When I first saw the cover to X-Men Blue #35 by artist R.B. Silva, featuring the time-displaced original X-Men and their adult counterparts, I knew this issue was going to be something special. I just had no idea how gripping, emotional, philosophical and ultimately satisfying it would all be. And there’s still one more chapter to go!
Yes, X-Men Blue fans, it’s the beginning of the end as writer Cullen Bunn and artist Marcus To slow down the pace and deliver a comic that’s driven by the terrific characters at the heart of this series. Now, much of what goes down here is probably what you’d expect. Two versions of Jean Grey discussing Jean Grey things. Two Hank McCoys and two Bobby Drakes making you roll your eyes for separate reasons (one pair for arrogance and the other for bad jokes, naturally). And one, lonely Cyclops grappling with his emotions. You know, because his adult counterpart is dead.
But there have been so many interesting stories since Marvel renegade Brian Michael Bendis yanked the original five through time in 2012 that these moments can’t help but hook you. Bunn only has so many pages to play with, but I would have gladly read a monster-sized issue if it meant I could continue eavesdropping on these characters’ conversations.
These conversations, though. Through them, Bunn gets to address some of the thoughts X-Fans have had since these teenage mutants started mucking with the timestream. Yeah, teen Jean outing you the way she did was a little messed, adult Iceman. You do need to somehow undo all the changes you’ve been through before you go home, teen Beast. (As always, thanks, adult Beast, for causing a huge mess.)
And then, there’s the truly emotional–and kind of philosophical–questions that Jean dwells on. These characters have all evolved so much in the present. For them to return home, and for time to take its natural course, they must let go of everything they’ve learned about the world and themselves. As young Jean asks her adult self, “How’s that any different from dying?”
An excellent–and depressing–question. But also, somewhat beautiful in that each of the original X-Men must sacrifice themselves for the sake of the timeline. A sacrifice… like when Jean chose to give her life to save her loved ones on the Blue Area of the Moon. A sacrifice like any one of the X-Men would make… because they’re heroes. A nice final statement on the X-Men Blue squad at the end of an excellent run.
And yes, while it would appear Bunn’s time with the X-Men has come to an end, he inserts a scene from each X-Man’s possible future that’ll make X-Fans wish he was sticking around to tell these stories. Throughout his time in the X-Universe, Bunn proved he was a fan of playing the long game… it wouldn’t surprise me if he already has his return to the X-Men marked on his calendar so he can tell these tales.
Future Jean Grey vs. skeleton Galactus? Sign me up!
Please also sign me up for more X-Men stories illustrated by Marcus To! While X-Men Blue coming to an end has been bittersweet, getting several issues in a row by an artist of To’s caliber has been an excellent treat (hey, that rhymed). Drawing everything this issue from hordes of demons in Limbo to an Iceman-created winter wonderland, To proves he’s got what it takes to, hopefully, join the upcoming Uncanny X-Men’s roster of artists. Or, now that he has experience drawing two Jeans, why not X-Men Red?
The final two issues of X-Men Blue are shaping up to be everything I had hoped for–and providing some much-needed closure to several of Bunn’s long-running subplots before Extermination (which is when this issue takes place). X-Men Blue #36 already has everything going for it with teen Cyclops striking adult Scott’s mutant revolutionary pose on its cover, so my fingers are crossed for a strong finish.
Something tells me this creative team has what it takes to pull it off.
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