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‘X-Men Blue Vol. 2: Toil and Trouble’ review: plenty of fighting, character dynamics and ‘Jean loves Scott’ storytelling

The second volume of X-Men Blue ties into ‘Secret Empire’ and focuses on Beast’s misguided magic hobby.

I was a huge fan of Brian Michael Bendis’ New X-Men mostly because it allowed me to enjoy the classic X-Men characters without remembering 40 years of continuity. It was also a delight because it took the classic archetypes of these characters and allowed them to be more basic, start fresh, and be young again; with Cullen Bunn’s recent and at times excellent X-Men: Blue series volume two trade paperback out this week in comic shops, I was eager to dig in.

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So what’s it about?

The official summary reads:

The X-Men are caught up in the epic Secret Empire event! But what does the new landscape of the Marvel Universe mean for mutantkind? How will Jean, Cyclops, Beast, Angel and Iceman survive in a world dominated by Hydra? And what exactly does Magneto have up his sleeve?

Why does this matter?

Collecting issues #7 through #12, this trade follows Jean as a leader of sorts, thrusts her and the team into a “Secret Empire” tie-in, and even involves Hell (more or less).

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

There’s something about Beast’s feet that are so appealing.

Having read and loved Secret Empire, it was nice to read this and get a better grasp of what was going on with Emma Frost and the mutants who were allowed to live freely in America. Sure it’s a shock to see Havok be a bad guy and Polaris be a major factor in a story, but it’s a refreshing break from the usual MCU characters. This volume is basically two short arcs, one involving Emma Frost kidnapping the X-Men after they rebelled against Captain America’s Inhuman prison camps and the second involving Beast getting himself in over his head with the use of magic.

Jean Grey is a consistently well written character in this volume and she tends to drive the narrative as she’s the hopeful spark the team needs. Bunn does a good job progressing the drama and character work for she and Cyclops; in a key scene it’s interesting to see Emma attempt to change Cyke mentally and see how Jean responds to that. This leads down a road where Cyke and Jean will forever be connected, which should end up delivering plenty of storytelling opportunities going forward.

One of the joys of reading mutant-centric books is seeing the plethora of characters that get involved in these adventures. From Blob showing up to Ultimate Wolverine’s son Jimmy Hudson being a major character, there’s always some new character dynamic or interesting power on display. Then you have fun, hellish teams like the “Hex-Men” who are introduced here and add a lot of color to an already robust and interesting corner of the MCU.

Havok vs. Polaris, who ya got?

It can’t be perfect can it?

It’s unfortunate Havok is now a bad guy, because it seems to negate all the hard work Rick Remender did when he made him the leader of the Avengers. I’d be fine with it if there was some explanation, but there’s none in this book. Instead he’s basically a foot soldier for Emma and it’s unfortunate because he ends up being rather flat. Emma is evil for evil’s sake too and ends up being her 90’s evil self and not much more. Her character, too, seems to negate the great work writers have contributed to the Emma Frost character over the years.

If you haven’t been keeping up with this series you’re in for a sorrowful surprise. The drama with the characters may go over your head, especially since the first issues tie-in to “Secret Empire” rather than stand alone. There’s also Magneto, who ends up coming off as a moping sideshow and there’s not much to his involvement here. Beast discovering magic is an interesting twist, though the entire endeavor feels like a waste aside from it bringing in some new characters.

Is It Good?

If you like your comics with a ton of characters fighting in one panel, lots of character dynamics crisscrossing, and plenty of Jean hearts Cyclops storytelling you’ve come to the right place.

Is it good?
Great art and interesting Jean/Cyke dynamics make this a fun read.
Jean and Cyclops are a big part of why this series is good
The art is sharp and very good at managing many characters in a single panel
Beast turning to magic is an interesting twist
Havok is a bad guy, Magneto is mopy, and Emma Frost is evil. It seems like these characters are being rewritten for the worse!
If you haven't been reading this series much of the drama may be lost on you

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