Clawing (and Struggling) for Relevancy in ‘X-men Blue #4’

Julian Lopez

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for certain comic book characters to be too awesome. It’s rarely the fault of the characters themselves. The problem is that when one writer finds a winning formula, a hundred others work tirelessly to recreate it, which leads to some predictably spectacular failures. With all due respect to characters like Hyperion and Sentry, the sheer volume of characters that try to match Superman’s winning formula proves that even great success can breed greater problems.

When it comes to the X-men, Wolverine is the spitting, swearing poster boy of this issue. In terms of the overall X-men mythos, he’s the standard by which all others are measured. He’s an amazing character with a convoluted, but compelling past. He has personality, charisma, and mass appeal that’s easy to stick on a T-shirt or lunch box. Few characters can hope to match that standard. Some characters, such as X-23, come surprisingly close. Others, however, fail miserably and become afterthoughts at best.

Up until Secret Wars, Jimmy Hudson was a case study in such failure. In the now-defunct Ultimate Marvel, he attempts to replace Wolverine and falls woefully short at every turn. He does nothing to distinguish himself. He brings nothing new or compelling to the story. He’s basically just a teenage Wolverine, minus the skills, the mysterious past, the personality, and the overall appeal. At a time when there are so many other characters, such as X-23 and Old Man Logan, who do a much better job following that formula, Jimmy Hudson enters X-men Blue facing some significant headwinds.

In some respects, he’s entering a favorable situation. Like him, the original five X-men are exiled from their own timeline. They’re also teenagers with lofty legacies to live up to. However, the baggage of being a failed replacement character from a failed series is not easy to escape. Cullen Bunn and Julian Lopez try to make the case in X-men Blue #4 that Jimmy can overcome that baggage. The verdict, however, is incomplete. The jury is still out, but the evidence is not on Jimmy’s side.

The structure of the story is concise and well-crafted. The original five X-men respond to news of a distressed mutant. That’s what the X-men of all generations do, time displaced or otherwise. Bunn establishes in the first three issues that this is the core mission of the team. It’s simple, familiar, and functional. It works in the sense that it brings out the best in the original five X-men. It continues to work in X-men Blue #4. However, when Jimmy Hudson enters the picture, this core mission clashes with his heaviest baggage.

If Jimmy didn’t have claws, wasn’t related to Logan, and hadn’t been part of a defunct world that stopped being relevant years ago, then his appearance would have some intrigue. Instead, he enters the world of X-men Blue in a way that’s so familiar, so predictable, and so devoid of drama that it’s hard to get excited about his arrival. Nothing he does sets him apart as a new and intriguing character. If anything, everything he does will just make Wolverine fans miss Logan.

It’s one of Jimmy Hudson’s biggest problems, both as a character and as plot for X-men Blue #4. It’s a problem that has lingered since his first appearance in Ultimate X. The fact that Jimmy Hudson is Logan’s son isn’t the issue. The problem is he does nothing to really set himself apart.

In every comic since his first appearance, he doesn’t carry himself as Jimmy. He carries himself as teenage Logan. It would be far more intriguing if someone had just cast a magic spell and reverted Logan back to a teenager. Given the abundance of overpowered sorcerers and time machines in the Marvel universe, that really isn’t much of a stretch.

That all-too-familiar tradition continues in X-men Blue #4. All the familiar Logan tropes are there. Jimmy is alone in a hostile wilderness, stuck in a blood rage, and can’t remember where he came from. These are all core themes of at least a dozen other Wolverine stories since 1975. There’s nothing distinct or memorable here. Jimmy once again conducts himself as a teenage Logan and nothing more. Unlike the original five X-men, though, he can’t use time displacement as an excuse.

It might be understandable for Jimmy to struggle to escape his Logan’s shadow in the sense that he sets the bar pretty high. Wolverine is one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. He’s the one who helped make Hugh Jackman famous. Expecting Jimmy to even come close to that bar seems unreasonable. However, that excuse fails too because there is a precedent, which further undermines Jimmy’s case.

Other characters inspired or derived from Wolverine have succeeded. Both X-23 and Daken have established themselves as solid, compelling characters who can hold their own without being too similar to Logan. X-23 does such a good job of this that she went onto become one of the best parts of the last Wolverine movie. Jimmy Hudson, though, gives no impression that he deserves a role next to Hugh Jackman.

Unlike Daken and X-23, Jimmy does nothing to stand out whether he’s in a fight or standing on a street corner. His only distinguishing feature is his blond hair. If Lopez were to use the wrong color, then few would be able to discern Jimmy from an overly youthful Logan. Given all the other distinguishing traits of Daken and X-23, which include tattoos and different claw configurations, Jimmy feels less like a derivation and more of a rip-off.

At the very least, his presence doesn’t derail the story in X-men Blue #4. Bunn never makes him the primary focal point and that keeps the narrative on-track and consistent with the themes of the series. Jimmy’s presence even manages to incur a distinct twist to the story that couldn’t be done with X-23 or Daken. He acts primarily as a catalyst for the original five X-men’s next challenge. He succeeds in this, but fails be distinct or compelling at any point in the process.

He’s still that character who failed miserably to fill the void left by Logan’s death in Ultimate Marvel. Now, he’s in a world where two other characters can claim some measure of success, one of which made Dafne Keen famous. Jimmy is a long way from that kind of success. That baggage is still as heavy as ever. He’s still that character few mourned when Ultimate perished at the end of Secret Wars. Escaping that baggage isn’t easy and with X-men Blue #4, he’s off to a poor start.

RATING 6 / 10