X-Men Blue #3
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Jorge Molina, Ray-Anthony Height and Matt Milla
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Joey Edsall
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
As X-Men: Blue progresses, it remains clear that the series is going to be vying for long-term payoffs to multiple plot elements. The memorable end of the first issue where it was revealed that the Blue team were working with a possibly reformed Magneto would have been enough for many writers to work with for a batch of six or 12 issues, especially with the second issue twist of his potential plans to send these time-lost teens back to their original era. Cullen Bunn's greatest strength with X-Men: Blue is the way that multiple long-term stories are being propped up and immediately thematically linked. Aided by some absolutely incredible art by the team of artists Jorge Molina and Ray-Anthony Height and colorist Matt Milla, X-Men: Blue #3 further solidifies potentially the strongest opening salvo of an X-Men run in a decade.
A major positive effect of having Jean Grey as the focus and audience surrogate is obvious in the first act of this issue. As the team fights the Sentinels from the end of the last issue, the reader learns alongside the team that the situation with the mutant-massacring machines is more nuanced than it initially seems. When newfound mutant Belen pleads for the team to stop fighting and insists that the Sentinels were helping her, Jean's utter confusion is the audience's utter confusion, with readers likely replicating Molina's exemplarily rendered facial expressions. When the mutant-saving Sentinels take the team to their master, Bunn reveals the next major plot point that the Blue team will have to deal with: Bastion, who survived Hope Summer's onslaught in "Second Coming" by jumping through time, has malfunctioned to such an extent that he now wants to save the endangered species that is homo superior. Bastion's request for an alliance with the X-Men is mirrored both in thematic content and in Molina's artistic depiction with the X-Men's interactions with Magneto.
Bunn's exploration of an artificial intelligence's existential crisis and potential madness is fascinating as Bastion's motivations are made clear. He wants to preserve mutants as a species and see them "flourish" entirely for the sake of destroying them at a later date. It's insane enough to reinforce the robot's madness but cold enough to reinforce his non-human nature. It's important to note that the team does not defeat him at the end of the issue. Bastion's escape and renewed presence in the world is just something else that the team is going to have to contest with.
While both Molina and Height contribute fantastic panels to X-Men: Blue #3, their styles are very distinct when side-by-side. The shift is jarring and breaks the strong pace that Bunn had established. Milla's coloring also gets jumbled in the shift, as most evident by Molina's Jean having red eyebrows and Height's Jean having very dark and pronounced eyebrows. It makes the issue feel as though it is shifting to a backup story immediately at the climax of the issue. This problem doesn't affect all characters, as the transition isn't terribly noticeable on Beast or Cyclops in particular, but it's just noticeable enough to make the casual reader notice that something is a little off.
If you weren't excited about X-Men: Blue yet, this issue gives more than enough for readers to feast upon, and if you were excited, this issue is validating. This series is getting better and more engrossing with each issue which is no small feat considering how strong is started. While the midpoint art shift is confusing at best and frustrating at worst, there is plenty of interesting visuals to make this comic a pleasure to look at. With such strong storytelling, it's hard not to feel like it's an incredible time to be an X-Men fan.