Friday, June 27, 2014

X-MEN FOREVER #5 - October 2009

Bury My Heart!
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Tom Grummett (pencils), Cory Hamscher (inks), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Wilfredo Quintana (colors)

Summary:  Storm, now considered a liability by the Consortium, is rescued by the X-Men before their agents can fire.  Storm flies away, but Cyclops tells the X-Men to focus on the Consortium.  SHIELD agents arrive and take the Consortium members into custody.  Meanwhile, Gambit, Rogue, and Nightcrawler protect ‘Ro from another group of Consortium agents.  Elsewhere, a renegade faction of SHIELD operatives drops Fabian Cortez off in Northern Africa, where he’s taken by Consortium agents.  At the mansion, Beast reveals that Storm and ‘Ro share the same DNA.  He then makes a bigger announcement -- in Xavier’s original data cache, he’s discovered Xavier’s theory that all mutants die at an early age, their bodies unable to deal with the strain created by their powers.  The X-Men are angry with Xavier for withholding this information, but with Nick Fury’s encouragement, decide to move forward.

Continuity Notes:  
  • The adolescent Storm is referred to as “’Ro” from now on.
  • Cyclops says that an “impenetrable shield of static” surrounds Storm’s brain, making it possible for her to hear a psychic shout, but impossible for a telepath to read her mind.  Except Storm has had her mind read before, most recently (in this continuity) in Uncanny X-Men #277, when Xavier read her thoughts and discerned that the Shadow King had returned.  It’s possible that Claremont means that Storm’s mind can only be read if she allows it, which is why no one can read the mind of the evil Storm.
  • SHIELD agent Daisy Dugan, granddaughter of Dum Dum, debuts this issue, giving Fury information on the missing aircraft containing Fabian Cortez.
  • Xavier claims that he’s suspected the existence of “Burnout” all along, and it’s a major reason why he stayed in space with Lilandra, using alien science to study the problem.  Rogue somehow makes the conclusion that the Genoshans know about Burnout, which is why they work their slaves to death.  Jean speculates that Xavier’s paralysis is tied to Burnout.
  • Cyclops and Jean have a brief breakup scene during Wolverine’s memorial.
  • The X-Men, except for Jean, still haven’t changed costumes in spite of what the covers are showing us.

Review:  Two tired plot elements from the mainstream Marvel Universe show up this issue…Xavier as the lying, manipulative jerk, and SHIELD as the corrupt front for villainous activity.  In fairness to Claremont, he’s not normally associated with either idea, but that doesn’t mean I’m thrilled to have to read even more versions of these stories in an alternate universe book.  (Claremont did touch on some corruption within SHIELD in Uncanny X-Men #182, but he dropped the plot quickly.  And now that he’s using Nick Fury as a series regular, it would be nice if he finally resolved the “SHIELD accuses Rogue of murder” storyline, but it’s never referenced in this title.)  

The most grating of these two plots is the idea that Xavier is always lying to the team and keeping some horrible secret.  People frequently point to Xavier’s first fake “death” back in the ‘60s to justify this idea, but that ignores a few facts.  A) Xavier had no idea Changeling would die while impersonating him, and B) the Changeling idea was a clumsy retcon anyway.  Xavier had to be brought back somehow, and that just so happened to be the way Neal Adams and guest writer Denny O’Neil decided to revive him that issue.  I don’t see how that one awkward retcon defines Xavier forever.  Also, it’s a plot point that was essentially ignored for decades.  “Onslaught” dredged up the idea that Xavier was in love with Jean as a “dark secret” when trying to build that flimsy house of cards, but essentially left Xavier’s character intact by the end.  Xavier having one secret exposed after another is really an invention of the modern Quesada era, and it’s a pathetically transparent attempt to make yet another hero un-heroic.  I have no idea what Claremont’s thinking going down the same path, unless he’s read some of the more recent X-canon and decided that he has to do his own take on the story.  And in this incarnation, the X-Men get mad, hear a pep talk from Nick Fury, and then get over it in two pages.  The issue still doesn’t do a lot to make Xavier sympathetic -- even Fury calls Xavier's actions “shameful” while defending him -- but at least someone is there to present an argument for all the good Xavier’s accomplished and to remind us that one mistake doesn’t define a person forever.

Regarding the actual Burnout plot, I never warmed up to it.  There are just too many holes; holes Claremont tries to correct later by explaining why characters like Mystique and Wolverine managed to live so long, but that’s not enough to redeem the plot.  I think the main problem is that Claremont overstates his case this issue by having Beast declare that there are no mutants over 60.  That’s just encouraging the audience to think up every mutant that is over 60.  Destiny’s an obvious one, as are the three WWII vets Claremont created to join Freedom Force.  Aged or de-aged, Holocaust survivor Magneto had to reach 60+ at some point.  And Apocalypse was a slave in ancient Egypt, as established by Louise Simonson years ago.  The plot’s a hard sell to begin with, but this sloppy introduction just makes it more difficult to buy.  I also have a hard time believing that someone with passive powers like Doug Ramsey is going to die an early death because his body can’t handle his mutantcy.  Ignoring that line about not reaching 60, Claremont has a much better case with Magneto, and there is nice foreshadowing of this in Uncanny X-Men #274, but proclaiming that this happens to all mutants is simply a mistake.

Regarding the specifics of this issue and ignoring the larger plotlines, things move along well enough, with the exception of Jean not flying after Storm as she escapes.  I understand that Claremont doesn’t want to resolve this story yet and it’s important for Storm to get away, but I think Jean would need a better motivation for letting Storm escape than Cyclops simply declaring that the team should instead be focusing on these mysterious Consortium guys.  At the very least, give us a splash page of Storm frying Jean with lightning or something as she escapes.  (It’s not as if Claremont’s adverse to using splash pages in this book; the issue is filled with splashes and panels so large they might as well be splashes.  They all look great under Grummett and Hamscher, of course.)  True to Claremont’s past, every X-Man’s played a role in the story so far in the arc, with the possible exception of Nightcrawler.  He’s made his presence felt only in the fight scenes, but it’s fun to see him with the team again.  Gambit and ‘Ro have a nice reunion, and Cyclops and Jean’s breakup manages to give Cyclops quite a bit of dignity and actually make Jean look like the cad for once. 

Once again, I'll point to the final issue of the X-Men: The End miniseries for the best justification for the Scott/Jean breakup.  I’m sure there are a million holes you could poke in the premise that Madelyne Pryor represented the part of Jean that “loved Scott with all her heart,” leaving a void inside of Jean, but I like it as a way to give Madelyne some redemption by confirming that she truly loves Scott.  If Claremont were working under that assumption, it would’ve been nice to see it in the published comic, because now Jean looks almost as bad as Cyclops did in X-Factor #1.


dschonbe said...

I thought the way Claremont got around linking Magneto to a specific time period was the reversion to childhood and back in the old Defenders issue. You can fudge the timing of that enough to make Magneto fit into a lot of different time periods. Still a silly plot point though.


Matt said...

You've referenced X-MEN: THE END a few times lately; would you ever consider reviewing that? I know it's not a nineties series, but technically neither is this.

Anonymous said...

That was another problem I had with this series, was that Claremont seemed to keep putting his own take on famous Marvel moments that took place after Claremont left X-Men.
Coming up, there's the big reveal about Tony Stark, which made me groan, thinking about Marvel's Civil War.

I'm wondering, and maybe I should give Claremont the benefit of the doubt, if since this series is supposed to be what Claremont's X-Men would have looked like had he stayed (even though it was obvious that wasn't what we were reading), if Claremont included these different plots to try to convince fans that Claremont would have used all those famous Marvel plots first.

Jason said...

I would definitely enjoy a "The End" review.

I really loathed that series the first time I read it, then came 180 and loved it the second time.

G. Kendall said...

That's funny, because when I read THE END I kept thinking, "Thank God I'm not reviewing this!" Too many characters, references, and plot threads to keep track of. If I ever dare, it would be as capsule reviews. Honestly, the major significance for me is Claremont's attempt to redeem Madelyne; the rest I could easily forget.

Anonymous said...

Too many references to recent X-Men events for my taste with The End, especially some of those horrible characters from Claremont's more recent X-Men returns.
I'd have like to have seen Claremont stick to his classic run and only use that continuity, if we were going to see a book like The End ended up being.

Jef Willemsen said...

"I never warmed up to the burnout", ha... I see what you did there.

As for burnout as a phenomenon, the point is moot now, but back in the late 80s and early 90s Claremont had been dropping hints to something similar. We had Wolverine overextending his healing factor and no longer healing properly (just like X-F Sabretooth), there was Stevie Hunter warning Storm about the dangers of using her powers too much as a teen in Uncanny X-Men I#270 and so on... Proteus, anyone?

I always liked the idea, it stands to reason that most mutants have powers that are detrimental to their own bodies (Hi, I'm Sunfire, I generate solar plasma!). It stands to reason mutants with less physical or non energy based powers would be able to avoid the burnout effect. Destiny for instance, could be explained that way: all she has is visions and we all have those most nights we go to sleep. You could even retcon the fact that she became blind after finishing her 13 volume diary set as a sign of burnout, which Irené might also have seen coming in her visions of the future.

Oh, and about Apocalypse still being around since ancient Egypt... Well, sure, but En Sabah Nur has been forced to regenerate regularly and he even transfered his consciousness into new (cloned) host bodies because his own form was spent.

Still, perhaps it's for the best the burnout plotline fell by the wayside. As exciting and status quo shattering as it was, it could potentially have been as restricting as the "no more mutants" outcome of House Of M. Sure, we have mutants, yeah, they have powers but they'd better not use them or they won't live to boast about it.

ray swift said...

On a different issue, I just wanted to say that I got to the place where my X-men reading has exceed your reviews (means I got to the "Revolution" part of the X-men continuity). I really enjoyed the journey, reading your reviews and summaries, and found them very helpful. I only wish there was a similar X-men blog for the 20's.
No more dismissing X-Man issues up ahead from here, I guess. Now I'll actually have to dive through the sea of crappy comics one by another. :/

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