Friday, April 28, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 150: Walking A Fine Line is LIVE!


You’ve seen one perspective in the new era of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. The first issue of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided showed how Charles Xavier’s new vision for the X-men functions. Through the Mutant Monitoring Initiative, he and the X-men are now willing partners with General Grimshaw, President Kelly, and the Mutant Security Agency. We saw in X-men Supreme Issue 149: Law Abiding Bind how this new partnership functions. By most measures, it functions well. However, it’s still only part of a much larger story.

On the other side of that coin is X-Force, the new team that Cyclops and Wolverine formed at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. It was one of the most dramatic developments to date in this fanfiction series, Cyclops cutting ties with the X-men and Charles Xavier. It cost him his position in the X-men. It cost him his long-standing relationship with Jean Grey. It may very well cost him much more than that, but he believes in what he’s doing and he’s not alone.

On a team that consists of Wolverine, Emma Frost, Warpath, Nightcrawler, and Domino, X-Force now stands in opposition to the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. They see Charles Xavier’s decision to compromise his dream as a mistake, one that will come back to haunt the X-men and the entire mutant race down the line. At the moment, there’s no Mutant Liberation Front of Brotherhood of Mutants to test their resolve. The world is still recovering from the Mutant Liberation Front’s attacks. Nobody has the stomach for another conflict on that level, but X-Force believes that conflict is inevitable.

In the X-men comics, it hasn’t been unusual for the team to suffer divisions and schisms. They’ve been a big part of the X-men mythos going all the way back to the Chris Claremont era. Over the course of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, the lineup of the X-men has changed considerably. Some X-men have come and gone. Some, like Nightcrawler and Angel, act primarily as reserve members. However, there has never been a division like this before. The X-men and X-Force stand on opposite ends of a brewing conflict, one that is just starting to emerge.

These early issues of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided will lay the foundation of that conflict. Old friendships will be strained and so will established relationships. The conflict has already torn Cyclops and Jean Grey apart. It also put a damper on the blossoming relationship between Storm and Warpath. What other strain will this cause? There are a lot of major clashes brewing. Some of the threats will be familiar. Some will be entirely new.

The next stage in that conflict is set to begin. It’ll also provide some insight into how X-Force operates in this fanfiction series. Throughout the history of X-men, X-Force has been defined by a willingness to cross lines and operate in the shadows. That same theme will play out here in X-men Supreme, but for a different set of reasons. Those reasons will start to become clearer in this issue.

X-men Supreme Issue 150: Walking A Fine Line

Whether you’re an X-men fan or an X-Force fan, I want both to relate to the struggle in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. I know the timing of this type of story couldn’t be worse. X-men fans, and comic fans in general, are tired of stories that involve heroes fighting heroes. I totally understand that. With X-men Supreme, I hope to set this story apart from those that have played out in the comics. As such, I also want that story to be as awesome as possible.

That’s where X-men fans can assert their influence. Please take the time to send me feedback and leave reviews. Every bit of feedback counts, no matter how it comes in. I do take it seriously. I do listen and respond to it as best I can. That feedback helps me make sure X-men Supreme is as awesome as it deserves to be. So please contact me directly or post your comments directly in the issue. Either is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Role Reversing Recourse: Infamous Iron Man #7

The following is my review of Infamous Iron Man #7, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


When it comes to comic book rivalries, Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom are akin to Coke vs. Pepsi. They are so bitterly opposed to one another that their conflict has shaped the world as we know it. Just as the cola wars shape our economy and the kinds of Super Bowl commercials we see, the war between Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom shapes the foundation of the Marvel universe.

Going all the way back to the of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Reed and Doom embody two extremes. They are both brilliant minds who seek to shape a flawed world in need of guidance. Reed seeks progress through enlightenment, using the power of discovery and knowledge to unite a conflicted world. Doom seeks a more direct approach, using his natural brilliance to impose progress through force. These are not methods that can be resolved through compromise and a friendly chess game.

These two opposing views are what led to many of the iconic clashes between Dr. Doom and Mr. Fantastic. From cosmic powers to soul-stealing demons, these clashes have taken both characters in many different directions. That's why the situation that Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev have created in Infamous Iron Man is so compelling. They essentially flip the script, putting Victor Von Doom on the opposite end of the spectrum. It shows how he goes about doing what Reed does, but without ever admitting he was wrong. For someone like Doom, that's pretty important.

Some aspects of the script are somewhat different. Dr. Doom, even if he is reformed and that's still a big if, isn't going to conduct himself like the thoughtful and studious Reed Richards. He's going to do things his way while ripping off Iron Man along the way. Unlike Reed, he's not above usurping someone else's brand. However different his approach might be, Infamous Iron Man #7 offers insight into the effectiveness of Doom's new Reed-like methods. By and large, the results are pretty impressive.

Dr. Doom playing the role that Tony Stark and Reed Richards once played is still an uncomfortable novelty for some. Those, such as Ben Grimm, SHIELD, and every Marvel superhero who ever existed since the Kennedy Administration, are rightly concerned about Doom's sincerity. There are so many occasions where Doom has revealed a hidden agenda that even Reed Richards couldn't surmise the breadth of his agenda.


For the villains now in Doom's cross-hairs, though, the novelty is far more distressing. These villains, which include the likes of the Hood and the Wrecking Crew, are used to dealing with a specific kind of hero. Namely, they deal with heroes who follow Reed's script, working within a set of parameters and operating by a set of principles that is fairly well-understood. With Dr. Doom, however, there is no more script and even for hardened villains, that's genuinely terrifying.

This is what makes the narrative within Infamous Iron Man #7 so uniquely compelling. It doesn't just involve Dr. Doom fighting villains in his own unique way. It explores the larger impact he's having on the greater Marvel landscape. The past few issues spent a great deal of time touching on the reactions from those are still skeptical of Doom's intentions. With villains like the Hood, there's much less skepticism and a much harsher impact.

Unlike every other hero these villains have faced, they know what Dr. Doom is capable of. They know how skilled he is. He can create world-ending technology on his lunch break and spend the afternoon taking on Mephisto. Unlike the Reed Richards of the world, though, they know he's willing to go much further than any card-carrying Avenger would ever dare. That ends up being Doom's greatest weapon and for a man with a functioning time machine in his closet, that's saying something.

It makes for a pretty lopsided battle when Doom shows up. For once, though, that battle doesn't feel bland or boring. It's very much a spectacle, akin to watching the Hulk in an arm-wrestling contest. Seeing a powerful hero take down an entire contingent of villains is nothing new. Seeing Dr. Doom be that hero is still new for many and the sheer efficiency with which he works sends a powerful message, both to the villains and Doom's former enemies.

Doom does more than just defeat a bunch of villains. He genuinely scares them. For once, they don't stand on a pedestal, laughing manically and twirling their mustache as they insult or mock the hero. They understand that this is not Reed Richards, Spider-Man, or Squirrel Girl they're fighting. This is Victor Von Doom, a man who can do things that make every one of those heroes violently ill. When someone can inspire that level of fear in villains, then that's a clear they've found a new method and it works.


Even the likes of SHIELD and Thing end up acknowledging Doom's efficacy. They're still understandably skeptical. They still debate just how much they should trust Doom's new endeavor as Iron Man. However, they clearly have it easier than the villains for once. They're still genuinely terrified, so much so that one member of the Wrecking Crew turns himself in rather than facing Doom. Even Thing's Aunt Petunia would be impressed by that.

Infamous Iron Man #7 offers a greater insight into a new narrative for Victor Von Doom, one that he handles as masterfully as anyone would expect of someone who regularly frustrated Reed Richards. It also continues the evolving narrative surrounding Doom's evolving relationship with SHIELD, Thing, and other established heroes. Bendis takes the long road, letting those relationships develop slowly and steadily. As effective as Doom is, they're still a long way from giving him his own Helicarrier.

Between the character relationships and the methods Doom utilizes, Infamous Iron Man #7 gives polish to the overall narrative. It also sets up some new challenges that will test Doom's overly-efficient methods, as well as his commitment to being a hero. While stories about heroes becoming villains is nothing new, a character like Victor Von Doom requires a certain level of refinement. For the story unfolding in Infamous Iron Man, Bendis and Maleev continue to deliver. Terrifying hardened villains is just a nice bonus.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, April 21, 2017

Digital Dynamics With Analog Antics: Ms. Marvel #17

The following is my review of Ms. Marvel #17, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


A young hero trying to protect their identity is one of the oldest, most endearing narratives in superhero comics. From a literary standpoint, it's the equivalent of rescuing a princess from a dragon. Young heroes, especially, endure this narrative more than most. Typically, they have a lot more to lose and a lot more to manage. Fighting a dragon is hard enough. Fighting it with the knowledge that there's a history exam the next morning makes it even harder.

While Peter Parker has been the poster child for protecting a secret identity for nearly half-a-century, Kamala Khan is very much the new gold standard for young heroes with a lot to lose. Like Peter Parker before her, she struggles to manage being a superhero with being an ordinary teenager, who also happens to be a minority in a society that isn't that supportive of minorities. These struggles embody the heart and spirit of a young hero trying to juggle having a real life and a superhero life. Kamala, being a minority, has to juggle more than most.

Since Kamala's superhero life as Ms. Marvel began, G. Willow Wilson has gone out of her way to make her story feel relevant and modern. Ms. Marvel isn't the kind of hero who still takes Polaroid pictures or uses a phone booth to change into her costume. She's a teenager who knows how to use a smartphone, is active on social media, and plays online video games. That means the narrative surrounding a young hero protecting their identity needs an update too and that's exactly what Ms. Marvel #17 brings to the table.

Kamala's life as a superhero is on the line. A digital enemy named Doc.X is threatening to expose her double life to her friends, family, and everyone with an internet connection. In many respects, that's far more dangerous than J. Jonah Jameson publishing photos of Spider-Man without his mask. At least with a newspaper, there's less chance of a compromising photo becoming an internet meme.

The danger Kamala faces has been escalating for several issues now and Ms. Marvel #17 acts as a last ditch effort, of sorts. Since Doc.X isn't a killer robot she can punch, she has to get creative. In this case, being an overly-idealistic teenager who spends a lot of her free time playing video games actually works in her favor. Those looking for Captain America to punch a Nazi or Iron Man to blow something up may be disappointed, but those looking for something different will find it here.


Wilson continues the tradition of creating non-traditional threats for Ms. Marvel. These threats aren't always just criminals looking to swipe a wad of bills from an open cash register. They're a different kind of threat that younger generations understand more than those whose primary fear was being mugged in a dark alley. A threat like Doc.X is even scarier than that for most millennials because it threatens both their digital life and their real life. Insurance can cover a stolen car. It can't cover the cost of exposing someone's darkest secrets.

Ms. Marvel knows this because Doc.X already exposed the secrets of one of her friends, Zoey. It's not a trivial secret either. Zoey was a closeted lesbian until Doc.X comes along. Wilson shows just how devastating this kind of exposure can be. It acts as a dire warning of sorts to Kamala because if that's what it can do to someone just trying to hide their schoolyard crushes, then there's no telling what it can do for a superhero trying to maintain a closet identity.

The stakes are very personal. Some of Kamala's friends are already suffering because of it. The emotional undertones are there for Ms. Marvel. When it comes to actually fighting Doc.X though, the story does somewhat falter. That's not to say it falls flat, but it doesn't exactly hit with the same epic overtones that comes with fighting the Red Skull and an army of Nazi Hulks.

It helps that Ms. Marvel adapts her tactics, enlisting the help of fellow gamers and flipping the script on Doc.X. However, the way those tactics play out is lacking in substance and requires that a lot of other things happen off-panel. Some of those off-panel happenings are actually more intriguing than anything Ms. Marvel does, but it's never shown how that actually plays out. It's only shown that it works just enough to get Doc.X out in the open.

Eventually, there is a final boss battle of sorts. Kamala does get a chance to actually punch Doc.X. However, it's a battle that is over way too quickly and never gets a chance to generate much excitement. For a story that sets up such high emotional stakes, which is the cornerstone of Ms. Marvel's appeal, it makes for a rushed and unsatisfying conclusion. Beyond the emotional backdrops, Ms. Marvel #17 doesn't just deliver the kind of impact that gives the overall story a sense of weight.


There are still some wholly relevant themes, both for the traditional superhero narrative and a younger generation whose concerns are more likely to emphasize WiFi speeds over petty crime. Ms. Marvel still has that appeal. G. Willow Wilson makes Ms. Marvel a uniquely appealing hero by blending these narratives. For this particular story involving Doc.X, the blend just isn't there.

Ms. Marvel is still a character that plays into the sensibilities of the millenial crowd, much more so than traditional heroes like Spider-Man and Captain America. It does make her distinct. It makes her stories distinct as well. For those who just want to see the Hulk smash things, those stories aren't going to carry the same weight. They will, however, offer something different.

That's the most Ms. Marvel #17 accomplishes. It's different. It's relevant. It's a story with problems that can't be solved with punching, smashing, or one of Tony Stark's fancy gizmos. Even if that's all it accomplishes, it still ensures that Ms. Marvel will resonate with a new generation that fears more than just killer robots.

Final Score: 5 out of 10

X-men Supreme Issue 150: Walking A Fine Line PREVIEW!


The next era of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series is off to a rough, but productive start. Charles Xavier’s dream has evolved. He’s now working with the likes of President Kelly and General Grimshaw to expand the role of the X-men. It’s no longer enough to simply dream for peace. The X-men must now work as active collaborators with the authorities. That gives them access to a host of new resources, but not without a price.

Throughout the history of the X-men, both in the comics and the movies, Charles Xavier has been reluctant to team up with the authorities. Between government programs like Weapon X and the Sentinel programs, he and the X-men have been reluctant to work with them and understandably so. Xavier always valued keeping his X-men independent and free of influence. It allowed mutants to show just how much they could contribute to mankind.

That all changed in X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation with the rise of the Mutant Liberation Front. When faced with a daunting new enemy that specialized in destabilizing governments, the X-men struggled to manage. It even led to the destruction of the Xavier Institute in X-men Supreme Issue 147: Vengeful Anarchy. That loss, coupled with the harsh lessons the X-men learned in battling the Mutant Liberation front, prompted Charles Xavier to change his tactics. The result is the Mutant Monitoring Initiative.

In X-men Supreme Volume 149: Law Abiding Bind, I offered insight into how this new initiative works. By most accounts, it has been productive. The X-men have worked with the likes of General Grimshaw and President Kelly to do everything from confronting wanted mutants to conducting humanitarian efforts. It has gone a long way towards re-establishing some semblance of peace, which has been quite rare in this fanfiction series. However, that peace came at a price and not all have been willing to pay it.

At the end of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation, Xavier’s fateful choice led to a bitter division with some of his most valued X-men. Cyclops and Wolverine, two people who have a history of butting heads, ended up leaving the X-men. For once, they share the same concerns. They believe that Charles Xavier’s decision to compromise his dream will come back to bite them all. They’re not willing to let that happen. That’s why they’ve formed a new team that will operate outside the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. They call it X-Force.

What is X-Force though? This is not the same X-Force that we’ve seen in the X-men comics. Expect X-Force to operate quite differently in this fanfiction series. Expect a very different mission and very different team dynamics, which is to be expected with any team that has Cyclops and Wolverine in it. How this team operates and how they’ll function in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided will be a pivotal part of the story. The next issue will explore those operations and the implications for the future. As always, I’ve prepared an extended preview of X-men Supreme's first glimpse into the world of X-Force.

“Refresh my memory, Professor Xavier. I distinctly remember telling you to keep tabs on your former team, didn’t I?” said General Grimshaw firmly.

“You forget that I trained them, General. One of the first lessons I taught was how to strengthen their minds to resist psychic intrusion,” said Xavier, trying to restrain his discontent.

“Now why the hell would you teach them something like that?”

“Because I respected their privacy,” he said in a stronger tone, “It wouldn’t be fair if I always had the option of accessing their minds.”

“Fairness is the new F-word when dealing with matters such as this,” said the General with a scold, “We can’t have a pack of super-powered thugs defying our initiative like this!”

“Hey! Those thugs happen to be our friends,” said Jean, shooting up from her seat and staring down the irate officer.

“They also didn’t hurt nobody,” Remy pointed out, “Aside from messin’ up a perfectly good van and given three MSA hommes a good nap, it ain’t like they terrorizing folks.”

“It doesn’t matter if nobody was hurt. This incident sent a clear message. They don’t like the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. They’re openly opposing it. Now I’m all for debating the issues, but in a civilized society we can’t allow citizens to thumb their nose at the law.”

“Is this really as bad as you’re making it out to be, General?” asked Colossus, “I thought in America there was tolerance for those with opposing views.”

“This isn’t a simple disagreement. These friends of yours are obstructing vital government operations. If they want to protest, that’s one thing. If they want to debate, that’s something else. But when they start working against us, they’ve left the bounds of law and order that make society work. Now I understand that the Mutant Monitoring Initiative has its flaws. However, we cannot tolerate this kind of public opposition.”

The General was putting the X-men in an awkward position. He was saying that their friends were criminals. Even if they supported this initiative, they didn’t support fighting those who didn’t agree with them. General Grimshaw was clearly upset. He had always been strict when it came to upholding the law. To him, X-Force’s behavior was an act of open rebellion.

“What do you propose we do, General?” asked Hank with the same restraint as Xavier, “If you’re expecting us to fight our friends, then I think you’re expecting a bit much.”

“I’m not telling you to hunt them down. Not yet anyways,” said the General in a calmer tone.

“Sounds like you’re considering it,” quipped Rogue dryly.

“That depends on how far X-Force takes this protest of theirs. I may seem like a grumpy old man in a uniform, but I’m not senile. I know some of you have been in contact with your old friends. I know some of you may even be sleeping with them, which may be why Miss Braddock and Miss Munroe aren’t here.”

“I hope you’re not implying that we’re keeping secrets, General,” said Professor Xavier.

“That’s just it, Charles. I don’t think you are. I just think you’ve been willing to look the other way. That way when men like me confront you, you don’t have to bullshit me.”

The Professor and the rest of the team to shifted uncomfortably. General Grimshaw wasn’t psychic, but he could sense when someone was keeping the full story from him.

While some like Cyclops and Wolverine avoided talking to the X-men, others weren’t so secretive. It was well-known that Ororo had grown close to James Proudstar, who was obviously involved in X-Force. The situation was similar with Warren and Betsy. Rogue also kept in touch with Domino and Kurt. It was a little hard to ignore that they had been involved with something lately. Now they were making it a public spectacle.

“There are some serious ramifications here,” the General went on, “The report I got this morning from Captain Freeman painted a distressing picture. Those four mutants X-Force confronted have slipped under the radar. Even Cerebrum can’t track them. They’re four more in a growing list of mutants who seem to be avoiding detection. I suspect X-Force has their hand in many of them. There may be others involved as well. So I’m leaving it up to you X-men to figure this out. I’m giving you a chance with the understanding that if you don’t do something, then I will.”

“Does that mean you’re going to treat our friends like terrorists?” said Jean angrily.

“Because if you’re expending us to draw battle lines amongst those close to us, that is a fight we cannot support,” said Colossus, making his anger apparent as well.

“I won’t get into specifics. But if you’re this upset, then you have a chance to do something about it. Do yourself and your friends a favor by not wasting it.”

General Grimshaw hid no subtext in his tone. He made it clear to the X-men that he expected them to resolve this. He walked out of the conference room with an unspoken encouragement, as if to make clear that he preferred the X-men resolve this because they were not going to like how he would handle it.

Once the General was gone, the X-men turned their attention back towards Professor Xavier. He looked beleaguered in the dilemma he faced. This wasn’t the Brotherhood or the Mutant Liberation Front opposing them. These were his own students.

“Ah don’t care if the law says we’re on the same side. Ah still feel the urge to punch Grimshaw for dumping this on us,” said Rogue, finally letting her frustration out.

“A punch wouldn’t be enough, Rogue,” said Hank, who shared her sentiment, “What worries me even more is his concerns are completely legitimate.”

“Don’t tell me you agree with him. The man just asked us to attack our friends!” said an outraged Jean Grey.

“Since Scott and Logan are not hear to calm you down, I may have to restrain you, Jean,” said Colossus, who got up to coax the angry redhead back into her seat.

“You’re welcome to try,” muttered Jean under her breath.

“Please, my X-men…let’s not make this harder than it already is,” said Professor Xavier, standing up from his seat to address his team, “I know you all despise the notion. I do as well. But Hank is correct. General Grimshaw has legitimate concerns about X-Force.”

“That don’t mean we gotta agree with him,” argued Remy, “We be hearing the stories from Stormy and Betsy. We all knew they’re up to something. They just ain’t given it a name until now.”

“Except now our former compatriots are no longer content doing their work in the shadows,” said Hank, “In the months since Cerebrum came back online, we’ve discovered a growing list of undocumented mutants. This list grew as Cyclops, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler became increasingly secretive about their activities.”

“I also suspect that Warren may be providing them with resources,” added Professor Xavier, “His father has been calling me lately. He says his son has been negating his duties at Worthington Industries.”

“I cannot imagine that is going over well with Betsy,” said Colossus.

“Well she did skip this meeting to go see him so I guess we’ll get an update soon enough,” said Jean.

“Same with Stormy,” said Remy, “Guess this means we’ll be gettin’ hailstorms that go along with her mood.”

“The effect on relationships is a secondary concern. X-Force may undermine the Mutant Monitoring Initiative before it has a chance to succeed,” said Xavier as he started pacing, “Cyclops made his opposition clear. He believes we’re making a mistake and he’s willing to prove his point in a very public manner.”

“So what do we do? We’re not going to actually fight them, are we?” asked Rogue anxiously.

“I want to avoid that at all cost, Rogue,” said Xavier strongly, “However, we must be prepared to oppose them as ardently as they oppose us, even if we must do so with a heavy heart.”

The notion of attacking their friends did not sit well. Professor Xavier could sense that some were fighting the urge to yell at him. The schism within the team was a high price to pay for this initiative. They had made so much progress. There were still plenty of issues that needed to be resolved, but they wouldn’t have a chance if X-Force undermined their efforts. So as much as it pained him, Professor Charles Xavier was prepared to respond to X-Force’s incursion.

“The General expects us to act and so does the public,” Xavier went on, “This conflict against X-Force is best waged in the court of public opinion. Right now, X-Force is attacking the weaknesses of the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. The incident in Oakland demonstrated that some mutants don’t care for our current methods.”

“We have a one-size-fits-all policy that involves funneling mutants into the Academy of Tomorrow. We can’t expect everybody to be too excited about such prospects,” said Hank.

“That’s why Emma Frost was quite upset with me when I got her school involved with this initiative. It is entirely likely that she is the unidentified psychic assisting X-Force,” said Xavier, looking back up at the muted TV that was still broadcasting the incident.

“So my boyfriend and his ex are on a team that’s highlighting a problem we’re all painfully aware of,” Jean summarized, feeling increasingly anxious, “Is there anything we can do that will ensure I get more than two hours of sleep tonight?”

“I’ll start working with the MSA to institute reforms. It will take time. But until we have something to announce, we’re going to scrutinize future operations. If one comes along where X-Force might be involved, we must be there. We must show the public that we’re committed to making this work. In the process, I hope our friends are as intent on avoiding conflict with us as we are with them.”


I know the timing of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided is a little unfortunate. The X-men comics have spent the last decade or so with a divided X-men. They’re just starting to come together again as a united team with the ongoing ResurrXion relaunch. What does it say about my timing when I have the X-men become so divided in this fanfiction series

Well, timing or not, there is a larger story at work here. I want to tell that story and I want it to be as awesome as possible. To do that, I need feedback. I need to know that I’m handling this sensitive period in X-men Supreme correctly. I know how many X-men fans were jaded by the X-men’s many schisms. I want to hear from those fans as they endure their own schism here in X-men Supreme. Either contact me directly or post comments directly in the issue. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Sunday, April 16, 2017

An Original Cast With Renewed Energy: X-men Blue #1

The following is my review of X-men Blue #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Some concepts work well in any era, no matter the context. Those concepts are few and far between, but their universal appeal is what helps make them iconic. When it comes to the original five X-men, as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby over 50 years ago, they check all the right boxes with respect to those concepts.

They're young, idealistic, vulnerable, determined, anxious, eager, and even a little arrogant at times. They believe in following a dream. They also haven't experienced the harshest realities of the real world, which tend to crush dreams like Juggernaut in a china shop. Since arriving in a future where they find out their future selves are dead, disfigured, or had lost their minds, they fight desperately to cling to those dreams. Despite the knowledge that those dreams shattered under the weight of cosmic forces, psychic manipulation, and evil clones, they still fight for that dream. It says a lot about both their youthful spirit, as well as their youthful arrogance.

They may not need that arrogance quite as much these days. After the events of Inhumans vs. X-men, the dream the original five X-men fight for isn't quite as shattered as before. Mutants are no longer being gassed to death by a giant green cloud and the Scarlet Witch hasn't had a mental breakdown lately. That means mutants have a future again and, despite being the product of an out-of-control time travel plot, they seek to forge part of that future in X-men Blue.

Cullen Bunn and Jorge Molina bring the original five X-men back together in X-men Blue #1, attempting to capture as much of those classic concepts as possible while fitting them into a new status quo. That includes everything from teenagers complaining about random things and fighting the Juggernaut. By all those lofty standards of the Kirby/Lee tradition, it still checks the right boxes boxes.


From the outset, the story is fairly basic. The Original Five X-men go up against an old enemy in Black Tom, but from their time-displaced perspective, he's a fresh face with a sinister mustache. There's not much to Black Tom's plot. He's just holding a lot of rich people hostage, twirling his sinister mustache, and generally doing all the things Lex Luthor used to do before he got into politics.

There may not be much complexity to that plot at first, but it still leads to some entertaining theatrics that allow the time-displaced X-men to stop lamenting about their future selves and just be heroes. Given that they're still teenagers, there is some lamenting, but Bunn makes sure it's doesn't devolve into the kind of teen angst that often plagued the characters after Secret Wars. That makes the effect of X-men Blue #1 all the more profound because it shifts the tone back to a sense of youthful idealism. After surviving a poison gas cloud, it's a shift that needed to happen.

As the story unfolds, new complexities emerge. The narrative doesn't just rely on a group of teenage mutants flying in and saving the day. The battle also illustrates some new dynamics within the team. Most notably, Jean Grey is now the leader. It may not be akin to making Doop the leader, but the change is notable in the way the X-men conduct themselves.

It's different in that Cyclops doesn't go barking out orders while everyone else jokes about how uptight he is. Jean Grey's style of leadership is different in that she'll spearhead the charge, but trusts her teammates to handle themselves, even against someone like Juggernaut. This style isn't without its faults though. They quickly get overwhelmed and end up having to wing it in order to save the day, so much that they end up having to cheat with magic.

This is where X-men Blue #1 ties itself into the larger narrative that has been unfolding with the time-displaced X-men since they arrived in the future back in All-New X-men. Bunn doesn't ignore the nuances have emerged with certain characters. In this case, Beast's newfound appreciation of magic proves pivotal, both in terms of resolving a conflict and establishing new levels of tension. It makes for different tactics, but it also leads to arguments and uncertainties about how the team operates. In a team made up of entirely of teenagers, that's always fertile ground for conflict.


It also establishes that while X-men Blue is relying on more traditional X-men dynamics, the team is still very much a work-in-progress. Jean Grey is still learning how to lead. Beast is still learning how to manage his new mystical abilities. All the while, Cyclops has to resist the urge to start barking out orders again. As a team, they're not a finished product. They're still rookies who have the potential to be all stars, but are a long way from that level.

That sense of growth is one of the greatest strengths in X-men Blue #1. Even though it uses a team line-up that was introduced during the Kennedy Administration, it still comes off as novel. It's very much a product of an evolving narrative, one that has taken many twists and come dangerously close to being derailed. Magic and tactics aside, Bunn seems to have the original five X-men back on track and Molina's artwork makes them look good while they do it.

That track even has some interesting turns towards the end. While the story starts off as fairly basic, it gains greater intrigue towards the end. There are hints and teases about the Original Five X-men's larger goals and how they intend to go about it. Coming on the heels of a classic clash that brings new energy to a team that underwent so much upheaval, X-men Blue #1 creates a new foundation for an old cast of characters. For characters are teenagers, time-displaced, and dabbling in magic, that's quite an accomplishment.

Final Score: 8 out of 10