The End of an Era: Blue/Gold Edition

It’s hard to think that it’s been 36 issues.  I suppose the time has gone faster since they came out bi-weekly, but that doesn’t change that it’s time to bid farewell to the Blue/Gold era of the X-Men.  It was launched with great hooplah coming on the heels of the disastrous Inhumans debacle, but since then the excitement has faded and the X-Men are now barely whispers in the wind of the greater Marvel U as the phase crosses the finish line at barely a crawl.

As what were the main X-Men books wrap up and their writers, Cullen Bunn and Marc Gugenheim, leave the line, the rest of the X-Books (Astonishing, Red, Mr. and Mrs. X, Weapon X) continue their own paths while an event book (Extermination) closes out one branch and a new volume of the iconic Uncanny X-Men prepares to launch the next one.

But despite the nostalgia-based hype that launched the Blue/Gold era, not a lot has really been done during its run.  And that could be seen as the entire point.  Marvel’s attempt to try to pry the X-Men out of their spot in the fanbase and force the Inhumans in their place met disastrous results, so this era was put up to placate the fans with something they used to like while the next step was decided on.  It wasn’t supposed to be the next step forward.  It was running in place at the fork in the road until the proper path was chosen.

For X-Men: Blue, that meant dealing with the time-displaced teenage original X-Men, who were a leftover from Brian Bendis’s run on the book.  Whatever may have been the plan for this crew was long since jettisoned and none of them have really done much of anything in quite some time.  The main problem I had with the kids is that there never really seemed a point to having them there.  Originally, you’d had Jean Grey dead, Angel having been reborn into a blank canvas of his former self, Beast darkened by a lifetime of regrets and Cyclops nearly unrecognizable from his old self because of the hard decisions he’d made for the betterment of mutant kind.  Bringing in the old X-Men in their original form made them completely unique, and really the only redundancy was Iceman, who in turn is the only one who really got any kind of character development from the ordeal.

But in their time there, Angel got his groove back, Jean came back to life, and the young X-Men didn’t do much of anything that mattered.  Even the plot point that seemed to prevent them from being able to go home was undone and it was just a matter of time before they got sent packing.  With X-Men Blue #36, they say their goodbyes and walk away into whatever story is going to get them home (see Extermination).  The other members of the team – Jimmy Hudson and Bloodstorm – didn’t really matter at all, and in fact one of them was killed off before this final issue even hit the stands.

So what is the legacy of the teenage X-Men brought to the future?  Practically nothing.  The story of the Phoenix that brought Jean Grey back to life would have worked exactly the same without the teenage Jean having been there.  Iceman is now acknowledged as a homosexual, but honestly that could have been a story told without needing the teenage version to bring it out of him.  As for the other three?  Nothing whatsoever.  Whether or not the teenage Cyclops remembers his time with Corsair is irrelevant, since when the adult Cyclops is inevitably brought back to life, it will likely never come up again.

I suppose you could say that it served to put Magneto back into place as an opposite ideal for the mutant race from the X-Men.  As I’m writing this, X-Men Black: Magneto is sitting in my to-read folder, but I doubt it will really add anything to where Blue left him.  Magneto is back to a position where he knows he must fight to make mutants the superior race rather than try to live with humans.  The only time he felt a part of the X-Men was when Cyclops took the dark road during Utopia.  With the X-Men back at the school, Magneto is once again more antagonist than ally.

Over on the Gold side, the most done for the X-Men was yet again establishing a new status quo for the school.  This has happened in nearly every major X-Men event since Grant Morrison took it over nearly two decades ago.  This time the X-Men have finally come into the home of most of Marvel’s biggest heroes, New York City, planting the X-Mansion directly into Central Park.  It really doesn’t make much of a difference whether the school is in Manhattan or upstate in Westchester County near Salem Center, especially since the X-Men have a swaggle of teleporters and a bunch of hyper-sonic jets.  But if you’re going to have video games made that allow exploration of the city, it’s nice to have the X-Mansion close by, especially now that Marvel doesn’t have to pretend that the X-Men don’t exist anymore, but we’ll come back to that.

X-Men Gold put Kitty Pryde in charge of the school and the team, and she’s been a pretty awful leader, truth be told.  She’s hot-headed, tends to jump to decisions, and puts her personal interests ahead of her charges.  She thought it would be a good idea to allow the X-Men to be arrested and sent to jail, then to break out of jail when they got bored of being there.  She insisted upon reconnecting with Colossus, rushed a proposal on him, then left him at the altar.  Many of the former students of the school have gone missing from even the background images.  I suppose at least she didn’t try to bus away 3/4ths of the student body then let them get hit by a missile, so she’s not the WORST.

But what’s the lasting legacy of Gold?  Not really a lot.  More damage has been done to the Kitty/Colossus relationship.  Nightcrawler and Prestige had a blink-and-you-miss-it fling that ended poorly.  Storm had Thor powers for a while, but they’re gone (and good riddance).  It’s not like Wolverine being dead mattered, because they had Old Man Logan to fill that hole for nearly the entire time.  I’d say really the only thing to come of it was the introduction of a new Pyro as an X-Man rather than a villain.

And that’s it.  You could have completely skipped these entire books, and just gone from the intro one-shot over to Extermination and you really wouldn’t have missed anything.  I would like to have said it was a fun little trip, but I cannot.  It wasn’t fun at all – it was dull, tedious, and boring, made worse by coming out at a bi-weekly pace.  I’m looking forward to the next step for the X-Men, because I’m just glad that this one is finally over.

Oh, and if you are wondering what other major thins happened during this period, here’s a rundown.

  • Jean Grey was resurrected. (Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey)
  • Rogue and Gambit reunited, then got married. (Rogue & Gambit, Mr. & Mrs. X)
  • Professor X returned to the living in the body of Fantomex (Astonishing X-Men).
  • Jubilee was cured of vampirism and got her powers back.  (Generation X)
  • Havok was healed in both mind and face.  (X-Men Blue)
  • Sabretooth started his own X-Force team with Lady Deathstrike, Domino, Mystique and Omega Red, (Weapon X)
  • Psylocke became British again.  (Hunt for Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor)

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