The X-Men face off against the demonic Hex-Men in the second part of “Toil and Trouble.”
Do you like alternate versions of your favorite characters from different dimensions?
It’s only fair that I start this review with that question, as your personal opinion will likely determine your feelings toward X-Men: Blue #11, written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Douglas Franchin.
Me? Not a fan of seeing yet another collection of alternate-universe X-Men (or the Hex-Men as the Goblin Queen refers to them). While I love this series, there are so many mutants from the multiverse running around it’s almost like I’m reading Exiles: Blue at times. I mean, we’re only 11 issues in and we’ve already seen the New Marauders (refugees from the Ultimate universe), Jimmy Hudson (the Ultimate Wolverine) and the original five themselves, who may be from another reality (maybe? Still waiting on a concrete answer to that one).
Look, alternate versions of characters can be fun, but I also grew up reading X-Men comics at a time when casual comic book fans knew to stay away from mutant books due to how convoluted their continuity had become. I don’t want to relive those days. I also want to see talented creators like Bunn create new characters–forget Miss Sinister and give us something new! Let’s get past this era of multiple Spider-Men, Iron Men and Captain Americas and give everyone unique identities. The X-Men, especially, are about change, so let’s innovate!
Now, you’re all like, we got it, Chris… what about the comic?
Don’t let my alternate-reality characters rant fool you–I still enjoyed this issue. Definitely not as much as the character development-rich Toil & Trouble Part 1, but there are some strong moments in these pages.
Magneto, Polaris, Iceman and Danger are down for the count and the newly mind-linked Cyclops and Marvel Girl are the only X-Men left who can take on the Goblin Queen and her twisted minions. Did I mention this is an alternate version of the Goblin Queen? Anyway, a horned Beast is among the Hex-Men and under the Goblin Queen’s spell.
Clearly, this arc is designed to bring Beast’s fascination with magic to a monstrous head. I’m genuinely interested to see if these developments will leave Hank humbled or send him down a darker path. This is probably the most interesting young Beast has been since he arrived in modern times.
Bunn continues to develop Scott and Jean’s relationship post-Secret Empire. As we’re dealing with young Cyclops, however, we swing rapidly from an almost-kiss last issue to the throes of jealousy. No, Cyke isn’t upset that Jean finds Jimmy hot. This time, it’s all about Pickles.
Yes, Pickles, the little, naked Nightcrawler guy.
Scott… dude… get it together, man. Don’t blow this!
We also spend a little more time with Jimmy and Angel as they continue to learn more about Hudson and his connection to Miss Sinister. Whether the X-Men are dealing with Mister or Miss Sinister, you know things are going to get complicated… and they do.
Despite these plot developments, they’re not enough. Overall, X-Men: Blue #11 feels like exactly what it is–the middle part of a three-issue arc. It would surely read better if I could turn to the final chapter with ease, but I can’t. Instead, I found myself getting to the last page and asking, “Now what?”
Franchin’s art is definitely interesting. Sometimes detailed, other times cartoony, I found I had a hard time nailing down what exactly the artist was going for stylistically. I’d say his pencils are somewhere between the type of indie style we’ve seen on the book to date mixed with a more traditional Marvel style. If you’re familiar with Tom Raney’s art, that’s what came to mind as I followed Franchin’s pencils through the story.
So, not my favorite issue of X-Men Blue, but by no means a bad comic. I’m definitely excited to see where we go from here, just so long as the Hex-Men don’t stick around.
Please, please, don’t join the X-Men, Edgar Rice Burroughs Colossus.