehabilitation. I hope he does the same for Alex. Also, Jean’s comment to Jimmy about Magneto now having less children than he did before – nice. You stick it to those forced movie changes, Jean!
Sure to upset some fans is Emma’s continuing descent into villainy following the events of Inhumans Vs. X-Men. Personally, I find her obsession with young Scott quite interesting, and I also like that the Emma-Jean rivalry lives on in a whole new way.
And speaking of new twists on classic X-tropes – that brings us back to that development with Scott and Jean. I love it! You know I can’t spoil it, but I will say, it’s something we’ve seen before, just, never like this. And Bunn wasn’t lying – it has the potential to either make the pair’s lives better… or far worse. Either way, it’ll make for some entertaining character moments!
On this issue’s art front, we have some more stellar work from one of my new favorite X-artists, Cory Smith. His panels are packed with detailed imagery, while his characters’ facial features express so much emotion with so few lines. His Jean also looks so good, it’s no wonder all the X-Men are in love with her.
But wait, there’s more… than one artist this issue. The curse of X-Men: Blue, it would seem. This time, Thony Silas provides an assist, and his pencils gel well enough with Smith’s, but they’re still a bit more exaggerated. Not a bad thing – you just notice the switch to more stylized character designs. Still, Silas draws a pretty intimidating Magneto in a showdown with a character that should give many Secret Empire detractors peace of mind.
Finally, on the cover art front, Arthur Adams, who I just interviewed at Boston Comic Con 2017, does a great tribute to the cover of X-Men #50.
Next issue, we enter a post-Secret Empire world. While I haven’t disliked any of the past few issues, I’m excited for Bunn to leave the latest Marvel event behind and get back to telling great X-Men stories without having to worry about whatever Captain America is up to.