X-MEN BLUE #21 by Cullen Bunn, Jacopo Camagni, and Matt Milla
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
The addition of Venom not only makes this issue more entertaining but also makes it more serious. The X-Kids are growing up, and they're having to face bigger challenges -- whether they want to or not. This issue is a standout because it highlights that realistic change into adulthood.
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Step aside Eddie Brock — there are some new symbiote-powered psychos in X-MEN BLUE #21! While X-MEN BLUE has had its ups and downs in the past, Cullen Bunn’s latest installment is definitely a stand out issue.

The issue takes the Blue team on a wild trip through the streets of an alien planet as Cyclops searches for his missing father. The cross over into the Venom-verse and the amazing illustrations by artist Jacopo Camagni and colorist Matt Milla give this series some much needed energy that will hopefully last for the entirety of the Poison-X arc.

X-MEN BLUE #21
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

X-MEN BLUE #21 picks up where X-MEN BLUE ANNUAL #1 left off, with the Blue team rushing to help the Starjammers after receiving a distress message from Cyclops’ dad, Corsair. Since Cyclops’ father’s attackers are symbiote-infected, the Blue team brings an unruly Venom along with them as they fly to the last alien planet the Starjammers were on. While searching, a group of Venomized pirates attack the team. Cyclops suffers some major injuries but manages to continue.

After the fight, Venom discovers a symbiote warehouse where the alien parasites are being sold to power hungry criminals. Recklessly, Venom and the Blue team invade the warehouse in an attempt to get some information out of the symbiote arms dealer. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), the fight releases all the symbiotes, flooding the warehouse with the dangerous aliens.

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In Too Deep

Since the first issue of X-MEN BLUE, the team’s had it pretty easy. Their missions haven’t been especially hard and whenever something gets too big for them, either the Gold team shows up (like in the Mojo Worldwide arc) or another member is added to the team (like Jimmy Hudson and Bloodstorm). The series hasn’t pressed the original five, nor has it shown any real life consequences to the hero lifestyle. But, Bunn changes all of that with X-MEN BLUE #21.

Finally, the Blue team is up against a foe that really pushes them to fight harder. And, without other X-Men to help, it’s up to them to handle the symbiote arms dealer and the alien pirates. They do have Venom helping. However, he’s more concerned about releasing the captured symbiotes. They really are on their own.

This mission really tests how well the team (Cyclops in particular) works under emotional and physical stress. Cyclops is both emotionally stressed over losing his father and, after being seriously injured, he’s physically stressed. And by “seriously injured” I’m not talking about the typical scrapes and bruises comic book heroes get. Cyclops gets a symbiote tentacle through the chest and barely survives. It might seem cold to want the Blue team to face these kinds of challenges as teens, but they’re X-Men. Doing the impossible after failing numerous times is kind of their thing. 

X-MEN BLUE #21
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Orphan Once More?

X-MEN BLUE #21 is clearly Cyclops’ issue. While past X-MEN BLUE issues have included some good Cyclops moments, Jean and Beast frequently overshadow him. This issue places more attention on Cyclops, showing a more emotional side of him that we rarely get to see. 

Cyclops narrates the entire issue, which means we get an in depth look at how he’s handling the capture of his father. He briefly calls himself selfish for pushing the X-Men into dangerous conditions to save his father, but then he remembers that, soon enough, he’ll return to the past and have his memories erased. After that, he won’t remember having found his father at all. This part of the issue shows just how much Cyclops cares about his family. After growing up an orphan, his father means a lot to him and the thought of losing him affects Cyclops deeply.

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The only critique I can give this issue is the lack of emphasis on Venom himself. Although it’s good to see Cyclops getting some attention, the interior moral debate between Eddie and his symbiote during X-MEN BLUE ANNUAL #1 was really interesting, and I was hoping to see more of that in this issue. Usually, the symbiote is the “antagonist” and Eddie is the “victim,” but in X-MEN BLUE ANNUAL #1, the symbiote becomes the moral voice. Hopefully, in future issues of the Poison-X arc, Venom’s two sides will get a little more panel time.

Style and Color Collide in X-MEN BLUE #21

The Blue team has never looked so good! The explosive artistic duo of Jacopo Camagni and Matt Milla is partly what makes this issue so great. Camagni’s illustrations are heavily stylized, which works well in an issue that takes place on an alien planet. Camagni perfectly captures the symbiote infested aliens’ aggressive expressions and sticky biomasses. Frequently, when an artist excels at drawing the inhuman, they struggle with humans but that isn’t the case for Camagni. His renderings of the Blue team are always proportional and lack the unrealistic distortion that teenage characters sometimes receive.

X-MEN BLUE #21
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

As good as they are, Camagni’s illustrations only really come to life when paired with Milla’s coloring. Milla uses bright and bold colors that make the alien planet the team is on even more fantastical and otherworldly. His skills particularly shine during the shadowy scenes. Milla does an excellent job of bringing intense colors to darkened scenes without making it look unrealistic.

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Final Thoughts

Bunn, Camagni, and Milla are the dream team X-MEN BLUE has been looking for. The edginess the series has been lacking comes through in Bunn’s writing and Camagni’s stylized illustrations. X-MEN BLUE #21 is a turning point in the series and the lives of the Blue team. They’ve grown up a lot. Now, they’re taking on adult situations that are more dangerous and important. I’m unsure whether Bunn plans to send the time displaced X-Men back. If he is, he should do it soon. The team is starting to mature as heroes, which means it’s time for them to return home with all of the knowledge they’ve gained. Of course, if they want to get back to their own time, they’ll have to first get back to Earth. Catch the next installment in the Poison-X arc in VENOM #162, out February 21st!

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