REVIEW: X-Men: Blue #31 – “Kings and Queens”

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Writers: Cullen Bunn
Penciller: Jorge Molina
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Price: $4.99

Release Date: 7/11/18

With both X-Men: Blue and Gold coming to an end in September, the former has embarked on its most dramatic arc yet. It’s finally time for the time-displaced X-Men to put a stop to Magneto’s destruction… as long as he doesn’t come for Emma Frost first.

Plot: During her meeting with Magneto months ago, Jean Grey peered into his mind and witnessed the pain and suffering of a young boy. That same pain is resurfacing now, causing Magneto to act out worse than ever before. Can Jean Grey’s team of X-Men stop him before it’s too late?

Story: X-Men: Blue #31 opens with a return to the fateful mind-melding between Jean and Magneto, in which she sees not only the Holocaust past and the face of the Nazi officer which haunt him but also comes to understand that he fights his own darkness daily. These first few pages do wonders at setting up the personal stakes of the plot, for both Jean and Magneto himself. He has always been a complex character, and while many fans have decried his return to villainy, Bunn manages to give us true insight into just how blurred the line is for him. The extent of Jean’s desire to help ‘Max’ is also fully revealed here, making the X-Men’s current mission feel more important than ever.

Another arguably unpopular choice has been regressing Emma Frost to villainy, but it provides a compelling target for Magneto’s wrath. As creator of the Mothervine mutants whom he was forced to kill, Emma represents everything Magento despises. But Bunn doesn’t let her be a one-note character, and her appearance in the issue is filled with some of the best and most biting wit she’s been given in awhile. She’s not the only character who gets a few interesting moments, either. Lorna meets up with Alex, and the two engage in a discussion about his recent actions that is as emotional as it is relevant to the situation at hand. Just like Alex blames himself for losing control and accepts that the darkness inside was part of him, Magneto has both darkness and the goodness of ‘Max’ battling for control of himself. Lorna isn’t giving up on Alex, but can Jean do the same for Magneto even after the destruction he wrought on the Hellfire Club?

Speaking of the Hellfire Club, what happens to them creates a moral dilemma for the audience especially. They are evil incarnate, and yet we know Magneto has gone too far in his quest for justice. The conversation between Briar and Jean helps emphasize this, and there are times when both women have a point. The push and pull between right and wrong, and between logic and emotion, is one of the best parts of any good X-Men story and in this case X-Men: Blue #31 more than delivers. Although perhaps what it doesn’t deliver on are team moments or development for ‘main’ characters outside of Jean herself.

Art: Bringing Jorge Molina back to X-Men: Blue is an inspired choice, and one that certainly pays off in this issue. He excels at the moments of inner turmoil yet doesn’t skimp on the scenes of external chaos, and because of this Magneto’s story becomes even more intriguing. His landscapes are also complemented perfectly by Matt Milla’s coloring, creating an atmosphere of dread for  the Grey King while also allows moments of brightness (and therefore hope) for characters like Alex.

Considering how many times Magneto bursts into a room or onto a street and causes havoc, it’s impressive that Molina and Milla manage to keep every scenario unique. The splash page was particularly surprising, simply because it was a variation of the panel above that still felt entirely new thanks to a change in pose and coloring. And yet the echo remains, reminding readers of what happened to the Hellfire Club and by extension what could happen to the X-Men if they’re not careful.

Verdict: X-Men: Blue #31 brings back its original artist to great effect, just as the story itself returns to its roots and makes for a beautiful and tragic full circle.

Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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