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.


wwk5d said...

2904"becomes a game of “Does Anyone Understand X-Men Forever Continuity?”"

He really should have started the title before X-men vol. 1 or stayed more focused on the continuity. He gives you brief glimmers, but without a full picture, you are left scratching your head wondering what the heck is going on. And I am sure a good segment of the audience weren't just people who read Uncanny back in CC's final days, but also were at least familiar with what was going on in the other titles. To wit:

*What did happen to Cable? Wasn't Sunspot being tortured by Gideon at this point? Why isn't Mirage in Asgard?
*Did they ever explain what was up with Excaliber? If Rachel doesn't exist here, and Nightcrawler and Shadowcat left, then is it just Captain Britan and Meggan at this point? Like Roma would have let Kurt and Kitty leave at that point ;)
*Even if Quicksilver wasn't with X-factor in this continuity, he wasn't an active Avenger at that point either in 616 continuity, so...why have him show up at all, since I don't think he ever met Wolverine to begin with?
*Kitty and Betsy as "sisters"? Um, ok.

So it looks like the Muir Island Saga wasn't the only storyline that played out differently. The final X-factor sotryline, the evolution of the New Mutans...again, while it may not ruin the issue, it does detract quite a bit if you're trying to figure out how all the pieces here fit together...

Matt said...

Yeah, after a handful of hints, this was the first issue that really seemed to shout loud and clear that this series would not be delivering on the advertised premise.

Maybe I'm just an anal-retentive fan, but if I were Claremont and the editors on this thing, I would've immersed myself in the Marvel Universe circa 1991 to make sure I got every last detail right, since, as you note, the real core fanbase for this book probably was composed of hardcore continuity freaks.

But instead we get half-hearted attempts to just kind of line things up, if you tilt your head and squint just right. And we never know if the stuff that doesn't add up is intentional on Claremont's part or simple carelessness.

Maybe I wanted too much from this series, though. I was kind of hoping for a time capsule to take me back to the Marvel Universe of my childhood, which was probably an unfair expectation. But even so, there was a bit of a bait-and-switch here with regards to the series' premise, and that's what really bugs me.

(Still wondering though, per my comment from the other day, how much of the issues were Claremont and how much was editorial.)

G. Kendall said...

It's possible that a lack of interest in both editorial and on Claremont's part lead to the focus on new storylines.

I think many of these issues could've been addressed simply with text pieces in the back of the series. The book does get one or two text pieces later on, but none of them deal with the specific continuity that's been established for the Forever series.

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