Before I get into this review, let’s talk about my biggest complaint about what is otherwise a fairly good series so far. Cullen Bunn’s X-Men Blue feels unfocused. There have been so many smaller stories with little connection between them that it’s kind of ridiculous. The Secret Empire tie-in is partly to blame, but only partly. This issue seems to be calming down a bit on that front, except that it touches on two stories at once. One story is far more interesting than the other.
X-Men Blue 12 concludes the X-men’s fight against a very powerful alternate universe version of Madelyn Pryor – a version that pretty much took over her entire realm in the Secret Wars Inferno miniseries. She’s also managed to seduce young Beast, who’s been exploring magic a bit instead of his usual science route, only to betray him and attack the rest of the X-Men. The fight is really intense, with only Jean and Cyclops left uncaptured at the end of the last issue. They brought in some new friends – mutant ninjas. Although these new friends participate in the fight, the focus wisely sticks to Cyclops, Jean, Beast, the Goblin Queen, and Bloodstorm. The fight scene is intense in all the right ways, and there’s also some good development with Beast and Bloodstorm, who ends up joining the team.
To sum up Bloodstorm, she’s an alternate universe version of Storm who became a vampire before joining the X-Men, and she later killed them after succumbing to her urges. That makes her a far more interesting addition to the team than Jimmy Hudson, who’s a boring Ultimate Universe version of Wolverine. Apart from the fact that he’s also dimension displaced, there’s no real reason for him to be with the time displaced O5 instead of All-New Wolverine.
Speaking of which, Jimmy Hudson, Angel and a cop they met a few story arcs ago are exploring a Miss Sinister lab. It’s the much less interesting story of the two in the last couple of issues, but this one chapter make it more interesting. They end up in a brief fight with the Blob, only for a secondary mutation to emerge that Blob really doesn’t deserve, despite his history as a supervillain. It’s a disturbing moment that also explains part of where all these secondary mutations are coming from. It also makes Miss Sinister a far more urgent matter. As much as this is an improvement over the previous issues, Jimmy is still boring and it’s still less interesting than the Pryor plot.
Douglass Franchin’s art is great. It’s a generally clean look, but with plenty of detail as well. Bloodstorm’s flashbacks into her own universe starts off with a perfectly creepy montage of environmental images. There are broken picture frames, shattered statues and Xavier’s empty wheel chair making up the first page. That’s followed by seeing what she’s done to her former professor, and the pain in her eyes when she realizes what just happened. This detail continues throughout the comic, with a variety of demons and fiery souls flying around. This one partial 2-page spread is a great action shot as Jean and Cyclops’s team drops through the ceiling, and the action flows well from panel to panel. When the Blob’s secondary mutation kicks in, the visuals are appropriately disturbing without going too far. Guru-eFX and Matt Yackey handle the colouring very well. The opening scene is appropriately dark with great use of shadows and greying out the backgrounds, while the Goblin Queen fight is dominated by yellow and orange, but otherwise bright and colourful.
As a whole this is a pretty good comic, just with one story that’s clearly better than the other. That’s a shame, because if each story was focused on one at a time, it could have gone deeper into both. This could have made the struggle against Madelyn more intense, while also helping to improve on the Miss Sinister side of the story. It would have also helped this series feel a bit more focused as a whole. But in any case, there’s some great action, good character development for Beast and Bloodstorm and fantastic art. If you enjoy reading about the time displaced O5 X-Men, you should still pick this series up. Despite some minor problems, it’s still a good series with the potential to improve if it focuses better.