Over the course of its thirty-six-issue run, X-Men Blue saw its fair share of highs and lows, but the one thing that remained consistent is writer Cullen Bunn’s love for the characters. His affinity for the original five X-Men seemed to grow issue by issue, and the way in which he handled the character of Magneto was nothing short of brilliant.
In a time where dividing lines have affected society (and comics) so negatively, Bunn (along with a never-ending lineup of talented artists like Jorge Molina, Matteo Buffagani and Marcus To) allowed heroes to fall and villains to rise through moments of self discovery and tribulation. Where X-Men Blue shined the brightest is when characters questioned their positions in life.
Following the exploits of the original five time-displaced X-Men after Brian Michael Bendis’ run on All-New X-Men must have felt like a thankless task. The addition of teenage versions of Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman and Marvel Girl to the main Marvel continuity was a divisive storytelling decision among comic fans. It should never have worked, but somehow, against all odds, it did, and it’s been a blast watching these kids who we thought we knew so well learn what it means to be heroes and, more importantly, what they mean to each one another. With the terror within the miniseries Extinction currently dumping on these X-teens, the final issue of X-Men Blue acts as a nice coda for the series and a welcomed reprieve.
Plot-wise, X-Men Blue #36 is an epilogue to the events that led Magneto to reclaim his notoriety as one of the greatest villains in comics. After a series of time-traveling exploits, the X-Men set off to tie up loose ends before they head home to their own time. In doing so, they put buttons on several story threads with compassion and a sense of hope. These kids have seen more insanity during their time in present day then they ever thought possible. And the fact that have seen a version of themselves who don’t exactly resemble what they had in mind for their futures, they kept their resolve (mostly). The pressure they felt would have been crushing for even the most mature minds.
Is X-Men Blue #36 a satisfying end? Mostly. While it functions less as another entry in an ongoing saga and more like a love letter to the team, it is written with whimsy and a hopeful reflection for what may lay ahead for these young mutants. But this is done so by honoring the past and the legacy of the X-Men (I dare you not to have a grin on your face when you flip to the final splash page).
Much like its counterpart series X-Men Gold, Blue focused on a specific facet of the team and a certain era of storytelling and paid homage, handsomely. X-Men Blue was mired in the notion of legacy and destination. Choice and consequences. There was a very Silver Age vibe to the structure of the book even from its first issue. And while not every story arc set the world on fire (we’re still not hot on that Venom crossover bit), the overall quality remained consistent in terms of how Bunn and Co. moved the players across the proverbial board.
From an aesthetic standpoint, Marcus To’s artwork is solid in X-Men Blue #36. He maintains the tone and character designs groundwork that was already there admirably. His panel layout is solid and his use of big double splash pages and inset panels is consistently great. While the art may not turn a lot of heads, there is craftsman like quality that is undeniable. There’s nothing to muddy the waters, and the level of detail on each page is present, but never distracting.
This issue is for fans — it’s as simple as that. Cullen Bunn is leaving us with a gift, and whether or not he bought it in our size doesn’t matter. It’s the thought that counts, and we’ll wear this ugly sweater with pride. Pulling off a memorable swansong can be difficult, and in this case, it’s even tougher since the fates of these mutants is still undetermined. The finale of X-Men Blue didn’t break any new ground, but for readers who have stuck with the title, it’s a warm farewell that many of us was keep in our hearts long after these kids go home.