Past is Prologue
Credits: Chris Claremont (writer), Steve Scott (pencils), Al Vey (inks), Ed Dukeshire (letters), Lee Loughridge (colors)
Summary: In the Andes, a SHIELD team is attacked by a mysterious force. At the mansion, Xavier and Nick Fury monitor the situation. After the team is killed, Fury takes Beast, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and Jean Grey with him to investigate. On the way there, he flashes back to his first encounter with Wolverine during WWII. Fury’s Howling Commandos were teamed with British and Canadian troops and charged with stopping the work of Dr. Dietrich Trask. Wolverine killed Dr. Trask and Trask’s work was destroyed. In the present, the team arrives in the Andes and is soon discovered by a Sentinel.
New costumes debut this issue for Beast, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Gambit, and Shadowcat (who also has a shorter hairstyle). Cyclops remains in his early ‘90s costume.
One of the SHIELD agents killed by a Sentinel in the Andes is Tommy Juniper, the great-nephew of Junior Juniper. Junior Juniper was a Howling Commando killed during WWII, sometimes cited as the first death scene in official Marvel continuity.
Wolverine’s rank in the Canadian army is given as Captain this issue. He also makes a reference to “Raven’s intel,” which indicates that Wolverine is still partners with Mystique and Destiny, a concept Claremont previously explored in X-Men: True Friends.
Approved By Modern PC Police: Nick Fury chews on a long straw during the WWII flashback, instead of smoking his trademark cigar.
Review: Notice that this issue has a fill-in penciler, inker, colorist, and letterer. The bi-weekly schedule of this book could be brutal, so it’s somewhat remarkable that the series has run six issues with a fairly consistent creative team. As far as fill-ins go, this is better than you might expect. Steve Scott has a decent handle on the cast, and he’s able to adjust to the abrupt WWII flashback quite well. The letters are also reasonably Orzechowski-esque, so much so it’s not obvious he’s missing at first. The colors aren’t on the level as the previous issues, the palette just seems dull, but overall the issue looks presentable.
The main plot advances only incrementally, perhaps because Claremont’s waiting on Grummett to return before truly moving forward. The Sentinels’ return is teased throughout the issue until one finally shows on the final page, there are numerous talking head pages, a lengthy discussion over which X-Men should travel to the Andes, and a WWII flashback suddenly pops up for a few pages in the middle of the book. Claremont manages to maintain some humanity by emphasizing Fury’s reaction to Juniper’s death, but it’s odd to see him spend so much time building up the Sentinels as a major threat. It’s my understanding that Claremont always dismissed them as dull, which would explain why they so rarely appeared during his original run. As X-Men Forever continues, the reader is suddenly expected to treat Sentinels and the Task family as if they’re the team’s greatest threat, a creative decision I still can’t understand.
What’s truly incomprehensible are the new costumes. After appearing on the cover for months, they finally make their in-story debut this issue. It’s a remarkably quiet debut, too, since no one comments on the fact that virtually the entire team has switched outfits in-between issues. I’m assuming that Steve Scott was sent those costumes as the new models, and no one in editorial noticed if the X-Men were supposed to be wearing them by this issue. It’s hard to make an objective judgment on the designs; just the concept of new costumes in this book is perplexing. Even if you ignore the established continuity that the existing costumes are already new at this point, it’s hard to deny that an entire generation of X-fans consider these outfits to be the “classic” looks for the team. Since all of these costumes have been abandoned over the years, the existence of one X-Men comic with the “classic” costumes on the cover had to work to the title’s advantage. And now that’s gone. Also, the X-Men change costumes all of the time these days, so there’s nothing special about seeing new outfits in this book, too. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about new X-costumes, but seeing the characters the way the audience remembers them actually was unique. Why throw away one of the title’s strongest hooks, especially so soon?