X-Men Blue: Now with 100% fewer symbiotes!

The original X-Men are missing in space, leaving the likes of Polaris, Jimmy Hudson and Bloodstorm to hold down the fort back on Earth. And you know what? Following the exhausting Poison-X crossover and its many symbiotes (so, so many symbiotes), X-Men Blue #23 is a very refreshing change of pace. Most importantly, loyal readers who have been with this subplot-filled series since its first issue will be especially pleased to learn that writer Cullen Bunn begins to tie together all those dangling threads.

You know, Miss Sinister’s plans, Bastion’s plans, Emma Frost and Havok’s plans, Mothervine–those threads.

To his credit as a storyteller, Bunn plays the long game. It’s not for everybody, and there are those who may lose patience with seemingly random plot developments along the journey (looking at you, Jean’s necklace), but those who stick with it are rewarded (again, Jean’s necklace and this issue’s cliffhanger).

So what’s this comic about? Well, a lot of things, beginning with the return of the Raksha, the Madripoor-based team of ninja mutants and big-time Wolverine fans, who alert Magneto and his daughter Polaris of the Hellfire Club’s presence in the city. This sets Magneto off on a collision course with Sebastian Shaw (a nice follow-up to Bunn’s time on Uncanny X-Men), while Jimmy and Bloodstorm pursue Miss Sinister in the Mojave Desert. At the same time, X-Men Blue’s main villains prepare to launch Mothervine and transform the future of the mutant race… to suit their own individual agendas, of course.As this is merely the first part of the “Cry Havok” arc, Bunn spends a lot of time moving important story pieces into place. But I’ll be honest–it’s fun to watch. X-Men Blue is at its best when it’s taking those classic X-Men tropes and artfully tweaking them until they feel fresh. This strategy is on full display throughout this issue, from the Wolverine and Storm team-up, with an all-new, all-different twist, to Emma deliciously scheming with a Summers… that’s not Scott. This is just fun X-Men.

See? It’s possible to tell a fun story without cramming in those slimy symbiotes.

It doesn’t hurt that Bunn is joined by the Blue’s original artist Jorge Molina. No disrespect to this series’ other talented artists whose pencils have graced its pages, but X-Men Blue just feels right when Molina’s drawing these characters. Molina’s Havok and Polaris especially shine–Alex is just the right amount of menacing and Lorna appears just as regal as you’d expect Magneto’s daughter to be.

Speaking of Alex and Lorna–no matter how much I disliked Poison-X, Bunn deserves to be commended for the attention he’s given these longtime X-Men characters throughout this series. A Marvel comic that acknowledges that Axis did in fact happen and affected Havok? Thank you! I can’t tell you how many times since Axis wrapped I’ve wondered if writers were even aware if Alex was still inverted or just an a-----e now. I really hope these two kids can get their acts together and move past being the screwed up versions of Scott and Jean… who are already pretty screwy themselves.

While I’m sad to see Arthur Adams is no longer providing covers, overall, this is a very promising start to–what could be–the final chapter of the X-Men Blue saga. I mean, I’m not trying to start rumors or anything, it just seems like we’re heading for a big showdown… and it’s clear Marvel is feeling relaunch happy these days. If this series is to end, then all I ask for is a strong finish, and X-Men Blue #23 certainly signals the start of one.

X-Men Blue #23
Is it good?
Loyal readers are rewarded as Cullen Bunn brings together a series worth of subplots--and has fun doing it in the process!
Cullen Bunn + Jorge Molina = A winning combo.
Havok + Emma Frost = A wickedly entertaining combo.
Some of the series' biggest mysteries are finally being addressed.
Havok and Polaris haven't been this good in a long time.
I still wish the original X-Men could have been a part of the action... just without the symbiotes.
8.5
Great