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 four X-Books on the stands, which will cost you a total of $17 to buy and take roughly eight minutes to read. 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.
This week, we've got Phoenix: Resurrection #4, X-Men Blue #20, X-Men: Blue Annual #1, and Legion #1. Let's take a look at X-Men Blue Annual #1.
X-Men Blue Annual #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Edgar Salazar
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
X-Men Blue Annual #1 is the start of a crossover with Venom called Poison X. We haven't been reading Venom (because it's not 1995), so we'll see how well this comic manages to explain what's going on if you're not a regular Venom reader. The comic opens with some dude hunting symbiotes on what a caption reveals is Klyntar, homeworld of the symbiotes, using Ghostbuster-like traps to capture them. This guy talks to himself, revealing that he's buyers who want five fresh symbiotes. Weren't comics simpler when we could use thought bubbles? People still talked to themselves a lot back then anyway, but it wasn't the only means of X-position.
On Earth, Cyclops is skyping with his dad, Corsair, the swashbuckling leader of the Starjammers. The Starjammers want Scott to visit them in outer space. What fortuitous timing! The X-Men need to become lost in space so that a new team can take over in April, so a trip to visit Dad would work out perfectly!
Corsair is in the middle of trying to get Scott to tell him sex stories about Jean and Bloodstorm — which, ew — but he's interrupted by an attack from off-panel. The Starjammers are captured by a group of symbiote-powered bad guys that later X-pository dialog will reveal are Killer Thrill, Tord, and Hexxer, apparently now Poisoned we guess. Now is probably a good time to explain wtf Poisons are, though the comic declines to do so. Come on, guys. You gotta give us something to believe in. So we'll turn to Marvel's wiki instead, which gives a summary of how these villains from the Venomverse event 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.
Corsair manages to tell Scott what planet they're on before he's overtaken. Killer Thrill appears briefly on the video call, but before she can talk dirty to Scott, the connection dies out. They must be using Sprint.
The X-Men also haven't been reading Venom, so they don't know who attacked the Starjammers. However, Jean knows someone they can ask for help. We're guessing it's Venom. Yup, it's Venom.
In New York, Venom busts up an arms deal on the street when the X-Men show up and want to talk. They need Venom to help them save Cyclops' dad from villains wearing symbiote. Eddie Brock doesn't want any part of this, but the Venom symbiote does. The Venom symbiote talks to Eddie through caption boxes, we can surmise. Eddie tries to leave, so the X-Men attack, and after a brief battle, the symbiote knocks Eddie out, allowing the X-Men to capture Venom.
Meanwhile, the Starjammers are being held captive, but Corsair keeps a microbot hidden in his lip for situations just like this (who doesn't?). He bites his lip open and the microbot frees him and the others. But Killer Thrill has been watching them via her symbiote powers, lookin' for nothin' but a good time, but instead she found the Starjammers trying to get away. Killer Thrill is kind enough to rattle off the names of herself and her colleagues for those of us who don't read Venom (which, let's face it, is most of us). Continuing her X-position, she reveals that their plan is to sell the Starjammers for a bounty.
Seriously? That's kind of a lame plan. But every rose has it's thorn.
Meanwhile, when Venom wakes up, he's being held captive on Danger, who is also the X-Men's Blackbird jet (don't ask). After some back-and-forth, Eddie is convinced to help the X-Men out by his symbiote partner. It's a good thing Eddie agrees because they've already traveled across the galaxy to the planet Ulgriath, which is really kinda not cool to do to someone you just met.
The X-Men and Venom locate the Starjammer (which is the name of the Starjammers' space pirate ship), and it's not in good shape. The Starjammers' doctor, Sikorski, survived the attack and explains that the Starjammers were captured by bounty hunters using symbiotes. This sounds familiar to Venom, who is apparently the only person reading his own book. The team heads to a local bar for information, and also to make use of some more X-pository dialog to remind us that Jimmy Hudson and Bloodstorm stayed behind on Earth because they were on a mission for Magneto, and also because they're going to remain on X-Men Blue when the roster changes over. After the bartender refuses to serve Cyclops, the team is confronted by Tord, Hexxer, and three more Poisons (we guess — again, the comic never explains it and makes the bold assumption you read Venomverse). Well well well. Look what the cat dragged in. The issue ends on a cliffhanger.
It looks like we're in for more of this as the crossover will continue through X-Men Blue #21, Venom #162, X-Men Blue #22, and Venom #163. Marvel likes to kick off crossover events with an overpriced first issue, which is what this annual is, so the total price when all is said and done will be $21 to read all of this. We know that the original five X-Men won't be returning from space anytime soon because a new roster is taking over their book in April, so in the grand scheme of things, you could probably skip this crossover and not really miss anything. We don't have that luxury, unfortunately. We have to recap it for you, so we'll be stuck buying those Venom issues either way, but we're counting them toward the X-book budget.
We've got one more X-book to go this week…