There are two givens in comics: The X-Men are overly complicated and so is time travel. So the thought of X-Men Blue writer Cullen Bunn sending the already time-displaced original X-Men to various periods in Marvel history could leave you terrified. And yet, Bunn and his artistic collaborators, Thony Silas and R.B. Silva, manage to deliver a satisfying adventure that’s a treat for longtime X-fans, while also answering one of the biggest questions readers have had since writer Brian Michael Bendis brought Marvel Girl and the gang to the present back in 2012.
Bunn, a writer who loves playing the long game (perfect for the X-Men!), planted the seeds for Cross Time Capers in X-Men Blue’s first arc, when it was revealed Magneto had a time machine in the basement (classic). Well, that piece of machinery comes in handy in the first chapter of this collection, as the X-Men learn time is severely damaged when Magneto, Polaris and Danger all vanish. The only solution: go back in time to the period the original X-Men were plucked from and set things right!
But wait… didn’t writer Dennis Hopeless establish (in his All-New X-Men run) that the teenage X-Men we’ve been following the past few years are actually from an alternate reality? Well, Cross Time Capers is essentially Bunn’s opportunity to cut through the confusion and resolve the mystery once and for all. And while his solution is certainly problematic, it’s a lot more satisfying than simply writing the Blue squad off as yet another group of mutants from another dimension.Aside from resolving that long-running mystery, the real appeal of this collection is getting to see the original X-Men interact with the X-Men of 2099 and the original Generation X lineup. Bunn, a student of X-Men history, has a lot of fun throwing all these characters together and it shows in their interactions. Pre-vampire Jubilee tells Bloodstorm she hates vampires and teenage Angel hits on Husk, which should please fans who found adult Warren’s relationship with teenage Paige one of the grossest moments in X-Men history. But speaking as a longtime reader, these fun nods to continuity are always enjoyable.
Not so enjoyable, Bloodstorm, the teenage vampire Storm Bunn introduced in the last volume, Toil and Trouble. I didn’t mind having Ultimate Wolverine’s son on the team, but when we got alternate Storm, it was a bit much. Also a bit much: the forced love triangle between Bloodstorm, Cyclops and Jean Grey. There’s a lot of that in this collection, and I feel like it makes all three characters a lot more unlikable.
Fortunately, the art is still killer, from beginning to end. If you read my regular X-Men Blue reviews, you know one of my frequent complaints with this twice-monthly series is how quickly artists change from one issue to the next. While Silas kicks things off with issue 16, Silva pencils issues 17-20. Having that visual consistency is so refreshing and makes for such a better reading experience if you plan to read this breezy collection in one sitting (just as I did). It should also be noted that these five issues feature some of Arthur Adams’ best covers for the series. Just look at this collection’s cover–so awesome!I remember finding the individual issues in this collection a bit repetitive the first time I read them (time travel, fight a team, cliffhanger, repeat), but everything reads better in one sitting. This is definitely an example of “writing for the trade.” The only time that strategy backfires is when the artist changes between issues and each penciler has a different take on a character (pay close attention to how 2099 X-Man Metalhead changes between issues 16 and 17).
But of the modern X-Men books, X-Men Blue has been one of the best, and this collection is perhaps the most solid proof of that on the shelves.