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Evil Geek Book Review – X-Men Forever: Picking Up Where We Left Off

I’ve recently rekindled a love of the first series that brought me into comic books, the X-Men. Despite its faults I have nothing but love for the Claremont tenure on it; I find it both fascinating and innovative. He really had a grip on the core characters of that book and helped to build the foundation of so much of what was to come in the future. However in 1991, after 17 years on the book he wrapped up his time abruptly after a disagreement with editorial and rising star artist, Jim Lee. Uncanny X-Men became so massively popular that they introduced another book simply titled X-Men and split the teams. Claremont helped launch the new title but his last work for the franchise was with X-Men #1-3. What should have been his swan song was a decent but rushed and convoluted story involving the “death” of Magneto.

Claremont did return to various X-Men titles in the early 2000’s to less than stellar results. He complained that part of his issue was that there was so much continuity and events that happened since he had left it was almost impossible for him to write the kind of stories he wanted to. Finally in 2009 Marvel threw him a bone with X-Men Forever. The idea was that this series would continue directly after the events that happened on his last storyline from X-Men #1-3 and nothing that has happened since 1991 would have any bearing on it. He could for all intents in purposes pick up exactly where he left off.

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Be forewarned, after the jump I’m going to spoil the hell out of the first five issues of this series. It’s virtually impossible to discuss anything about it without getting into the major details. So if you want to be surprised by this book should you read it, turn away now.

The series starts a few days after the incident in issue #3 on Asteroid M and the team is hunting escaped Acolyte and responsible party, Fabian Cortez. While they are able to capture and apprehend him everything that follows in the next 4 issues deals with the fall out of that. There’s a lot and it all happens at a lightning fast pace, we’re talking a big twist and reveal each consecutive issue. Here’s the thing though, most of them are actually pretty interesting developments it’s just that they have no time to develop organically, which is a real shame because that was one of Claremont’s strongest qualities as a writer. Not to mention Uncanny X-Men under his tutelage became one of Marvel’s flagship titles and he had the luxury of knowing it wasn’t going away. This series reeks of impending cancelation, so it feels like “hey let’s do everything we want to get to because we might not be able to get to it”.

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A list of some of the big changes are as follows:

-S.H.I.E.L.D. takes control of the X-Men or at the very least Nick Fury has set up residence in the X-Mansion to keep an eye on things

-Wolverine dies

-Sabretooth turns to be Wolverine’s father and subsequently fights beside the X-Men

-Kitty Pryde phased through Wolverine early in the first issue and later is revealed to absorb one of his retractable claws

-It’s revealed that Jean Grey and Wolverine have been having an affair

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-Storm is still de-aged (the experiment during the X-Tinction Agenda is referenced as not working) but now there is also an adult Storm who is revealed as a traitor and is the one that killed Wolverine.

-Fabian Cortez may have awakened the Phoenix in Jean Grey

-The Mutant gene dies out kills the race at a relatively young age (which is why you never see any real “older” mutants)

I don’t think anyone will argue that’s a lot of big things to happen in the span of 5 issues, not to mention an escalating story occurring around it. As I mentioned earlier, I actually like most of what happened here. I’m all for shaking up the status quo of a book (which is part of the reason I’m such an unabashed Superior Spider-Man fan) but a few still don’t sit right with me, especially Wolverine’s death. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m more than ok with killing of the character, hell I would donate money now to Marvel if they got rid of him. It’s just that it happens so quickly into the series and with such little fanfare that it makes you feel you got cheated a bit. Wolverine even in 1991 was a massively popular character. Kill him off sure, but give the readers a little more gravitas and emotional weight behind it. Claremont could have waited a few issues into the series for that one instead of pulling the trigger at the end of issue #1.

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There’s some strange inconsistencies that I’m sure would bother some readers. At the time Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde were members of Excalibur and find themselves inexplicably back with the X-Men. It’s never really explained other than Nightcrawler saying they’ve been away for so long. I’m sure it’s just an excuse for Claremont to be able to write his two of his favorite characters again and I certainly can’t blame him for that, I’m glad to have them aboard. I would like to know where the other half of the team seems to be, we’re missing Ice Man, Archangel, Colossus, Jubilee and Psylocke but whatever I get that you can’t have such an expansive cast hence them having two titles at the time.

The X-Men almost exclusively called each other by their first names through the majority of the book, which I felt was a little odd. Occasionally you’d get that from time to time back in the day but here almost always Wolverine was referred to as Logan and Gambit, Remy, etc. No one batted and eye or made reference to Sabretooth claiming to be Wolverine’s father either. You would think that would be a little shocking unless I guess they had all suspected it?

Another weird thing that I noticed was some of the covers featured looks and costumes that weren’t in the actual issues. I can assure you Kitty does not look like this in anywhere in this trade, check out Rogue’s old school costume too. What the fuck?

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After reading through this trade expecting the worst, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The writing is typical wordy Claremont excess never giving the reader benefit of the doubt to jump to the logical conclusions, but that’s part of the charm. It’s not supposed to read like a modern comic, its 1991 all over again. The art by Tom Grummet is serviceable…pretty middle of the road stuff. Then again anything is going to be a step down when Jim Lee came before you. I have to admit it felt good to see the old X-Men costumes in action again. While I do believe that some of the plot twists were ideas Claremont had for the rest of the series had he not left I also think the intervening time played a factor here. My guess is that he also tried to throw in earlier ideas he may have had for the Uncanny X-Men that were nixed by editorial.

X-Men Forever is a series that definitely needs to be taken with a grain of salt, it’s a continuation but it’s not a direct flawless continuation of what came before.

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About Biff Tannen

Film Noir, Pulp, Comic Books and Hitchcock.

Posted on January 22, 2014, in COMICS!, Evil Geek Book Report, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Just reread the series and loved it. I enjoyed the story more the second time around and Grummet as the artist nailed it.

  2. I wouldn’t rush to check this out, it’s definitely not mandatory reading but more of a curiosity if anything. Wait till your in the mood for some Claremont X-Men then lower the bar and give it a shot.

  3. I always meant to read this but never got around to it. I too am a big fan of Claremont’s original run and was sad to see it end in the early nineties. I half agree with you about Marvel throwing him a bone as I think they wanted him on a project, they just couldn’t figure out what. Now that I have read your review, I can probably still let this series simmer on the back-burner. It sounds interesting, but there is just so much more out there to take a look at in the meantime.

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