X-Men Blue follows Marvel Girl and her team of time displaced X-Men as they try to prove themselves as heroes in a world ravaged by the war between Mutant, Man and Captain America’s Hydra. For those who didn’t catch the look at X-Blue #9 you can find it here. We left off last issue with Ms. Sinister and Bastion reappearing and talking with Emma Frost in New Tian while the X-Men return to Mandripoor to recover and recuperate.

This week will be a double cover and it’s a good thing too! First things first though we have to notice issue #10’s cover art, showing Hank grim-faced and performing a spell surrounded by more than a few angry faces. There’s an ominous shadow lurking behind him with spiralling ram horns so it’s a safe bet that Hank is being manipulated by some dark mystical sponsor. I didn’t want to say “I told you so.” but…I mean….

Issue #10 opens with Hank chatting to Gazing Nightshade about their last encounter, an encounter that left Hank yelling about the things he’s done and betraying his friends. Nightshade shows her tender side and lends him an empathetic ear, trying to reassure Hank that he’s a good guy and doing what’s necessary to protect his friends.

Stepping outside we get our first real glimpse and then finally the full reveal of our magical puppet master, The Goblin Queen. With an angry red colour scheme and whispering “sweet” nothings into his ear, she simply oozes “big bad” so it’s nothing short of a wonder as to how Hank got mixed up in this madness in the first place.

Back at the mansion things are continuing as usual, Bobby and Danger are training hard while Magneto and Polaris spend some quality family time together. Scott and Jean are out in the gardens discussing their new mental link while Angel and Jimmy are off in Colorado getting to know each other a little better. It’s great to see the characters bonding and getting a little, fleshing out their relationships and establishing rapports, something the series has lacked so far!

It doesn’t take long for the fecal matter to impact the rotary oscillation device when The Goblin Queen and Hank return to the mansion. With some gentle encouragement she gets Hank to complete some kind of summoning ritual, bringing an end to everyone’s tender moments within. Immediately Danger, Bobby, Scott and Jean leap into action, fighting back some demonic hordes and coming face to face with Goblin Queen’s Hex-men: Pixie, Colossus, Bloodstorm and Nightcrawler. Just as the big battle begins we cut to a “to be continued” moment which would usually result in a two-week wait but…..

Issue #11 opens almost exactly where we left off, all fangs and red mood lighting. We’re treated to some inner monologues of the villains in question, it’s always fun to see things through their eyes. Learning just what happened to these Hex-men to make them into the twisted versions of themselves is pretty cool, especially with regards to Colossus and seeing Jean exploit it to bring him down. Making someone hallucinate their deceased loved ones is pretty freaking dark, knowing that Jean has been thinking about the Dark Phoenix thing recently makes it all the more foreboding. Further reinforced when Dark Pixie turns up and dusts her with some whatever the hell, making Jean see Dark Phoenix and start yelling for her to get back and stay away!

So far one of out uncanny X-men has been revealed to be being manipulated by dark forces, surely it’s only a matter of time until Jean is forced to confront her darker side. We’ve been introduced to so many bad guys that the odds are well and truly stacked against the X-men. It’s a shame really that the big bads haven’t been given a chance to really develop and explain their motives.

Rejoining Angel, Jimmy and Detective Kira in Colorado we get a bit more of a look into Jimmy’s mysterious background and his involvement with Ms. Sinister. Turns out from her home universe/timeline/dimension that the mutants there are man-made rather than born. We see the name Mothervine again but just what this is remains to be seen as of yet.

Back in Mandripoor, Scott and Jean regroup with the Raksha and ask them to help kick the demons out of their house. We knew they wouldn’t be a one trick team and that they’d make a second appearance eventually so it’s great to see them coming back! Hopefully we’ll get to see a more practical application of their powers and a greater insight into their team’s characters. Again it’s nice to see Marvel taking the opportunity to build up character relationships.

Finally we close out the issue with The Goblin Queen divulging the details of her plan; She intends to unite the Goblin Queens from other dimensions in this one and start wreaking all kinds of havoc. This just drives home the point that the villains here aren’t great, what with being introduced to The Goblin Queen the issue before and then immediately told about her plans for the X-Men. There’s no real build up except for a few hints and subtle nods here and there before the big reveal and all her plans burst forth.

The introduction of the Hex-men was actually quite interesting and seeing brief glimpses of their back stories even more so, hopefully we will be seeing more of them! The re-introduction of the Raksha is also a pleasant addition. Don’t get me wrong, I like the core group as much as the next man but there has always been an expanded roster of heroes within the X-Men and these guys are exactly what the series needs!

All in all, Toil and Trouble were great! Possibly the best of the arc so far, even if the villain reveal was a little weak. X-Blue seems to be going from strength to strength and really picking up some momentum now. It’s gonna be very interesting to see what happens in the future with this run!

Until next time, True Believers!

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