X-Men: Blue #32 Review

by Charles Martin on July 25, 2018

X-Men: Blue #32 Review
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Andrés Genolet
Colourist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Cullen Bunn continues his dramatic character study of Magneto in his latest swerve to villainy. Teen Jean plays Luke to his Darth Vader, but redemption remains a distant, flickering light at the end of a long tunnel.

While this title has suffered through more than its share of doldrums, this current arc is throwing pure fire. It makes a satisfying stand-alone Magneto story. If you dropped out during one of the interminable crossovers and want to check back in for the Big M's Big Show, starting at #31 works just fine.

That issue set up a mother of a fight between Magneto and the O5, with Emma Frost as the stakes, and that's exactly what #32 delivers. It starts with a solid callback to 1963's X-Men #1 to emphasize that these particular X-Men have been fighting Magneto since day one, literally.

The battle that unfolds isn't too memorable from a mechanical standpoint: sharp metal bits are hurled around, civilians are threatened, mutants zap and punch and strategize. Bobby accuses Magneto of the greatest crime imaginable: being "un-bro-like," gasp! The highlight of the combat is the specific way in which Magneto threatens Emma Frost; it's scripted and drawn with real notability. (But it's also, an X-movie fan informs me, a bit of a rip from First Class.)

The attention lavished on Magneto's character is in a different class entirely. Magneto is super-shouty about how the O5 team have let the world down and disappointed him. How Emma and her Mothervine pals unleashed hell and the X-Men weren't even on the right planet at the time. Now he's in no mood for excuses: Emma Frost must die.

What impresses me most is what he doesn't say. Emma's shenanigans forced Magneto into killing innocents in a life or death situation. It's the sort of moral grey area super-characters love to agonize over. Magneto's done the agonizing and chosen a fatalistic view: He believes that act closed his door to redemption and made it impossible for him to be a hero. He is furious about that, but also very ashamed. A critical moment tested him and he was found wanting. 

Cullen Bunn never gets within a mile of addressing Magneto's shame directly. But it's blaring out of his actions and words in every panel. Even as he runs the greatest hits from the Evil Magneto playbook, the pain inside him is palpable.

This issue is a tour de force for Magneto, but it gives Teen Jean a chance to shine as well. The X-Men squeak out a win here (though Magneto's story isn't finished), and it comes down entirely to Jean convincing a madman of the courage of her convictions. It's heady stuff.

On the visual side, new artist Andrés Genolet creates a remarkable fusion of the title's best artistic trends. He blends the strong outlining of RB Silva with the carefully-exaggerated proportions of Jorge Molina. The result is a fast, dynamic presentation that is perfect for a combat-heavy issue. Mr. Genolet pushes the cartooniness a little too far in the early pages with some gaping "can't fit on human skulls" mouths, but he also reins them in well before the end of the book.

Colourist Matt Milla chooses to paint Paris in disaster shades of grey and brown, but this works well with the busy action. He does tons of good work adding depth to the characters, and all of the colourful materials he textures - flame wings, ice golems, diamond skin, firecracker hair - pop vividly against the dusty backgrounds.

It's an X-Men vs. Magneto fight of mythological proportions. The punchy zappy mechanics look decent, but for me, the true greatness is in the subtle, painful, complex portrait it paints of the villain. Teen Jean needs to get inside that exceptionally damaged head (with true empathy, not telepathy) and find out if there's anything left beyond villainy. It's a privilege to peek in with her.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I'm pleased as punch with my first exposure to Andrés Genolet and I'm looking forward to what he does with Jody Houser on the upcoming Spider-Girls miniseries.