Friday, September 19, 2014

X-MEN Episode Seventy-Six - September 20, 1997



Graduation Day
Written by James Krieg

Summary:  At a hearing on mutant legislation, Henry Gyrich attacks Xavier with a device that sends him into a coma.  Gyrich is restrained, while Xavier is left near death.  The attack on Xavier soon motivates disenfranchised mutants into waging war on humans, a war Magneto is eager to lead.  As Xavier’s condition worsens, the X-Men realize that only advanced Shi’ar technology can save him, but there’s no way to reach Lilandra in time.  Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine infiltrate Magneto’s base before he can launch his attack on Genosha.  Jean convinces Magneto to “supercharge” Xavier’s brainwaves with his powers, so that Lilandra will realize Xavier is dying.  Magneto agrees, and soon stands with the X-Men as they watch Lilandra take Xavier to the Shi'Ar home world.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Henry Gyrich doesn’t match his previous model at all.  He now has black hair and no sunglasses, with a personality much closer to that of the unhinged Graydon Creed.  Gyrich has no clear evidence Xavier is a mutant but attacks him anyway.
  • Sunfire and Feral are the mutants leading the charge against humans on Genosha, until Magneto arrives and takes over.
  • Morph returns, impersonating Xavier on a televised message designed to calm angry mutants.
  • The idea of Lilandra taking a critically wounded Charles Xavier to the Shi’ar Empire comes from Uncanny X-Men #200.

Saban Quality:  Jean Grey’s costume is continually miscolored throughout the episode, with an extra strip of blue appearing on one side next to the giant blue stripe that’s already in the middle of her uniform.

Review:  After a seventy-six episode run, making it one of the longest-running action cartoons in American history, X-Men finally concludes.  X-Men arguably hasn’t aged well, but overall the show deserves a lot of credit for pushing the boundaries of what’s expected from kid’s entertainment and for introducing a new generation of fans to the characters.  (It’s very possible that the X-Men film franchise wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the success of the Saturday Morning series.)  I wish I could say “Graduation Day” is an incredible closing chapter for the series, but the truth is the best final episode the show could ever receive is “The Final Solution,” all the way back in the first season.  “Graduation Day” has a few poignant moments, particularly when Xavier gives every X-Man a small speech while on his deathbed, but the episode is marred by a busy plot and, not surprisingly, some terrible animation.  

This is the sixth and final episode animated in the “new look” style used to close out the show’s run, and it’s also one of the weakest.  The new models divorce the show from the comics source material without really adding anything in return.  Too often, the series resembles something Hanna-Barbara hacked out in the early 1980s, a problem that’s painfully evident this episode.  Out of six, only one episode has actually utilized the new designs well and remained competitive visually with one of the “outdated” looking episodes.  For the final episode, you might expect some discernible increase in quality, but the bulk of the episode is clumsy and lifeless.  There is one bright moment, during the X-Men’s fight with Magneto on Genosha.  Out of nowhere, for around a minute, the animation dramatically returns to the quality Philippines Animation Studio previously brought to the show.  It seems obvious someone decided to bring in the studio’s A team for this scene, a cruel tease of what a true series finale for X-Men could’ve looked like.

The story is oddly ambitious for the series, especially when you consider that the two-part Ambien substitute “Storm Front” was originally going to be the show’s finale.  Having Xavier face death while Magneto assembles an army of mutants for his long-threatened race war is an appropriately big idea for a closing story, but there’s no way that’s going to fit into twenty minutes.  This should’ve been the story reserved for the four-part “Beyond Good and  Evil,” or perhaps the show should’ve been even more ambitious and dedicated all of the six closing episodes to this storyline.  In retrospect, this episode is an unlikely precursor to everything from the “Eve of Destruction” storyline in the comics (the predecessor to Grant Morrison’s run) to the third X-Men movie.  There’s a lot that could be done with these ideas, but almost all of the impact is blunted by the rushed execution.  Actually, every time anyone in any medium tries to do the giant “Magneto wages war” storyline, the execution is always botched.

Credit to http://marvel.toonzone.net/xmen/ for the screencaps.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

X-MEN Episode Seventy-Four - September 6, 1997



Hidden Agendas
Written by Steven Melching & David McDermott

Summary:  Sam Guthrie becomes a local celebrity after using his mutant powers to save his father during a mine collapse.  A government agent named Kirkland attempts to recruit Sam to join a “mutant Peace Corps” but Sam refuses to leave home.  Rogue visits Sam after the X-Men discover his powers, attempting to recruit him for Xavier’s school.  Meanwhile, Gambit investigates the government agency that’s pursuing Sam and is captured.  Rogue soon rescues Gambit, as the rest of X-Men arrive in Sam’s hometown.  Kirkland sends an army of robots and the brainwashed mutant Unit-1 to attack the X-Men, but the team prevails.  The Guthrie family leaves town, and Sam decides to decline Rogue’s offer and stay with his family.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Sam Guthrie, Cannonball, makes his first full appearance on the show.  He previously appeared in a brief cameo during a Cerebro montage, already wearing his X-Force uniform.  Paige Guthrie also debuts, much younger than she appears in Generation X as Husk.
  • All of the X-Men appear this episode, but the only ones with speaking parts are Rogue, Gambit, Beast, and Professor Xavier.  Jean Grey’s hair now matches her look in the comics.

“Um, Actually…”:  Cannonball, and the rest of the Guthrie family, are incorrectly given brown hair.  Also, in the comics, Sam’s father died of Black Lung Disease before Sam’s powers emerged.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  The censor notes for this episode are online.  Surprisingly, as strict as the censors have become during this era of the show, the United States military is allowed to be portrayed as the villain.

I Love the '90s:  Kirkland has a gigantic cellphone with a very elaborate design.

Review:  Unless you were desperate to see Cannonball on the show, this episode can easily be thrown into the “Forgettable” pile and dismissed.  The censors have removed most of the teeth from the show by now, so the episode barely has any action (even Gambit’s capture by Kirkland’s robots is kept off-screen) and the character work is just mechanical and dull.  Those horrendous “Southern” accents, most of them performed by Canadians, don’t do the episode any favors either.  Even Lenore Zann sounds rusty as Rogue this episode, delivering perhaps her worst performance as the character.  The villains are also painfully dull, as the series finally gets around to introducing the generic Evil G-Man who wants to exploit mutants.  This is particularly egregious in the cartoon’s continuity, since as even Cannonball points out, the President in this reality is a mutant supporter.  We’re to believe that the government is running nasty anti-mutant conspiracies even when everyone’s boss is publically pro-mutant?  Lame villain, lame execution, and unfortunately, even more lame animation.

Credit to http://marvel.toonzone.net/xmen/ for the screencaps.

Monday, September 15, 2014

X-MEN Episode Seventy-Five - September 13, 1997



Descent
Written by Steven Melching & David McDermott

Summary:  In 1888 London, Dr. James Xavier investigates Jack the Ripper’s ties to his former contemporary, Dr. Nathaniel Essex.  Xavier explains to the authorities the story of Essex, who grew obsessed with the works of Charles Darwin in 1859.  Believing that the study of mutation could lead to a cure for his sick wife Rebecca, Essex began experimenting on mutants.  Xavier exposed Essex and defended the mutants from a mob, instead pointing their attention to the true monster, Essex.  Essex disappeared, but Xavier believes his trail leads to London.  In secret, Jack the Ripper gives Essex a sample of genetic material.  Essex escapes capture once again, using the abilities he’s gained from mutant research.

Continuity Notes:  
  • This episode has a few similarities with the Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix miniseries, although the writers say that only the first issue of the series was completed when they penned the script.  
  • Not only does Xavier’s ancestor have a role in the story, but there’s also an appearance by a Lord Grey, who is presumably a relative of Jean Grey.  Lord Grey heads the Grey Hall of Science and is the father-in-law of Nathaniel Essex.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  Jack the Ripper is not referred to by name; only “Jack.”

Review:  “Descent” is the only episode of the series not to feature the X-Men, with only Xavier making a brief cameo in the final seconds.  That’s pretty daring by the standards of Saturday Morning TV, and it’s safe to say it’s the last experiment with the form the series is going to be bringing us in its final days.  Once again, the impact of the story is muted by the new look of the show.  So far, only one episode (“The Fifth Horseman”) has used the new designs effectively and managed to pass as a Philippines Animation Studio job.  The animation this episode is as clunky as anything AKOM ever produced, with the added burden of unattractive cartoony faces and bland backgrounds that don’t match the story’s content at all.  I realize that the animation quality in earlier seasons was often nothing to brag about, but at least the “dark” episodes truly looked dark.  The “Days of Future Past” and “Till Death Do Us Part” two-parters did have mood if nothing else, an element this episode desperately needs.

If you’re able to overlook the poor design choices, the script is another solid effort by Melching & McDermott.  Admittedly, the plot is based on a premise that usually annoys me in flashback stories, the massive coincidence that has an existing character’s ancestor behave in the exact same manner as his modern day relative, and the fluke that all of these characters will have ancestors with connections today, but the execution manages to get away with it.  Dr. James Xavier is a sympathetic figure throughout the episode and allowed enough personality to be more than just a stand-in for “our” Xavier.  Essex is about as creepy as a villain can get on Saturday Morning, and the decision to work Jack the Ripper into the story is a pretty shocking choice given the target audience.  I don’t know if the kids watching at this time picked up on all of the nuances, but I’d like to think that at the very least they appreciated getting an origin for Mr. Sinister.  They received answers much sooner than fans of the comic did, certainly.  Had this episode aired earlier in the show’s run, and been given the appropriate visuals to match the content, I think it would’ve been considered a true highlight of the series.

Credit to http://marvel.toonzone.net/xmen/ for the screencaps.

Friday, September 12, 2014

X-MEN Episode Seventy-Three - February 22, 1997



Old Soldiers
Written by Len Wein

Summary:  Wolverine visits the grave of scientist Andre Cocteau in Paris.  He flashes back to his adventure in World War II as an OSS agent.  Accompanied by his back-up, Captain America, Wolverine rescued Cocteau from the Red Skull, only to discover that Cocteau double-crossed him by giving the Nazis their location.  Although Wolverine and Captain America defeated the Red Skull and his Sleeper robot, losing Cocteau to the Nazis lead Wolverine to view the mission as a failure.  In the present day, Cocteau’s daughter Justine appears at the graveside.  She explains that Cocteau never betrayed the Allies; he was a double agent.  Wolverine and Captain America were supposed to fail in order to sell his defection.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Wolverine doesn’t have bone claws or adamantium claws in the flashback story, staying consistent with Marvel’s rule at the time that Wolverine should only have claws in flashbacks to recent times.  He does use a pair of rock climbing claws, however, which he decides to keep throughout the adventure.
  • Characters with a strong resemblance to Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos make a cameo appearance at the end of the flashback.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  The word “Nazi” never appears in the episode, nor are there any swastikas.  Wolverine’s references to “Uncle Adolf,” and the scenes depicting German soldiers occupying Paris, are used to make it clear to older viewers that the characters are Nazis.

Review:  A WWII-era Captain America series was in development for FOX at the time this episode aired, making me wonder if "Old Soldiers" was commissioned as a backdoor pilot.  I’m not sure how kids ignorant of the comics felt about the episode, but seeing Wolverine team up with Captain America gave me a bit of a fanboy thrill at the time, and the episode holds up quite well today.  The major failing would be the animation, which has yet to adjust to the show’s “cartoony” makeover, and is suffering from some extremely stiff action and awkward walk cycles.  The episode grows more fluid in the final act, making me wonder if Philippines Animation Studio assigned a better team on the climax.  If only all of the episodes from this final batch looked as good as PAS’s work earlier in the show’s run.  I’d love to see a Wolverine/Captain America WWII adventure animated as well as “Cold Comfort” was.

The plot is reminiscent of many of Wolverine’s flashback adventures in the comics.  The action is set in WWII-era Paris, Wolverine teams up with an established Marvel Universe figure, there’s a hint of romantic tension between him and Justine, and there’s even a present day framing sequence that has an “old friend” from his past recognizing him.  The idea that Wolverine is just as old as a WWII vet hasn’t been broached on the show before, and even though it’s taken the series forever to get there, I’m glad this area of continuity has finally been acknowledged.  Wein seems to be intentionally evoking the feel of old serials during the adventure, but he gives the story enough personality to avoiding the feeling that it’s pastiche and only pastiche.  If only this had aired years earlier in the show’s run; Captain America and the Red Skull’s designs are an awkward fit for the show’s new look, and this is the kind of story the series needed as it descended into a succession of forgettable one-offs.

Credit to http://marvel.toonzone.net/xmen/ for the screencaps.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

X-MEN Episode Seventy-One - February 8, 1997

 

The Fifth Horseman
Written by Steven Melching & David McDermott

Summary:  Jubilee joins Beast for an exploration of the Andes.  They discover evidence of a Mayan Temple, three thousand miles from where it should be.  Meanwhile, Fabian Cortez leads the new Four Horsemen on a search to find a young host body for Apocalypse.  After their first target escapes, Cortez discovers Jubilee is nearby.  Jubilee is kidnapped by the Horsemen and brought to the temple, although new member Caliban is reluctant to harm her due to her past with the Morlocks.  Eventually, Caliban turns on Cortez and escapes the temple with Jubilee and Beast.  Cortez is left alone in the collapsing temple, as Apocalypse enters this reality and steals his body.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Beast and Jubilee are the only X-Men appearing this episode.
  • Fabian Cortez was rescued by Apocalypse at the end of “Sanctuary Part Two.”  Apocalypse has amplified his powers, giving him the ability to power up mutants and turn them into Hounds.  “Hounds” and “Horsemen” are used interchangeably in the episode.
  • Apocalypse was trapped outside of time following the “Beyond Good and Evil” serial.
  • The Four Horsemen, with the exception of Caliban, are wearing the red bodysuits with spikes that Phoenix II wore as a costume.  

“Um, Actually…”:  Kitty Pryde’s friendship with Caliban has been transposed on to Jubilee.  Also, those spiked bodysuits belong to the Hounds, not Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen.  In the comics, those outfits are worn by the slaves of Ahab and the Shadow King (I’m not sure if the connection between those two villains was ever revealed).  

Review:  A vast improvement over “Jubilee’s Fairytale Theatre,” this episode has many of the elements that made X-Men unique in its early seasons.  Old storylines are resolved, continuity from past episodes is built upon, and the leads are given distinct personalities and opportunities to play off each other.  The Melching/McDermott scripts tend to be more loyal to the comics, giving the episodes less of a generic superhero feel and more of the qualities that distinguished X-Men from most kid’s cartoons.  Jubilee and Beast actually make for an entertaining pairing, and it’s a relief to see Jubilee given more of her true personality this episode, as opposed to the annoying kid sidekick role she was forced into in the past.  There is yet another example of Jubilee working as a Kitty surrogate, as Caliban is now her pity-friend even though they’ve never really met in the show before, but this isn’t nearly as annoying as the previous episode’s premise.  

As a fan of the Simonson/Simonson X-Factor run, I was also glad to see Caliban brought into his ‘roided-out servant role, but I do question why there are now three utterly generic Horsemen saddled with him.  Once again, we’ve missed a chance to see the Dark Riders brought into animation.  Even the Alliance of Evil would’ve been more intimidating than these losers; Whip Guy, Boomerang Girl, and Big Guy with Muttonchops.  While this episode is a better showcase of how the new designs can work (the character movements are noticeably smoother and the overall look is less cluttered), it also provides a clear example of how tricky “cartoony” can be.  None of the villains are even slightly threatening; even Apocalypse looks like a leftover Pokemon in certain scenes.  I don’t know if this decision was consciously made to make the show less intimidating for younger viewers, but the toothless villains undermine any attempt to make the stories genuinely dramatic.

Credit to http://marvel.toonzone.net/xmen/ for the screencaps.

Monday, September 8, 2014

X-MEN Episode Seventy-Two - November 16, 1996

 

Jubilee's Fairytale Theatre
Written by Brooks Wachtel

Summary:  Jubilee chaperones a group of young students on a tour of the cave underneath the mansion.  The group is trapped by a cave-in, forcing Jubilee to keep the kids calm by telling them a story.  She invents a fairy tale starring various X-Men and their enemies as mythological characters.  The X-Men arrive to save the kids, and Jubilee finishes her story with a happy ending.

Continuity Notes:  
  • X-Men appearing in the non-fantasy segments this episode are Jubilee, Wolverine, Gambit, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Professor Xavier.
  • The premise of this episode is inspired by “Kitty's Fairy Tale” in Uncanny X-Men #153.

“Um, Actually…”:  Kitty Pryde and Jubilee are not interchangeable, you know.

“Actiiing!”:  A new voice for Gambit debuts this episode.  According to the internet, it’s Canadian voice actor Tony Daniels (not to be confused with the voice of C-3PO).  He’ll voice Gambit in three episodes as the series draws to a close.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  In the fairy tale, Gambit rather flagrantly hits on the clearly underage Jubilee.

I Love the '90s:  One of the kids on the field trip is thoroughly impressed with Jubilee’s beeper.

Production Note:  The new opening returns, along with the individual scene during the closing credits.

Review:  According to the broadcast dates listed online, only one week separated the previous episode from this one.  Behind the scenes, however, the show went out of production for around a year, and was eventually revived for a small order of six episodes.  The producers stated in interviews at the time that they viewed this final, small batch of episodes as an opportunity to play with the show’s visual style, which explains why the look of the show has changed so dramatically.  Allegedly, the work of Joe Madureira on Uncanny X-Men inspired a switch from the early ‘90s Jim Lee style, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any Joe Mad influence in these designs.  Essentially, the character designs have been simplified and the cast has been given Disney-fied faces.  It’s “cartoonier,” yes, but there’s nothing specifically Madureira here.

Amazingly, the show is still airing episodes out of order.  “The Fifth Horseman” was intended as the debut of the new style, but instead “Jubilee's Fairytale Theatre” aired first.  This was a horrible way to introduce the new look because it’s a fantasy episode.  The kids watching this episode had no way of knowing if the visual style changed merely for this one story or not.  Furthermore, debuting the new look with a story that’s also a radical departure from the previous seventy episodes could easily lead the audience to believe that the entire show has changed.  This episode is shamelessly goofy and clearly aimed at younger kids; it’s easy for a viewer to make the assumption that this is the new direction for the show.  “Hey, they brought X-Men back, but it’s for stupid babies now.”  

It’s hard to determine why anyone thought “Kitty's Fairy Tale” really needed to be adapted, anyway.  The show never bothered to even acknowledge Kitty, and virtually none of the context of the original story is present.  The fairy tale element doesn’t introduce any real humor, and most of the reimaginings are easily predictable.  (Wolverine as a grumpy troll, Gambit as a thief, Magneto as an evil wizard…)  The original story’s specific to Kitty’s personality, so it’s not as if Jubilee would’ve invented a similar adventure.  Jubilee’s fantasy would probably involve the mall, her beloved chili fries, and video games.  Actually, a Jubilee fantasy incorporating video game parodies might’ve been entertaining.  The target audience would certainly relate to it more than a satire of five hundred year old folktales.

It’s disappointing to see Philippines Animation Studios return for another episode, but to get work that’s clearly not by the same team that animated “Out of the Past.”  The only fluid movement in the episode is during Xavier’s five-second lecture at the end.  Honestly, the movement of Xavier’s head back and forth is the smoothest animation in the entire twenty minutes.  The new character models are also frustrating.  The original designs were considered outdated almost as soon as the series debuted, but I always found it admirable that the show tried to imitate the look of the comics, even when it was obvious they didn’t have the budget to pull it off.  Switching to a cartoonier style isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but this episode looks so generically “Saturday Morning” it’s hard not to be disappointed.  I can’t blame the producers for eventually dropping the Jim Lee look, but was it so hard to find another artist from the comics to imitate?  We couldn’t get a Mike Mignola or Kevin Nowlan style X-Men cartoon? 


Friday, September 5, 2014

It's Youtube Friday

An audio summary of unfinished Claremont storylines from the early 1990s:



The Geek Show Podcast interviews Chris Claremont during the early days of X-Men Forever:



Newsarama interview with Chris Claremont from 2011:



The Drawn Word TV interview with Chris Claremont:



A 2009 Q & A with Claremont:



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

X-MEN FOREVER #10 - December 2009

 

Home, come the Heroes!
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Paul Smith (pencils), Terry Austin (inks), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Sotocolor’s A. Street & Moose Baumann (colors)

Summary:  On the eve of Wolverine’s funeral, Gambit threatens Sabretooth to stay away from ‘Ro and Shadowcat.  This triggers a fight that’s broken up by the team.  Above, the Consortium tries to spy on the X-Men in their COSA space station, but Beast generates a holographic field to ensure privacy.  At Wolverine’s funeral, several former teammates and military personnel arrive.  Cyclops delivers the eulogy.  Later, Cyclops arrives at his grandparents’ home, announcing his leave of absence from the team.  He’s greeted by his son Nate.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Nate is now around ten years old.  He was last seen as an infant, sent into the future to be cured of the techno-organic virus.  According to Claremont’s online comments, the storyline from X-Factor #65-68 didn’t have the same resolution in the Forever continuity.
  • Corsair is living with his parents, Cyclops’ grandparents, in Alaska and not in space with the Starjammers.
  • Numerous characters that haven’t made appearances in this series yet turn up this issue.  Among them is Psylocke, who suggests rejoining the team but is told by Nightcrawler to “stay free.”  
  • Cannonball, Wolfsbane, Sunspot, and Mirage appear, with Cannonball and Wolfsbane given the wrong hair color.
  • Bruce Banner arrives disguised as a flower deliveryman, offering his own condolences.  
  • Shadowcat comments that Psylocke is like her “best big sister.”  Since when?
  • Rachel Summers does not appear, following Chris Claremont’s rule (as best I understand it) that Rachel is unique to the mainstream Marvel continuity.
  • Cyclops claims Mystique is one of Wolverine’s best friends, which is another reference to the True Friends miniseries.  Giving Wolverine and Mystique a retconned past is one thing, but claiming that she still views him as a close friend is rather ridiculous given the way Claremont’s written Mystique in the past.
  • Archangel’s skin is no longer blue, which elicits a joke from Beast.  I’m assuming Archangel is supposed to be using an image inducer, but there’s no reason for him to be hiding his true appearance in this crowd, since Cyclops openly delivers the eulogy as a mutant.
  • ‘Ro doesn’t recognize Forge, even though they have seen each other following her return to the team in Uncanny X-Men Annual #14.
  • According to Cyclops, the “imperial Japanese security refused to allow Maiko Yashida's presence.”
  • Cyclops’ eulogy reveals that Wolverine worked with Xavier in Southeast Asia, “helping him through countless combat search-and-rescue retrievals to bring lost troopers home safely.”

Creative Differences:  Chris Claremont has stated that Jubilee was in the plot for this issue, but Paul Smith simply chose not to include her in the art.

Review:  An issue intended as a tearful goodbye to Wolverine instead becomes a game of “Does Anyone Understand X-Men Forever Continuity?” as Claremont goes cameo crazy, leaving the reader more bewildered than ever.  Archangel’s no longer blue, there’s an unknown reason for Psylocke’s departure from the team (and she’s “sisters” now with Kitty), the New Mutants are reunited and may or may not be X-Force, Quicksilver is seated with the Avengers while X-Factor is unaccounted for, Xavier and Wolverine now have a shared war history, and oh yeah, Nathan Summers is suddenly ten years old.  It’s possible, of course, that these are intentional choices on Claremont’s part and not outright continuity screw-ups.  The biggest hint is Cyclops’ line to Nate when they’re reunited -- “look how you've GROWN!” -- which seems like a pretty obvious wink to the audience.  

So, Claremont is possibly screwing with the reader, but at what cost?  It distracts from the main story, and arguably hurts the premise of this series.  If we’re to believe this is an alternate reality that picks up right from the moment of Claremont’s departure, then it stands to reason that the rest of Marvel’s continuity should exist as it did in the 1991-1992 era.  This might only be of interest to the hardcore continuity-obsessive, but isn’t the book by its very premise aimed directly at that audience?  The same audience that remembers little Nate was actually called “Christopher” and almost never by his first name?  I think little things are forgivable, such as Bruce Banner appearing when he should be stuck in Hulk form, since it’s possible that he’s recently reverted back to his old status quo in the Forever universe, but this is a decent amount to swallow in one issue.  We now see that all kinds of things have been happening behind-the-scenes of this series, and while that is an intriguing prospect, only the most naïve reader truly expects these numerous continuity issues to be addressed.  Is anyone else reminded of the “Six Month Gap” and how that turned out?

Ignoring the continuity problems and regarding the issue as a Wolverine funeral story, there’s a lot to enjoy.  Having Cyclops deliver the eulogy is a smart decision on Claremont’s part, allowing the reader to understand Wolverine through Cyclops’ eyes, which isn’t the most sympathetic viewpoint.  Wolverine as the flawed hero who never gives up, never views himself as “good enough,” is an aspect of the character that’s often forgotten, but it’s essential to Claremont’s interpretation.  Having people who used to hate Wolverine, like not only Cyclops but Archangel, acknowledge his loyalty and dedication is more poignant than allowing Kitty or Jubilee to get all weepy.  

The entire issue is narrated from Cyclops’ perspective, with the story building to his decision to yet again leave the X-Men.  This is one of Cyclops’ more sympathetic portrayals, as he leaves the X-Men heartbroken but with no apparent bitterness.  When discussing Jean’s “affair” with Wolverine, he only comments that Jean’s his best friend and he would rather be happy for her, which makes Cyclops a virtual saint by most anyone’s definition.  Really, this is a story that has Cyclops delivering the eulogy of the man who practically stole his fiancée shortly before his death, but Cyke is just kind of okay with everything.  This could easily come across as thoughtless writing, but Claremont pulls it off.  That’s just Cyclops; he’s a bit of a sap.  

Paul Smith makes another return to the book, although unfortunately it’s his last.  The X-Men are still slightly off, but in an attractive way.  To see how his style has evolved, notice that his current rendition of Brain Braddock (who’s around three hundred pounds of muscle) is almost identical to his original interpretation of Archangel, who now looks like a teenager.  You either accept it or you don’t, but I personally think there’s something charming in Smith’s current work.  My only real complaint is his redesign of Wolverine’s claws, which are now shaped like knives instead, and coming out in-between his knuckles instead of the back of his hands.  I honestly wasn’t expecting the movie version of Wolverine to show up in this book of all places, and I wonder what lead Smith to make this choice.