Monday, October 20, 2014

X-MEN FOREVER #11 - January 2010


Black Magik Part One - Snap Trap!
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Tom Grummett (pencils), Cory Hamscher (inks), Wilfredo Quintana (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)

Summary:  Shadowcat, Gambit, and ‘Ro travel to Russia to visit Colossus.  He now serves in the Winter Guard with his girlfriend, Black Widow.  They help him defeat a mysterious group that’s stolen Cold War-era armor.  At the mansion, Rogue and Sabretooth bicker, Beast and Jean discuss Burnout, and Fury counsels Xavier on how to deal with his strained relationship with the X-Men.  Meanwhile in Russia, Illyana is lured into a stranger’s car near her home.

Continuity Notes:  
  • This is Colossus’ first real appearance in the series (it’s debatable if he was meant to be one of the background characters in X-Men Forever Alpha’s back-up story.)  The opening narration reveals he returned to Russia at the president’s request to serve his country.
  • Black Widow says that she and Colossus were on a mission when they heard of Wolverine’s death and couldn’t make the funeral.
  • Gambit is asked by Black Widow if he’s going by “Lebeau” or “Picard” this week.
  • Following the events of “Inferno,” Illyana is a normal little girl at this point in continuity.

Review:  The joke about Gambit’s last name leads me to believe that enough months have passed since Forever’s debut for the online commentary to actually impact the material.  I can’t read anyone’s mind, but I have a suspicion Claremont didn’t expect the audience to care so much about all of the fuzzy continuity surrounding the early issues.  He throws the readers a bone with the Black Widow/Gambit conversation, which is pretty funny, and then proceeds to address one of the more glaring absences in the book so far, Colossus.  

I was never thrilled with the idea of Colossus returning home and becoming a patriotic superhero; it’s not a horrible way to use the character, but it just seems like a strange creative choice, given that Colossus didn’t seem to think about Russia very often in the later years of Claremont’s run.  By the late ‘80s, Colossus is defined more as the sensitive artist than he is the ex-Commie.  Looking at Forever in context, Colossus has only recently had his memory restored after spending several months living a normal life as a painter in New York City.  It’s possible Claremont meant for this to be Colossus’ true happy ending -- Beast even commented in one Uncanny X-Men issue that Colossus deserved his retirement -- and that his return in the “Muir Island Saga” storyline was entirely editorially driven.  If that’s the case, I can almost see this as Claremont making the best of a bad situation.  He can’t have Colossus just forget, again, that he’s an X-Man, but if Claremont honestly views his time as an X-Man as over, Colossus shouldn’t be a series regular either.  Shipping him off to Russia and casting him as their Captain America is a dignified way to get rid of him at the very least.  I do question if Claremont’s insistence that the book not be set in 1991-1992 is cutting him off from some potentially interesting storylines, however.  I don’t recall a single story acknowledging Colossus’ response to the USSR’s collapse in 1991, which was a situation I can’t imagine Claremont ignoring had he stayed with the titles at that time.

Reintroducing Colossus is a natural way to segue into a Shadowcat or a Magik story, and Claremont uses this opportunity to address both characters.  Shadowcat doesn’t play a large part in this issue, but the discovery that Colossus has moved on with Black Widow is used as a means of alienating Kitty even further from her past.  As Gambit points out (setting up his own potential romance with Kitty), Kitty’s now lost virtually everyone she’s truly cared about, and when she needed Colossus, she finds him in the Black Widow’s arms.  (By the way, notice the age gap in Colossus’ girlfriends.  Kitty’s still a teenager while Black Widow was born before WWII.  That’s gross, man.)  Magik only makes a cameo at the end, but she’ll obviously become more important later.  A certain segment of fandom used to demand Claremont return to the character some day, and while I’m not sure how many of them were still around in 2010, they did eventually get their wish.  Ultimately, Magik serves as the impetuous for a rather lengthy action arc, then disappears from the book, which means she doesn’t make the truly epic return her fans probably wanted in the first place.  Still, it’s a nice nod to the target audience of this book, and it’s a better use of the character than using her as a sacrificial lamb for a non-starter like the Legacy Virus plot.


Matt said...

Colossus, with this status quo, is a case of a new costume making sense in this series. He returned reluctantly to the X-Men for issues 1 - 3 and slipped into a variant of his original togs for that arc, then left and got outfitted with a new government-created uniform to serve his homeland. And this outfit isn't even all that awful, either.

Him dating Black Widow, though, seems silly. "Let's hook up the two highest profile Russians in the Marvel Universe" is not unlike the editorial decision to hook up the two highest profile black characters in the Marvel Universe a few years earlier (something I recall Claremont opposing at the time). It just seems lazy. Would've felt less forced to put him with Darkstar or Fantasia or even the female Red Guardian (there was one for a while, wasn't there?).

Has anyone ever explained Black Widow's past? John Byrne used to say that he just figured she was an active/sexy forty-something back in the seventies, and that might've worked into the eighties -- but by the nineties and especially today, that's just not possible. Plus I don't think anyone has written her as being in her thirties/forties for a very long time at this point.

G. Kendall said...

I remember reading that Roger Stern was going to address Black Widow's age in the MARVEL UNIVERSE series, but the title was cancelled before he got to that arc. I have no idea if anyone's provided an alternate explanation since then, and I'm surprised Stern hasn't found some way to work it into continuity by now.

Harry Sewalski said...

In the Black Widow: Deadly Origin mini from a few years back, I believe that it was said that Widow has slowed healing due to a serum which Bucky gave her (whilst he was the Winter Soldier, natch). He gave it to her since she was dying at the time, in return for her working for the government.

I'm not sure how canon this is, though.

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