*Ties into the Secret Empire crossover
With the mutants being relegated to the state of New Tian in the wake of the Hydra takeover, Jean Grey and her X-Men: Blue squad are fighting to free the mutant and human prisoners being forced there.
The leaders of New Tian, Emma Frost, Xorn, and Sebastian Shaw, do not take kindly to this insurrection. Despite the pleadings of the older Beast, Emma sends a squad to take out Jean and her X-Men.
X-Men: Blue is going to have to fight for their own freedom against this attack by Emma Frost and New Tian.
With the forced segregationist state of New Tian seemingly played straight in its appearances in the mainline Secret Empire title, it's good to see Cullen Bunn's X-Men: Blue tie-in to be saying no to the idea of New Tian. Having Jean and her team play the freedom fighters and revolutionaries under the command of Magneto is a good direction to take this book in. It also has the return of a character not seen since Cullen Bunn's Magneto series: Briar Raleigh. She's working as a go-between for Jean's X-Men and Magneto himself. It's nice to see her back, as she was a great foil to Erik's rage in Magneto.
It's just a shame this seems to be another book that doesn't care how many characters it makes irredeemable in the eyes of its readers.
In addition to Beast already being the patsy for both New Tian and the Secret Empire, this issue adds Havok, Wolfsbane, and Firestar to the list of people who are okay with fascism and segregation. Oh boy.
Emma has always been straddling the line of heroine and villainess. Shaw never stopped being a villain. Xorn is mysterious and sometimes antagonistic. Archangel's been lobotomized. Toad is the ultimate patsy. Marrow…well, that one's a bit weird, because she comes from an underground civilization of hated mutants. But sure, whatever.
Havok is a classically styled hero, despite whatever happened to him at the end of IvX. Wolfsbane was a New Mutant. Firestar was an Avenger. This is so hard to swallow, and it doesn't make these characters look good at all.
It doesn't help that this comic opens up with Hellfire Club foots soldiers shunting off people into New Tian in a scene that is borrowing heavily from Holocaust imagery with guard-towers, dirt-covered ground, and men and women in identical prisoner uniforms.
Despite these massive caveats, this story does flow well, and it's fun when it's not trying to make you never pick up an X-Men book again. The fight between Emma's people and Jean's X-Men is creative and looks good.
Cory Smith's artwork is expressive and dynamic. He does make the fight scene look good. Matt Milla's color palette is bright and high-contrast. It looks great for most of the book, but it does seem a bit out of place with the aforementioned Holocaust imagery the book starts off with after the Secret Empire recap.
Overall, this book was mediocre. It had some fun moments, but they were harshly undercut to the adherence to the wrong-headed story it's tying into. If you're enjoying Secret Empire, you'll enjoy this. If you've been following X-Men: Blue, it at least makes its own protagonists look heroic. Otherwise, you should probably give this one a pass.