Welcome to X-Men: Bland Design, the weekly column that answers the question: "What if Ed Piskor had no art skills, a juvenile sense of humor, and less classic material to work with?" This week there are five X-Books on the stands, which will cost you a total of $20 to buy and, thanks to modern decompression techniques, take roughly ten minutes to read (if you read slowly). If that seems like a waste of time and money, you can keep your money by reading our recaps for free. We make no promises about the use of your time, however.
On stands this week are Weapon X #14, X-Men Blue #21, Despicable Deadpool #294, Cable #154, and Old Man Logan #35. Let's kick things off with X-Men Blue #21…
X-Men Blue #21
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Jacopo Camagni
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Cover: Art Adams and Federico Blee
This issue is part of the Poison X crossover, which started in the X-Men Blue Annual and will force us to read the next few issues of Venom. The things we do for you people. In that issue, the original five X-Men captured Venom and brought him to space, where they convinced him to help them find the Starjammers, who have been kidnapped by symbiote-infused bounty hunters Killer Thrill, Tord, and Hexxer, along with some other symbiote-wearing associates. Are these the Poisons? We don't really know. Poisons are creatures introduced in the Venomverse event that bond with symbiotes and take over their hosts, but we learned that from Wikipedia, because Poison X has yet to bother explaining it. Maybe we'll learn more from X-position this issue.
The issue kicks off where the previous left off, with the X-Men and Venom in a confrontation with Killer Thrill's band in a saloon in the Kalethi Spaceport. A battle breaks out, and almost immediately, Cyclops gets stabbed right through the middle of his chest by symbiote tentacles. Killing a Cyclops is one of Marvel's favorite things to, second only to assassinating his character.
Apparently, Scott has developed healing powers as a secondary mutation though, because though we clearly see the tentacles puncture his chest and come out the other side…
Just a few panels later…
Venom holds off the band while the X-Men escape with Scott. Venom then notices a sneaky green alien that's been spying on them and presumably tipped off Killer Thrill and company, so he gives chase. He catches the alien easily and demands answers.
Meanwhile, the X-Men are taking a leisurely stroll through a street market. Scott is self-loathing about his failure in caption boxes as the X-Men evict an alien from a tent and bring Scott inside. Jean gives him some psychic morphine and reminds him that she can read his narration boxes and asks him to please knock it off. Hank, who's learned nothing as usual, offers to use magic to heal Scott.
Venom arrives, and points out that if he was able to track the X-Men so easily, their enemies can as well. Venom reveals that he was able to get information on where to look for the bad guys, but he doesn't reveal how he got it – by disemboweling that alien from earlier. The X-Men, who kicked off this adventure by kidnapping Venom and bringing him across the galaxy against his will, wisely don't want to know the details on that. Scott, who moments ago was "bleeding out," says he's good to join the fight.
Back on her spaceship, Killer Thrill is torturing Corsair, Scott's father and the leader of the Starjammers. Hepzibah tells her to leave him alone and pick on her instead, so Killer Thrill obliges, zapping her with
force lightning buzz psychic powers. She reveals that her powers are driven by her own excitement, and that's why she's torturing the Starjammers. Who are we to kink-shame? One of Killer Thrill's unspecified henchmen pops in to tell her that the Brood have offered to buy the Starjammers. Killer Thrill says they'll leave in a few hours, giving her teammates time to return.
Across town, Venom and the X-Men are closing on Haze Mancer, an "arms dealer" who Venom believes can lead them to their enemies. Haze Mancer is the guy we saw in the beginning of X-Men Annual #1 who was hunting and selling symbiotes, and who context clues tell us sold the symbiotes to Killer Thrill that she and her gang are using. He may have a history with Venom — we don't know, because we don't read Venom, and Marvel doesn't care about letting readers know about this kind of stuff with a simple caption box referencing a past issue for some reason.
Inside his base, Mancer has a bunch of tubes with symbiotes in them, and he's in the middle of selling some to some robot people. Venom drops in and beats up one of the robots. The X-Men show up and a battle ensues. During the battle, Mancer uses a sonic gun to incapacitate Venom, while Angel accidentally breaks open one of the tubes. Symbiotes are free, and they bond with the X-Men. Now the X-Men are venoms. Uh… cool?
Well, at least that will take care of Scott's wound.
It's hard to get excited about this storyline, partially because Venom kinda sucks, but also because we know from future solicits that X-Men Blue is getting a new lineup soon and the original five X-Men will become "lost in space." Don't you just hate spoilers? Mostly though, we're just not looking forward to having to read a Venom comic next month. But beyond all of that, X-Men Blue has been and continues to be the superior core X-Book to X-Men Gold, but last week's debut of X-Men Red poses a very strong challenge. We'll have to see what this book does after this crossover is done with.