Another week, another Venom crossover sliding into our recap DMs! When will it end? Oh god, when will it end?!
Welcome, dear readers, to X-Men: Bland Design, the weekly multi-part recap column that strives to answer the question: "What if Ed Piskor had no art skills, a juvenile sense of humor, and less classic material to work with?"
Things have changed in the X-Men comics (and superhero comics in general) since the glory days recapped in Piskor's magnum opus. Gone are all of the thought bubbles, most of the narration boxes, most of the references to past issues, and perhaps most importantly, any trace of the idea that any comic could be some reader's first. Casting aside many of the properties that set comics apart as a medium, the modern superhero-industrial complex has instead chosen to treat comics as glorified storyboards, decompressed and written for the trade.
But for X-Men fans, it doesn't matter. We'll obsessively buy and read all of these X-Men comics until the day we die, no matter how bad they get! And if we're going to do that anyway, we might as well document the experience for you, our dear readers, brothers and sisters and non-binary siblings in suffering.
This week there are five regular-priced X-Books on the stands, which will cost you twenty bucks to buy, and, thanks to the aforementioned decompression, roughly ten minutes to read: X-Men Blue #22, All-New Wolverine #31, Legion #2, Spider-Man vs. Deadpool #28, and Despicable Deadpool #295. We'll start things off with X-Men Blue, which is a crossover with Venom as part of the Poison X storyline…
X-Men: Blue #22
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Jacopo Camagni
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Cover: Nick Bradshaw and Federico Blee
Can you believe we're already four issues into the Poison X crossover with Venom? It's got to be almost over, right? Here's what happened so far.
The Starjammers, including their leader and Cyclops's father Corsair, have been kidnapped by a gang of space bounty hunters led by Killer Thrill, who are all using symbiotes (alien costumes like Venom) to increase their power. The original five X-Men — leader Jean Grey, Cyclops, Beast, Angel, and Iceman — kidnapped Venom and brought him into to space to track down the Starjammers, and after a bar fight and Venom disemboweling an alien for information, they tracked down Haze Mancer, an arms dealer selling symbiotes. Venom and the X-Men, who became bonded with symbiotes of their own, defeated Mancer and learned how to track Killer Thrill (through trackers embedded in the symbiotes Mancer sold her). Now, the X-Men race to save the Starjammers before Killer Thrill can sell them to the highest bidder, and with the clock running down on the eBay auction, that looks to be evil bug-aliens The Brood! But wait… another character entered the game via final page cliffhanger reveal: Xraven, a clone created by Mister Sinister combining the DNA of the original five X-Men, Kraven the Hunter, and the symbiote-powered villain Carnage! As of yet, this comic has made absolutely no attempt to explain what a "poison" is, so you'll have to refer to the wiki summary we posted in the recap of the first issue, X-Men Blue Annual #1.
We pick things up there, with Killer Thrill's ship approaching "Broodspace." But the ship is stopped from reaching its destination when a giant meteor of ice crashes through its hull. There's something moving inside the ice. It's Venom and the X-Venoms! Before Killer Thrill's crew can report the intrusion, Jean uses her telepathy to shut down most of the crew's vocal chords and force one to report that all is well. The X-Venoms make quick work of the crew in this sector of the ship, but Venom scolds the X-Men that they don't understand what they're doing with the symbiotes. Jean says that the X-Men are working with the symbiotes and the two will part ways after the mission to save Killer Thrill's symbiotes and the Starjammers is complete. Venom isn't so sure.
Scott feels like torturing one of the captured crew members into telling them where the Starjammers are, but Jean reads his mind instead. The team splits up into two groups, one to take out Killer Thrill and her space-pirate bounty hunters, and the other to rescue the Starjammers. Venom wants to beat the crew into unconsciousness (or worse) before they head off, and Scott is ruthlessly in agreement, but Warren and Bobby lock them in an ice-prison instead. Jean, Hank, Venom, Warren, and Bobby go after the pirates. Scott goes alone after the Starjammers. For some reason, Jean fears she'll never see Scott again after they part. Foreshadowing?
The X-Venoms attack the pirates and we get a double-splash page of action before cutting to Scott quickly dispatching some guards and opening up the StarJammers' cell. Time for a reunion!
Back to the big battle, the X-Venoms are starting to lose, so Jean uses her psychic powers to trick the symbiotes into believing they're under attack by a sonic weapon, which is the primary vulnerability of symbiotes. Before the X-Venoms can claim victory, another, unidentified ship arrives. Killer Thrill, believing it to be the Brood, breaks free and runs to eject the Starjammers from the ship and complete her planned transaction. Jean tells Hank to talk to the new ship (bad idea if it's the Brood) while she goes after Killer Thrill. Probably stupidly, Jean declines to use her telepathic bond with Scott to warn him because she doesn't want to interrupt his touching hug with Corsair (which is still happening, apparently).
Jean catches up with Killer Thrill, but before they can fight, they're interrupted by Xraven, who offers them a chance to join him. If they resist, they'll be forcibly taken by… oh, @#$%ing finally, there they are. The poisons:
Time to turn to the Marvel wiki for a refresher on how these things work:
In their hostless state, Poisons are able to psychically disguise themselves as a target's loved ones or innocent bystanders in order to catch their prey off-guard. If they come into physical contact with a symbiote, they will form a permanent bond with it, consuming the host's body and assimilating their memories, powers, and abilities in the process. The symbiote and its host will cease to exist as individuals, though it takes some time for the Poison to fully absorb the host's consciousness. Poisons who have bonded to a host are able to weaponize the assimilated symbiote's biomass, transforming it into tentacles, blades, and other types of weapons. One of the main reasons for them to keep the hosts alive is to use their bodies as nutrient sources while the Poisons complete the bonding process.
Sounds like trouble for the X-Men. As the poisons close in, Scott and the Starjammers, as well as the X-Venoms, feel their psychic rapport with Jean disappear. Jean, Killer Thrill, and some poisons walk in on the X-Venoms and inform them that they will be assimilated. TO BE CONTINUED!
Despite our hatred of Venom, we've been reluctantly drawn into this crossover. Don't get us wrong, we still can't wait for it to be over so we can get back to regular X-Men-ing, but we have to admit it's been kind of… fun? Don't tell anyone we said that, especially not Cullen Bunn.