We review ‘X-Men Blue Vol. 1: Strangest’ – the first collection of this consistently X-ceptional new series.
As an X-fan in the ’90s – comics’ most extreme decade – badass characters like Wolverine and Gambit weren’t my favorites. In my opinion, the best mutants were the originals: Cyclops, Jean Grey, Archangel, Beast and Iceman. Unfortunately, finding original five-only adventures meant reading series like X-Men: The Early Years (reprints), Professor Xavier and the X-Men (retellings of those reprints) and X-Men: The Hidden Years (eventually cancelled).
I never thought I’d see a time when the original five (or an alternate version of the team… maybe?) would be back, headlining a twice-monthly series. Oh yeah, and it’d be the best X-Men comic on the stands!
With X-Men: Blue, not X-Men: Gold, writer Cullen Bunn has struck creative gold. This series fulfills the ResurrXion mission statement to go back to basics following the controversial Inhumans Vs. X-Men era, while pushing forward in exciting new directions. Every issue in Strangest, which collects Blue’s first six issues, manages to balance both old and new in a way that really raises the bar for the upcoming Marvel Legacy initiative.
Following the events of IVX, the original five have left Kitty Pryde’s mutant school for seedy Madripoor, where they’re working with Magneto to make Professor Xavier’s dream a reality.
So what works? First off, Bunn just gets these characters. A self-professed X-fan, the writer understands Scott’s never-ending devotion to Jean, the team’s new leader. He gets that young Warren would be the type of X-Man to ogle a luxury yacht in the midst of battle. And he knows how Bobby the jokester would respond to digs from an alternate universe (but still just as arrogant) Quicksilver. These X-Men may be from another dimension, as established in the final issue of All-New X-Men, but as far as readers are concerned, these are the originals.
Next on the list of pros: Bunn knows his X-continuity. He has the X-Men franchise’s toy box at his disposal and that means we get to see characters we thought we’d never see again. I’m talking villains like Bastion and Miss Sinister, and heroes like Jimmy Hudson and Magneto’s right-hand robot Ferris. You really never know who’s going to pop up on the next page, which ensures reading X-Men: Blue is always fun for longtime fans. Also, the fact that Bunn is constantly sprinkling teases for future stories calls back to the days when X-legend Chris Claremont laid the seeds for plots that were often years away.
Then, you’ve got the fact that Bunn isn’t afraid to take our young heroes in exciting new directions. From Jean taking over Scott’s position at the head of the team to the corrupting influence of Hank’s fascination with magic, Bunn proves Blue isn’t just a rehash of the past. Did I mention Magneto, who spent so long warring with his frenemy Xavier now believes mutants and humans can co-exist peacefully?
Finally, the various artists working on X-Men Blue give this series a fresh, indie feel. Jorge Molina’s energetic pencils celebrate the coolness of superhero comics one page (the X-Men vs. a towering Juggernaut) and shift to a tense moodiness the next (basically anytime the team is with Magneto). Julian Lopez’s art is slightly more grounded in reality and perfect for the mysterious happenings in a snowy Colorado forest.
Artists Matteo Buffagni, Ray-Anthony Height, Cory Smith and Ramon Bachs also provide pencils, which highlights a problem I continue to have with this series. I can only imagine how difficult it is for one artist to keep up with this series’ rapid-fire shipping schedule. But, couldn’t Marvel plan far enough ahead to have one penciller per story arc? Six artists across six issues is a lot. A comic this great deserves to have a little more consistency in the visual department.
Still, the revolving team of artists isn’t enough of a problem to kill my love for this series. As is the case with most major Marvel launches these days, X-Men: Blue #1 had several variant covers, in addition to Arthur Adams’ main cover. Most fans probably didn’t go the X-Men #1 route and purchase all of them. They’re rewarded with this collection, which features all of them, along with variants for later issues, in its final pages.
Maybe you didn’t like how Avengers Vs. X-Men made Cyclops into the new Magneto. Perhaps you despise the fact that Professor X, Wolverine and Multiple Man, among others, are all “dead.” No matter what recent gripes you’ve had with Marvel’s mutant franchise (really, is it even possible to be an X-fan without a few ongoing complaints?), I’m telling you, it’s safe to come home.
X-fans: The Terrigen Mists are gone and all that remains are amazing stories, twice a month in X-Men Blue. Breathe it in and rejoice!