If X-MEN BLUE #22 taught me anything, it’s that mutants and symbiotes shouldn’t mix. By themselves, they’re relatively safe, but when they’re together? All hell breaks loose.

Cullen Bunn, Jacopo Camagni, and Matt Milla’s fast-paced issue struggles with absurd dialogue but excels at pulling together the two worlds of the X-Men and Venom. The fourth part of the “Poison-X” arc finds the Blue team fully immersed in the Venom-verse, complete with their own powerful symbiotes. While this means stronger powers, it also means higher stakes for the young team.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Creeping into the Venom-Verse in X-MEN BLUE #22

This issue starts where VENOM #162 (the third installment of the Poison-X arc) left off. Symbiotes infected the Blue team, enhancing both their powers and their emotions. The team tracks down Killer Thrill’s spaceship, which is where Scott’s dad and the other Starjammers are being held. Thanks to their symbiotes, the Blue team is able to take down Killer Thrill and her guard easily. Scott rescues his dad but before he and the team can leave the ship, a mysterious villain appears and (with the help of the alien “Poisons”) transforms Killer Thrill and Jean into Poisoned drones.

A lot of new characters who aren’t normally seen in X-Men comics are introduced in X-MEN BLUE #22 (and in “Poison-X” overall). Unfortunately, like a lot of other comics, this issue assumes that readers are familiar with the workings of both the X-Men universe and the Venom-verse. First off, the main antagonist of this arc — Killer Thrill — is an alien psychokinetic who was once kind of normal. It was her capture and subsequent torture by an unmentioned space traveler that made her the psycho space-pirate she is in X-MEN BLUE #22.

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This issue sees the introduction of the Poisons. These weird alien creatures are a little like the klyntar symbiotes (aka Venom) but a lot more powerful and a lot more dangerous. Unlike the Venom symbiotes, when Poisons bond with a host, it consumes the host’s consciousness. The bond between the host and the Poison is permanent and completely one sided. The Poison does make the host exponentially stronger, but it comes with a hefty price.

A New Kind of Crossover

“Poison-X” has, in part, been so successful because it has brought two Marvel franchises together for the first time. Marvel comics crossover frequently, but rarely is it on this small of a scale. AVENGERS VS. X-MEN and INHUMANS VS. X-MEN were huge crossover events that included almost all of the characters in either franchise. The plots of both series were Earth-altering and had extremely high stakes. But, “Poison-X” has a small cast of characters and a contained plot.

This difference between “Poison-X” and other crossover events may seem anticlimactic, but I think it’s a good direction. Marvel has so many great characters and a lot of them never get to interact. This smaller breed of crossovers gives the heroes of smaller series, like X-MEN BLUE, the chance to interact with other Marvel characters. It also gives the Blue team a solid place in the comics. X-MEN BLUE as a series has struggled with fitting into the larger scope of the X-Men, but this crossover makes it clear that the Blue team doesn’t have to fit into the X-Men world. They can fit into any of the many worlds Marvel has created.

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Absurd Meets Serious

Within this short issue, Bunn is able to show a lot of character development, particularly with Jean and Cyclops. Jean’s narration shows her worries for both the future of the time-displaced team and the future of her relationship with Cyclops. The symbiote’s enhancement of emotions really affects Cyclops, causing some unusual friction between Jean and her (maybe?) future ex-husband. This is an interesting development since it foreshadows why Jean and Cyclops had marital issues in NEW X-MEN (2001). Back then, the older Cyclops cheated on Jean because he felt like he couldn’t talk to her about his emotions. Jean and Cyclops love to be around one another when they’re level-headed, but once one of them becomes emotional, they’re quick to show frustration.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Throughout X-MEN BLUE #22, Jean feels as though she is seeing Cyclops for the last time. This raises some questions about the future of the Blue team. The past few issues have seen multiple Blue members worrying about what will happen in the future when they have to go back to the past. Will this issue mark the beginning of their return? Will the Blue team make it back to earth?

Alongside those serious questions is the absurd and mildly comedic character of Killer Thrill. Bunn created her in DRAX #6, so it makes sense that he’s including her in this arc. Creator bias aside, Killer Thrill isn’t really needed. Her backstory isn’t explained, her dialogue is drenched in silly innuendos that don’t match the tone of the issue, and aside from her giant Goku-styled hair, she isn’t memorable. In all honesty, any alien pirate could’ve filled her part.

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Show Me Your Teeth

Camagni and Milla deliver a solid artistic performance in X-MEN BLUE #22. However, their art doesn’t shine quite as brightly as their work in X-MEN BLUE #21. I think that might be because of the new symbiote designs for the Blue team. They use the original Venom costume as their inspiration, but the Blue team’s symbiote suits don’t look nearly as slick as Eddie’s. Jean’s in particular looks like a strange punk version of her normal Blue uniform with a Venom mask. All black suits, identical to Eddie’s, would’ve been difficult to tell apart but they also would’ve been considerably cooler.

Nevertheless, the art of X-MEN BLUE #22 is still well above X-MEN BLUE’s average. Camagni nails human expressions perfectly and does a great job creating compositionally balanced panels. Milla shines in the colorful alien world of symbiotes and Poisons. Together, Camagni and Milla are a solid team that will hopefully be illustrating X-MEN BLUE for a while.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Final Thoughts

The Poison-X arc is the fire needed to reignite the X-MEN BLUE series. As a whole, the series has struggled with its purpose within the X-Men world. Thankfully, the addition of Venom made it clear that the Blue team belongs to both the X-Men and the larger Marvel universe. X-MEN BLUE #22 struggles with poor character choices, but in comparison to its golden counterpart, this issue of X-MEN BLUE is well above average. For the next installment in the Poison-X arc, check out VENOM #163, coming out soon!

X-MEN BLUE #22 by Cullen Bunn, Jacopo Camagni, and Matt Milla
While this issue isn't perfect, it does an excellent job showing how successful a crossover can be. Bunn's choice of including Killer Thrill was a bad call, but he makes up for it by giving Jean and Cyclops the character development they deserve.
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