X-MEN BLACK’s third issue, X-MEN BLACK: MYSTIQUE #1, asks one central question: who is Mystique? The answer is a long list of things: mutant, activist, thief, artist, killer. Writer Seanan McGuire digs into the famous blue-skinned villain’s character and comes out both victorious and lacking. We get a real answer to the question that X-MEN BLACK seems to be asking all of its characters, which is a true success.

x-men: black - mystique #1
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

But, at the same time, the plot of the story lacks purpose and doesn’t give Mystique a role in the modern X-Men world. Although artists Marco Failla and Jesus Aburtov bring wonderful work to the issue, they also can’t seem to answer an important question. We know who Mystique is, but where is she?

The Perfect Crime

X-MEN BLACK: MYSTIQUE #1 tells an appropriately simple story. With only one issue, McGuire uses the small page count to detail a typical grab-and-dash robbery for Mystique. The reward? Some sensitive information and a young mutant. This issue has a ton of action and, perhaps more importantly, a ton of shapeshifting. When you have a one-shot focused on Mystique, the latter is pretty vital.

x-men: black - mystique #1
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Who is Mystique?

X-MEN BLACK, from what we’ve seen so far, seems to be trying to focus on rewriting who villains actually are. Although every issue hasn’t been my favorite, this concept is genius. So often, villains like Mystique and Mojo are poorly written stereotypes, sitting opposite of the X-Men on the battlefield. Mystique’s solo series have helped her character somewhat, but, unfortunately, the movies (where Jennifer Lawrence plays Jennifer Lawrence with blue skin) have clouded her identity again.

In X-MEN BLACK: MYSTIQUE #1, McGuire finally gives Mystique some definitive titles that go beyond “villain” or “X-Man.” We see her not just as a thief but as someone who truly feels as though stealing and committing crimes is a form of art. Her ease and calm demeanor show us a master at work. Her willingness to release the young captured mutant shows what may be the beginning of morals. Of course, the senseless slaughter of an entire office building full of people shows us the exact opposite. Mystique doesn’t learn some grand lesson or show true emotion, like in Magneto and Mojo’s X-MEN BLACK issues. But, someone who’s been around for as long as Mystique has doesn’t need those things. She just needs the things that make her who she is.

 

x-men: black - mystique #1
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Where is Mystique?

By “where” I don’t mean location exactly. Mystique is in a lot of different places throughout X-MEN BLACK: MYSTIQUE #1. More, I want to know where Mystique exists in the world of X-Men. Mojo’s issue pulled characters and places from other X-Men comics, which helped situate him. In Mystique’s issue, the closest thing we get to that is the fleeting mention of “Mothervine” and Trask Industries.

In recent comics, Mystique has been notably absent, so I was hoping this issue would give readers an insight into her next big development as a character. While I enjoyed the issue and felt it answered some big questions, it doesn’t provide any hints as to where Mystique currently is or where she’s going. We can only hope that Marvel has something planned for her in the future.

x-men: black - mystique #1
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Changing Faces

Mystique changes her appearance a lot throughout X-MEN BLACK: MYSTIQUE #1, which makes for a bigger job for penciller Failla. Not only did he have to worry about drawing Mystique’s blue-skinned self, but he also had to worry about perfecting the looks of ten other characters. It’s a huge job that I think Failla does really well. His style is not exceptionally noteworthy or unique, but it works well for the issue. My favorite panels are when Mystique is transforming from one form to another. While slightly disturbing, these panels really show how versatile an artist Failla is.

Much of X-MEN BLACK: MYSTIQUE #1 takes place in airports and offices. For a colorist, these settings are pretty boring. Aburtov delivers solid work, but there’s only so much he can do with these lifeless landscapes. Still, he does add some shades of purple to the dull greys, which helps add some vitality. He also perfectly nails the shade of Mystique’s bright red hair, which is something a lot of colorists ruin.

x-men black: mystique #1
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Final Thoughts on X-MEN BLACK: MYSTIQUE #1

X-MEN BLACK: MYSTIQUE #1 is the kind of issue that is undoubtedly a good read but definitely could have said more. A few hints about Mystique’s future could have gone a long way and would’ve given readers something to look forward to. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Mystique’s personal motives and identity. If you’re not a fan of Mystique, this issue probably isn’t for you, since it’s absolutely focused on her character. If you are a fan, or perhaps used to be a fan, this one is definitely worth a buy.

X-MEN BLACK: MYSTIQUE #1 by Seanan McGuire, Marco Failla, and Jesus Aburtov
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
X-MEN BLACK: MYSTIQUE #1 doesn't try to be more than it is. McGuire delves into Mystique's character, giving readers some new titles and slivers of her identity, but it doesn't become over-ambitious, which for a one-shot is good. Sill, I think this issue could've given readers a little more information about Mystique's current standing when it comes to the X-Men. The bigger world of superheroes and mutants is largely left out.
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Mystique's Many Names
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